Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Songaday DAY 18-29

DAY 18 - Skyrim - Dragonborn
The only particularly good song on the whole soundtrack. Thankfully, it's very good. A similar version (titled One They Fear) plays when fighting dragons as well.

DAY 19 - FFVII Voices of the Lifestream - Mark of the Beathsmith
An excellent remix project by OCRemix again, Voices of the Lifestream remixes a whole ton of Final Fantasy VII stuff. This is among the better songs.

DAY 20 - Halo 2 - Ghosts of Reach
Highlights everything I love in the Halo soundtracks. The various Upon A Pale Horse versions were runners-up.

DAY 21 Sleepthief - Eurydice
Found these fellows recently, they're really good! I don't know what I think it sounds like, but it sounds like SOMETHING I've heard before.

DAY 22 - Delirium - After All (Andrew Sega Remix)
The original is also good. This got to be on Disc 2 of the same album. It actually won a contest to get there.

DAY 23 - Relics of the Chozo - Full of Life
The first OCRemix project, Relics of the Chozo was a Super Metroid remix project. This is Brinstar, and it is good.

DAY 24 - Serenity - Going For A Ride
Firefly/Serenity is awesome. So is this song.

DAY 25 - Metroid Metal - Downed Frigate
They do metal covers of Metroid songs. They're good!

DAY 26 - Summoning of Spirits - The Koan of Drums
Summoning of Spirits is my favorite OCRemix project. This is a remix by DJ Pretzel, the site's creator.

DAY 27 - Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Icarus, Main Theme
Haven't played the game yet, but the soundtrack is great.

DAY 28 - Sweet Talk Radio - We All Fall Down
The band that's done a bunch of music for SyFy channel's show Haven (which is also excellent). This song was a part of one of the early episodes and was soon released on its own, and I love the song.

DAY 29.
Hmm. I want to do something special for the final day, but I don't really have anything.
Actually, no embed this time. Here:
34 - A Chain to the Edge of the Sky
34 is an older band by our own Ataraxia before he moved on to Fevrier. This is from the first album, Arbent Rite, which is one of my favorite albums. This is an amazing song from it.
Here, have Fevrier's site as well. Download his album, it's good.
(Note for the blog: Ataraxia is from the forum I frequent, Kakariko Graveyard, where Songaday is also happening, so that's what I'm talking about).

So that should be it! All the catch-up, and the conclusion of the month! I know I haven't posted any since the 17th, but I HAVE been keeping up, so I count this as a success. Thanks for listening! I'll collect Bro's remaining songs real soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Movie Review: Chronicle

Chronicle Review

Chronicle. That was INTENSE. I'll let this out up front: This movie blew me away. Like, in an unbelievable way. Now, this review will contain spoilers. If you care to experience this movie in a true way (and haven't already seen it), you should go.

The Basics: Okay, so this movie can't come up with anything. I'm trying my best to place a genre on this, or mash up two genres to make this, or invent a new genre to describe this, and I can't. It defies all genre conventions in my opinion. But let's see what I can come up with. This movie is often horror-like, involves teen-movie conventions, is driven by science-fiction and holds superhero themes in its mind. Supernatural Thriller might be the best label, but I don't think that really covers all of it. The movie does, however, present thrills. It grabs you in your seat and doesn't let go. I can't think of another time I've been so entirely immersed, and I'll discuss why later.

Plot: Andrew is a shy, smart kid in his senior year of high school. His mom is terminally sick (we don't know with what, but we know it's extremely painful). His dad is on disability and is a raging drunkard, and he beats Andrew, who doesn't stand up to him. His cousin Matt is the closest thing he has to a friend, and it's not close. The movie starts as Andrew turns on his new camera - he's decided he is going to film EVERYTHING from now on. Everyone else thinks its weird - it's just more ammo to pick on him with. So Matt brings him to a party, and he gets beaten by a jock (Andrew was filming his girl, not with any intent, but jock didn't like that). Outside, he's cleaning the camera when nice fellow Steve shows up and asks him to come with him, that Matt and him found something in the woods and want him to come film it. He comes, with some hesitation, and they find this whole that goes into the ground with a strange noise coming out of it. They start going down, and it brings them to this THING. It seems to defy the laws of physics (a tear from Steve's eye moves to it instead of falling) and the camera is freaking out and they all start to nosebleed and such quite profusely. I'm not sure about this, but my interpretation was that they blacked out (the hand-camera goes dark and we jump to the next scene).
The three of them are together a lot now, and have discovered weird abilities - telekinesis. They explore it a bit, and try to go back to where the thing was, but the ground's caved in and the area is being sectioned off.
The film takes a while exploring their powers. They can move small things at first - grabbing a ball. Andrew builds a space needle out of legos without touching it, and is shown as having finesse. Steve talks about being able to lift his bed, and later drags a car. After nearly killing a person when Andrew turns the car behind him off the road for being an asshole. They rescue him, but Matt brings up the need for rules, and establishes a couple - the main is not to use it on people. Later, they keep getting stronger, and discover that they can fly. Andrew's natural disposition for using the powers becomes increasingly evident. Oh, and they can create barriers, like blocking a punch.
I'll skip forward. Some stuff happens, and people start knowing about Andrew's "magic tricks". He showed them basic telekinesis stuff, but not like flight and stuff. At a party, he goes upstairs with agirl for the first time, and ends up puking (why is unspecified I believe). He immediately starts pushing people away, especially Matt and Steve. After getting beaten by his dad again, he takes off up into the sky in the middle of a lightning storm. Matt and Steve both sense that something's wrong, and Steve finds him there. HE tries to talk Andrew back down to the ground, and is struck by lightning and killed. Andrew continues to push Matt away, and denies knowing what happened to Steve.
Andrew starts getting darker and darker and angrier and angrier. He kills a couple small bugs, and starts advancing to hurting people. He becomes overcome with the idea that he's an apex predator over humans, and that the apex predator doesnt' feel remorse for killing lower beings. He beats his dad back one time, and eventually finds that he needs money to pay for his mom's pain medication. He dresses up in his dad's old firefighter's uniform and goes out to the drugdealing douchebags and demands their money. They resist, and he kills them and takes it. It's not enough though - he goes to a gas station. He holds it up, blasts the guy inside and steals all the cash. As he's leaving the attendant gets up and goes out with the shotgun. Andrew sweeps it from his hand as it goes off - the gas station explodes, putting him in the hospital. He dad comes to him there to find him unconscious. His dad reveals that Andrew's mother has died, and starts blaming Andrew. As he goes to hit Andrew, he wakes up and blocks his arm. Then Andrew blows out the hospital wall like a bomb.
Matt knows something's wrong, he's getting super-crazy nosebleeds. He drives to the hospital and sees Andrew floating outside the whole, dangling his father. When he drops him, Matt flies up (in front of everyone) and grabs him and brings him to safety. He then flies up to confront Andrew. Matt finds Andrew at the Space Needle, ready to kill everyone. Matt tries to talk him down but can't, and they start a mid-air fight with news copters and cops watching. Eventually, Matt kills him to keep him from bringing the whole city down. Matt flees the police.
Last thing we see is the camera flying past a bunch of landscapes and landing in Tibet, where Andrew had expressed wanting to go when they first were learning to fly. He had wanted to go because it seemed so peaceful. Matt sets up Andrew's camera, points it at a group of temples, apologizes to him and says goodbye, that he's going to use his powers to help people and to unearth what caused this, no matter how long it takes. We hear him take off and the picture fades to black.

There's more, and there's subplots, but it would take forever to say it all. This is all summary though. How about reviewing it already? I  love it. I think it does so many things right. It starts off quite slow, in a way that may give you pause when you're watching it. The first bit is very teen-movie-ish, and that might throw you off, but it's important stuff for later. Later on it stays focused and pointed, every scene has relevance, and for an important reason. Basically, I can't critique the storyline at all. It's not cliche in any way, it isn't a clone of another movie we've seen, it's something entirely new.

This Movie Is Cloverfield: No its not, not at all, but it takes from Cloverfield the one convention it needs. Cloverfield is probably the biggest example of the found-footage style of filming, where there isn't an abstract camera that we're seeing it through, but instead we perceive through the lens of a camera that is actually being held by the characters. Another recent film that used a lot of found-footage is Super 8. Now, I love this film style. I think that for certain concepts it's brilliantly immersive and puts you right into the scene. There are 3 main pitfalls with the style as a whole however, and Chronicle is the perfect counter to most of these.
1) Shaky Cam. Yeah, it's held by hand, so it's gonna shake. A lot. And people don't really like shaky cam very much. However, the kids' telekinesis allows them to hold it perfectly steady while they move it, so it often doesn't shake (and when they're actually holding it, they minimize the shaking for us).
2) Limited Shots. You're holding it by hand, meaning the camera only can point where you can reasonably aim it. You also don't want to have the character looking like he's always reaching for the most film-y shot. Probably the hardest shot to do in this style is the top-down shot. By telekinesing the camera wherever they want it, Chronicle avoids the issue by just taking it out of their hands. They do a lot of the top-down shots as well (probably just saying to everyone "Hey! We found out how to do found-footage from above, have a lot of it!") but it still looks very cool.
3) "...Why?" The issue here is that you need to give every scene a reason for the camera to be there. This film's is Andrew's obsession with filming everything. This movie actually struggles with this just like all the others, but does pretty well I think. Other characters reference the fact that it's weird for him to have the camera everywhere, and the last act does jump out of the camera sometimes (though it also flashes into other things like security cameras and police dashboard cameras pretty often to hold the feeling in). Actually, the film introduces and uses a second filming character who doesn't do it quite so obsessively, but has it in the right places for us to get away from Andrew sometimes.
Most of the film has that cheap-camera quality, especially before they get their powers while Andrew still has the old camera. The quality is good and viewable, but it definitely works as a means to immerse you in the world and make things a lot more personal and close. There's surprisingly littler 127 Hours-style monologueing to the camera. Quite a bit of silent activity while the camera sits there, but it really gives a feel for Andrew's life.

This is a Teen Movie: This movie actually shows a lot of the high school life, and it WORKS. A lot of movies that ry to portray  high school life end up either being just kinda wrong or being gross exaggerations, and I felt that Chronicle's was very true to life. It hits a couple pop culture type notes, but it really doesn't try too hard so you don't really notice.
This is one of the film's downpoints actually - it restricted the audience. My parents said that they didn't really relate to it because of how much it focused on the teen life. So I guess it works really well with a certain age group and starts falling apart a bit as you get somewhat older. However, since I fall into the good age group, this is an incredible experience.

This is a Horror Movie: Again, not really. The abuse scenes in such a real-feeling movie  are very disturbing, and if that hits a nerve this movie could make you incredibly uncomfortable. The early finding-the-thing stuff is pretty horror-like. Watching Andrew's descent into madness is VERY disturbing. It's psychological horror more than anything.
The immediate mental connect to Cloverfield had me on edge a bit since that was horror. Also, in my opinion everything felt riskier and more terrifying because of the immersiveness and personalization of the camera.

This is a Superhero Movie: Oh boy, not sure if people will agree with this classification. The kids are NOT heroes. They are people. But they find themselves granted, through exposure to an unknown thing, their telekinetic powers. Generally though they don't go fight crime or anything - the first thing they do is go to Wal-Mart and just a be total dick to everyone. In other words, they were high school seniors.
However, in my opinion the place the movie connects best to superhero movies is in its themes. Mainly Matt's theme (I think Matt and Andrew each embody one main theme, and I'll talk about that more later). Matt's theme is Spiderman: one of the biggest pieces of Spiderman that stays with everyone is Uncle Ben's last words, "With great power comes great responsibility." Matt is all about accepting the responsibility of the power and restricting it and not hurting people, while Andrew follows along with that but deep down doesn't care, and Steve fits in between, wanting to enjoy his power but understanding the risk. Matt even more than Steve is always bringing up that they need to back off and keep it a secret and stay restrained, while Andrew saw no wrong in steering someone to their death for being annoying, and this is in the beginning before he really goes to the dark side.
So the Spiderman concept is a big connection to superhero movies for me. Not everyone will see this, but I do. I'll also point out that spiders seem to be a recurring image in the film - you see them a few time, a spider is the first thing Andrew kills purposefully, and when he's suiting up to go out and get money there's a song with spider-related lyrics going on, and those are just the ones I noticed offhand, I bet there were more. Spiders as a whole seem to be a whole image in the film, and I can't find the significance of them without relating it to Spiderman.

This is a Science Fiction Movie: Flying, telekinesis, mental barriers, this is a sci-fi movie. Honestly, it doesn't come off as one really aside from the technical classification. The weakest classification.

Themes: The movie has a few themes. I saw two main themes, one of which dominates the first half of the movie, and then the other is dominant for the latter half. The early one is the Spiderman theme, that great power comes with great responsibility, which I already talked about. This peaks with Steve's death; Andrew's recklessness and selfishness lead to Steve putting himself in danger for Andrew and dying for it. Afterward, Andrew starts retreating and the other theme starts to come to the fore: Repressed emotion will burst forth as anger. Andrew has suffered his father his whole life, taking all of the shame and hate and depression and rage at his father, and has internalized it. He's picked on at school, has no real friends, has no game with girls, and is bullied. He's a small-ish kid, and all of his frustration and everything from all of these factors has been boiling under in him. Then he got powers, and his self-loathing from being unable to perform and puking when he was with the girl broke him, and everything started converting to violence. That's when he started pushing everyone away and killing things. In the end, it was his hatred of his father that caused all that emotion to explode (literally), and then he does his destructive rampage at the end of the movie.
Maybe my choice of the theme as a main one doesn't come through for some folks who watched the movie, but this is what I felt a lot.
Other themes include the pressures of high school and the corruption that comes with power (that second one is heavily tied to Andrew's theme).

So, um, that's what I've got. I think I'm done gushing about the movie. I do need to acknowledge flaws though, and I think the main ones are these: Your age group may keep you from really immersing yourself like young folks will, the movie is dark and dangerous as all hell, and the sheer genre-smashing means that this might not be for you. Overall though, the quality is incredible. If I'm right in assuming that a lot of the tricks were CGI, it was damn seamless. The music was atmospheric but not really noticeable, it wasn't super impressive but had no real flaws either.
Top scores all around.

Watch This Movie If You: Like excellent movies, are young enough to empathize and immerse yourself in the young-uns place (I'm think 15-25 is the right range, but I have no idea really)
Don't Watch This Movie If: You're outside the age range that you'll really get the realisticness and immersiveness of the school, if you have really awful taste.
10/10. FULL SCORE. I think this might be the best movie since Black Swan.

End Recording,

Friday, February 24, 2012

Video Game Review: RAGE

Sorry about vanishing, I'm doing catch-up for the Songaday and will have that posted real soon! Hate getting behind on these things.
RAGE: Anarchy Edition Review

So, my bro got RAGE for Christmas (from me, I knew he wanted it!). He got most of the way through and stoppedfor a while, just switched games. Not uncommon for him. And so a bit ago I decided to try it out. And now I'm done with it.

Overview: As a setting, RAGE is a post-apocalyptic game. You play an ARK survivor, a person who was put into stasis pre-apocalypse who woke up eventually. Most of the survivors get killed when they come out (or are captured by The Authority and never seen again).
As a game, it's a first-person shooter built by id Software (the Doom and Quake fellows). It also tries to make a big deal out of its driving segments. Does this sound familiar? Maybe just like Borderlands minus the loot system? Yeah. It pretty much is at its core.
I'm playing the Anarchy Edition. I suppose its just like a Game of the Year edition for games that didn't make it to Game of the Year :/.
Oh yeah, and I played on Easy.

Gameplay: Okay, so the gameplay is, um, alright. In fact, what it does it does pretty good even. The aiming is smooth - I've never felt it so smooth before, though the sensitivity felt weird sometimes but I always have issues with that. There's a pretty good variety of guns.
Here's the rundown:
Fists: Why would you ever use the fists? The enemies either mob you and beat you to death since you can't have melee weapons, or they just shoot you up?
Pistol: Pretty decent actually. Weak, but an alternate ammo fixes that well enough (it's expensive and has half the clip size, but double strong). There's an upgrade that's a scope that's REALLY nice.
Combat Shotgun: Blam blam blam can I keep it? It looks really good and shoots just as well. Only problem is I use it so much I'm always buying more ammo!
Sniper Rifle: Also really nice. I love snipers.
AK: Technically Assault Rifle, but it's an AK. It's not that strong but the game throws you lots of ammo for it, so you always have a fallback.
Crossbow: Useless. The game tries a stealth thing but it doesn't work, enemies all notice you if they glance vaguely in your direction, one kill even if no one is around usually triggers them, etc. The electro bolts are pretty nice in the level you get them, at least.
Rocket Launcher: Maybe useful if you try a man-vs-vehicle thing, but why would you EVER do that?
Authority Machine Gun: The upgraded version of the AK. It has a scope, it's better in all ways except the bullets are rarer (by a lot) and cost a bajillion dollars. I liked it though.
BFG: It's an id title. Last level only, I won't spoil it since these are always entertaining.
Also, every gun has some alternate ammos, so that's a very nice touch. The gun list is varied yet unsurprising
Driving is a big part of the game as well. There are a few different types of car, and they stagger the release a bit, so you get "better" ones as the game goes on. If you please, though, you can just take the start car, do a few races and buy the upgrades, and by the time you start getting the "better" cars your already upgraded ones can handle themselves. The races aren't too bad and mostly deal with memorizing the tracks and how to whip around the corners right. ALL of the cars' handling is too slippery for my liking anyway.
Health regenerates - it's a modern FPS after all. HP regen is a bit weird visually - it does the usual edges-go-red-with-hits thing, but it takes a bunch of hits to start up and then escalates to REALLY red really fast. Not as bad as Gears of War 1's, but still not a perfect ramp.
I want to mention the enemies. Now, there are, in general, 4 types, and then a few specials for each. They are:
Mutants: Desert mutants who can only use melee, do all sorts of hopping and swinging around, are smaller than most, and who give no pickups or ammo on death. Kill them best with the Authority Machine Gun since they're fast and spraying bullets at them is likely to get you enough hits. Shotgun's good if you can keep 'em in the right range. They LOVE spawning behind you though.
Lite Bandits: Low on armor, but they carry guns and melee in about a 50/50 split. Gun ones will stay away from you and pick away at you, so find cover and use the sniper to headshot them - it's a oneshot if done right. Melee ones are gonna run right for you, and they're big enough and slower than mutants so the shotgun works really well.
Heavy Bandits: They wear armor and all use guns! Snipe snipe snipe. Unfortunately, they wear helmets, so it takes more than one headshot, and these guys take cover. Some patience and these guys become the least threatening. They're major ammo sponges though.
Authority: Heavy Armor, take lots of bullets, use lots of grenades, have riot shields, advance on you while using guns, these guys suck. Later levels have a lot of these, take 'em however you want. Snipe their heads off, shotgun them to little bits, fill them with MG bullets, it all works about the same amount with these guys. EMP shots are specialized to work on them though.
You'll fight each several times, though the exact levels of skill and behavior changes each time, which is nice, but they file into these categories usually.
Crafting. It, uh, allows the creation of a few things. I don't use them usually. The main one is a Lock Grinder that can get you into optional rooms full of ammo and stuff, and that's nice. Carry a bunch of them. Other than that, the only non-ammo item that really matters is Bandages, which, when used, drop your damage to 0. Helpful in the middle of a fight. I didn't need them TOO often since I'm on Easy, but I had a policy of carrying 20 at any given point since they're pretty cheap. There's a couple other things, like Wingsticks (which are like blade boomerangs. My bro likes them, but I never used them), RC Bomb Cars, and Sentry Turrets. Honestly, I think it's just easier to ignore them.

I need to confront the Anarchy Edition. Alright, it's got four things in it. More listing!
Double-Barreled Shotgun: Wait, its even CLOSER range than the Combat Shotgun, wastes ammo twice as fast, and isn't all that much stronger even? You start the game with it, so I guess its pretty okay right at the beginning, but as soon as you get an upgrade to the combat shotgun it's outclassed.
Rat Rod Buggy: This is the only car I ever used. Very high usefulness.
Fists of Rage: A damage boost to the most useless weapon in the game? No thanks.
Crimson Elite Armor: So, early on, the game gives you a choice of three armors: one that makes things cheaper, one that decreases crafting costs, one that decreases damage. The Anarchy Edition brings a fourth one: It does the job of ALL THE OTHER THREE. Super mega overpowered, takes away one of the few meaningful choices in the game.So basically, the game is decent gameplay-wise, but doesn't do anything to really make it stand out from the crowd, or from its superior Gearbox cousin Borderlands (which predated it by two whole years). But it's still fun, and that's what matters.Plot: The plot is, well, not new. Character (who has no name. Not that you name him, he just goes the whole game being called "the Ark survivor" the whole time) comes out of stasis to a destroyed world in a wasteland, with a tyrannical government in control of everything, and you join the resistance and stuff and fight the authority.

In the end, you wake up all the Arks at the same time. I don't really understand why this would help spark "the revolution" as the game says. You hit the button to wake up the Arks, and the game ENDS. **** this. It is REALLY unsatisfying, and was blatantly  "We want to make a sequel and so will force you ask for it by not giving you a real conclusion."
Screw you id.

The plot is unbelievably linear. No branching. AT ALL. There are side-quests, but they're mostly just working through stages backwards or doing "survive for time"-style missions, and they have no revelance to the true game. In other words, this game's plot sucks and should not be why you play it. Which is disappointing, because "You wake up from stasis, the apocalypse happened!" is a great hook! Also, there's tons of doors and stuff they could have made explorable or stuff, but they just seal them off permanently. Why include those doors!? They're just making you wait for something that will never come.

Sound: The music was back and forth with its quality. I really liked it when it emphasized the western/wasteland style, and the piano piece that plays in the intro cutscene is quite haunting. The credits song also has a great feel. However, a lot of the songs are loud/dissonant things meant to be sorta terrifying while you're in the enemy stronghold or fighting off mutants or something. Not so good, very generic. Focus on the wasteland theme, id!
Sound effects are decent, nothing special but not bad either.
Voice acting is hard for me to comment on - usually I play with no sound on and just read the subtitles. However, I did hear some of it, and I liked it. The accents weren't ridiculous usually, the lines were well delivered and flowed pretty seamlessly. So good job there id.

Graphics: This is the games high point I think. You turn on the game, and you're met with the opening cutscene, which looks GORGEOUS. Then you're thrown into a VERY good looking game. Animation is smooth and everything is moving pretty dynamically. My standard low point, the stone texture (I hate most stone texture) genuinely impressed me. Look up at the sky, and you'll see the most incredible video game sky you've ever seen.
The character models are great. They move and gesture (though it's a bit exaggerated at times) and are all VERY well designed. It helps that there isn't a generic model for NPCs, if you aren't meant to shoot them then they have a name and a unique design. And the designs are brilliant. They all look like real fellows scrounging their way through the apocalypse, trying to keep things going. You have people obviously dressed for professions they're doing that make a ton of sense in post-apocalyptic setting (an oil-drilling place had a guy in a worker's uniform, tricked out a little bit, and it all just clicked for me). Whoever did these concepts deserves some recognition, this is Massive Black type work. I actually looked up Massive Black's site to see if they WERE the ones doing it, but no.
The animations for the enemies are all very very awesome. They look generic individually, but they're always moving - the mutants bob and weave and jump off of scenery to get at you, the bandits reach up and blind-fire and look out from all sorts of spots of their cover, everyone is really interacting with the environment. You need to see them to appreciate them.
There are a couple flaws though. The first is minor - sometimes things are designed with exaggeration. The Sheriff and his office are my main examples, it's pretty stereotypical. But this is the exception rather than the rule.
The other flaw is pretty big: texture pop-in. When you look at something, it can take up to 10 seconds for the texture to fully appear. I think this is related to their technique - textures come in layers. As soon as its on screen, one texture appears, and they keep loading successively until you see the top one. If you go from a town to the wasteland, watch your gun when you appear - the textures will just pile on until it looks awesome. I see the benefit though. We don't wait a long time on lame base textures, and instead have something nearly-good while we wait for a couple more moments. It never happens with enemies, so you're never confused about that. I just thought I had to say something about the pop-in, because it IS very long. Maybe a couple less intermediate stages could quicken it up.

Conclusion: I think that's it. Overall, a great looking, good playing, okay sounding game with a lame plot wedged in. There is no replay value. The multiplayer is just the driving stuff, so that sucks. It has its issues, but it's still fun. All in all, 7/10 is what I'd go with.

Play This Game If You Like: Action shooters, amazing graphics, post-apocalyptic settings
Don't Play This Game If You're Expecting: Original or satisfying story, gameplay on par with  Borderlands, a good driving game.

End Recording,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February Songaday Day Seventeen

Better late than never. I'm traveling through next Tuesday, and I don't know if the other days will have internet at the hotel (I sure as hell hope so or I'm gonna go crazy) but I'm doing stuff, so the next couple days'll likely be late as well. I'll try to get 'em up before I go to bed though. Info on things will be ultra-light or non-existent for now though.
EGO DAY SEVENTEEN: Ziwtra (Humans + Gears: Xenogears Remixed OCRemix Project) - Of Sea And Fire (Bonds of Sea and Fire)
Well, I love OCRemix projects so I figure now that I've unrestricted myself I'll post some of them for a bit. Humans + Gears is a bit of an older project, from 2006. It's still excellent in places, though it occasionally falls flat. Still, definitely worth a listen. The album's free!
Humans + Gears dedicated site:

BRO DAY SEVENTEEN: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - Sound of the Wind
Great game, great song. I enjoy it more when I don't understand the lyrics here, gives it more of a fantasy vibe even though I know it's just Japanese.

End Recording,

Friday, February 17, 2012

February Songaday Day Sixteen

Yesterday concluded Disc 1 - I'm splitting the discs 15/14. Now, Disc 2 gets to be a bit different. For Disc 1, I enforced a policy that to not use game remixes and if we used game music, it had to be mistakable for real music. Those two restrictions are off now.
EGO DAY SIXTEEN: Lost Odyssey - Epsylon Range
Developed by Mistwalker and released generally in 2008, Lost Odyssey got good but not amazing reviews. I've never played it, and its traditional sensibilities (that were mostly criticized) mean that it probably has enough grinding to keep me from playing. Maybe I'll watch an LP of it or something.

BRO DAY SIXTEEN: Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead
Not a huge Bauhaus fan myself, but this song is good, though slow.

End Recording,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Songaday Day Fifteen

Data posts to come once I coast in under the deadline.

EGO DAY FIFTEEN: Imogen Heap - Canvas

BRO DAY FIFTEEN: Gabriel & Dresden - Tracking Treasure Down

End Recording,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February Songaday Day Fourteen

EGO DAY FOURTEEN: Inception - Mombasa
Welp, quick night tonight. Love this song, love this movie.

BRO DAY FOURTEEN: Firefly - Theme
Yup. Great show. I've actually never been a huge fan of the theme for some reason, just doesn't click for me.

End Recording,

February Songaday Day Thirteen

I fell asleep at like 8:00 last night, so sorry. I was pretty exhausted. Making it up now.
EGO DAY THIRTEEN: Shadow of the Colossus - Prologue ~To the Ancient Land~
This was the prologue music for Shadow of the Colossus. I long for the day I can play this game. Its soundtrack is epic.

BRO DAY THIRTEEN: Clint Mansell - Requiem For A Dream
Also an excellent song. Never watched the movie.

2/14 post later today.
End Recording,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movie Review: Safe House


Well, that was pretty good. I liked Safe House. It features Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, both of whom I'm fond of (especially Denzel Washington, The Book of Eli is among my favorite movies). It was directed by Daniel Espinosa, who I admit I don't know. The plot follows Matt Weston (Ryan Reynold's character), a CIA agent who left the farm with very high evaluation scores, but has been stuck as a "housekeeper" for a South African safe house. Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is a former CIA agent who went rogue a decade ago and has been selling secrets ever since. Without any specifics, he ends up in said safe house, said safe house is attacked and only Matt gets out with Tobin, and they go running, Matt trying to get Tobin to the CIA and Tobin trying to get away to safety. (None of this should be spoiler, btw, this is all trailer stuff)

So, what were cool things and bad things?
Gun Sounds: This is something that kept sticking out to me. The gun sounds are very distinctive to each gun from what I could tell. Not just different pistol/machine gun/shotgun sounds, but even different machine guns made different noises. In a lot of movies and shows, there's just one gun noise, which is usually fine, but I like this attention to detail. It also made for a nice way to distinguish one side of a conflict from another sometimes, you could tell who was shooting. Next best thing to Star Wars's color-coded laser shots for knowing who's shooting! (Wow, I guess in Star Wars it's always pretty obvious which shots were friendly fire. Never though about that before)
Color: Oh man, I'm so glad about this. The fear of a movie set in Africa (or especially the Middle East) is that the movie will look very desaturated and brown and tan and dusty. It's VERY easy for directors to go that route, and quite common too. Heck, look at the Call of Duty video games. But no, this was the Uncharted of movies - vibrant, bright, varied colors, just like the real South Africa. Two scenes in particular were very nice in this regard: one was in a building, and the rest of the scene is kinda unimportant, but I turned in my seat and whispered to my dad "Oh my god is that wall ever YELLOW!" That sort of vibrancy became a standard for the movie (actually, there was sort of a reversal, in that the CIA HQ scenes were very basic and drab, gray with blue screens type). The other scene was in the Langa Township. Even though it was at night, it looked really nice.
Cinematography: There were some really nice impressive shots there. Not all of them, but a bunch of great ones. I think it owes to them actually filming out in South Africa. The top-down helicopter shots were spectacular.
Denzel Washington: He was pretty cool. Kinda quiet sometimes, but I like this dude's acting.
Music: I liked it! Nothing extraordinary, but it was pleasant enough. Some of the ethnic instruments in it were nice, reminded you that this was South Africa.

Less Cool:
Ryan Reynolds: He stood his ground, and it was nice, but he certainly wasn't the highlight of the movie. Just nothing particularly impressive that ad ehim hero material. Did some cool action stuff though.
Shaky Cam: Yup, there was a lot of it. Not Bourne Supremacy a lot, but still quite a bit. Got annoying at times. I'm gonna pair this with a lot of jump cuts. Both shaky cam and jump cuts are useful techniques to make a scene appear less static and more fast-paced, but editors have to know when it's a bit too much and it becomes either nauseating or just obscures what exactly the action is. They fell a bit further on the latter side.
White Folks: There were a lot of white folks. Maybe this is my own ignorance (in which case ignore this point) but I would have thought there'd be a few less white folk running around Cape Town. Then again, it's a major metropolitan city, so I could definitely be mistaken here.
Shocks: So you're in a calm, quiet scene, working through some plot, when ACTION and a gun goes off and it's really loud and you kinda jump in your skin? The stock and trade of bad horror films, this is a trick that works in an action thriller once, maybe twice per film. This has it like 5 times. Didn't like that.
In The Shadow Of Giants: The movie FEELS like a less-capable version of the others in the spy genre. While it doesn't even come close to what James Bond does (although I suppose it's not too far off in genre from Casino Royale. It'd be unfair to use Bond as the measuring stick though), it feels like it has some television spy in it (His name was Weston! All I could think of was Burn Notice. I know this is just coincidence, but still), and this quality would be fit for a television action spy. However, the biggest thing this tried imitating was some of the Bourne stuff, especially Ultimatum. Ryan Reynolds is...well, he's not Matt Damon. Maybe it was also the trailer for Bourne Legacy we saw beforehand, but I think a lot of folks will compare it to that, and it will come up subpar in those comparisons.

However, all in all, I think it was solid, enjoyable film, if not exactly a "thinking" film. Memento this ain't. But I liked it, and I'd recommend it if you want to spend a few hours watching a fun movie. Maybe it'll be especially worth it on DVD or On Demand, I don't think you'll lose a ton on the small-screen (except maybe some color vibrancy).

Watch This Movie If You Like: Fast-paced Action Thrillers, Spy Conspiracies a la Bourne, Denzel Washington
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: A lot of thoughtful stuff to bite into, quality on par with Bourne.
7.5/10, 4 stars out of 5.

End Recording,

February Songaday Day Twelve

Not feeling in a Links mood, but very early post!
EGO DAY TWELVE: Conjure One - Center of the Sun
Conjure One is a Canadian electronic music project by Rhys Fulber, a member of Front Line Assembly and Delerium. It's some good stuff, with a lot of ethnic influences, especially in the early stuff. Oh yes, and I recommend the anime movie that got pieced together for the video on this one, titled Metropolis.
Conjure One site:

BRO DAY TWELVE: Rodrigo y Gabriela - Hanuman
I love these two. They're Mexican, and the two of them are extremely techinally proficient. I know them best from their album 11:11, and am actually gonna be going to see them in early April. They get some crazy fast finger-work going, and simultaneously use the guitar itself for percussion, and it sounds awesome.
Uh, yeah. Not much else to say. Oh! They've done some film score work, they were a big part of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and were featured in the Puss in Boots film.
Rodrigo y Gabriela site:

End Recording,

February Songaday Day Eleven

This WAS prepared on time, and was posted on time at KG. Sorry for the wait if you only check here.

EGO DAY ELEVEN: Euphoria - Delirium
Canadian band Euphoria has been around since '93. Trance, techno, electronica, they have a distinctive folk-ish/Western-ish acoustic sound to them. This was the first song on their first release (a self-titled album), and I love it. It reminds me a lot of Firefly, and Bastion reminded me a lot of this. They have two other albums, one of which I've heard (Beautiful My Child), and it's pretty great too. Also, totally watch the video on this one, it's awesome.
Oh, to make sure if you choose to search 'em out yourself, there was a late 60's American band Euphoria and a very famous Indian band Euphoria still around today (one of the biggest bands on the subcontinent actually, they might end up having a songaday entry of their own this month). Just letting you know, since it seems to be a fairly common band name.
Going easy on it tonight, just the Euphoria site:

BRO DAY ELEVEN: Coldplay - Viva La Vida
I don't have much to say about Coldplay. I mean, there's things to say, but I just don't feel like saying 'em tonight. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe not, I dunno. Chances are you know Coldplay anyway.
Same here, just their site:

End Recording,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February Songaday Day Ten

EGO DAY TEN: Sneaker Pimps - 6 Underground
Ah, Sneaker Pimps. I found these guys through Pandora. They're a trip-hop band in the vein of Massive Attack and Portishead, They haven't been active for a good while, but had a few albums. My favorite by far is the first, Becoming X - for god knows what reason, they changed singers after this, and the singer on Becoming X was, to me, what set them apart and made them special. Anyway, I like this song quite a bit, as well as Low Place Like Home, Spin Spin Sugar, Post-Modern Sleaze, and others.
Don't confuse them with, a touring sneakers and street based art show. Check them out too though, they've got some cool stuff.
Sneaker Pimps - Low Place Like Home:
Sneaker Pimps - Spin, Spin, Sugar:
Sneaker Pimps - Post-Modern Sleaze (I like this one a lot too): (the art show one):

BRO DAY TEN: La Roux - In For The Kill
HE WAS LATE. Um, Techincally he said the Skrillex remix of this but I have principles. Go look it up yourself, I'm not linking that one.
La Roux is a group of British fellows who do electropop. Their stuff really isn't my thing. They've been met with good success though, so good for them I guess.
This song also got good reviews. It's been remixed a bunch of times. One featuring Kanye West (I didn't even try listening to it, but maybe it happens to be good, idk), one by Skrillex (which I dislike a lot and will not be posting here), and one by Skream, and that one is actually pretty good! It was included on a Glitch Mob mixtape as well, though I can't find that recording really.
La Roux site:
In For The Kill (Skream Remix):

I wish Bro would stop picking things I don't like very much, but I suppose that's up to him. I also wish Bro would pick a song before 11:30 at night, that slacker.
End Recording,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dogs In The Vineyard Session Three

Well, I did it again, I waited forever before posting up some AP of my Dogs game. Admittedly, I was debating whether to at all, but why not?

Featuring the Dogs:
- Brother Judah, played by Daniel. Brother Judah is heavy on the Body stat and kicks ass in a physical fight. Daniel is the fellow who has always played the "I attack him." guy in all of our other games. Also the most prone to ask where the strip club/brothel is at.
- Brother Eli, played by my little bro Curtis. Brother Eli is very into guns. Very much so. The Acuity also makes him decent at talking though.
- Sister Lydia, played by Kris (it's a guy, I know that name goes either way but he's playing a genderbent character). Very talk-y. Kris is the most into the RP next to me. He's got some stake in Sister Althea not being forced into marriage, since the same thing almost happened to his Sister Lydia.
- Me, Ego, the GM. This game my goals were: a) have some dice conflict, b) wrap up Terrance River Branch, towns are only supposed to be one session long.

Just read the previous AP.
I made a change though. I had Timothy stick around frozen in place rather than run.

Okay, so there they are, and Brother Eli walks out from behind the barn with a bottle of booze, and asks "What is this?" Hand on his gun, we instantly start conflict and roll dice - for some reason, I can't remember who exactly rolled, I know only one Dog rolled in. I think it was Brother Judah actually. They quarrel, and it gets into physical non-fighting, and since Brother Gregor (the booze-maker) rolled god-awful, I had him give, since Brother Judah was kicking his ass and had just said "You either get those hands up and get on the road to repentance, or you're not making it out of here alive." So they rope up his hands and get going back to town - their plan is to eventually bring Brother Gregor to Bridal Falls, the central Dogs temple, so he can be tried and can repent. They start walking back into town, Brother Judah and Brother Gregor up front with Brother Timothy being brought along by Sister Lydia. Brother Eli stayed back to torch the booze-making setup. I bring this up a few times, that from the town it looks like they just torched his whole house, and it really disturbs some folk.
In their walking, Sister Lydia wants to talk to Brother Timothy. She's questioning him about what he was doing - he admits that he had bought a bottle of whiskey from Brother Gregor, but not for him, as a gift for Sister Althea. He'd run out of ideas for how to win her over when he thought maybe a bottle would impress her. He then mentions off-hand in his stunned state that his father had been the one to mention it first...
They were already going to the steward's- now they're going there for the Steward himself. Daniel has been raring to do this for like the past three sessions, even before we were doing Dogs, so I let him have his way finally. He kicked that door down! Of course, the Steward comes running to the door. Now, I'm seeing this only while writing up, but in hindsight I should have had his wife, Sister Margaret, who I'd introduced and never did anything good with, she should have been with him, or just answered the door herself. In fact, I left her out of the session entirely, and that was silly of me. Oh well, he answers, back and forth, this is Sister Lydia's turn to do some dice conflict (they decided it; I asked whether Judah or Lydia should take this and they both decided on Lydia). They're talking, and eventually they uncover that he USED to drink but no longer does, and that his referral of Timothy there he admits was a mistake and that even then it was only a hunch, that he wasn't even sure if Gregor still operated that old still. During the conversation, Brother Judah pushes his way in to search the place for booze. This time he finds some, a single full bottle, hidden in an alcove behind a painting. They think immediately to blame the Steward, who says "no, it's not mine, I haven't kept anything in there in years!" They look around, and find that while Brother Gregor is standing there, Timothy is GONE, vanished into the crowd that had gathered (they DID haul a well-known farmer into town in ropes and then kick in the Steward's door, of course there's a crowd). In the excitement, no one noticed him slip away, but the Dogs think they know where he might have gone.
They arrive at Brother Simon's house and instantly have their hunch proven - there's Timothy, yelling at the house for Althea to come out, he needs to talk to her. Daniel's been building up some violence - Judah likes to fight, and keeps getting held back. He takes Timothy as being harrassing and a boozer and wants a marriage Althea doesn't and it's time to take out some frustrations. He beats Timothy to a pulp. Seriously. Concussion, one arm broken, the other broken so badly that it ends up amputated in the aftermath. Brother Simon comes out and yells that Sister Althea isn't even here right now, she's at the church. Daniel admits that he pretty much just burned the last remnants of his bridge to that family, revealing that Brother Judah REALLY likes violence. They leave, a crowd gathering around Timothy, but not before telling the surgeon that Timothy gets no anesthetic for his amputation.
They show up to the church, and Brother Jacob's gone home sick. They explain the situation, and she's aghast at what Judah's done, but they push that she can't stay in town. She needs to have her Faith restored, and that she should come with them back to Bridal Falls (where they're bringing Gregor and the Steward). She argues, but it doesn't get to full conflict, and she complies.
The Dogs make one final stop - I wasn't going to bring it up, but someone wanted to conclude the loose end (and maybe add to their growing chain gang - they intend to bring Timothy with them too, so that's three prisoners and Althea already). They head to Brother Jacob's house. Judah breaks down the door - again. This time I made it a brutal break down, it was established that Jacob's door is always locked and that means he ripped the door frame out to. Instead of being met at the door, they march on in, find him nearly passed out in his chair. Conflict ensues (I'm, um, not sure if it had dice, I don't recall), and again the end result is "Come with us and repent, or die." I used the opportunity to get some more backstory and reasoning out on why Jacob's turned, but I was fighting an uphill battle to make real conflict out of this - he did WANT to stop sinning.

The group leaves town. The sun is dipping beneath the horizon as the Dogs ride out, trailing the Steward, the priest, the farmer, the Steward's son, and Althea up front with them, her head down. As the town shrinks into the distance, the blaze from Gregor's farm is still going. This town is in shambles. But it's not their job to put the pieces back together.
As an epilogue, we montaged through what happened to the everyone when they reach Bridal Falls. Gregor is tried by the Ancients and executed - he's a full on sinner, intentional and unrepentent. He only came with because possible death later is better than sure death now. The Steward is actually left unpunished - he fully repented back when he gave up drinking. He'll probably even get to stay a Steward. Timothy repents fully, but will forever be crippled. He's lost an arm, and will probably never find love. Brother Jacob is helped entirely to repent. He will probably never be allowed to act as priest again, but he remains free.
Althea's punishment is strange. The girl doesn't believe what she's doing is wrong, and pure academic teaching by the Dogs might not help. She needs to be shown what harm her defiance of the King of Life can do. She is to accompany Dogs Judah, Eli, and Lydia. Game end.

So, what from here? Well, to be honest, I'm out of ideas for Dogs towns, or at least where to start with for Dogs towns. We were only going to one more potentially, so while I think of another idea we're going to shelf these characters and play a new game. We're going to Apocalypse World! I'll be inviting our friend Kenny, who played with us through high school, and this game is right up his avenue. He might have been out of the RPG scene for a bit now, so I hope I can convince him to give it a shot, since I think he'd really enjoy it and we'd have a great time seeing him again. Not sure when the next game'll be, but I really hope its soon. But some quick reflection.

What Was My Favorite Thing About The Session: The potential disconnect between sin and punishment. First town, we had a person beating another ruthlessly and abusing the whole town, a weather demon that caused a famine, and these guys almost killed Brother Judah, and the punishment was to defeat the Demon and go, trying to keep the town stable. In this town, we had a chick who didn't want an arranged marriage and some drinking, with no one even getting punched, let alone killed, and they left the town a smoldering heap. I suppose it's how far the sin spreads, not how intense it is. Gotta remember if I do this again to keep the sin spread, or to include other goings-on. I don't want them to always burn the town, but I DO want the stuff to usually have town-affecting consequences. It's best when the players' actions matter to the town, rather than just neatly and surgically strike the sin.
What Was My Least Favorite Thing: Too much conflict, but I'm not faulting myself for this.  This was soemwhat inevitable to me. The Dogs, last session, basically forestalled every single conflict, which is why they didn't roll any dice. Problem is, all that caught up to them this time.
What I Would Do Differently: Incorporate other characters into potential one-target scenes. Margaret with the Steward, Simon out there fighting Timothy instead of in the house, Althea with Jacob in the church, something like that. More people complicate things. Complications are good.
What I Would Have Them Do Differently: Pick a side and stick to it. If the Dogs pick no sides, they leave and nothing happened. If the Dogs sided with the Althea side, they take out Timothy and leave Althea there. If they side with Timothy, they take Althea. They took option 4: TAKE EVERYONE. Their characters didn't learn much when they supported their instincts and supported the Faith and just punished violators of either.

Well, that's about it.
End Recording,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February Songaday Day Nine

EGO DAY NINE: Sunlounger & Zara - Lost (Club Mix)
Weirdly enough, this isn't a remix by someone else, the guy (Roger Shah, DJ Shah) made two versions of every song on this album, one a club mix and the other a chillout mix. Shah has worked under a number of names (including Sunlounger, which is most famous, and Magic Island, which he still does a weekly two hour radio show titled this on Digitally Imported), and has a pretty astounding volume of work. He's also an accomplished remixer, reworking trakcs for Sarah McLachlan (he remixed The First Noel for her, it's an amazing version and one of my favorite trance songs out there), Josh Gabriel, and Armin Van Buuren.
Zara? Her name is Zara Taylor, and she's a singer. She's working on her debut solo album right now, but has been releasing tracks with other trance artists since 2006. This was her second song with Shah, and she went on to do two more (including a direct follow-up to this song titled "Found").
Roger Shah/Sunlounger site:
Zara Taylor's site:
Sunlounger & Zara - Lost (chillout mix):
Sunlounger & Zara - Found:

BRO DAY NINE: Mirror's Edge - Still Alive
Not the Portal one, this was a DIFFERENT Still Alive from the first-person platforming parkour game Mirror's Edge, released in late 2008 to (generally) high reviews. I love Mirror's Edge, I think its a fun, fast-paced game with a unique sense of art direction rare in modern day games - bold, super-saturated primary colors with a lot of nice clean white. Seriously, one of my favorite games for the look.
Also, the music! Generally, the game gives the sense of being very high up in the city, lots of ambience that's still interesting somehow, and pretty great action music. The whole soundtrack is done by Swedish electronic musician Solar Fields, and the vocals on this song are by Lisa Miskovsky (by coincidence, also Swedish). Still Alive serves as the general theme of the game, and an instrumental version plays breifly at various points of the game, thouh the full version with vocals is saved for the credits. Come on EA, Mirror's Edge 2!
Mirror's Edge site:
Mirror's Edge - Edge & Flight:
Solar Fields site:
Lisa Miskovsky site (you're gonna want Google Translate for this one):

End Recording,

Super Meat Boy Review

Having beaten this game today (by which I mean "saw the credits"), it's  time for the review!

Super Meat Boy Review
If you really care about spoilers for Super Meat Boy (I can't imagine why you would, there aren't exactly any amazingly shocking twists) you may want to turn back, since I'm not paying attention to whether I'm spoiling or not.

Well, it seems to be an Edmund McMillen week! The graphic designer who went on to create The Binding of Isaac is even more known for this title, made by Team Meat (the partnership of him and programmer Tommey Refenes). The game has been widely-acclaimed, and has become astoundingly notorious for its difficulty. But right into the review.

Gameplay: A swift overview of how it works: You play Meat Boy. The arrow keys make you run left and right, holding the shift key makes you dash, the space bar makes you jump (how high is dependent on how long you hold the press). You stick to walls and slide them slower, allowing chained wall jumps, which are really important. That's, um, it. Levels gain new tricks as you go along, of course - the first couple levels just feature pits, but soon you meet the infamous buzz saws, then you get moving ones, they add a Key mechanic in (grabbing the key opens a specific wall), then spiked mounds on the ground, shooting saws, roaming creatures, flame balls, rockets, and more. And of course, being a modern indie game, a single touch of pretty much anything that isn't solid ground murders you, save the keys. What's up with the hyper-lethality in modern indie games anyway? It's not like Super Meat Boy started the trend (for example, Bit.Trip, specifically Runner, came first), so I dunno. I guess it's to appeal to that Nintendo Hard feel. But I'll get back to that.
The gameplay is really strong. Meat Boy slides a bit, and it makes the controls more slippery, but it's definitely an intentional feature (the wall jumping wouldn't work without it) so I won't fault that. I think a lot of games have slippery controls simply because they couldn't be damned to get the sensitivity right, and I hate that since their sloppiness makes the game more difficult in a way it shouldn't be - in other words, difficulty should come from the intended content, not from the interface's flaws. This is a lot of what I have against some traditionally-recognized ultra-hard games: for example, one of the major reasons Battletoads is so impossible (aside from the actual content is demonic) is because the controls are really unresponsive, and that sort of difficulty isn't fair to the player. Similarly, I hate extreme limited lives because it tries to make content hard only by saying you can only have a couple shots. But then, I suck at video games if I can't die over and over and still be okay. Meh. My point is that I think that Super Meat Boy is difficult in all the right ways, being based almost entirely on skill as opposed to poor controls or arbitrary game limitations (another game I actually would credit like this would be the original Sonic games, if they weren't limited in lives, and they aren't hyper-lethal so the lives aren't as bad). Of course, a couple times a jump comes down almost to luck whether it works or not (there's one in the final pre-credits level that has about a 30% success rate just depending on how the game is feeling), but that's very rare.
So yeah. It rocks. I love the gameplay. Each level is about a minute long, but since it takes maybe 5 minutes to get the hang of each level around the midpoint of the story, and it took at least a half hour per level at the very end so you'll be playing a while just to get through the light world (main game). There are 105 light world levels plus 6 bosses (and a finale escape sequence), and then there's A+ing each one and getting the bandages (A+ing is beating a par time, generally god-awful hard). Then there's a dark world (hard mode) level for each that you A+, so 105 of those, and the bandages and A+ing those. Then there's Cotton Alley, a final post-game level with 20 light and dark stages as well. There's the hidden warp zones to beat too, and I don't know how many there are but they're tough because they only give you a couple shots at it (I admit, I dislike that, but it's ssupposed to be emulating the old-style games, they're in retro graphics and everything, but still). So there's a bajillion levels, most of them excruciatingly hard, you could play this game forever. For a flaw, the creators themselves have admitted that the bosses are
It's pretty awesome.

Plot: Well, uh, Dr. Fetus kidnapped your girlfriend Bandage Girl and you go to save her. That's the basic story. It gets pretty epic at the end, but it's extremely background compared to the gameplay. Each character is pretty quirky and entertaining though, although it's in a distrubing way usually. But in the end, everything turns out okay. Also, the plot is continually funny.

Graphics: Who would have thought that Meat Boy had that much blood in him? There's blood and gore everywhere. I don't think it's as much as in The Binding of Isaac, but it's a lot. The graphics are charming, and not nearly as disturbing as Isaac, everyone is usually smiling and cool stuff is going down, it's not a sad game really. Everyone has a lot of graphical variety (especially the moves Dr. Fetus uses on Bandage Girl at the end of every level, he has like 10 things he can do. Btw, Bandage Girl gets beat up like 500 times througout the game, it's sad yet kinda funny since after a while it's just silly and she always bounces back). The graphics are colorful (except when they're intentionally not, The End is in mostly monochrome), the animations smooth, but I don't think it'll be winning any major graphics awards - there's nothing really revolutionary, just very well-executed formula.

Sound: Danny Baranowsky, the soundtrack owns. I really do love it. Not much else to say, it has a range of sounds and they're all good and fitting.

Conclusions: I can't really think of anything else to talk about. This is one of those one-in-a-million indie games, which seem to be coming more and more often recently. Sitting at the midpoint of these games, time-wise, it's among VVVVVV, Bit.Trip, Bastion, Binding of Isaac, and of course the old champion of indie games, Cave Story, Super Meat Boy is a posterchild for modern indie quality, and I hope the trend continues. I can't help but give the game a solid A+, the sort of A+ that means a 9.5 or 9.75 out of 10. With slightly even prettier cutscenes and a bit more time to polish the bosses, I'd call it a perfect game. Rock on, Team Meat, and Edmund McMillen. I'll be waiting for your next masterpiece.
End Recording,

February Songaday Day Eight

Shut up, I'm not late, I was busy.
EGO DAY EIGHT: InMomentum - Zoned In
Don't feel like talking much tonight, but I'll say that inMomentum is an indie-ish minimalistic sci-fi platform racing game with a WICKED soundtrack. This is one of my favortie songs from it, it definitely fits in my playlist.
Currently available as a part of the top level bundle for Indie Gala, so if you want a pile of indie games with some awesome music for just $10, this is a great deal.
inMomentum site:
Indie Gala:

BRO DAY EIGHT: Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc
I could write more about this right now, but I'm just not feeling it. Later maybe.

End Recording,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February Songaday Day Seven

EGO DAY SEVEN: Super8 & Tab feat. Julie Thomson - My Enemy (Rank 1 Remix)
You know what? Now THIS is a song to talk about. I have *4* groups to talk about with this one.
The core, Super8 & Tab: A trance duo from Finaland! They were spearate until 2005, when they teamed up. They've had one album, and then a remix album of that first album. They've done a couple big released DJ mixes, and a bunch of singles. Oh, plus a whole mess of remixes. I haven't listened to much of it, but I like what I've heard.
The voice, Julie Thomson: The singer for the song. I've not heard anything else by her but I like her voice in this.  Worth another check, I think!
The remixer, Rank 1: A Dutch trance group, the longest-lived and known of the these fellows. They've been around since 1997, and are considered one of the originators of Dutch trance. I, um, haven't actually listened to much by them either! So yeah, if you haven't caught on I'm sort of stalling for length here since I don't have anything to say about Bro's either.
Trance Is Life Podcast: A vocal trance podcast, I love these guys. They started Episode 29 with this song, and that's where I heard it. I just want to plug these guys since they're so good. DJs AlborZ and Dan Young compile the best recent vocal trance each episode. Totally good, if you like trance these guys rock.
Super8 & Tab site:
Julie Thomson site (a myspace music page):
Rank 1 site:
Trance Is Life:

BRO DAY SEVEN: Glenn Miller - Tuxedo Junction
I'm actually not an enormous old jazz fan. Also, I know it wasn't techincally written by Miller originally, but he arranged it differently, and "Birmingham, Erskine Hawkins, Bill Johnson, and Julian Dash" doesn't quite flow off the tongue the same way. No care for links, also I have 12 minutes to post this so I'm done now.
No links.

End Recording,

The Binding of Isaac Review

 The Binding of Isaac Review

Well hello, now I will review a game I just beat and I really like! After so much negativity over Skyrim (even though I think I was was pretty fair and it's still a good game, combating all that mega-praise just felt very negative) I wanted to continue to do something simple and fun and I liked! So a chose a game about child abuse due to religious zealousy with huge amounts of blood, violence, death, hate, sin, and crying, and a game renowned as being incredibly hard. How amazingly relaxing...

But I already said I love this game.
Background: Developed and released in 2011, September 2011. It was made by Florian Himsl, who I know nothing about, and Edmund McMillen, who I DO know. Edmund is a graphic artist, known for his widely critically acclaimed 2004 game Gish, and his also widely critically acclaimed game Super Meat Boy - he's one half of the founders of Team Meat. He did the art for this game as well, and it has gone on to become widely critically acclaimed. It's not all a pattern though, he's had a lot of smaller games too, but he's been on a roll lately. The game is on PC only right now, mostly through Steam. It was a part of the Humble Indie Bundle, and that's where I got it. It's supposedly coming to 3DS, and I can't wait, since the controls will be quite suited for that. It also has a huge expansion coming, and I'm crazy excited. But enough overview.

Gameplay: So, WASD is to move, like most keyboard games. The arrow keys are to shoot your projectiles, you hold down one of them and you shoot in that direction with auto-fire. E or shift drops bombs, space activates Active items, Q activates collectible items, being Tarot Cards or Pills. You have 5 stats: Health, Movement Speed, Fire Rate, Shot Damage, and Shot Range. There are 4 types of items: Active, Passive, Tarot Cards, and Pills. Here's a breakdown of them:
Active: Active items are used with the space bar, and generally do a one-time/short duration effect of pretty good power level. Their thing is that they're reusable - clearing a room of enemies charges an item a bit, and after enough (specific to the item) you can use the item again. 3 rooms is the average to recharge. You can only have one at a time.
Passive: Passive items change something about you - there's the greatest variety of these. You might get your shots improved in some way, you might get a stat up, you might get a miscellaneous effect, etc. These are always on, are never actively used, and never need recharging. You can carry as many of these as you can collect.
Tarot Cards: You can either have one Tarot Card or one Pill at any given point. Tarot Cards are one-use, and the game doesn't tell you what a given card does until you use it, but each tarot is tied to a specific effect, so memorizing Tarot effects is helpful (or using a guide).
Pills: Pills, on the other hand, change every time you restart, so you can't just memorize by color. When you pick one up, it's described as ???. Using it lets you know what it does, and it's not always good. If you pick up the same color of pill on that playthrough, you'll know what it is now, but it'll change if you die and restart. Both Tarot and Pills are used with the Q button.
There are also 4 collectibles:
Hearts: Just what they sound like, they replenish your red health bar, the capped one. You won't pick it up if you don't need it, and you can save it for later. All collectibles remain when you leave the room and don't fade away over time. There are also Soul Hearts, which are blue, which act as temp HP - they go above your maximum, and are used up first, but can't be recharged; once they're gone, they're gone.
Bombs: Just what they sound like. Hit E or Shift to use 'em, and they explode with a radius of 2 squares, blowing up blocks and dealing heavy damage to enemies. Some runs you'll get a bunch, some runs not so much.
Coins: It's money! You use it in the shop. It's usually pretty scarce - getting 55 coins unlocks a character, and it's a pretty hard unlock.
Keys: They unlock locked doors or chests. Um, yeah. They're valuable, but not exactly interesting. There's no cap on Bombs, Keys, or Coins as far as I can see.
So those are the items.
The game is split into floors. Each floor is randomly generated, and generally contains one item room and one shop, and may contain other things, like an arcade or a challenge room or a miniboss. One room on the floor is a boss - the game has a number of bosses, and some are limited to certain floors, but the game randomly selects one that can appear on that floor and have you fight that. When you kill it, it gives you an Item (Active or Passive, not pills or tarot. The item room works this way too) and a hole opens up to the next floor. The first time you run the game, there will be 6 floors (the game extends after your first win).
This game is known for its difficulty. That mostly comes from two things: low health and 0 checkpoints. You start the game with 3 hearts and getting hit usually does a 1/2 heart of damage. It's nasty. The most killer thing is that if you die, you restart the WHOLE GAME. No extra lives without one of 2 extremely rare (and dangerous) items. No checkpoints back at the start of the floor. It's vicious.
But you can read all of this elsewhere, that's not reviewing, it's info. Here's what I think of the gameplay - it works. A lot. It's balls-hard, and I'm beyond astounded that I've actually reached the first ending. The enemies are built to tear you to shreds, and my tendency is to dish out a ton of damage and end up taking some. My Bro, on the flip side, practices surviving and taking a long time to kill stuff, which is probably why he beat the game first (although only barely!) Speaking of Bro, we both actually used the same Devil Room passive item (the Devil Room sometimes appears after a boss, you can trade away 1 or 2 of your permanent health to get a very strong item, but that health drop usually cripples you). We both used Brimstone, and actually might have both had The Inner Eye. Our two styles both work, but I really have to be careful with my health. I would recommend against my more aggressive style generally (curious, usually Bro is more aggressive than me), care and caution is recommended.
The game is influenced by a bunch of things very obviously. Aside from the very obvious Gish and Super Meat Boy references in the style, the game's shape is very often compared to the dungeons from the original The Legend of Zelda. I haven't played too much of the original (it keeps killing me, but this game is kinda filling me with more confidence), but I have to agree. It feels weird to say it what with the aesthetics and your range, but you can feel the classic Zelda in every pore of the game. The game's other influence are The Roguelikes. Not a particular game but a genre, the randomization of the dungeons and 0 checkpoint mentality is very tied to the roguelikes, and it works. Combining the two works very well - simple square rooms with a few enemies, randomized every time you do it, makes the game never grow old. That's good, because the mortality rate means you'll see those first levels an awful lot.
I like the velocity on shots. When you're, say, moving up and shooting left, your shots will be diagonally upward a bit, as opposed to the straight left when standing still. This allows you to do some really clever maneuvers to hit enemies while remaining safe, and learning to do it is vital to success.
Overall, what do I think of the gameplay? I love it. It keeps me coming back. It's varied, strategic, and simple, while still being highly nuanced.

Plot: Okay, you know The Binding of Isaac? No, not the game, the Bible story. Well, what if Isaac was a small child and it was his mother instead of his father, and she was fat and abusive? That's this game.  Mom is a zealot, loves God above all else. When God tells her to kill her son to prove her faith she goes to. Isaac runs into his room, and jumps down the trapdoor to the basement - who knows what horror is down there, but it's better than Mom and her knife. And you go through the floors, fighting off everything with your blood and tears. At the bottom, you fight Mom. Now, the game has multiple endings - each time you beat it, the story moves a bit further, but I'll be talking about the 1st ending only right now since I haven't seen the others (this isn't really spoiling, it's a freaking Bible story, you should know how this ends). Okay, so you fight Mom, and beat her. But she's too strong, she's bearing down on him, and just before she kills him, God stops her. Now, it's not a very video game ending if the final boss just doesn't kill you, is rewarded for putting you through this, and returns to standard life. No, God pushes a Bible off the shelf, which falls on Mom's head and kills her just before she gets you.
So, I can see where a lot of folks can probably get this as anti-religion. I mean, God's action forces Isaac to go through poop, death, blood, and terror. It's not a bad interpretation, but I don't think that's the intended one. See, I think it SUPPORTS the religion. Think of the Bble story. It's not the most famous(it's not Adam & Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the parting of the Red Sea), but it's a pretty good one. However, the impact of it has, um, faded. Nowadays the typical stance toward it is probably "Oh yes, it's a story of having faith in God, and Abraham nearly kills his son but is stopped." But look at a lot of other Old Testament pieces. The Old Testament God is known for being particularly brutal - heck, Sodom and Gomorrah.What this game has done is updated a tale to the modern age to make it more accessible, plugged it directly into mainstream media, and stuffed the fear and impact back into that story. The terror of the game makes you think to Biblical Isaac and what he went through - obviously not literally the same, but spiritually? Definitely. I really do think that this game has reinvigorated that story.

Graphics: Simple, scary, gory. Sounds like Edmund's style. Irreverent? Absolutely. One of the best things about the graphics is how most of your Items, passive or active, change how you look. For example, The Belt actually puts a belt on Isaac. When you've racked up a bunch of items you'll have changed in pretty drastic ways, and I like that. Overall the game just has a very simple aesthetic. And of course there's the blood. Most hospitals have less blood than Isaac's basement. There are blatant visual references to Super Meat Boy and Gish, and the amount of blood is even more than the former, which is impressive. Get ready to paint the floor red. It's pretty disturbing, but the game still retains a somehow cute look.

Sound: Hello Danny Baranowsky! His name alone means I should just put down a seal of approval and move on. But the game stands on its own. The sounds are creepy yet charming, and keep the atmosphere while not being bad songs in their own right. Sacrificial is a good one.

Replayability: The game's sticking point to me. 1 win won't do it. You have to do more than 10 wins to see the last ending. Every time you go is different, and the unbelievable variety of STUFF to get means no run will ever be the same. Seriously, there are 130 items in this game. It's insane. I keep playing just because I want to see more. And the expansion that's coming will be adding, like 200 more. I CAN'T WAIT. There are hidden things everywhere, and cool synergies between certain items are still being uncovered.

Conclusion: So, where do I think this game falls through? Its inaccessibility due to its difficulty. For some people, this could just be too hard. But I  think this is genuinely a rock-solid, extremely high-quality game. I have to give it 9/10. It just doesn't have the extraordinary, pitch-perfect polish that a game needs to be a 10. With the expansion, it just might be a 10. And this scale is comparing it to full retail major-developer games, just on an indie-games scale this is 5/5 for sure!
End Recording,

Monday, February 6, 2012

February Songaday Day Six

EGO DAY SIX: Metal Gear Solid - The Best Is Yet To Come
I...have mixed feelings about Metal Gear Solid as a series of games. On the story side, it's just wildly absurd and bizarre, especially by MGS4, and it's full of sickeningly long cutscenes, but at the same time it's interesting and enthralling, and a good spy story (up until MGS4 - 4 is just ridiculous). On the gameplay side, it's highly in depth, especially by 4 (and Peace Walker just perfects that formula), but I really struggle with the controls for some reason. Some day I'll adapt and love that side too.
The MUSIC, though, I can't fault that. The music is pretty damn solid (... :| ) the whole way through. The 20th Anniversary album is spot on. Calling To The Night, The World Needs Only One Big Boss!, Zanzibar Breeze, Snake Eater, and of course The Best Is Yet To Come. Ordinarily, I'd pick The World Needs Only One Big Boss!, but this one is kinda sticking with me today, so here it is.
Sung by Aoife Ni Fhearraigh, The Best Is Yet To Come was the credits theme of MGS1 and MGS: Twin Snakes (the MGS1 remake). It also plays in MGS4 while traversing Shadow Moses Island again.
So yes, I recommend the entire Metal Gear Solid 20th Anniversary: Metal Gear Music Collection. It's totally worth it.
Metal Gear 2 - Zanzibar Breeze (original):
Metal Gear 2 - Zanzibar Breeze (Anniversary Remix, much better if you don't like chiptunes):
Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater - Snake Eater:
Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater - The World Needs Only Big Boss!:
Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops - Calling To The Night:
20th Anniversary Album Wikipedia Page:

BRO DAY SIX: Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down
Well, Bro decided to easy today and use a simple standby we've been holding for a day when we can't think of anything. Don't feel the need to recite Johnny Cash's story tonight. Don't really have any links either. Sorry.
End Recording,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February Songaday Day Five

Low links day!
EGO DAY FIVE: Deadmau5 & Kaskade - I Remember
Curiously, while I listen to a lot of this sort of music, I don't actually know anything about or listen to anything else by Deadmau5. The costume-headed performance always seemed like a ripoff of Daft Punk's gimmick, and I much prefer the latter. Deadmau5 is fine and all and he's very talented, but I prefer Daft Punk and others.
This song, though, for some reason I like this song. It also happened to be used in Goldeneye 007 for the Wii, in the Nightclub scene it's one of the songs that gets played. Pretty good, that game's alright, even for someone so bad with a wiimote as me.
Deadmau5 site:

BRO DAY FIVE: Klint - Diamond
Diamond is a song that was made specially for the movie Snatch, directed by Guy Ritchie and released in 2000. It starred Brad Pitt and Jason Statham among a couple other names. It's a hilarious movie, very close to the lines of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (another or Guy Ritchies films starring Jason Statham, if you didn't know). The movies are full of gratuitous violence of a sort just shy of Quintin Tarentino, and have enough uses of the F word to make Samuel L. Jackson blush. But they're VERY funny. Also, brutal fight scenes that involve ripped-as-hell Brad Pitt taking and giving intense violence. Also, the Ocean's Trilogy has a similar style of music, sort of. Unfortunately, I can't think of any links other than Snatch's IMDB page.
End Recording,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February Songaday Day Four

EGO DAY FOUR: Bastion Soundtrack - In Case of Trouble
I can't rave enough about Bastion's soundtrack. It's downtempo when it can be, upbeat and exciting when it needs to be, an exciting Western/Frontier-inspired sound with those tech elements that make things perfect. Self-described as Acoustic Frontier Trip-Hop, the soundtrack to Bastion is awesome, and I highly recommend getting the whole thing.
Bastion, if you don't know it, is a 2011 indie game released for Xbox Live Arcade and PC developed by Supergiant Games. It's an action RPG set in a colorful and beautiful world, with a couple gimmicks to keep things new. For one, the narrator. The enitre game is narrated, every cool thing you do gets a little phrase. It's very in depth, and the narrator's voice is really good, so I'm a big fan of this. Another thing is the world appearing before you, paths floating up from the ether. Kinda annoying for finding your way, but it looks cool. But I'll save the rest about this game for when I inevitably get this wonderful game and do a review. The soundtrack has won a few awards, such as the Spike VGA for Best Soundtrack.
This song is the game's core song, played on the title screen and in the hub area (the titular Bastion). Other great songs include A Proper Story and Slinger's Song, which is my personal favorite.
Bastion site:
Bastion - Slinger's Song:
Bastion - A Proper Story:
Bastion - Spike in a Rail:

BRO DAY FOUR: Ellie Goulding - Lights (Bassnectar Mix)
I know nothing about Ellie Goulding other than she released her song Lights semi-recently, it was remixed by some dude slightly more recently than that, and that she recieved pretty good reviews on her latest album.
Ellie Goulding - Lights (Original):

Video Game Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

SPOILERS, potentially. I dunno, I'm just not paying attention to whether or not I'm spoiling, so go at your own risk.

Skyrim. Well, well, well, Skyrim. Your judgement day has come.

So, at first I was just opposed to Skyrim. I didn't like what I saw, I didn't see a point, I didn't understand what people found fun. BUT, I decided that it would be wrong to judge it without playing it first. So I decided that I would give it it's fair shake and try to see everything it really had to offer by getting 50/50 achievements. Well, I've done it. Level 50, Skill at 100, every quest line done, and more. And now I get to judge you.

Graphics: This was a big sticking point that a bunch of peple tried to convince me was good. And they're, um, complicated. Take any screenshot, and you will have a beautiful looking game. Put it in motion and, aside from the movement of a dragon or water when you're NOT in it, it will entirely cease to impress. Character models are way above Oblivion, but aren't quite incredible or even really the current-gen look we're used to on anything other than the Wii. When most things, especially people, are animated it tends to just look silly or awkward, and everything looks really goofy in third person. Animations clip, and models don't interact in any meaningful way, and things just teleport in and out of screen. Of equal disappointment is the way all the environments are totally static. Things stay the same, hitting things causes no effect (aside from a little soot stain if you blast it with fire), and you either slam into solid pieces (potentially as small as a large stair step) or you clip through whole objects (like large bushes that you just kinda phase through), with no effect upon the object. Seriously, would it be that hard to rustle the bush a bit and play a slight sound bit when I pass through? Other complaints include the entire underwater (must it always be so murky?), the uniformity of the entire overworld (grassy with dirt, stone texture, snow covered, and water are the only options guys?), and the similarity of all the dungeons. Like, all of them, with a couple exceptions. You have rock/grass underground, snowy cave, Nord ruin, and Dwemer ruins. This is really sad, because there are so many places providing opportunity for a lot of cool variety and they proved that when they WANT variety they can really do it (Bloated Man's Grotto, Blackreach, Sovngarde, and a couple others, though only a couple). Also, ick to that stone texture. It's EVERYWHERE, and I hate how it's all stretched and boring. I know stone is very hard, and most games don't look great with it, but hell, if I have to see it that much I want it NICE. Also, most of the particle effects (fire, lightning, snow, poison mist) are really obnoxious and get in the way a lot, especially for archery (even more so if you're wearing the Ebony Mail).
That said, I did say that it looks great in screenshots. The models are all pretty well made when standing still, and the item models you see in the menu all look good. Water flow is very nice when you're not in it (the wake is less good, though it's still pretty alright), although the transition point between rapids and normal is quite abrupt and weird, but it's not that bad. The Dragons look great until you get get really close to the wings, whiched looked like the texture stretched a bit weirdly, but I only really noticed because my dragon-killing technique involved being right up against his wing, so you really have to look for this to see it.
Essentially, I stand by what I said originally. The graphics are decent, but with a video game it can't only be good in screenshots, so it's definitely not something I would flaunt all the time as a strength for the game.

Plot and Story Structure: I gotta say, this is the game's weak point. First, let's look at the main plot. Only marginally longer than any given questline, it features a lot of killing dragons. It brings you to two of the interesting places, and actually incorporates an Elder Scroll as a main plot thing, which we certainly can't say for Oblivion. So, it's definitely not the MOST boring quest line, but it's only marginally more substantial than any of the others. The final boss is really easy to crush into a stunlock though, which they really should have seen coming. It's not like Sword/Shield is a rare combination (btw, that was my main combo).
The Mage College questline was my favorite. It was my first time going to a Dwemer ruin (which also made it my first change from the standard dungeon look), and the Eye of Magnus thing was actually pretty cool. The final battle was, as usual, very anticlimactic, and it didn't tie up loose ends at the end really. Makes me think they're setting up a plot point for Elder Scrolls VI. This questline was one of the shortest though.
The Dark Brotherhood, my god. I heard from everyone, "Oh yeah, the Dark Brotherhood ones are the best quests!" What are you all talking about? I was bored to all hell, and blazed through them all really quickly. I have no interest in the Night Mother, and would honestly have just rather left all the targets alive. The super-big last target didn't really interest me either. But alas, the achievements say be an assassin, so I'm an assassin.
The Thieves Guild is, um, gimmicky. The short questine is pretty alright, and the Nightingale stuff looks really cool. The power you get at the end is kinda useless, but still not the worst set of quests. The LONG version of the questline, on the other hand, involves doing almost 40 of those "Extra work" jobs from Delvin and Vex. Okay, so I loading screen to the cistern, loading screen to the flagon, talk to quest giver and give in my last job, talk again to take a new job, loading screen to the cistern, loading screen to the top, loading screen fast travel to the target town, loading screen into their house, boring steal, loading screen out of the house, loading screen back to Riften, loading screen to the cistern, loading screen to the flagon, turn in quest, etc. And you KEEP doing this. Really artificially extended the length of the questline.
The Companions were just kinda uninteresting. There was a good number of missions, and they did a good number of things, but just weren't very interesting. The power you get is kinda cool, but I literally NEVER used it. It just wasn't epic or affecting in any way, it was all about becoming a werewolf, going werewolf-hunter hunting and get turned into a major revenge thing when a dude dies on your own mission. Really now, if you're going to get that mad over it you really shouldn't have been going out in the first place. Meh.
The Civil War questline wasn't all that fun. It was wide-spanning and affected the world a bit, but the missions were all "Go into fort, stand there and kill all the soldiers." I was Legion, by the way. Freaking terrorist Stormcloaks.
Okay, those are the major questlines. But they're not the problem here. The problem is the way they approached DOING these things. All missions are split into small objectives, and every objective is boring. Every. Single. One. (Almost.) Usually, they are "Go talk to X," "Go kill everything in area Y," or "Get item Z," and the compass up top points you directly in the direction you're supposed to go, so the entire game requires almost no mental work to get things done. There are a couple kinds of puzzles, and only a couple. There's the rotating picture then pull the lever ones (with the snake, and the hawk, and the eagle and such), and there's the _gemstone_ Claw ones, which are cool the first time but afterward are less so. One notable exception is the Blood on the Ice quest, which removes the goal arrow and actually requires you to try and piece things together to catch the serial killer. I liked that one a lot. But those are the extreme exception, and in general there's just a bajillion stupid fetch-quest Misc. Objectives and pointless quests. Even if they sound like they're cool, the distillation of every quest down to really boring little pieces
BUT, I must give the structure its due praise as well. There are a LOT of quests, so you can probably find something you like. It's a good structure if you don't WANT to think while you play, which is, I suppose, a valid way to play. The best thing about the story structure is that there is a LOT of cool backstory and info if you dig for it, but it's all outside the quests. Most notably, it's hidden in the books. I actually heard that there's an ebook compilation of all the Skyrim books out there, and I actually might get that and read it. Also, where you find some of those books is quite entertaining - I remember going through a cave full of bandits, who were all acting like total badass types, and I kill the big brute orc boss chief guy, and when I go to raid his living area I found The Lusty Argonian Maid on his bedstand. Told some funny things about that dude that I actually like. Adds character. Also, I liked the Daedric quests since they were generally something different, and you got a unique item out of it, even if some of them were useless (Boethia's Proving is a painting? REALLY?).
So basically, you have to really try to immerse yourself in the story to get anything out of it at all. Not much room for getting caught up in the story unintentionally.

Gameplay: The core mechanic. It, um, works pretty good! The formula hasn't really changed. Swing weapons, cast magic, etc. The twist in this game is the Shouts, which I honestly neglected entirely until the end with Dragonrend. I think I still have 11 unused Dragon Souls that I just haven't bothered to use. Maybe I'm not getting the most out of the system if I just stayed on Novice the whole time (I don't play for difficulty, I have other games for that), but I really never felt exceptionally threatened except when I was either severely outnumbered or up against an incredibly tough enemy. Actually, Dragon Priests annoyed me some. Whatever.
Basically, the gameplay isn't anythign groundbreaking, but this isn't a flaw either. Tolerable.

Levelling: I wanted to keep this a bit separate from Gameplay. I LIKE the levelling system. There, I've said it. I think this is a good idea that Skyrim has implemented. Of course, this is the same as Oblivion as well, but I still like the system. Level based on using skills, and not just killing stuff and later allocating skill points, allows you to build any sort of character build you'd like. Heavy Conjuring, with Block? Sure. Sword and board? Sure. Sneaky bow sniper? Sure. Flexible and cool. Some of the perks are wholly uninteresting, but with some cooler perks the system could be awesome. Probably my favorite concept in all of the Elder Scrolls.

The Menu: Oh god, the menu. B button menu? Really? I use B to cancel out my choices. I accidently jumped out of the menu more times than I can count. Also, I HATE inventory management. Next to level grinding, it's my least favorite thing in games. And Skyrim makes you do it CONSTANTLY. I spent almost a third of my 135 hour playtime in that bloody menu. It's probably okay on the PC, but it's hell for the Xbox.

The Overworld: I also kinda liked the overworld. It was boring to look at, but I liked trying to unlock as many places as possible. I never went IN anywhere, but I liked having the places light up as white on my map.

Sound: Okay, I played with the sound off. Not because the sound was bad, but because I was doing tedious things and wanted to have Netflix running in my headphones instead. However, I have the soundtrack downloaded, and I DID listen to sound at some parts. By and large, the sound is boring. The ambient overworld is dull, the town is dull, the dungeon is dull. The one exception is the title theme ("Dragonborn") and the dragon fight music, which is justa  variation of the title theme ("One They Fear"). The voice acting wasn't bad, but wasn't superb either.

A Final Note: This quite upset me - if you want to get achievements, be ready to be evil. Very evil. The game seems to try to give you some subtle morality bits, where you can refuse folks or only take good guy things or whatever, but if you want the achievements you HAVE to be evil. You need to do a bunch of contract killings, slaughter the emperor, rip off and steal from like 100 people and take Riften's corruption to a whole new level, support a corrupt corporation owner (Maven), lead a thieves guild, go out on a revenge hunt, serve over a dozen Daedric/Demon Princes, and steal from pretty much everyone. What the hell, Bethesda. Some of us don't LIKE murder and larceny. It would be okay if an equal number of achievements were for doing good, but there AREN'T any of those really, unless you count the morally-absent main quest line.

Final Conclusion: This game is good. It is. The problem is, it's not great, and everyone acts like it is. It does nothing new for the RPG genre, it makes a bunch of stupid choices, and people flaunt points about it that aren't really that impressive. I wouldn't even consider it for GotY material. I'm in the minority here, but you're all hyping up an average game, in my opinion. But whatever, to each his own. If I absolutely must give a grade, I give it a 7/10.