Review: Mirror’s Edge (360)

Mirror’s Edge
EA Games, 2008

Mirror’s Edge is perhaps more impressive for what it could have been that what it is. A first person parkour inspired platformer Mirror’s Edge represents a step forward in way the player interacts with the world around them while at the same time mires its gameplay in traps completely familiar to the average game player. At its heights the game mirrors (**groan**) the energy, excitement and tension of Casino Royale’s opening chase scene and at its worst is vaguely reminiscent of ramming one’s head into a concrete wall…repeatedly.

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CD Baby is my new hero

So I ordered some CDs from independent CD seller and received this totally awesome shipping note:

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Saturday, December 20th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby.  We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.”  We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Amusing, and awesome.  As a result of said awesomeness I will likely try to buy stuff from them again.  Take note marketing type people!

Review: Shadowrealm by Paul S. Kemp


Paul S. Kemp

Wizards of the Coast, 2008

Shadowrealm  is the third and final volume of Paul S. Kemp’s excellent Twilight War series.  The deadly shadow storm rages accross the Sembian country side and Chosen of Mask Erevis Cale finds unlikely allies in his fight against Kesson Rel.   Kemp contines his trend of great action and strong character development here but the finale is unfortunatley marred by the nature of “shared universe” fiction.  Read on for more…

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Review: Princep’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Princep’s Fury

Jim Butcher

Ace, 2008.

Princep’s Fury marks the 5th entry into Jim Butcher’s less well known fantasy series The Codex Alera.  Fantasy fans who have been skipping this series really ought to give it a try, while it isn’t quite as clever as the Dresden Files, Butcher’s talent for tight, kinectic action and furious pacing make for an entertaining read.   While the characters aren’t always as vivid as everyone’s favorite Chicago based wizard they do manage to stand out from the pack of other fantasy heroes.  While not a good entry point to the series (start with The Furies of Calderon) it marks another impressive, and exciting entry into this typically underrated fantasy series.  Read on for more impressions…

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Review: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages

Brandon Sanderson

Tor, 2008


The Hero of Ages concludes Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.  While moving at a more sedate pace than either The Final Empire or The Well of Ascension, the concluding volume showcases Sanderson’s worldbuilding and reveals a flair for tight, thrilling action scenes.  Unfortunatley characterization takes a back-seat to both those elements.  Regardless fans of the first two books will likely enjoy the ride.  Read on for my full review…

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A Browser with Bling

I’m a huge Firefox fan.  Ever since adopting several years ago I’ve stood by the faithful fox through thick and then.  Lately though, things have changed.  I still enjoy Firefox, it is a fantastic product that is unbeatable in terms of customability and personalization.  However, I’ve begun to question its memory utilization.  I’m not a huge techie, I know just enough to break things, but I’ve found that my Firefox 3 can eat upwards of 600 mb of system resources.  I should preface this with by saying that this is on my PC at work which isn’t a spring chicken.  It’s a single core Pentium 4 just over 2 ghz, with a little of 1 GB of Ram, running Windows XP Professional which, while certainly not top of the line, is markedly more than enough to adequately run Firefox.  As if the large memory footprint weren’t enough there are occasions were something will slow up the browser’s operation causing delays when I type (anywhere from 2-5 seconds per key press) or when I try to switch tabs.  I have a multitude of extensions installed (Firebug, web developer, css viewer, tab scope, tiny menu, extended statusbar, to name a few) so for all I know it could be one of those causing the problem, but my recent performance woes did prompt me to give another browser a try.

Read on for my impressions of Google’s Chrome browser.

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Fallout 3 Post-mortem

So, I finished the main campaign last night and I must admit that I found things a little bit of a let down.  Perhaps it was the fact that I waited until level 20 to do it but it felt almost too easy.  Easy isn’t really the right word though.  After being given free license to roam the wastes as I saw fit, dispensing justice or enforcing my will, to be shoehorned into a linear quest just felt wrong.  Despite some leeway it seemed to me that the quest went forward with little to no input on my part.  The harried escape from the Jefferson Memorial in the early section of the quest and the exploration of the broken and rusted ruins of Vault 87 were both fun but once you’re finished with the latter the game becomes a glorified rail shooter.  Seriously, for about the last 2 hours I got by firing only a handful of rounds, NPCs doing most of the work.  I liked the addition of Fawkes, my first, last and only follower but he came a little too late for me to really enjoy his presence.  I also thought Liberty Prime was pretty awesome and the President Eden thing was also quite entertaining but marred by the fact that I essentially walked out of Raven Rock without a scratch.

The ending, while it didn’t leave me fuming, was quite anticlimatic.  I had hoped for something more akin to the earlier Fallout games and, like Fallout 2, that once the main quest was over I could continue to wander the wastes.  The final cinematic was a bit of a let down as well, the “snapshots” of my adventures felt pretty random and didn’t really show any of my favorite moments (come on! No corpse littered Paradise Falls!) and certainly didn’t really reflect any of the decisions I made over the course of my journeys.  Regardless of the lackluster finale the total package is still totally worth the price of admission, I think that Fallout 3 lacks the epic feel of earlier Fallout games but is still a stellar action-RPG.  I look forward to the upcoming DLC and the eventual plethora of user mods!

Games and Music

After seeing Powerglove open for Dragonforce this past Wednesday I’ve had video game music on the brain.  Apparently SF/F web zine Strange Horizons has a direct feed to my thoughts as they posted a thoughtful essay on the topic, which attempts to explain how music in games differs from music in other media.  A post about Left 4 Dead over at Gamers with Jobs also had some interesting comments about the music from the first Halo game.  I hadn’t realize quite how intertwined gameplay and audio were in that series but as this interview proves, Martin O’Donnell (composer) is intimatley aware of the subtle complexities involved in the creating a game soundtrack.  However one might feel about the Halo series they’ve always done production value well and that transaltes into some truly stunning and engaging music that is memorable and epic in scope.

Anyhoo, just some thoughts on this exhausting post-holiday Monday.  Be sure to check out Music 4 Games for news/review of the last video games soundtracks and music.