Fine Day Sunday

in my opinion, best day of the week

Archive for May, 2013

A hole to hide in

Posted by finedaysunday on May 19, 2013

In 2002, Pavel Datsyuk had not yet become the NHL’s premiere puck thief and most dominant defensive forward that he is today. Jaromir Jagr, however, had by this point cemented a reputation as one of the game’s most dominant players, a high-scoring winger with a Hall of Fame career.

That year, early in a game in which Datsyuk’s Detroit Red Wings led Jagr’s Washington Capitals 1 – 0, this happened:

My goodness. The play on the ice may say it all, but it’s Mickey Redmond’s colour commentary that takes it a step further and really sells this moment. Listen to the shame he imparts on Jagr (incorrectly spelled multiple times in this video) for his mental lapse after Datsyuk robs him blind and then fools Olaf Kolzig, Olaf Kolzig’s ego, and Olaf Kolzig’s water bottle in the span of about three seconds. Listen to the utter disbelief that a veteran of Jagr’s caliber would ever be caught on the wrong end of a play like this. Redmond here sounds like a weary father disappointed in his son’s report card.

Needless to say, it was a wake-up call to remind everyone present that, hey, this Datsyuk kid? We should probably be more alert when he’s on the ice. He seems to be an okay player.

“What are you doing to another countryman, you idiot?”

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Blocks, blocks everywhere

Posted by finedaysunday on May 12, 2013

That is how you are introduced to Intelligent Qube, Sony Computer Entertainment’s well-received but criminally overlooked puzzle game. What I love about this intro is how well it sets an eerie, otherworldly tone that at first might seem ill-suited to a simple block-based title. Upon spending a few minutes with the game, however, it becomes clear just how well this particular aesthetic vibe can carry a game and help it stand out. The mood of this game is one of its signature intangibles. This is one you play with the lights off in the middle of the night, wrapped in a blanket.

The visual design could hardly be more minimalistic. You are alone in a pitch black void standing on an enormous three-dimensional grid of what I’ve always thought of as highly polished marble blocks. Several rows of these immeasurably heavy monstrosities are rolling steadily toward you, one echoing boom at a time. Most are the same colour as the grid itself, but a few are either glowing green or solid black. On the whole, it’s a very simple, instantly recognizable look that’s impossible to confuse for any other game in its genre.

IQ

Your goal is simple: Eliminate the blocks while avoiding getting crushed to death. Even without spending five minutes in the incredibly useful tutorial videos, the game trusts the player enough to be able to handle a lot through just a few basic commands. The foundation is simple: destroy each cube by marking one spot at a time on the grid, use the green Advantage Cubes to clear entire areas at once, and allow the black Forbidden Cubes to pass by untouched. Each mistake has immediate consequences (a row of the grid will crumble and fall away beneath your feet) that gradually leave less room for error before you plunge into the darkness yourself. Like all the best puzzle games, Intelligent Qube carefully scales its challenge level like an increasingly precarious tower of Jenga bricks. You may spend the first stage methodically taking down one neutral-toned block at a time, but before long the width of the grid increases, and suddenly you’re frantically darting in, out, and around fatal paths through these relentlessly tumbling armies of monoliths. Multitasking, spatial reasoning, and twitch-based reaction time, all emerging from a deceptively simple concept. It’s an incredibly engaging and harrowing experience.

That experience is made even richer by an orchestral soundtrack that is at once soaring, haunting, triumphant and, the closer you are to your imminent doom, panic-inducing. It most immediately calls to mind a John Williams score, but there’s even quite a bit of jazz influence to be found as well. If ever there were a puzzle game defined by its soundtrack, Intelligent Qube is it.

Few games today have as much lasting value to me as I.Q. It’s rare that I let a few months go by without attempting a run. It’s a game that’s aged extraordinarily well and is in dire need of a stateside re-release. It may not have the legacy of Tetris, but exposing this woefully under-the-radar gem to a new generation would go a long way to helping it establish the equally strong legacy it so richly deserves.

“PERRRRRRFECT!”

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Not cool.

Posted by finedaysunday on May 5, 2013

Short entry this week, somewhat related to what I brought up a few weeks ago about Dead Poets Society. Check out this Audi commercial:

On the surface, a very cool and relatable concept. Shy kid on his way to prom, empowered to take progressively bigger risks just by driving his dad’s car. By the time he gets there, he gets that “now or never” butterflies feeling in his gut and decides to just got for it and assault the prom queen. Big dumb jock prom king (because of course he’s a big dumb jock) reacts less than favourably and gives the kid a black eye for his troubles. Kid drives off with a shit-eating grin on his face as if he’s suddenly got a success story he can share with his buddies over the summer. Not exactly progressive stuff we’re dealing with here.

Oh, and we see a reaction shot of the prom queen meant to assure us that no, really guys, she was totally cool with it all along. That actually makes it so much worse.

Cillian

We live in a time when there’s no way for me to say this stuff without someone coming out of the woodwork and accusing me of being some new age lame-ass internet white knight, but you know what? This particular brand of assault under the guise of a grand sweeping romantic gesture wasn’t cool when Emilio Estevez did it in St. Elmo’s Fire almost 30 years ago, either. Take a look at this absurdity if you think you’re ready for it:

Like I said, it’s hardly progressive material for a movie made in 1985, and is even less so today. I also really wish I could say that this is its most outrageous scene. On a lighter note, sweet mother of God, there is not a hint of irony in the use of that music. Then again, I guess that’s part of what dates this movie.

But seriously, though. Tell me those two scenes aren’t almost completely interchangeable. Guy works himself up into taking rash action, girl is into it, guy is framed as the hero. I’m not even taking that latter scene out of context, either. What I see on the screen is what I see on the screen. And what I see on the screen is something that I think needs to stop being encouraged as ideal.

“You’re very persistent, Tron.”
“I’m also better than you.”

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