Super Meat Boy

Super-Meat-Boy-Punch-580x361.jpg

People have been calling Super Meat Boy 'one of the hardest games ever made'. Over at GamestyleOne of the most underrated videogame blogging sites around, Bradley Marsh described it as "a game made by sadists, for masochists".

With all due respect to Bradley, and to everyone else who has been focusing on the difficulty of Super Meat Boy, you're wrong.

There's no sadism involved. This isn't a game designed to punish you. It's not a game like Trials HD, where the pieces have been placed in an clever, but nearly-random order and you have to forcibly wrench a victory from the game, like taking a gun from Charlton Heston's cold, dead hands. Super Meat Boy has been designed by geniuses. I haven't finished it yet (I'm still stuck in the post-Halloween glut of gaming), but every single level I have played so far has been designed within an inch of its life so that there is one completely perfect run-through that can be achieved in the minimum amount of time, usually just a few seconds. It's when you dawdle that the game gets difficult. In other words, if you aren't playing this game with the 'run' button permanently held down, then you're not playing it properly.

Finding this perfect path through the level is tricky, and for the most part, it's a matter of trial-and-error. But at least the game is smart enough to have almost no loading times so that when you die, you instantly restart the level. Frustration never gets a foothold. And when you finally do succeed and finish the level, you're treated to a replay, showing all of your attempts to beat the level simultaneously, a glorious jamboree of death and failure and eventual triumph.

One thing though, no-one is wrong about how good this game is. Easily the best platform game I've played in years. I can't recommend it enough.

Christmastime in Dublin Town

It's like Fairytale of New York for a new generation. What makes it even better is the collaborative effort that went into the making of it. Here's the thread on Thumped that started it all.

Update: After having the song stuck in my head since I posted this a few hours ago, I've decided it's not the new Fairytale of New York. It's the new Feliz Navidad.

Phone Feature Request

Wired has a story about an Android app called 'No Text While Driving', which is designed to automatically reply to incoming texts when you're driving. According to the inventor, the reason people text when they drive is because texting is such an immediate medium of communication, and people don't want to be seen as being rude by ignoring texts. An automatic text to say "Driving. Can't text" is better than no text at all. Great idea -- in theory. The major downside that I can see is that you have to remember to launch the app before you start driving. To me, this seems like a step in the wrong direction. If you're the kind of person who has enough discipline to remember to launch an application before getting into the car, then you're also the kind of person who probably knows not to text while driving. In other words, you're not the audience for this application.

Back in 2004 or so, when I was a happy little sysadmin filling my days with all sorts of nerdy things to keep myself amused, I hacked together something to make my life a little easier. Using Bluetooth, I was able to have work computer detect when my crappy Sony Ericsson phone came into range and automatically start a bunch of processes for me. Some of these were work-related, such as launching my Nagios dashboard and pulling up my to-do list for the day. Others were just for show. Like automatically playing 'Back in Black' by AC/DC, essentially giving myself a soundtrack as I walked into the officeThis didn't last very long - awesome as it is to have your own soundtrack, it's also incredibly annoying for people working around you. This seemed like the kind of thing we'd be seeing of a lot more, the idea of using your phone as a sort of electronic passport to the computers and gadgets around us.

For example, my car has Bluetooth and is paired with my phone. So wouldn't it be great if I could hook it into 'No Text While Driving' and automatically activate it for me? But wait a second, Bluetooth is, like, sooooooooo 20th century. Let's go all 2010 on this: GPS. What I'd really love is complete location awareness using my phone's built-in GPS. By this, I mean being able to define certain GPS coordinates as 'home'. When the phone realises it's within this area, it automatically switches on wifi, turns off 3G etc. Likewise, there could be a 'work' location, where it automatically switches to 'silent' and 'vibrate'.

I think this would be terrific. Imagine the possibilities! We could mark cinemas as sections where our phones are automatically switched to silent! Our phones could automatically pull up our shopping lists!OmniFocus sort of does this - you can define a location as significant and have it pull up a particular to-do context for that location. So a shop would pull up your "errands" context. It's genius Then again, when we can't even be bothered to make the effort to switch our phones manually, then we're just one step closer to the future predicted in Wall-E.

Shared Items – December 2, 2010

Seriously, I am actually really freaked at this. All because they just got a huge hit with the Zzzzzzzzzzz-fest Walking Dead.

Furious.

Medal of Honour

Medal of Honour reminds of the joke at the start of Annie Hall. You know, the one about the two women eating dinner at a resort, where one turns to the other and says "Boy, the food here is really terrible" and the other says "Yeah, I know, and such small portions". Medal of Honour -- EA's entry into the 'modern warfare' arena -- is like five hours of absolutely nothing. A 'nothing' with a multi-million dollar budget, so it's a really flashy-looking nothing. Still, it's hard not to come out of it underwhelmed.

Actually, that's not entirely fair. There is one stand-out, genuinely memorable moment in the short single-player campaign. At one point, you find yourself completely overwhelmed by enemy forces who swarm around you, gradually whittling down your supplies of ammunition. No help is coming and there doesn't seem to be any end to the number of enemies, so your entire squad resigns itself to the fact that this is the end. It's sort of like the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3. Game over, man. It's a pretty powerful sequence and one which is executed perfectlyCompared, say, to the epilogue of Halo: Reach, which is mechanically inconsistent with the rest of the game. You spend the first 99% of the game playing a super-powered super-soldier with recharging shields that enables him to be a sort of bullet shield. Suddenly, your super-powered super-soldier breaks down if he stubs his toe. I got that shit over and done iwth soon as I could by just throwing a grenade at my feet..

Unfortunately, the rest of the game is just a string of disappointments and missed opportunities. You jump from character to character fighting the brain-dead enemies and the brain-dead game engine which they inhabit. This is 2010. We are 10% of the way through the twenty-first century and we still have enemies that do nothing but follow their scripted path, dutifully duck in and out of cover the same way regardless of what is going on around them. Bad enough, but... do you guys know what a 'monster closet' is? They're fairly common in videogames, the places where enemies appear from until the player reaches a certain point or performs a certain actionThey get their name from the fact that you'll see thousands enemies come pouring out of a particular door, you get there and it's barely bigger than a cupboard. Hence 'monster closet'. The more you know.. For example, in the scene I just described, there were probably a few of these 'monster closets' hidden in the rocks, where the player couldn't see the enemies spawning from, and in this section, the monster closets worked fine. If only the rest of the game had been so smooth. On more than one occasion in Medal of Honour, I apparently went off on a path that the game hadn't anticipated, so I was greeted with the sight of watching enemies spawning out of thin air in front of me. Which would have been an amusing and completely forgivable glitch except because I hadn't gone the direction that would otherwise 'turn off' the monster closet, the magically-appearing enemies never stopped coming. This didn't stop the game auto-saving right on top of their spawn point, so that when I died, I was instantly surrounded by eight enemies firing directly at me whenever I restarted.

Frustrating bugs in a videogame are one thing, and it's easy to pick on them and write a blog post like this that says "WAH. This bug that hardly half the players will run into has completely ruined the game for me". I mean, Mass Effect had some of the worst bugs of any game I've played, but I loved that game in spite of themtowards the end, almost because of them - ah, the geometry stretching bug where something went screwy in the maths and my character's face slowly started to explode over the course of a five-minute cut-scene. This image will forever haunt my nightmares.. Why can't I give Medal of Honour the same freedom?

Three words: Call of Duty.

Medal of Honour has virtually no identity of its own. Almost every moment in the game is a direct copy of something that happened in one of the two Call of Duty: Modern WarfaresWhich makes me wonder how you can copy so furiously from two 10+ hour games and still only end up with a 5-hour campaign. A vehicle level? Check. A sniper level? Check. A level where you're sneaking around a snowy mountain while guards search for you? Check. If the developers are trying to win players away from the Call of Duty camp, it's probably not a good idea to present them with third-rate knockoffs of the game you're so slavishly trying to imitate. It's like an artist trying to show his talent by giving us a paint-by-numbers version of the Mona Lisa. It just doesn't work. Unless you're deliberately trying to present some post-modern commentary on the nature of art. I'm fairly sure that's not what the developers of Medal of Honour were trying to do. As a player, I just find it frustrating to play a game that was aiming so low and so clearly could have been much better, had the developers been given a little more time. But, thanks to Call of Duty, that's one thing they didn't have. In essence, Medal of Honour's release date was set not by how complete or how polished it was, but by the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops. EA had to release the game before then. And in a way, they were probably right. See how quickly Medal of Honour has been dropped from the conversation since Call of Duty: Black Ops came out.

I've no doubt that the game has done enough business to warrant a sequel, and maybe then we'll see some real innovation and it will be something actually worth talking about. Until then, we're left with a piss-poor jump-start of a franchise that has no idea who it's trying to appeal to.

Bunga Bunga, Presidente →

I love when porn gets topical (see also: Who's Nailin' Palin?), but seriously, did the makers of this Berlusconi-themed porn really think about what they were associating themselves with? Nothing is guaranteed to kill a boner quite like the image of a creepy, demented 74-year old midget throwing a fuck into a bored-looking prostitute.

If nothing else, think of his balls. Ugh. That's my next 10 boners completely ruined.

(via the awl)

Bunga Bunga, Presidente →

I love when porn gets topical (see also: Who's Nailin' Palin?), but seriously, did the makers of this Berlusconi-themed porn really think about what they were associating themselves with? Nothing is guaranteed to kill a boner quite like the image of a creepy, demented 74-year old midget throwing a fuck into a bored-looking prostitute.

If nothing else, think of his balls. Ugh. That's my next 10 boners completely ruined.

(via the awl)

Just the facts, ma'am

Use Stylish?

Read The Irish Independent?

Hate that site's article page design?

Me too. So I wrote a simple (11 lines of actual CSS) user style for the article page which, to my eyes anyway, improves the experience of using that site. I changed the font family and size, changed the line height, italicised the first line of the article to make it more of a lede. Oh, and I also yanked the google adverts. I guess this is slightly rude, since, y'know -- global economic crisis and all, they probably need the advertising cash -- but seriously, there's more advertising space than article space. That's just bullshit.

I didn't touch any of the main landing pages because I hardly ever go to the site directly, I just go to the articles from my RSS reader.

Before:

Independent - Before

After:

Independent - After

You can grab the userstyle here.

Kentucky Fried Chicken's Corporate Rap →

KFC-rap

Gloriousnoise has come across a copy of Kentucky Fried Chicken's amazing Corporate Rap from 1987. It's great, but it's no KPMG Corporate Anthem.

Also, as an aside: I realise this is entirely a Pavlovian thing, but does the slab font Kentucky Fried Chicken used in the 1980s feel nice and comforting to anyone else? No? Just me? I guess that explains a lot.

Man, I'm hungry now.

Wherein I just don't get Girl Talk

I agree with almost everything Mat Honan says in this article on the new Girl Talk album. The way the twitterverse went nuts for the album all at the same time is almost unprecedented now, in our time-shifted universe, where we all watch the Lost finale at different times.

Even live media events are fractured, splintered through the lens of FoxNews or MSNBC or Autotune the News. It takes something huge to crash through the filters and clutter of modern life to get us to all experience the same thing simultaneously.

The new Girl Talk, released on Monday, did that.

Except one thing. I just don't 'get' Girl TalkDoes this mean I have to hand in my oversized hipster glasses now?.

Like everyone else on the internet, I downloaded the new album to give it a whirl. I put it on my iPod and listened to it when I went for a run the other day. Halfway through the third song, I'd had enough. I deleted it from the iPod when I got home.

My problem is that in any given Girl Talk track, there are flashes of brilliance that then gets lost under a deluge of novelty. "Oh No", the opening track on All Day is the perfect example of this. It starts off well. I mean… shit, Black Sabbath, 2pac, Jay-Z and Ludacris all working in perfect harmony? Then, before we have a chance to really enjoy this mix and for no apparent reason, it segues abruptly into Jane's Addiction and Cali Swag District. And since we've already gone down an evolutionary dead end in this musical menagerie, why not throw in a bit of "Swagga Like Us". It's like putting makeup on this dead horse you're flogging.

So yeah, I think Mat Honan is right about the 'event' nature of the new Girl Talk album, and I can admire that. But I also think it says a lot that the twitter hash-tag people are using is #favoritegirltalkspots and not #favoritegirltalktracks.