Tom Chick

The best thing you’ll see since Turbo Killer: Blood Machines

, | Movie reviews

My concern about any follow-up to Turbo Killer, Seth Ickerman’s music video for Carpenter Brut’s song Turbo Killer, is that it will include people talking.  At which point, it might collapse back into the soil from which it was grown: the B-movies from the 80s that were mostly bad, but colorful and sometimes fascinating, but still mostly bad.  In other words, Beyond the Black Rainbow, or Mandy.  Which are colorful and fascinating, but missing entirely the distilled power of Turbo Killer’s appeal.  Colorful and fascinating — this usually includes self-indulgent — can only get you so far.  Once people start talking, once characters start developing, once room is allowed for drama and decisions and actors, once time slows and four minutes turns into forty minutes and then ninety minutes…at that point, style is not enough.  At that point, you’re investing in a story instead of riffing on a feeling.

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The torturous tragedy of Solium Infernum

, | Game reviews

You can tell a diver whose mask doesn’t fit by the ring pressed into his face after a dive.  The angry red crease along the shallow skin of the forehead, then down around the outer edges of his eyes, into a furrow through the soft flesh of the cheek, and finally cupping the nose to bisect the philtrum.  If it’s a guy, and he shaved that morning, and you’re all on a salt water dive, he’s really feeling it.  He’s feeling the burn on his upper lip even when the mask is off, and especially when it’s back on. That maddening chafe, and more maddening still that the water kept getting in, up his nose, into his eyes, no matter how tightly he pulled the band at the back of his head.

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Best thing you’ll see all week: Blow the Man Down

, | Movie reviews

You don’t see enough Greek choruses anymore.  At some point during the last few millennia, the Greek chorus fell out of favor.  So one of the first delights in Blow the Man Down is realizing that this New England noir about unlikely femmes fatale comes with a Greek chorus.  It opens with a bunch of sailors singing a rowdy sea shanty. They’ll be back, but not as often as I would have liked. And I’m not sure how relevant their sea shanties are to the narrative action.  But I appreciate the idea, and it’s emblematic of how Blow the Man Down has some great ideas, even if it does struggle to present them.

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Stanley’s Color Out of Space is more Lovecraft than Lovecraft’s Colour Out of Space

, | Movie reviews

Warning: if you haven’t seen Color Out of Space, this review is basically one big spoiler.

Colour Out of Space is an odd fit among H.P. Lovecraft’s works.  It’s about ordinary people — farmers, to be precise — on whom something fell.  They were just going about their business, herding sheep and sowing crops and whatever farmers do, when a meteorite landed on their farm and infected everything with an alien presence.  They were driven insane and died and the land was barren from then on.  

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Entropy and empires collide in Sunless Skies, the best game of 2019

, | Game reviews

For all the points of the compass, there is only one direction.  And time is its only measure.

–Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

The eye has a powerful thirst.  It will drink greedily and without reservation whatever pictures you put in front of it.  But words sneak past the greedy eye with their own secret pictures. Pictures that no one showed you, that no one else can see, that no one else will ever see.  You, and the author of the words, and the words themselves conspired to create these secret pictures out of emptiness. The words are the breath breathed over the face of the black waters and what happens next is no less than the act of creation.  

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The 2nd best game of 2019: Control

, | Features

After I finished playing Control, I wrote one of those snooty reviews that talks a lot about subtext and themes and the designer’s possible motivations.  Basically, stuff that doesn’t include potentially helpful consumer information like a description of the plot, how many hours it takes to beat the game, and whether the graphics are visually stunning.  But as I’ve gone back to Control to finish up some loose ends, I’ve noticed that some of my favorite things are things I might not even have realized at the time because I was too busy mulling over national character and whatnot.  So here are a few addendums to the review. Some things I really appreciate about Control as I go back as a completionist instead of a tourist.

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The 3rd best game of 2019: One Finger Death Punch 2

, | Game reviews

Fighting games are a form of puppetry.  You pull the strings, an insensate doll animates, videogame violence ensues.  Most of the puppetry has gotten really complex because most of the puppeteers have gotten really good, and therefore more demanding.  They expect long deep learning curves and literal split second timing. Those learning curves get deeper and that timing gets more precise as brawlers like God of War and Devil May Cry lure away the more casual players like me.

But One Finger Death Punch believes we should all be puppeteers.  

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The 4th best game of 2019: Void Bastards

, | Game reviews

Sometimes when you’re playing The Swindle, a steampunk heist game with cool steampunky progression to pull you through procedurally generated heists, you get a gimme.  A lightly defended computer stuffed with cash, right next to the entrance, with only a couple of robot guards strolling by on their preset patrol paths. Knock out the robots, hack a couple of thousand quid out of the machine, and beat feet back to your airship pod.  With that kind of gift laid at your feet, there’s no question of pushing the risk/reward calculations any further. With pockets that full, why risk running deeper in to scoop up whatever change is lying around on the floor?

But other times, you get a network of defenses sealed tight behind brick walls, swarming with guards, festooned with landmines, eyed jealously by overlapping cameras wired to alarms.  No point bothering. Make do with the scant money you found in the foyer and call it a day. The procedural generation giveth, the procedural generation sometimes don’t giveth.

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