Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Offspring Fling!

Offspring Fling! is a puzzle-oriented platformer game. You are a mother... something... and you have to find and save all of your children.

Right off the bat, I like this game. Great presentation, sweet visual style, and well-polished gameplay. While I find puzzle games very difficult, due to a mental condition, I still had a lot of fun with this one. Whether or not I would be able to complete it to the end, however, is another question entirely.

The soundtrack exceeds expectations. It fits the game perfectly, but at the same time it reminds me of Japanese RPGs, such as the Tales Of series. I actually own the soundtrack, and that makes me quite happy.

Verdict: I really don't know.
I love the game, but I don't know how far I'll be able to get before the puzzles are too much for me. They were already starting to get that way a bit when I stopped. Also, those bees are mean!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Zen Bound 2

Zen Bound 2 is a game where you wrap rope around various objects. Yup, it's just about as boring as it sounds.

Ever since I got this game (through a bundle that had other games as well), I always thought that it looked boring as heck. While it's not exactly... boring... it's certainly pointless. My thoughts beforehand were basically, "This is going to be far too easy, until a point where it's too hard and thus becomes boring." What do you know? I was right.

Verdict: Stop playing.
It's not as boring as it looks or sounds, but it's pointless and I see no reason to continue.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Disclaimer: This review will include the basic premise of the story, told in my own way; so if you object to spoilers as much as I do, you should probably skip this review. However, if you're not that kind of person, feel free to read on. The review actually contains no spoilers beyond the basic premise.

The Rithmatist is a young adult fantasy novel written by the master of fiction himself, Brandon Sanderson. It takes place in an alternate, steampunk version of our world. It's not an alternate future; it's an alternate world entirely.

As is traditional for a novel penned by Sanderson, The Rithmatist has a unique magic system that is so utterly unlike anything else, that once you actually understand it, you're shocked by its brilliance. I could try to explain Rithmatics to you, but it's not so easy to explain. Sanderson explains how it works throughout the entirety of the novel, for you can't just learn it all at once. It takes time to understand, but it's brilliant.

In the United Isles of America, those who can use Rithmatics—they're called Rithmatists—are of much higher social class than others. That's because they are the isles' main hope of staying safe. Rithmatics involve creating things using chalk, including defenses and possible weapons. In the isle of Nebrask, there's a tower from which swarm thousands of wild chalkings—savage creatures made purely from chalk but easily capable of killing people in terrible ways. The Rithmatists are the main force keeping the chalkings inside Nebrask and not letting them get into the other fifty-nine isles, fully populated with people.

In the isle of New Britannia, Joel Saxon is a student at Armedius Academy, where they train both Rithmatists and upperclass people who don't have the power of Rithmatics. He himself is not a Rithmatist, nor an upperclassman, but rather the son of a now-dead employee of the academy. All his life he's been fascinated by Rithmatics and has always wished that he could use them, but he lost that chance long ago.

Not everyone becomes Rithmatists. In fact, only a very few amount of people do, always chosen at age 8. Every child must go through the inception ceremony when they're young, which will completely determine their future. If they go through the ceremony and nothing changes, they go on with their lives. If they suddenly discover they can use Rithmatics, they get ridiculous privileges, get education at a special school (such as Armedius), serve in Nebrask for ten years, and then get a pension for the rest of their lives.

As a summer elective before his final year at Armedius, Joel finds himself working with the Rithmatist Professor Finch (a non-Rithmatist working with a Rithmatist is almost unheard of) on a secret project involving the disappearances of a couple Rithmatist students off-campus. Thus begins the fascinating and brilliant story of The Rithmatist.

Now, by this time I know Brandon Sanderson. I know he's going to have amazing, likable characters; I know he's going to have a brilliant magic system that will blow my mind once I properly understand it; I know that he's going to have plot twists that will make Ted Dekker look like the writer of children's books. That last fact is a trademark of Sanderson. If you think you know where the story is going, something's going to change that you will never see coming. That will happen numerous times with every book you read that he has penned.

If there's somebody who knows how to craft a story better than anyone else, it's Brandon Sanderson. He'll always leave hints to things along the way that you'll never pick up on when you first read a story. Things that will later blow your mind. As always, Sanderson has created a brilliant world with a fascinating and unique magic system that nobody could ever think of. When you spend seven years developing a book, it's going to be amazing.

I highly recommend that you pick up this book in print format, rather than digital. Each chapter begins with a diagram, often depicting something to help the reader to continue to understand Rithmatics, or something of the sort. With a print version of the book, it's easy to flip back to the beginning of any chapter at any time you want to refresh your memory, and I found myself doing that all the time. In addition, it's always easier to check the map anytime you like (which, by the way, is a really cool map).

So what, you ask, is the verdict? Well, The Rithmatist is a brilliant and well-crafted story by one of the greatest storytellers in history. The characters aren't just lovable, they're awesome. In addition, the novel takes place in a fascinating world with a unique magic system that nobody but Sanderson could even think up. I fell in love with the world, and I'm devastated by the fact that the sequel isn't estimated to hit shelves until 2015.

I can safely say I recommend this book. I can safely say you should go buy this book the very first chance you get. Thank you very much.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Fortix

Fortix is a game where you save a kingdom and slay dragons. How do you accomplish this? By walking around things.

It's difficult to explain, but it's fun. Your character certainly gets a lot of exercise. The music's good, the visuals are decent, and it's pretty addicting. In fact, I completed the entire game in easy mode before I typed this up, because it's that addicting (and that short).

Of course, there are resolution problems. So many games have resolution problems. In this case, neither fullscreen mode nor windowed mode worked properly. All I can say is I really hope such problems were fixed in the sequel.

Verdict: Keep playing, I guess.
Y'see, I already beat the game in just an hour. How do you keep playing when you're already done? Well, I guess there are other difficulty levels. I'll get on that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Yet Fate Had Not Their Favor

Yet Fate Had Not Their Favor
By Reuben Horst

Time has passed, the flowers have grown.
I’ve learned new things you’ve never known.
They’re both tragic, they’re both lost.
They’ve found their way through greatest cost.

Carpe diem, the old ones say;
Live your life so you can savor.
They took the chance, they seized that day,
Yet fate had not their favor.

The illusion of light was bright and hopeful.
The snow had glistened, inviting and graceful.
Then shadows surrounded, and took them away.
Carpe diem; seize the day.

They’ll be led through this soon,
Their foundations made of stone;
Forever scarred and always frightened
That it will be left alone.


This poem was originally published on An Einsteinian Approach on December 12, 2012, and is a sequel to After the Flowers have Grown.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Geometry Wars

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is a 2D space shooter where you try to survive all the obstacles coming your way by shooting them. Yup, this is a brand-new and original idea that I don't think anybody has done before. Also, I'm good at sarcasm.

In all seriousness, Geometry Wars is pretty decent as far as space shooters go. It's pretty fun and the visuals are really cool. However, I did have some gripes. First of all, there are only three resolution options, which means I need to either play with a slightly stretched resolution, or play in windowed mode, both of which take away from the experience a bit.

Also, the game was made specifically to be played on the gamepad, meaning the developers didn't take time to really work on controls otherwise. Using the keyboard to aim your bullets really didn't work. Other games have done it well, but this one really fell short. I opted to use the mouse to aim instead, and that was a lot better, though still kind of awkward.

Verdict: Stop playing.
It's a fun game with potential, but it's not friendly for keyboard users. Until I get a gamepad I won't be able to get a very high score at all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Am a Whatvian

Disclaimer: I have done my best to avoid any and all possible spoilers in this article. I'm not one of “those people.”

As some of you know, I recently became interested in the British science fiction series Doctor Who. At this point I've seen all of it since the 2005 revival, and I've also checked out various spin-off material and several episodes from the classic series. I know you're wondering: What made me turn away from the sane side of the internet? Well, truth is, I'm still more sane than about 95% of the internet.

Let's start with the age-old question: What is Doctor Who? It's a science fiction television series that initially aired back in November of 1963. It lasted until 1989, when it was officially canceled. There was a movie in 1996 that was meant to revive the series, but it failed. Eventually it was successfully revived in 2005, and has been going steadily ever since. Now, it's important to note, the series was not rebooted in 2005; it was revived. It's the same continuing story.

Now, how can a series go on for that long without rebooting? The main character must be old by now! Well, technically, the main character is even older than you might think, considering he's currently over 900 years old. Enter "the Doctor," a Time Lord from a planet far, far away. He's a traveler. He looks like a human, but apparently his race looked like that first. Doctor Who is the story of his adventures through time and space with whatever people he decides to bring with him along the way.

Time Lords might look like humans, but they are completely different. They have two hearts, and brilliant brains. Enough to baffle even the greatest Earth geniuses. They also don't age—or, at least, their lifespans are massive. In addition, when a Time Lord is about to die, he or she can regenerate into a brand new body. This is how the series has been able to switch actors but keep the same main character over the years. It might sound like a cheat, but it's actually pretty awesome and pulled off very well.

At the beginning of the revival series, many years have passed since the 1996 movie and the classic series. We are greeted by the Doctor in his Ninth incarnation (portrayed by Christopher Eccleston). He just recently returned from a war—the Last Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords and a great enemy—of which he is the only survivor. The Time Lords were fairly frequent throughout the classic series, but now they're all gone. Forever.

So, this is an interesting turn of events. It makes the whole story of Doctor Who a little darker, and a lot more sad; but at the same time it makes the story awesome.

Now, the only place to start watching the Doctor Who revival series (which I recommend doing over starting at the beginning of the classic series) is at the beginning of the 2005 season. At that time they had a very low budget, the CGI was pretty awful, the acting wasn't too great, but you need to get through it first, no matter how cheesy it might seem at the beginning. Believe me, it's worth it. This is the kind of series that you cannot watch out of order.

Why do I love this show, you ask? Well, for numerous reasons.

1. The Story

Doctor Who has one of the best stories of anything I've ever watched, read, or played. It's the story of a lone Time Lord traveling the universe and all of time with his companions, for no other reason than to explore. Of course, there are over-arcing stories, usually with key story points in the season finales. These are brilliant, but so are the individual episodes.

The writers of Doctor Who are some of the best writers I've encountered in my years of watching television. Logic as we know it doesn't exist in the Whoniverse, because the time-travel theories are all out of whack and so many things just don't make sense, but that's the way things work in that universe. It's not the same as our universe, and it's not even supposed to be, and that's just something you have come to grips with. Earth might exist and play an important role in that universe, but it's not our Earth. After all, the world wasn't actually invaded in 2006.

However, the fact that the Whoniverse works so very different from our universe is part of why the story is so good. The writers get to do things that people would never think of. Writing for Doctor Who allows one to let their imagination run wild, and create things so far outside the box, but things that at the same time are so very brilliant. Basically, by the time you get a few seasons into the series you'll know exactly what I mean.

2. The Characters

Doctor Who has a brilliant cast of characters. The current showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat is amazing at creating characters you will never forget, and all the characters introduced before he took over were often brilliant as well.

The Doctor is one of my absolute favorite fictional characters. If someone were to ask me my favorite action hero, I would say the Doctor in a heartbeat. While he does have a habit of saving the world time and time again (not to mention the entire universe now and then), he's not always a hero. He has great power, with all of his technology and brilliant brainpower. Being the last of the Time Lords, he is quite possibly the most important person in the universe; but with great power comes great responsibility.

A number of times, far too much power has been placed in his hands, and he doesn't always make the right choices with that power. He's flawed; he's just as human as anybody. (Though technically, he's not actually a human at all.) He faces all of the emotions, struggles, and internal battles that anyone would face in the situations he's placed. Speaking of which . . .

3. The Emotions

What goes along with the story and characters in Doctor Who is the emotions. When I said that the writers were brilliant, I neglected to mention just how much they can get under your skin. This television series is more emotional than any other I have ever watched.

Something Doctor Who is known for on occasion is devastating emotion. The kind that makes you want to find a corner and sob for a while. But the story is sooooooooo freeeaaaking gooooooood! This amount of emotion adds to the brilliance. While so many episodes have happy endings, sometimes they're not so happy. Sometimes they're bittersweet, or sad, or even downright devastating, but it makes for amazing story.

For all of the amazing episodes with Happy Happy endings, just one Sad one in every few is just as memorable as all the rest, if not more so. I apologize for using this word so much, but it's brilliant.

4. The Music

I didn't notice the music of Doctor Who really until the third season. That was when I noticed it and thought, “This is actually really, really good.” As time progressed I fell in love with the show's soundtrack, and I've purchased nearly all that have been released. I listen to the music almost every single day, and as a matter of fact, I'm listening to it as I'm typing this article.

My brother's favorite composer is Howard Shore, who is the creator of the beautiful Lord of the Rings and Hobbit scores. I agree that Shore is one of the greatest composers in the entire world, but my personal favorite is Murray Gold. He has a unique style, and it's brilliant. I've never fallen so much in love with a soundtrack that I immediately went and purchased it. That is, not until Doctor Who.

5. It's Very Clean

Doctor Who has always been partially directed at children, and that is how it can be one of the best science fiction series of all time, and also be one of the cleanest science fiction series of all time. I must emphasize, however, that being partially directed at children does not at all mean it's a “children's show.” In fact, it can be enjoyed even more by an adult than by a child. (I mean no offense to any younger kids who might read this—I mean you'll probably enjoy it even more when you're older!)

There is, however, the occasional content to which people I know may object. The creators of Doctor Who are very much for the acceptance of homosexuality, and so that comes up every now and again. It's not explicit, and if all else fails, you can just ignore it. There is one (occasionally) recurring bisexual character who would be found offensive regardless of the fact that he's bisexual. Just ignore him (even though he can be rather hilarious at times).

6. It's a Legacy

Doctor Who is coming up on fifty years this November. Fifty years! It's been around for a loooong time. It is the longest-running science fiction series in history, and it's one of the most well-known science fiction series, both for the classic and revival series.

I haven't watched a lot of the classic series, but I've really liked what I've seen. Of course it has cheesy effects and stuff—all science fiction did in the age that it was made! However, I would watch classic Who over classic Star Trek any day. For old 60s-80s science fiction, it was brilliant. Not to mention, it's the same main character that I love so much from nowadays. Unfortunately a lot of episodes of the classic series are missing from the BBC archives, so it's impossible to watch them all in order, but I've really enjoyed watching what I've seen.

Doctor Who has withstood the test of age. When there were talks of reviving the series that led up to it actually being revived in 2005, everybody was on board. Even the network was on board, which shows that British television networks are about a thousand times better than American networks, who care considerably more about money than the content they produce. What started as one simple sci-fi show in 1963 has turned into one of the greatest series in the history of the universe.

Also, because the series has been around for so long, it has built quite a lot of lore. Planets, universes, various things stretching across billions (er, trillions) of years of time, and it's constantly being expanded even more. In addition to the television series there are books, graphic novels, audio plays, and just about every kind of media out there.

So, there you have it. That is a summary of why I love Doctor Who so much. I still reject the term “Whovian,” which is used to describe fans of the series, but I will definitely say that I am a fan, and you should be too.

(Special thanks to Adam Bolander, Eli Johnson, Ashley Procko, and Taylor Bomar for your proofreading and constructive criticism!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Aquaria

It is six days until the six-month anniversary of the Thursday Impressions series, and I thought I'd celebrate the occasion by playing an old friend. Aquaria is a game I owned over two years ago, but due to certain things (it's a long story), I lost access to it. I haven't been able to play it since, until now, thanks to Humble Bundle.

Aquaria is a 2D action-adventure game that stars the aquatic creature Naija. Its story is unique, immersive, and decently dark (from what I've experienced), and the world you explore is beautiful. The soundtrack is beautiful as well, and it's actually a bit nostalgic for me. When I used to own this game, I didn't actually get very far. This time I intend to follow through and see where the story goes.

Verdict: Keep playing.
It's gorgeous, and I love a deep story. Count me in.