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…)

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.


Synergy Percussion and Noreum Machi: Earth Cry 15/8/2015


Last Saturday evening I spent a little over an hour watching two percussion ensembles perform at Sydney’s City Recital Hall. It was the culmination of a couple of years of joint study and development between Sydney’s Synergy Percussion and Korea’s Noreum Machi. This show was the last of the tour, with the Korean trio set to fly out the next morning, so I was interested to see how the two would come together. (more…)

Perambulation and mortification

I’ve previously mentioned that I’ve had a thing for podcasts. I find they’re the best thing to have in my ears when I’m taking my daily walk, because they’re less predictable than music for when you’re strolling; it’s easier to avoid clock-watching with a podcast because even though you might know the length of the things, the content isn’t as familiar as music you’ve heard before, where the verse/chorus/verse that you’re familiar with become clock-stopping impediments.

So lately, I’ve been listening to one called Mortified. It’s made from recordings of live events, where people get up on stage and read out parts of their teenage diaries in front of groups of strangers. It’s in the same ballpark as a local event called Confession Booth, now also a podcast, except Mortified is strict about using adolescent writing as the source. (more…)

EN: on destruction and rebirth (and toenails)

Walking across the road from the chemist I caught a glimpse of myself in an upholsterer’s front window. I was wearing what’s pretty much my uniform these days: black jeans, long-sleeved shirt with a band shirt over the top. Today’s band is one I wear quite a bit – Einstürzende Neubauten. This particular shirt has an enormous eagle on it and red lettering, so it’s probably not surprising it gets a couple of worrying looks, given that it has a pretty political air about it.

Though the band does have a political side (1989’s Haus der Lüge‘s feature track is about the worthlessness of religion, working from the cornerstone of a house all the way up, ending in God’s suicide by firearm) it’s not really what I think of when I consider them. Instead, I think of Blixa Bargeld’s toenails. (more…)

Branch Nebula: Artwork

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

Earlier this week I entered a competition to win tickets to Artwork, a Branch Nebula production at Carriageworks. I scored a double pass and attended last night’s performance, the second-last of the run. I’d not read much about the show (partially because Carriageworks’ site is artfully oblique) so I entered Bay 17 with few expectations.

I knew ahead of time that the piece is performed by job-seekers. Branch Nebula (who have been developing this piece in association with Carriageworks, who commissioned the work) placed ads in online classified sites, and gathered the respondents together. They meet just before the production, and are given no instruction, other than to follow instructions according to an assigned number. They perform for that evening, and a new group will take the stage the next night. (more…)

Considering my classical history

I am sitting in a room listening to piano music. It is the music of Charles-Valentin Alkan, a man who – perhaps with a nod to musical history hyperbole – apparently died trapped beneath a bookcase. He was an older man, so I assume an bookcase hitting you would be a terrible thing. I wouldn’t like to be hit with a bookcase now, I guess, and I’m a lot younger than seventysomething.

It’s a musical death that has parallels with Jean-Baptiste Lully. I don’t mean that they died from the same thing – I mean more that their deaths are funny. I mean, who dies from gangrene resulting from a forceful beating of time? (So forceful that his staff pierced his shoe,and his foot, delivering an infection that would end him, because he decided he wouldn’t have an amputation because it would hinder his ability to dance. Being dead does too, guy.) It’s such a laughable death – laughable until it happens to you, I imagine – that when in Paris with my then-partner, we made an effort to snap a photo with his likeness in the Opéra Garnier. (more…)

Open Frame: some thoughts

Last night I trekked over to Carriageworks to catch Open Frame, part of ambient/experimental label Room40’s 15th birthday celebrations. Earlier in the day I’d been replaying a little Half-Life 2 and walking from the car park to the venue I was reminded exactly how much the place looks like Ravenholm. You know, where we don’t go any more, largely because of terrifying headcrabs.

Headcrabs or socialites? Which is worse?

Carriageworks or Ravenholm? I wonder.

Anyway, I had to dodge a number of blinged-up people heading to a Crown do two bays over – I’m not certain there’s been that many spike heels there in a while – but finally found myself in a large room full of like-minded (and statistically speaking, most likely bearded) sound enthusiasts. A screen was set up in the front of the room, and a variety of chairs and benches were already pretty filled, so it was a great turnout. I found a seat, clutching the one-eye-coloured glasses I’d been given at the door. A bunch of speakers stood around the room – I later discovered this was an eight-channel setup.

Room40‘s Lawrence English opened with a brief chat about the evening, his hat rendering him distinctly much more vengeful preacher than his recorded work would have you believe. (more…)