Review: WALDEN, a game (PS4)

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No, it’s not some new-age hipster ready-made, silly. Here’s where you start off the game. Now, get to getting those walls up before dark, buddy.

Walden, a game PS4Wait, what? Yes, there’s actually a game based on Henry David Thoreau’s autobiographical slice of life book and it’s pretty neat as well as quite educational on a few fronts. Developed by Tracy Fullerton and the USC Game Innovation Lab over a 10-year period, Walden, a game ($18.99, also on PC) rolls out events from Thoreau’s time spent up at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts in a tiny cabin he built and maintained. It’s an “open world” game with plenty to see and do, but it’s also an initially timed experience where you need to attempt to accomplish as much as possible during each day. That means you can choose to follow the flow of suggestions the letters Henry receives during the game or simply go off and explore at your leisure, discovering experiences as you go.

Actually, doing a combination of both is very highly recommended as this will maximize the overall experience while filling in chapters from the book as well as other events that affected Thoreau’s life.  While the game has a few performance quirks, if you’re a person who likes “walking simulators” (a term I dislike, mind you) or “survival” games (ditto on the dislike thing) without worrying about zombies or other creatures chomping at your heels, this is going to be right up your alley. Granted, I’m going to gather that market is slim among most of today’s gamers. Nevertheless, I’d still highly recommend this if you want something truly different and amusingly enough, something to show off to your kids (if you have them) as an honest to goodness learning experience. Yes, there’s also a great teaching aid for the game, as it’s meant to be used in schools as part of curriculum in tandem with the book.

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Your humble shopkeeper in the game. Basically, he’s Tom Nook with even more vintage stock. Or: you’ll pay through the nose for those much-needed goods.

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30 Years of Mario: Take A Bowser, Pal. You Certainly Deserve It


 

Yep, it’s been THAT long since Super Mario Bros. was introduced to console gamers in Japan and shortly thereafter, most of the rest of the world. No one know how many millions of games of SMB have been played, but Nintendo has managed to make Mario not only one of the most memorable and recognizable game characters ever, they continue to rake in plenty of money from both new and old games featuring the character and his equally well-known cast of friends and foes. As today just so happens to also be Video Games Day (well, here in the US where we love making and celebrating made up holidays), you may be wanting to do a little celebrating yourself. If you’re lucky enough to own a Wii U, you can (and should) snap up a copy of Super Mario Maker and whip up a few celebratory levels for today’s festivities.

“Festivities? What festivities?” you ask? Yeah, at some point today, there will be a knock at your door and when you open it, a barrel will roll in and burst open. It’ll be full of bananas and a very pissed of Donkey Kong will storm in, grab you and that busted barrel and hoof it to your roof. Soon afterwards, you’ll be visited by a certain plumber and get a little game history lesson as you’re getting rescued. After that ape goes down swinging, you’ll end up going through a LOT of surprisingly clean sewer pipes, you may crack your head on a brick and see stars, and don’t forget to wear comfortable shows because you’ll be jumping more than you’ve ever jumped before. Don’t worry, Mario has been doing this stuff for a while, so it’ll take maybe ten minutes tops before you’re back on the couch and wondering what the hell just happened.

BUY IT! Silver Scenes Sells Stellar Stills

"Let's see now. If I sell this dog and kid, I can buy ALLLL those movie stills!"

“Let’s see now… if I sell this dog and kid, maybe I can buy ALLLL those movie stills!”

(photo from Silver Scenes)
 

Want a piece (or a few pieces) of Hollywood history for a potential song? Even if you can’t carry a tune at all (and there’s no need to sing for your supper here), you can carry a wallet or purse and that means you can (and should) support classic film site Silver Scenes through their an awesome movie stills auction on ebay. The auction is off and running with a few bids already, so click on over to peruse the lovely selection of primarily black and white stills (only one is in color) and bid away at your leisure.

Prices start an an affordable $9.95 for each still and proceeds from the auction will go to the UCLA Film & Television Archive. So go do some charity work this weekend and add some beautiful black and white images to your collection. And hey, if you happen to strike it rich today in the lottery, make sure to spend some of Saturday’s Millions on tomorrow’s treasures!

Put Up Your Dukes, Indeed

(thanks, Brian Coltrane!)
 

There’s trouble in Hazzard County for sure this time. A few days ago I overheard two guys (one older, one younger, both black like moi) arguing over whether or not The Dukes of Hazzard was a “racist show” (in my opinion, it’s not). The conversation took a strangely surreal and slightly amusing turn because the guy defending the show also happened to have a load of Dukes collectibles thanks to relatives who bought all that merchandise back when the show originally aired and him holding onto most of it.

Now, there’s a deep fried dill pickle for you, ladies and gentlemen.

But not really. Although some major to minor retailers have been hastily yanking anything with a Confederate battle flag off their shelves, Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia seems to be one of the few exceptions. That said, one does have to wonder with an arched eyebrow how much of that stuff was not so ironically but somewhat ironically manufactured outside of the good ol’ U.S. of A. (by underpaid workers) and how much of it was bought over time for by folks who’d probably NOT want it because it wasn’t made here…
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READS: When A Closed Book Is The Best Thing In The World

huntington 001 (Custom) 

I’d been meaning to visit the sometimes appointment-only Huntington Free Library and Reading Room about a half-hour walk my place for some time, but I’d always found myself a bit too busy to get over that way. That is, until I found out there was a new library that was going to replace the older building next door that was formerly home to a rather large Native American artifact collection. That new building won’t be built for a while, but getting the chance to see and pore over a bit of area history was something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. Thanks to TLH setting up an appointment on Monday via email, we popped in today at 10 sharp and stayed about two hours chatting with caretaker/tour guide/author Tom Casey, a man with a encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the area and a ton of other things.

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“Book ’em, Danno!”: Wednesday’s Read’s A Memory Maker

BookCulture AWHey, if you invite me to an event and I just so happen to like what you do, I tend to show up.  Which was a good thing for me as I found a nice new book shop to poke my head and feet into and got to meet the world famous maybe should be in some sorta documentary about her long walk author Andra Watkins who talked about her new book Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, which you should go out and buy and READ. Well, after you read her other novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.

That first book was inspired by this one, which I haven’t yet read, but realized I’d heard of and know someone who has a copy and has yet to read it. A borrower I shall be, it would seem. Anyway, the main purpose of her book tour is to get readers to make a memory with someone they know and soon. We all tend to get busy-busy and otherwise occupied with life and too often, overlook making real connections with those we know (or should know better). For all the “social” aspects of modern internet use, you really aren’t making a human connection if you live out your entire existence online. Continue reading

Snake No Longer Solid: Kojima, Konami Part Ways

I'm Going
 

A cryptic tweet and some rumblings from the business side of things later and it looks as if Hideo Kojima/Kojima Productions and Konami are breaking up at least in terms of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Gamers and industry folk are all going “!” at this news as they speculate on the reasons for the rift turned split. I’ll save the guesswork for deciphering the facts to come later on, but Konami is pushing forward in that way big corporations that own assorted IP tend to do. They’ve removed Kojima’s name from the marketing materials for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and is currently looking for a team to help create a new Metal Gear Solid series. As lousy as that news is to many core MGS fans, you’d best believe applicants will be jockeying for the opportunity of a lifetime… Continue reading

A Few Words on Ralph Baer…

Ralph Baer Brown Box 

I was already in a lousy mood yesterday, but waking up to the news that Ralph Baer died pretty much kept me inside for the bulk of the day ruminating. I was eight years old when the Magnavox Odyssey launched, but my family didn’t buy one because we had assorted hobbies that kept us occupied. In fact, although I’d been to the arcade down at Coney Island back when I was six or seven, I was more impressed with the pinball machines I played (or tried to play). However, finding out a cousin had an Odyssey in his closet AND a color TV in his living room got me curious enough to see what was in that big box (a lot of stuff!) and what happened when it was all wired up to that big TV set… Continue reading

Enemy Front Launch Trailer: “Into the Black” And Hopefully On A Few Fronts At That…

Okay, I quite like the song in this trailer… but to me, it’s just NOT proper at all for a World War II-based game. Granted, I’m not expecting this tune to be IN the actual game, but I’ll slightly dread watching the game credits because I can just hear this popping up at some point during however many minutes it takes to spool them all out. I’ve never seen a short credit roll in a modern game unless it’s an indie title made by one person or a tiny team where all is revealed in less than a minute. Anyway, that’s my sole complaint with Enemy Front until I actually get some hands-on time with the final version (PS3, please!). The game isn’t out until June 10, 2014, but I guess using the D-Day anniversary to push a game set during that period isn’t the worst thing that could happen today, right?

Enemy Front Story Trailer: Resistance Is (And Most Likely Will Be) Futile…

 
CI Games’ upcoming WWII shooter has drawn my interest thanks to its story taking place during a few key points and in a few key places during that conflict. I’m withholding my judgment on this one completely until I actually PLAY it,but color me impressed that it looks to be packing in a LOT of content. As long as it’s not a straight-up linear run to the checkpoint experience (and press materials suggest it’s not at all), I think it will find an audience that likes what they see and may ask for more down the road. We’ll see in a few weeks as Enemy Front hits retail and digital outlets for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on June 10, 2014.