Sunday, September 18, 2011

Catherine the Great

Atlus’s newest puzzle-platformer adventure game had gamers pining just to play the demo. Players take control of the protagonist Vincent, a regular-Joe kind of guy who reminds one of Wesley from Wanted or “The Narrator” from Fight Club. He is a man who is coming to the part of his life where he must choose what he really wants and settle down with those ideas. Vincent has been steadily seeing the seductive and smart Katherine for years since reconnecting at a high school reunion. The plot develops when Vincent, unnerved by Katherine’s advances toward marriage and children, visits his favorite local bar and gets drunk with his friends. A chance meeting with the alluring, yet adorable Catherine leads to a black-out night that opens up to a white-out morning with Vincent waking up next to the beautiful blonde.

The drunken affair sends Vincent spiraling into a nightmare of chaos in which he must choose how to resolve the situation and how he ultimately will decide what course his life will take simply by choosing which letter to begin “atherine” with.

Catherine features an interesting combination of gameplay that includes platform action-puzzles in which Vincent must make his way up a tower of blocks before time runs out or the “boss” of the night has caught up to him. The other ingredient is the dialogue which takes place during the day while Vincent’s nightmares take place during the night when the player sends him home. Although the dialogue is diverse in the fact that players can choose certain options, gamers should not go down the same path I did and expect Mass Effect type consequences. As amazing as Catherine was, I was completely let down by the fact that the dialogue options that players chose did not truly influence the end of the game.

Throughout Vincent’s ordeal, a morality bar appears that is left blank and up to the player to decide what it actually stands for (right or wrong, stability or chaos, etc.). There are two main parts to controlling the bar—the major component is how players answer a series of questions that are asked at the end of each nightmare level and the minor factor is the dialogue. In fact, a lot of the time I could not tell just by reading the answer choices which way I would set the bar during conversation based on what I chose. This can be perceived as unique in its own way because of the mystery aspect, but a pain in the ass for anyone who is trying just to play through the game again to get a different ending.

Many reviewers have raged over the nightmare puzzles in their entirety, either unsure of their point in general or frustrated with their difficulty level. Personally I dreaded every night that I would send Vincent home after the first few levels. However, I would also begin each night with the determination to get through to the next day. Vincent was my bro and by God I was going to get him through this. I learned to appreciate the difficulty of the puzzles because they kept me completely enthralled in the dialogue and story. I also believe that puzzles were a good choice on Atlus’s part as a metaphor for the confusion that Vincent experiences during the day.

After being trained to expect masterfully optional storylines thanks to companies like Bioware and the new player-chooses trend, Catherine was a let-down in the fact that players are funneled along very set paths that lead to the alternate endings. While I knew the dialogue did not play too majorly into my ending, I still embraced it happily and fell in love with each individual character. Catherine is truly a breath of fresh air and deserves (and will receive) more than one play through on my part.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Veridian Dynamics and Blue Sun

So I'm re-watching Better off Ted currently (if you haven't seen it yet Netflix it, trust me), and this morning, while watching Season 1, episode 6 "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" I noticed two things:

First, during a monologue, the following exchange occurred:
Linda: Listen to my tone and not my words. We can't just stand here and let them take Ted away from us.  He is the shiniest employee we have.
Lem: Did you just say "shiniest"?
Linda: Again, listen to my tone and not my words. We have to do something.
Phil: Linda's tone is right. We can't function without Ted

It is completely brushed over that Linda referred to Ted as "shiney", using it as a word of praise in a way that is not traditionally done outside of the Firefly universe. Then, as Ted is going through the drawers of the security guard's station looking for a badge, he opens and closes a couple of drawers, pausing only on one drawer, which contained just a single pair of blue latex gloves, a la Blue Sun. In fact, he opens the drawer, goes to close it, and re-opens it once more, creating a deliberate focus on them.

If you're not familiar with the series, there are two mysterious men in Firefly/Serenity, who wear blue latex gloves like those shown. From :

"Hands Of Blue- These two blue-gloved men (agents of the Blue Sun Corporation? The Academy? the Alliance?) are pursuing River after her escape from The Academy. They always appear as a pair ("Two by Two"), have a generally creepifying demeanor, and wear blue gloves at all times."

So this was something new to me, I tried Googling variations of "Better off Ted, Firefly", but didn't come up with anything. Has anyone else seen or heard of any connections between the two shows? Perhaps a shared writer? I'm very curious.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Firefly Fans, I Gotta Bone to Pick with You

"Oh but Sarah, you're so super busy right now, what are you even doing blogging?"

Okay, first off, not ALL Firefly fans, hokay? I'm pretty fond of the series myself and fancy my "well-loved" little car in a Serenity-esque light. HOWEVER, this is a bit much.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly regarding the series' recent jump back onto cable (thank you again, Science Channel), Nathan Fillion made the following, now extremely famous comment: "If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet." Shortly after this seemingly innocent, passing comment hit the internet, a campaign was launched to try and collect said $300 million dollars for Nathan Fillion, so that he might buy up the rights to the show, and revive the series. There is even a website and facebook page, but I'm not linking them here purely because I find the whole thing completely absurd and refuse to give them the additional traffic. If you're really curious, hit our buddy Google.

Now, I'm going to try very, very hard not to type up this whole rant with caps lock on, but no promises. My frustration with this matter is deep, and complex, and cannot be held within the confines of lower-case letters. First of all, it was a quick, five question interview, and while I was not there to speak of the tones Mr. Fillion used in making said remark, I can almost assure you it was said in passing, and not intended to imply that everyone should send him their money so he can revive Firefly (he'd probably prefer you send it to his charity of choice, Kids Need to Read). Not that he would need to buy up the rights anyway, as Joss Wheadon (creator of the show, along with Angel, Buffy, Dollhouse, and others) has said on many occasions, Firefly was his most beloved work, and he'd be first to bring it back, if doing so were possible at this point. Besides, he didn't say "I'll start the series back up", he said "distribute it on the Internet." In addition, the show was fantastic, but nowhere near a $300 million dollar franchise. And my biggest beef with this whole thing... Why is that one passing comment the thing to spark such an outcry? WHERE WERE YOU GUYS IN 2003 WHEN THE ENTIRE CAST WASN'T ON OTHER PROJECTS?

So, in conclusion, don't pledge to send Nathan Fillion money to bring back Firefly, you asscats. If you have so much dough burning a hole in your pocket that you just can't stand it, how about helping out Kids Need to Read? Cause, yanno, they DO. Otherwise, how else could you wind up with something like the mangled literary mess you've just finished reading? Yeah, spooky.