Month: September 2015

Don’t go into that sawmill: some thoughts on Anna

I’ve just finished – well, in the early hours of the morning – Dreampainters’ game Anna. The timing was probably pretty suitable because it’s considered a survival horror, though really it’s better described as some manner of walking simulator set in an increasingly weird sawmill.

The story is fairly twisted and unclear – it follows the death of a woman named Anna (yes, she of the title), whose relation to you is as yet unclear. It becomes more clear through the game, though not much more, as madness is a bit of a feature, and there’s not really any such thing as a reliable narrator here.

The Extended version features a possible eight endings, which increase in terrible-ness as the game continues. So it’s possible to NOPE out of the game soon after solving a desultory door-opening puzzle and receive what amounts to the ‘good’ ending, while pursuing the story to its end guarantees a Pretty Bad Time. (more…)

Book review: Death in Brunswick

Death in BrunswickDeath in Brunswick by Boyd Oxlade
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boyd Oxlade’s a one-hit wonder, as far as writing is concerned. He recently died, having almost completed his second novel, and it’s a shame it won’t see the light of day, because this one is a ripper.

Imagine something close to an examination of the outsider, a meditation on friendship, a crime story and a kitchen-sink recounting of the life of a chef and a gravedigger (both jobs the author had held, tellingly) and you’re getting close. (more…)

Book review: The Hearing Trumpet

The Hearing Trumpet The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leonora Carrington is a deeply strange writer. Given that a biography of the author features how

“Subjected to horrifying treatment in a Madrid asylum, she was rescued by her nanny who arrived in a submarine.”

this is probably unsurprising. (more…)

Portal 2 (2011)

When I recently wrote up my experience of playing through a number of Valve games, I mentioned that I had thought Portal 2 had overdone it and wasn’t as good as its predecessor, the clean and slim Portal.

Having just completed Portal 2 on a second playthrough – commenced, weirdly, a year to the day that I first played it – I have to say that past me is a dick. Or, maybe I just needed to play it close on the sprung heels of the first to figure out how great it is. (more…)

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

There’s a certain perverse joy found in killing digital zombies. They’re people, but they’re monsters, so it’s OK to annihilate them because if you don’t, you become one. Fair enough.

It’s something that’s fuelled a lot of games of late, but nowhere perhaps more enjoyably than in the rejig of The House of the Dead: Overkill called The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, which I picked up for cheap on Steam a while ago, but have only just been able to move to the top of Mount Backlog for its moment in the wintry sun. (I figured I needed a break from crowbars and headcrabs.)

The main attraction of the game is that it is fantastically over the top, even by the fairly low-culture standards of zombie media. Basically, it’s presented as an adults-only grindhouse-style series of films, with all the out-of-focus film, bad sound and clichés which go with the territory.

Let's all go to the lobby.

Yep, down to the Intermission sign. (more…)

Recent gaming: Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and Portal

I’ve been playing through a couple of Valve’s games over the past few months. They’ve taken longer than I expected due to, you know, Life, but I’ve enjoyed them enough to consider posting some thoughts about them.

The games have been played as part of my ongoing attempt to minimise my frankly terrifying to-play list. It spans generations of consoles and about the past two decades of PC gaming, so there’s more than enough to be going on with. The PC playing has ramped up in the past little while as I built my own computer and now can play modern games at at least the native resolution of my lounge TV, with all bells and whistles on.


Fleeting flute moments

I am learning the shakuhachi.

That is probably a misrepresentation of the development of my ability to this point, however. Because really, even though I’ve owned a plastic shakuhachi – for there’s no point in owning a bamboo one, worth thousands, until I can play something worth a damn on a PVC, injection-moulded copy – for a couple of years now, only the most basic tones and articulations are within my reach.

A Good Use for Sundays.


Book review: My Lovely Ghost KANA, Volume 3

My Lovely Ghost KANA, Volume 3.My Lovely Ghost KANA, Volume 3 by Yutaka Tanaka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is brief, as there’s not really all that much I can add to my previous two reviews of this manga. This, the third volume, brings to a close the supernatural romance’s run, and leaves us with little more knowledge than when we began.

The problem with My Lovely Ghost KANA is that there’s not much of an overarching story. Guy meets ghostgirl, they drink beer and shag, and the background of neither is explained very well. (more…)

Book review: The Book of the Dead: Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure

The Book of the Dead.The Book of the Dead: Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this for a birthday present, and have only just completed it. I don’t know why it took so long for me to pull it off the shelf, but I’m glad I did. It’s full of wry humour and life lessons, though it imparts these without being preachy. Plus, it has a boss front cover. I mean, a skeleton wearing a dunce cap? Nice.

This book is a Who’s Who of dead people. Except rather than being an alphabetical collection, it’s thematic – the corpses are bundled together by theme rather than surname, which means you get to have a section where Epicurus rubs shoulders with Benjamin Franklin and Moll Cutpurse (because they were all happy-go-lucky), as well as a section where the dead are united by monkeys. (more…)