Thursday, December 31, 2009

An End-of-Year Announcement

Hey there, I close the year with some good news that I am proud to announce.

I am starting up a new blog with several other bloggers titled The Radical Reviewers. In the new year, you can expect a wealth of awesome content up on this site, including independent critical reviews of video-games, books, films, restaurants and many other kinds of products. The blog-format of this new site distinguishes it from the multitude of other critics like Gamespot and IMDB, making it a unique free service on the web. So please bookmark it and suggest it to friends.

On a related note, I’m pleased with the growth that this site has shown throughout this year. What used to receive three hits a day now receives thirty-hits per day. The quality of new content has grown considerably, hopefully capturing my reader’s interests and enhancing their lives. Expect a surfeit of content in the next year, including the final video from Darwin Project!



Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Minimalist Challenge

Some of my favorite bloggers hold minimalistic views. People like Tynan and McCandless believe that the acquisition of unneeded stuff is destructive towards one’s efficiency as a person.

I had become addicted to the freedom and peace of mind that accompanies minimalism. Each possession I got rid of was another possession I never had to keep track of, put away, or consider upgrading. ~ Life Nomadic

I remember the summer of 2008, where I was at the educational summer camp CTY. There I had little. Clothes, toiletries, a single notebook and a single pencil, and that was it. Save for my ubiquitous camera, I was without electronics. I also left behind a cell phone, placing me incommunicado with the outside world.

Nonetheless, the spartan conditions of my dormitory was one of the greatest pleasures that I experienced at CTY. I had little to keep track of, little to fear losing, little to worry about. Without the burden of unnecessary possessions, I felt emancipated. I was able to live carefreely for weeks. Not having to take care of and keep track of belongings is one of the greatest liberations that the privileged can experience. Being incommunicado from friends back in San Francisco forced me to connect and establish relationships with strangers that I would otherwise not have interacted with. 

A Challenge

See them floundering after their cherished possessions, like fish flopping in a river starved of water. ~ Sutta Nipata

Now that it is established that liberation from the burdens that possessions place is beneficial to the quality of one’s life, I have a challenge for my readers.

Simply compile a list of 100 possessions that you have that could be gotten rid of. Unused possessions make for clutter, frustration and worry. Acknowledging that one holds unneeded possessions that burden him and would be beneficial in another’s hands is the point of this challenge.

Thus, I strongly encourage you to participate in this challenge. You can email your list of 100 possessions to if you would like it to be published on this blog. I myself will publish my own list up here in a month.

I hope this challenge will greatly enhance the quality of your life. Good luck!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catching them All

Hey there, I hope this posts catches you well.

I write this quick post in a small sector of time that I found while studying for finals. I just wanted to share this quick link with you,

Tomorrow, the Speed Gamers will launch their “Gotta Catch em All” video game charity marathon. In which gamers will attempt to capture a 493 Pokemon throughout the series. Money accrued from 220px-448Lucariothis event goes to Ally’s House, a nonprofit organization benefitting children with cancer. I hope all of you can support this truly fun fundraiser.

To raise awareness of the event you can help by changing your Facebook profile picture to your favorite Pokemon. This fundraising organization is an unique and impressive example of new methods of initiating social change spurred by the internet.

I will likely be out of town for the holidays, so the chances of a blog post coming out before the end of the year is highly unlikely. I wish you all well, happy holidays.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Sites 48

This week’s Sunday Sites is published during finals week, and we are all exhausted as we prepare for the upcoming tests. Ode to Source, a history of Valve Software’s ancient, yet powerful game engine. IGN has always been a fascinating site with editorials and columns galore. This one is about achievements and how they can sell even the crappiest of games. I believe that I might have posted this before in the past, nonetheless, given the events of this week, it is entirely relevant. Enjoy.

There is also an important announcement that I must make.

Given the success of the previous blog post titled “Five Essential Games”, I will be starting up a new blog coming out in the new year. Look forward to it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Five Essential Games

The following is a column that I wrote for the roundtable, reviewing games for Holiday 2009. This was a particularly fun article to write, and I thought it would be important to share it here on My Back Pages: Question the Answers.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is by far the most popular game at Stuart Hall. Noting this, Stuart Hall’s taste is regulated mostly to mainstream super-hits. For this set of reviews, I have focused on true classics in desperate need of greater attention. Enjoy.


PC. Half-Life 2Valve Corporation

Half-Life 2 is easily the greatest first-person action game ever made and one of the most atmospheric. Its dystopian near-future world is frighteningly believable and imaginative, contributing to an original and gripping story. Excellent voice-acting and facial animation are to this day unsurpassed.* The frantic combat might come as a bit of a culture-shock to those raised on Halo and Call of Duty, but brutal AI makes encounters entertaining. Nonscripted enemies will pathfind, suppress, flank half-life-2-20041116061507162_640w and take cover, using a small variety of unique guns as well as use physics objects as weapons. The gameplay variety within Half-Life 2 is huge, each chapter capitalizes upon a different gameplay mechanic. Puzzle, squad-based, vehicular travel, turret-defense, stealth and horror elements are found throughout the game, preventing it from ever becoming repetitive. Half-Life 2's eighteen-hour campaign is one of the best ever found in a shooter, and is one that fans of the genre must experience. The game costs $20 on STEAM. It is also available for mainstream consoles as part of The Orange Box for the same price.


PS3. Uncharted 2Naughty Dog

Uncharted 2 was released to a metascore of 98 and was hailed to be the best game on the Playstation 3. The absolutely gorgeous game plays like a hybrid of Gears of War, Zelda and Tomb Raider, with the gunplay, puzzle and platforming elements from each respectively. The graphics are among the 955125_20091005_790screen001 best seen on a console, its varied, colorful and photorealistic locales make for impressive set-piece sequences. Decals and textures are matched only by Crysis. Its gripping story is enhanced by fantastic voice acting and facial animation, which were the only to surpass Half-Life 2 in quality. Uncharted 2 is highly cinematic in nature, its action sequences are intense and involving, making the game fun to watch as well as play. Strong stealth, puzzle and precise platforming elements prevent the game from becoming repetitive and add variety to the lengthy campaign. Robust multiplayer rounds off the $60 package, with variants on deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination and capture-the-flag. Difficult and satisfying co-op missions make the game incredible. Uncharted 2 is this year’s most likely contender for Game of the Year and a game that shouldn’t be missed by any action enthusiast.


Wii. Okami Clover Studio (Ported by Ready at Dawn Studios)

Okami is the freshest and most original action-adventure game in recent years. Intense attention was given to the games graphics, and it shows. Okami is a magnificent-looking game, using cel-shading robustly to create a watercolor/woodcut art-style, making the massive world a joy to explore. Fantastic music, gameplay and thematic content make it a particularly refreshing experience. The 30-hour story casts you as an incarnation of Amaterasu, a Shinto kami. Combat and exploration is influenced by the Zelda series, melee combat in the enormous world is done by rhythmic swings of the Wiimote, far more interesting is the Celestial Brush mechanic, allowing you to interact with the environment in any number of ways, including solving puzzles and dismembering foes. Drawing bombs, suns, moons, lightning bolts and flames and turning 943732_20080318_790screen004those into objects make for radically different gameplay. However, by far the most invigorating aspect of Okami is its story, which definitely has a Luddite edge to it. Plants and flowers flow in your wake as the player moves throughout the world and antagonists are based on some aspect of civilization, like illness or environmental destruction. Having the player restore a dead, rotting countryside makes for one of the most memorable moments in recent gaming. Okami is simply amazing and a game that anyone must experience.


Xbox 360: Shadow ComplexChair Entertainment

Shadow Complex is a 3D side-scrolling action-adventure game, a nostalgic tribute to Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It is also the most inexpensive game on this list, retailing for 15 dollars on XBLA. Fantastic writing by Orson Scott Card of Ender’s Game fame powers forth this fantastic action game. Its gameplay, right down to the shooting, exploration, character development and minimap, is highly reminiscent of Super Metroid. Upgrades to the player character are numerous and hidden all over the large world. Basic rifles give way to fantastic foam guns, double-jumps, wall climbs and missiles give the player plenty reason to explore the 2D world. Shadow Complex runs on the Unreal Engine 3 and is easily the prettiest downloadable game around. This game, like Super Metroid, is short, clocking at nearly six hours. But given the low price, as well as quality and replayibility, this is easily a must-play for Xbox 360 owners looking for both retro appeal and modern advancements in 2D gaming.


MOBILE. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars ~ Rockstar

When Chinatown Wars was unveiled, it drew a great deal of disappointment. Screenshots made it look like a throwback to the days of the top-down perspective of the original GTA games. When it was released, all fears were proved wrong. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars despite its visual similarity to the games of old, had much in common to the recent Grand Theft Auto IV. Liberty City was still gigantic despite the 4 GB limit, with a multitude of things to see and do, driving remained fun with realistic physics and a huge variety of vehicles, changed however is the gunplay and travel, which have evolved due to the top-down perspective. Despite the glowing critical reception, Chinatown Wars flopped when it was released, selling only 90,000 units in its first few weeks. A price cut was announced and it was ported to all three portable platforms. Chinatown Wars is the closest thing that portable gaming might ever get to console-like complexity. Given its wide availability, there is little excuse not to own it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Videos from Darwin Project Part 1

I apologize for the late-ness of this post. These videos are about a month overdue. Nonetheless, this is only part one of two. Technical difficulties are preventing me from adding the third video. Nonetheless, enjoy and be enlightened by these videos as I find an alternative video-sharing service that does not crash every time I upload.

Suggestions for video-upload sites are greatly appreciated. YouTube is failing on me far too often. Thank you.

In the next few days, expect a special post about gaming. I will see you then!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Sites 47

I apologize for the long time it is taking for the Darwin Project videos to upload. Please be patient, technical difficulties with a slow internet connection are crippling and frustrating. Thank you Gaming is no stranger to controversy, oftentimes, controversy is used as a marketing tool to gain media attention. But even more frequently there arises controversy for arbitrary and trivial reasons. A fascinating article on the state of the Wii