Gaming: Hidden in Plain Sight Review (or ‘A Fun, Cheap Game That Offers Local Multiplayer)

October 31, 2012

Remember when you could play video games with friends in the same room as you?

I’ve often lamented the death of social gaming as a means of catching up with friends, but it’s worth continuing that lament.

It could be that we’re getting on a bit and it could be that we simply alter our priorities as we get older, but the concept of inviting your mates round to play some games seems to be dying out. One friend? Yeah, that’s fine because you can play FIFA or any other 1 vs 1 sports game, but three friends? Nope.

The Wii could have managed it, but I think everyone stopped playing that system shortly after the appeal of Wii Bowling wore off. Plus that particular console basically made it a costly exercise to have friends because buying controllers, nunchuks and batteries for four sets of controllers would set your back well over £100.

Occasionally you’ll get a good game that friends can play together on the 360, but most of the time these games just feel like better looking but far shallower versions of old favourites. For example, there hasn’t been as good a Track & Field game since…err…Track

Here is Catch a Thief Mode on Hidden in Plain Sight

& Field for the original Playstation, while you shouldn’t get me started on the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome that surrounds WWE games.

Anyway, you’re getting the point of it and that is that it would be nice to be able to play four-player games in the comfort of your own home where everyone gets to play at the same time rather than it being turn based.

And the thing is, there are game makers out there who agree with me.

So I want to bring your attention to a fantastic game available from Xbox Live Indie Games called ‘Hidden in Plain Sight‘.

What’s The Game About?

Available for about £1, this is 5 different games rolled into one.

Those game modes are…

Ninja Party: The screen is filled with ninjas and you and the other players are randomly assigned one each. First you have to work out which one you are (which requires a bit of covert skill) and then you either have to identify and kill off the other player controlled ninjas, or be the first to touch 5 different statues on the screen.

Catch A Thief: Choose to be either a sniper or a ninja. The player controlled ninja must covertly collect coins while the snipers try to find and kill them. The catch is that the coins only disappear (i.e. are only seen to have been collected) once the sniper shines his light over it.

Assassin: Same principle as Catch a Thief with the difference being that the player controlled Ninjas must bump off as many AI controlled ninjas before the sniper gets them.

Ninjas vs Knights: Similar to Ninja Party, but the catch is that the slower moving player-controlled Knights have to stop the player-controlled Ninjas from killing a princess.

Death Race: A game of musical statues. Each player controls a sniper rifle and a ninja. The idea is to be the first ninja to make it over to the other side of room ahead of all the other player and AI controlled Ninjas. While being as covert as possible, the player must also look out for the other Ninjas and with only one bullet in their gun, snipe them leaving the route to victory open for themselves.

And that’s it. It’s a really simple premise which will provide hours of fun for you and up to three of your friends. Obviously the more friends that play the better the gaming experience is.

The controls couldn’t be simpler or better explained and the price couldn’t be cheaper.

My only problem? Well the fact is that we’re now conditioned to play games online, and the lack of online mode is actually a disappointment. My best mate now lives in London so the fun we had playing it last week sadly can’t be repeated again for a few months.

I know…what a hypocrite I am.

 

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Stuart’s Week In Entertainment – October 12th (Including Red Dwarf, Dexter and The Immortality of Rodney Bewes)

October 12, 2012

One thing I’ve found pretty irritating though is that some shows in the USA are already taking breaks. It’s something I’ve never understood; what’s the point of starting a show and then taking it off again the week after? That’s what’s happened with Modern Family. Similarly, two weeks in and Grey’s Anatomy and Parks and Recreation have also taken breaks. It’s daft. Why not just do what British TV stations do and run a series every week until it’s finished? That would seem more sensible.

Having said that, for some reason The Thick of It also took a break and that’s on BBC2!

Anyway…

TV – The Comedies

So we’re down two shows, but there are a couple of additions to the list so it balances out.

First thing’s first – How I Met Your Mother is still dreadful, which is a pity because it was once a great show. We sat there realising there wasn’t a single laugh in it as the episode once again got caught up in trying to be clever with prolepses. This is one show that really needs to buck up its ideas.

The Big Bang Theorymeanwhile was the funniest comedy on TV for the second week running. People seem to either love or hate this show, and many people don’t give it the chance it deserves on the basis of it being filmed in front of an audience that bursts

Here’s Rimmer managing to look younger than I thought possible in the new Series of Red Dwarf

into fits of hysterics at the drop of a hat. Well I’m still really enjoying it, although my concern last week seems to have come to fruition as the character of Stuart has become a regular. Noooooooo! In fairness his interaction with Sheldon was quite funny. As an aside, I watched the first few episodes of Season 1 while away on holiday, and I have to say that some of these characters (well…Penny and Raj) have aged considerably in such a short time.

Nothing much to report on Parks & Rec other than it was better than the week before.

The big return last week was Red Dwarf. Now like any child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up loving Red Dwarf, but there was always the risk that it was maybe something best left in the past. Certainly I watched the first episode of Series 3 – Backwards – the other week and I don’t think I laughed once. So that combined with the actors not getting any younger had me worried. But since I last wrote a Week in Entertainment there have been two episodes and both have been pretty good. I’d say the first episode was certainly the better of the two, with a few great set pieces (the Swedish Moose and the bit with the phone) that genuinely made me laugh at loud. I’m impressed!

The other show I’ve watched this week is a DVD boxed set I got for my birthday. I’ve always had a fondness for Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads without ever having seen it. That might sound bizarre, but I really liked the theme tune and there’s always been a sort of running joke between my brother and I about Rodney Bewes, probably because he was in Resurrection of the Daleks and we watched that umpteen times on an old Betamax video as kids. And of course there’s the amazing sketch on QI about him being immortal, which I’ll link below.

But as I say I hadn’t actually seen it until this week. It’s really good, and I’d highly recommend you give it a chance. It’s an old style of comedy; not in that there’s slapstick, innuendo or the like, but because it’s so conversational. Most comedies these days involve either lots of people or that ‘Talk to the Camera’ style approach which has been in vogue for so long. The jokes are mostly in the conversations between Bewes and Bollam, and it’s great. I don’t think it would be repeated in full these days, not just because Bollam is apparently being quite arsey about the whole thing, but also because there’s some…shall we say…politically incorrect jokes in there.

But for well over 30 episodes, £11 is a bargain for it.

TV – The Rest

Homeland started again, but I’m not decided as to whether it’s best to wait until it finishes and then watch it all in a row. It’s not that the first episode was bad, but it was uneventful and was definitely just a set-up episode. The action probably won’t kick off for another few weeks yet.

Loved Dexter again though. Looks like the shit it going to hit the fan pretty early in this season, so I hope that they manage to keep it entertaining all the way through. I stick to my prediction though; LaGuerta is going to be murdered, and Deb is going to be the one to do it.

Grey’s Anatomy‘s second episode was better than its first. I won’t do spoilers this time, but I thought that the second episode should have been first and vice versa. The stuff with Mark Sloane was a lot better, and probably would have been more shocking had they not spoiled the outcome the week before. I do hope it goes back to the proper format next time though.

Watched The Plane Crash last night. I’m a bit of a nervous flier – or at least I was – so it might seem that this is not the sort of thing I should be watching for my own sanity, but it was interesting and informative; even if it did take far too long to get to the point. I’m impressed that a plane could crash-land without doing too much damage to the people inside, although I certainly won’t be sitting in First Class any time soon.

One thing I really was surprised about this week was that I enjoyed WWE Raw. Apart from Daniel Bryan and Kane’s “I am the Tag Team Champions” sketches, WWE’s product has been absolutely diabolical. Seems as though they sacked the head writer last week, and the result was a far better show with decent and different matches, as well as storyline progression. Let’s hope they keep it up. I doubt it though.

And what about that bit on Pointless yesterday where a contestant took a lucky shot in the dark guess at a subject she had no clue about, and not only was it right, but it was Pointless too. And they won the jackpot. That’s what I call luck.

News

Jimmy Savile. Who’d have thought it, eh?

Most people I think…


Films: Looper Review (or ‘You Can’t Just Use The Excuse “Don’t Think About It Too Much” and Write a Script That Makes No Sense’)

October 4, 2012

You might have gathered from reading my reviews that I’m a fan of Dr Who. By association then, it won’t come as a great surprise that a film like Looper – with its time travel/causality theme – would be of interest to me.

I actually went into it knowing only three things about it. That it was about time travel, that it had Bruce Willis in it and that it was pretty highly regarded.

So what did I think?

What’s It About

Time travel is invented in the late 21st century and is controlled by Organised Crime syndicates. At that point in history it’s impossible to dispose of a dead body thanks to profiling technology, so their way round it is to send the people they want bumped off back 30 years in time to 2044, where contracted young men – known as Loopers – execute them and get rid of the evidence.

The catch is that by agreeing to become Loopers, they also agree to being sent back in time and killed themselves, 30 years hence. The idea is that they are paid handsomely to live a good life for 30 years and then if they are still alive they must surrender themselves to them. And in the future, a shady character called the Rainmaker is busy making sure all the Loopers are being disposed of in short order.

Can you guess then what the catch is?

Of course, what happens is that the main character’s older self is sent back in time and manages to escape before he’s killed by his younger self.

The older version (Bruce Willis) plans on killing The Rainmaker while he’s still a young boy, so his younger self can avoid the situation.

With me? We’ll see…

Thoughts

I’m going to split this into two parts.

The first part will give my basic thoughts on the film so that if you haven’t seen it you can maybe decide whether or not it’s for you.

The second part will focus on why I don’t think it made much sense.

Part One – Non Spoiler Edition

On the whole I didn’t mind this film, but like I say, I didn’t think it made much sense.

Part of the problem with time travel in fiction is that it’s based around a concept that is exactly that; fictional. We can’t travel in time so we only have logical theories about what is possible when it comes to changing the past.

For reasons I’ll get into further down in the spoilers section, I felt that Looper didn’t apply those logical theories enough. Indeed, not only did the writers manage to contradict themselves entirely with what happens, but they also gloss over any potential problems by having a character say ‘That time travel shit will fry your brain so I try not to think too much about it.’ They may as well have had Jeff Daniels look straight into the camera and say ‘Don’t expect this to make sense, because we can’t be bothered thinking about it’.

And I know people will read this review and the areas of the plot that I highlight as problematic below and say ‘Don’t think about it too much’, but I shouldn’t have to disengage my brain that much in a film that is trying to take itself seriously.

Put it this way; Back to the Future made a lot more sense and had a better grip on the notion of causality than this, and that was a comedy.

Beyond that issue it was a decent if predictable affair. I’m not too keen on the way the future is always portrayed as a grim dystopia where everyone lives in squalor in a world controlled by organised crime though. It happened in films 30 years ago and it still happens now. It’s unimaginative and over-done, especially considering this film does it so half-heartedly. Personally I prefer films to try to speculate positively about the future – like Back to the Future 2.

Anyway, it had a reasonable plot even if it wasn’t executed all that well and in the absence of seeing The Rainmaker as an adult, it relied too much upon a Biff Tannen style thug antagonist who wasn’t even taken seriously within the context of the picture.

I feel many people will forgive those problems because they’ll either not follow what’s going on too well anyway or they’ll just sit with a sort of boyish glee because Bruce Willis is back on film killing people for the first time in ages. In fact, the whooping delight of the Lad McLads sitting along from me only seem to confirm this.

The Spoiler Edition – Don’t Read From Here If You Haven’t Seen The Film

The Grandfather Paradox; I’ve spoken about it many times on the blog. It’s the idea that you can’t go back in time and kill your own grandfather before you are born because if you did, you’d never have been born in the first place to go back in time to kill him.

I’ve always managed to get my head round that with the greatest of ease, but it’s something neither my brother nor my best mate can comprehend. They don’t see where there’s a paradox because – presumably – they are stupid (and I write this knowing that it’ll reignite the debate).

Anyway, the result of this film sees a form of that paradox happening. The older version of Joe – Bruce Willis – comes back in time to try to prevent the Rainmaker from growing up and becoming the head of the crime syndicate because it’ll prevent him from dying but it’ll also mean his wife won’t be killed either.

So he comes back in time, finds the kid to kill and it turns out that by doing that it looks as though he’s the one who created the problem in the first place because he ends up killing the young boy’s mother and that’s what makes the child bitter and angry against the Loopers in the first place.

Now that I can accept. It’s time working in a loop. We’ve seen it explored in Dr Who stories like Day of the Daleks and Earthshock reasonably well.

But the problem is that the resolution to it is that the young Joe works this out just before it happens and decides the way to prevent it from happening is to kill himself, thus allowing the child to grow up into someone different.

That I can’t accept. That makes no sense.

He kills himself to stop the older Joe coming back in time and creating this whole sequence of events. But if he kills himself then the older Joe would have never been there to come back in time for the younger Joe to meet and therefore engineer this whole set of circumstances. It’s a paradox

To make matters worse, the film uses that same paradox earlier on in the script where Young Joe initially manages to kill himself by accident and time resets itself to the point where Old Joe came back in time because that was the trigger for what followed.

If the film had ended  with the revelation that Old Joe was the one who created the whole mess in the first place it would have been predictable but reasonable. Instead they went with the other ending which – while giving the young boy a happy ending with his mother – made absolutely no sense, and was simply washed over with the idea that ‘It’s time travel; don’t think about it too much’.

Well sorry, I do.

And as such it ruined my enjoyment of it a bit.

Should You Watch Looper?

Probably not. Despite it going alright until the finish, the last part knowingly made no sense, so it’s annoyed me.

As such, I say Nay to going to see Looper.


Stuart’s Week in Entertainment – 02 October 2012 (It’s Back!)

October 2, 2012

It’s been a few months, but now that the US television season has started again and there’s more to watch on TV than the Olympic Games or Euro 2012, Stuart’s Week In Entertainment is back! Huzzah.

The premise is simple; I’ll do a quick review of the forms of entertainment I’ve enjoyed or endured over the past week. People like it, I like doing it, so let’s begin with TV.

Be aware that there are spoilers ahead. I can’t discuss some of these shows without revealing aspects of them that may surprise you if you haven’t seen them. Just don’t look and skip ahead to the next one if that’s the case.

Television – The Comedies

Ok, let’s start with the comedies that have begun again over the past couple of weeks.

It’s fair to say that there have been some hits and some – well one – miss here.

Mad Mosby – Still a Sociopath

Of the shows that I regularly watch, I was happy to see that the Big Bang Theory remains a brilliant watch, with a level of consistency in both the scripts and plot as it moves into its sixth season. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Stewart character (the guy who runs the comic book store) as he’s pretty one-dimensional. Hopefully he doesn’t get used in every episode. There were some great lines though, and again they mostly came from the Sheldon/Amy double act. Good to see that it retains its flavour after all this time.

Slightly hit and miss was the return of Parks & Recreation, which began with a terrific first episode but only had a merely average second one. I’ll take that as a blip, and would put it down to a lack of Ron Swanson, and I’m expecting that soon enough the whole cast (currently split between Pawnee and Washington DC) will be reunited quite soon.

Surprisingly decent was the return of Modern Family. It’s a vastly overrated show of course, because it absolutely does not deserve to win all the awards that come its way (they swept up at the Emmys last week), but it was still a better episode than they served up for most of the last season. It occurred to me while watching it that I never even bothered to finish the Season 3 as I didn’t know Gloria was pregnant; that’s how bad it got. That episode in Disneyland was brutal. As I say though, it improved and provided more laughs than the second episode of P&R.

Meanwhile the show that got off to a bad start was How I Met Your Mother. Three of us watched it, and all three of us came away thinking ‘Oh for fuck’s sake just get on with it’. As they draaaaaaaag out the mystery of who the mother is, the eighth season begins with the reveal that Ted meets her at a railway station. It doesn’t say who she is, but simply that he meets her there at the end of the current season. It’s glacial in its pace now and the episode just wasn’t that funny. There was one joke the whole episode –   that Lily & Marshall are so tired looking after their newborn baby that they can’t focus – and they flog that horse long past the point of death. The actual focus is on Mad Mosby and his latest stunt to find eternal happiness in the form of a wife. Here, he’s hijacked an ex’s wedding because ‘She Might Be The One’. So he’s run off with her, only to find that her fiancée had also run off because he couldn’t go through with the wedding either. So he asks him why, and he says that he couldn’t marry her because he knew she wasn’t the one. And so it appears as though Ted thinks she’s not the one either based on the fact someone else thinks she’s not the one for him. Fucking sociopath.

The one impressive thing about the episode was that Barney manages to recap the plot of the entire seven previous seasons in under a minute without stopping. What was less impressive about it though was that it showed up the face that HIMYM uses canned laughter, because if it was filmed in front of a live studio audience, they’d have given him a round of applause.

The Dramas (spoilers for anyone who watches Dexter, Grey’s Anatomy or Revenge)

It’s not just the comedies that are back this week; the dramas are back too.

The big one for me is Dexter, which is back with a bang. The cliffhanger of the last season saw Deb catching Dexter ‘in the act’. Superb, and some might say overdue.

Well they threatened a few things in the episode, like starting with a prolepsis that looked like it might be the end of the season (something that really pisses me off in TV because it’s so overdone) and then hinting that Dexter might manage to convince Deb it was a one time act of insanity, but no. They’ve blown the whole dynamic of the show out of the water with the cliffhanger at the end of the episode where Deb confronts him with all the evidence that she’s found of him being a serial killer. And he admits to it! Superb.

Predictions for the season ahead? LaGuerta will be murdered when she susses out that Dexter was the Bay Harbour Butcher; only I reckon that it’ll be Deb that does the deed. That – along with the bloke who has a bee in his bonnet about Dexter – will be the main thrust of the season while the stuff with the Ukrainian mob will simply be padding to give him a weekly victim.

Excellent stuff though.

Also returning to our screens is Grey’s Anatomy, which takes the interesting decision of starting off months after the plane crash that stranded our heroes in the last season, rather than following up straight after it. I understand they’ll go back to that in the

Re-Casting from the mindset of ‘They All Look The Same’. Long live the 1970s…Oh wait…

next episode, but this first one is to show the fallout of what happened.

And hot on the heels of Lexi Gray being killed off, the best character in the show by a distance – Mark Sloan – is killed off as well. I’m disappointed by that, not only because it’s another good cast member gone, but rather because the only way Shonda Rhimes seems to be able to write a character out is by killing them. Everyone seems to die in Grey’s Anatomy rather than simply leave to get a job elsewhere; it’s ridiculous and it’s overplayed.

Not that the episode wasn’t good, but it just felt very ‘same old same old’. Interesting to see Arizona has lost a leg though. How will they deal with that? My guess: depression, followed by an inspirational tale of recovery and by late in the season she won’t even be walking with a limp anymore. A bit like Paul Robinson then.

Then we have the return of Revenge. Now it was a fairly straight forward episode that followed on from the events of the last season, but two things stood out for me. The first is that it was obvious Victoria wasn’t dead but considering they went to the trouble of leaving the actress’s name out of the opening credits, having her turn up after 15 minutes with no fanfare whatsoever seemed pretty stupid.

The other item of note was possibly the worst bit of recasting I’ve ever seen. Clearly working from the belief that ‘They All Look The Same’, the casting director of the show has recast a Japanese businessman from a bloke in his 40s with a full head of hair to a guy who looks like he’s about 70 with a bald head. It’s the equivalent of recasting Patrick Dempsey with Patrick Stewart because they are both called Patrick.

Not all shows have been good though. I tried a new one – Revolution – about a world where electricity has gone off for good. It intrigued me as it seemed like the US was finally tackling the Survivors type angle. But despite having a decent cliffhanger, the show was pish. They seem to have come up with the idea of showing what the world would look like in 15 years without any electricity and forgotten about writing scripts. I’ll wait and see if it survives and maybe watch it all again once the season is over.

Other Stuff I’ve Been Watching Lately

I’ve got a little bit of a backlog of other stuff that I’ve watched over the past few weeks too.

Let’s pay for Andrew Marr to fly out to a foreign country and film 8 seconds of footage. That’ll be cost effective

Pointless: I’ve got right into Pointless lately, but I’ve found the stupidity and ignorance of some of the people who go on the show to be staggering. Now, I don’t consider myself some sort of intellectual snob; I just feel I have a decent grasp of general knowledge. I find people who consider knowing only about ‘sophisticated’ things like philosophers and classical musicians to be just as intolerable as the sorts who think that knowing about Sex and the City is more worthy than knowing who the Shadow Chancellor is. General knowledge is just general. Yet some of the people on the show just don’t have it.

I mean, you’ve people claiming that films made before 1993 are ‘before her time’ (well nobody is missing out other than her) or people who can’t name a single Michael Jackson song from the 1980s. Worst though was the round on political parties where everyone involved declared that they knew nothing about politics as if it were some form of badge of honour. It’s general knowledge people.

As an aside, I found the amount of Pointless answers in the Dr Who round to be staggering. The question was ‘Name a character or alien that has appeared in both Classic and New Dr Who’. Obviously my instant answer was ‘Macra’ and that was Pointless, but even the likes of the Silurians were coming up. I suppose that’s slightly more specialised knowledge, but still…

Andrew Marr’s History of the World: I’m finding this to be a very informative and interesting programme that really does make the early days of human civilisation seem like a game of Civ 5. I’d highly recommend the show, but I do wonder why the BBC think that it’s acceptable to waste money sending Andrew Marr  – dressed in massively inappropriate clothing – to all corners of the globe to simply walk up a street that he’s narrating about. They could have saved their money there.

QI: A show that’s always worthy of a viewing, but I was especially interested in the Phantom Time Hypothesis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_time_hypothesis. Coincidentally I’d only been discussing that nothing seemed to happen around that time earlier that day. Spooky.

Castle: Started watching Castle on recommendation from a few friends. An entertaining and modern take on the murder mystery format, in the vein of Diagnosis Murder. A bit formulaic but the cast is good and they work well together.

Family Guy: I stopped watching Fanily Guy during the 8th season because it had turned into turgid unfunny shite, but I gave the new season a go and was pleased to see it’s back to form somewhat. Probably because they aren’t just doing the same old same old with the paedo guy and how everyone hates Meg. In particular, I enjoyed the episode Back to the Pilot, which has Stewie and Brian going back in time to the first episode.

WWE: All I have to say is this…“I’m the Tag Team Champions”. Daniel Bryan and Kane are pretty much the only thing worth watching these days.

Gaming – FIFA 13

It’s October, so that means it’s FIFA time again.

I’ve had a quick go of the new game and so far I’m enjoying it greatly. Attacking seems far more fluid compared to previous FIFAs where scoring a goal depended upon engineering specific scenarios like the ‘Exploit Goal’. In earlier editions you could just shoot from outside the box without it going nowhere near the goal 95% of the time. Now, if you get in position, you’ll score.

Mind you, this has led to some fairly high scoring games.

The only issue I’ve had so far is that online gaming is still a bit sketchy, with EA clearly needing to release a patch to sort it out.

Oh, and the research for the game is terrible. Being that I’m in charge of research for the far more authentic Football Manager series, I can say with authority and track record that whoever does the Dundee United data needs a slap. I can understand that they maybe had the starting team based around who played that weekend for the team, but there are basic issues like Keith Watson being a centre back and Mark Millar (who hadn’t played for us before this past Tuesday) being our best midfielder.

Tut tut FIFA, tut tut.