Gnop is Pong backwards (nomen est omen after all). Instead of the paddle you control the ball, trying to reach the next (right) screen by not hitting the right paddle. There’s a very slight puzzle aspect to the game, but mostly it’s a bit fiddling around with the ball until you pass each level. It’s actually neat to see that there’s still potential in one of the oldest video games, but I wish the game was a bit bigger, as there are only a few levels to beat until you reach the end, which shouldn’t take more than five or six minutes at the most.
Soulless is a mix of typical urban fantasy/paranormal romance fare and a comedy of manners style. The second ingredient was – together with awful characterization – enough to stop me from finishing Susanna Clarke’s famous Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, so I was quite wary of trying Soulless out. As expected, the comedy of manners style still grated on my nerves and there were a few moments I considered to stop reading, but unlike the Clarke book after some time I began to like the characters. They are quite typical of the genre, werewolves, vampires and a very headstrong female main character. The skill of the main character is quite neat, as she has the ability to cancel out supernatural powers.
I liked the book in the end, even if I were less thrilled about some aspects. And it’s nice to see this kind of story take place somewhere else than American cities in the present (even if it’s often a slightly changed present).
Canabalt is the best one-button game I’ve ever seen. It’s a kind of arcade-platformer, where your character is running away (from what seems like an alien invasion, but it’s not really important). All you do with your one button is make the character jump, which seems a little bit lacking until you see the game in action. Your character is running and jumping from building to building, trying not to fall into the gaps between the buildings or get crushed by falling objects. It’s a highly addictive game (I say that a lot, but most effective flash games truly are) and the whole style of Canabalt just adds the right juice to the mix (it’s full of excellent 2d-pixel-graphics and a cool soundscape).
Continuity is an ingenious combination of a platformer and a sliding puzzle. All you have to do is collect all the keys and find the door to pass each level. But to get there you have to change the layout of the whole level by sliding pieces of the level into new places, since the way forward is often shut and only by rearranging the level you’ll get to the exit. The execution of the other aspects (sound, graphics) is as good as the gameplay itself. Minimalistic yet effective. It’s quit an addictive game, but since the difficulty isn’t very high most people will get through it in a short time. But it’s truly fun and it’s not often that see something this original.
Departures aka Okuribito is an interesting movie that offers an aspect of Japanese cultures that I didn’t knew anything about (ceremonial preparations for the dead for their departure), but which was really faszinating (especially its depiction and how the common people reacted). Even if it’s not a realistic depiction, it still shows some aspects of the Japanese culture that feel entirely alien to outsiders, yet the movie managed to touch on emotions that most people everywhere could empathize with.
The one thing that I didn’t liked about the movie (sadly a major aspect) was the main character, whose naivety was entirely unfitting. It’s hard to take a grown-up character with such an naive attitude seriously, especially as he’s played completely straight. I wonder if that’s again cultural difference rearing its head. I’ve often seen in Asian movies grown-ups (but not yet old characters) acting completely childish, as if it were the norm. I wonder why that staple of their cinematic tradition (one which I really find annoying) seems to work so well for the Asians.
This live-action movie adaptation of a story by manga giant Osamu Tezuka sports an interesting story and cool action sequences, but whenever the movie veers into dramatic territory, the whole thing becomes unwatchable. Like often with Asian movies I’m not entirely sure whether it’s really a question of quality or of cultural differences, but the dramatic scenes (and the few intended for humor) were completely awful. It’s funny, because I have no problem watching anime, but Asian live-action I find often unwatchable. That said, the action scenes are well done and if you can overlook the rest or happen to like the odd acting, then it might be a good movie for you. I only managed to watch around 80% before I had to stop.
FlxAdventure is a lightweight but fun RPG-like game that was made for the TIGSource Assemblee competition. I say RPG-like, because the game is so easy that it doesn’t matter much how you approach the game, dying is actually very hard (I never managed it on my playthrough, but I assume it’s possible). It looks like a roguelike with a graphical interface, but it isn’t one. Whether you’ll like the game depends on how much fun you have with exploring another world. I happen to like that aspect of the game and the simplistic yet effective art direction was fun to. But it’s probably not for everyone, especially those who want actual RPG-gameplay with stats and battles that matter and so on.
Upgrade Complete is basically a shoot’em up, but that’s not what the game really is about. Every aspect of it, from the menu to background graphics to credits to ingame graphics and so on has to be upgraded by the player, before he can use it. The gameplay for example starts with the look of an Atari game and then works itself up the graphical upgrade ladder to look like something from the late 16bit era (or early 32bit). Overall, a nifty concept in the package of a game. The main problem is, the gameplay itself is considerably lacking. You never get hit from enemies, and with all the ship upgrades it’s a walk in the park to complete the game. But the concept and the upgrading itself is fun, while it lasts.
The Last Stand 2 lets you play as a survivor of a typical zombieapocalpyse (think Night of the Living Dead). The game has an action mode where you and other survivors barricade themselves and try to take out any onrushing zombies (mostly humans but also some dogs). If the zombies manage to destroy your barricade, the other survivors flee and you’re left alone to fight (often you end up as a zombie yourself). The more strategic mode of the game lets you plan for the day ahead, where to search for supplies, weapons and other survivors in each settlement, how many hours you want to repair your barricade. Since the time until night falls is limited, you have to make the right choices to survive another wave of zombies.
Like most (good) flash games Last Stand 2 has simple yet highly addictive gameplay. It’s not too hard, but occasionally provides a nice challenge. And the art direction is superb, evoking all the zombies movies and games you’ve seen before. Shambling zombies gunned down with a shotgun, chainsaws used as a last resort and blood everywhere. Fun all around.
Defend Your Honour is your typical tower defense game, a genre that is widespread in the world of flash games. It’s one of the easier ones, that can be defeated in two hours or less. Nothing original or new, but the game gets the basics right and it’s fun to beat wave after wave of cartoony enemies. The game’s backstory is slightly absurd: you’re trying to find the golden walrus statue for the Walrus king. You have to pick up four companions (basically new tower designs, each with different skills), which always results in a very absurd/funny cut scene.