Did I miss new year?

Apparently so!

Well, as far as koffdrop.com is concerned, I’ve never been known for my punctuality.

I hope 2011 finds you healthy and happy and that you hangover has cleared up by now. I’ve been consuming a chunk of media this year and it goes a little like this:

Movies

Tron: Legacy

This is everything you’d expect of a commercial sequel. Cue folks on the internet talking of their childhood memories being raped (presumably these folks weren’t raped during their childhood otherwise that’d leading to quite the conundrum in comprehension).

I was invited to see this at an IMAX cinema with some friends and family. I’d never been to an IMAX screen before and was looking forward to the experience. I don’t know what I should have expected but went away feeling that it was nothing more than a really big screen. Is that it or did I miss something?

The movie itself was quite forgettable but looked very pretty (assuming black and neon is your thing). Young Jeff Bridges almost made it out of the uncanny valley but there was still something a little off with him. I guess there’s an artistic excuse in that it can be argued that the representation is of a character that isn’t strictly human anyway. Still, we’ve come a long way since the original Tron – as indicated by Bruce Boxleitner’s silver hair and improved eyewear.

One for the fans.

The Social Network

Whilst I may have been blogging since before it was trendy I really am happy to let Facebook and Twitter pass me by. I realise I’ve advanced from convincing the older generation to get excited about this cool new things you can do with a computer and have now become that disinterested older generation that just doesn’t get what the fascination is with all this new jiggery pokery and don’t see how it will benefit me.

As such, a movie about Facebook held little interest to me. That was until I heard that it was directed by David Fincher, who was responsible for one of my favourite films. The overwhelmingly positive reviews of the movie didn’t hurt either.

The movie was captivating from the outset and the character of Mark Zuckerberg was compelling stuff. The story arc was predictable enough though whether this was creative licence or actual events was unclear – something that doesn’t bother me too greatly. Without question, many things were played up for the entertainment factor. The hacking-drinking game, watching grads hack a system, downing shots in order to earn their right to work for Facebook whilst being cheered on by a crowd of youths seemed a little too social to be real.

With a Fincher movie you can be certain of a solid, well put together piece of work. There is always the easter egg to look out for – that understated but original and eyecatching moment where the ordinary is filmed to look extraordinary. Look out for the Taxi scene in Zodiac, the break-in scene in The Panic Room or nearly any scene in Fight Club. It’s here in The Social Network too, giving moments of a boat race the feeling of being little more than toys in water.

Overall, the movie was enjoyable but lacking much meaning. Few of the characters, to me, had any appeal and the product that made them famous has no more appeal to me than it did a couple of hours earlier. If there’s a moral to it all it is: don’t go into business with your mates.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Perhaps a subtitle of This is not Spinal Tap would be more appropriate as you can’t help asking yourself if this is a documentary or a mockumentary throughout the running time of this movie.

I’m still undecided. With a drummer called Robb Reiner, a visit to Stonehenge and a shot of an amp that, yes, goes to eleven it’s a tough call.

Anvil, a metal band that have repeatedly managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, are still thrashing and moshing at 50 and refuse to give up the search for their big break. This movie follows the principle members of the band as they tour europe on public transport (assuming they can get a ticket for their next train) and record their thirteenth album.

Utterly watchable and equally heartbreaking and hilarious.

Games

Barely a week into the year and a few games crumble before my awesome gaming might! (The easy ones, that is)

Dead Nation (PSN / PS3)

A twin-stick shooter from the makers of one of my favourite PS3 games (Super Stardust HD). I was looking forward to this based on the developer’s pedigree despite it being zombie-based. Zombies seem to do it for a lot of people. I’m not one of those people.

What do you need to know? Besides the premise, not much. The game is split into large scrolling levels with checkpoints in each. Each checkpoint houses a weapon shop where you can spend the money that felled zombies inexplicably reward you with on buying and upgrading new guns and secondary weapons. Armour upgrades are found in the level and have different qualities – allowing you to forsake speed for durability, for example.

The core of the game, like Super Stardust before it, is the score multiplier. Every zombie you kill (besides the skinless peon types) releases a pair of dots that float towards you. The yellow is cash, the red is multiplier. As you stack up your multiplier, your score inflate accordingly. For the first third of the game I hovered around a 500x multiplier value. As the challenge ramped up and I took damage, both my character’s energy and multiplier suffered. It’s tough to say which hurts more. Multiplier carries over between levels. Should you die or quit mid-level then you forfeit your multiplier.

Visually, the game looks great. Being zombie-based, it all happens at night and exploits a number of good scenes such as a trainyard, hospital grounds and, of course, a graveyard. Hordes and hordes of the undead flood towards the player at various times, often lit up only by the muzzle-flare of the weapon you’re firing at them and the torchlight that serves to light up some of the environment near to you and act as I direction indicator.

The environments are littered with, er, litter and distractions as you find yourself constantly scanning for incoming threats. This small pieces of debris often do their job of convincing you something is coming when it’s not – only to take a few steps and find something is coming, but from a direction you’re not prepared for.

The lighting in the game is great, as is the music – gearing up during those moments of intensity to add more pressure onto the player. Slain zombies don’t fade away so, before long, you’ll find the screen piled with bloody pools of zombie-flesh as yet more of the undead rush towards you, hungry for your brains and your multiplier.

Some environmental elements are available too. Soda dispensers can offer you health or, if you shoot them, spill heaps of soda cans and serve to distract zombies. Likewise, civilian cars have boots you can ransack for money or you can shoot them to set of their alarms and have the baddies rush to the vehicle and attack it. Doing so will ultimately cause the car to explode and rip apart any zombies in its blast radius – their flesh comically flying toward the camera before raining back down onto the bloody floor.

Co-op mode is yet to be explored but, given that this was a key feature of the game, I’m looking forward to trying this out in the near future.

All in all, great trashy fun and another fine release from Housemarque.

Pixeljunk Shooter (PSN / PS3)

This is another PSN game that I nabbed during the Xmas sale.

It’s uncomplicated fun and has you traversing a planet’s cave structure with your twin-stick controlled ship in search of scientists to rescue. Hazard’s are present in the form of indigenous lifeforms and elements.

Whilst the initial appearance my remind people of games like Thrust, the game isn’t intended to be an echo of that genre. Control of your ship is simple and direct. You can shoot with one button and fire a grapple with another. Grappling is used to quickly haul scientists to your ship and also to pick up goodies like diamonds.

The game comes into its own with the introduction of fluids. In the first chapter you typically find yourself facing pools of water and flows of lava. When the two mix, these form a solid but destructible part of landscape. This type of landscape is peppered around the levels anyway so you’ll be familiar with its properties before you find yourself creating it yourself.

In spite of being called a shooter, the game is more of an environmental puzzler. Though, admittedly, most of your interaction is conducted by shooting. You’ll often see a scientist behind a brittle wall with a pool of lava on the other side. You can’t survive lava yourself and shooting the wall will surely result in death the the scientist. Invariably, there’ll be some water nearby and you’ll want to get the two fluids to meet in order to make the lava pool solid, shootable and safe. Then you just need to carve a path to the scientist and.. oh bugger. One fire too many and I zapped the poor bugger.

More fluids and elements come to play later in the game with different properties and threats. The depiction of these substances is great, moving and flowing convincingly. Your ship will also be given the chance to change properties which can have the effect of reversing environmental threats – making water deadly, for example.

I really enjoyed this game and intend to go back to it to replay levels and get my 100% rankings on each.

Righty, that’s it for now. I’m off to play some Nier which is both trashy and fun!

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