Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Very SPOILERS! Oh. Review of Portal 2

Right, so a year of anticipation has finally paid off, and I've played through Portal 2 TWICE already. (Once straight through, once for developer commentary and achievement nabbing). I've been wanting to spout off my opinions on things since then, but I've also wanted to avoid posting spoilers for those who don't want them. As such, I've written up a separate page that can (or at least, should) only be accessed through the link at the end of this post. Be aware that the link contains SPOILERS for the gameplay and story of Portal 2. Also be aware that since there's no way to activate comments on the link, any comments posted below might contain spoilers as well.

If you want to avoid spoilers but are still interested in my thoughts, I'll say this much: Portal 2 is quite good and definitely worth playing. I've not yet touched the co-op mode yet, but I trust it's just as fantastic as the rest of the game. I come away from this game again wanting more. Valve certainly didn't drop the ball here.

Right then, ready for some spoilers?
Click here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

This Post Makes No Sense, But Will Shortz Has a Cameo

Alternative title: "Hare Today, Blogged Tomorrow"

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it on here before, but I've always been amazed and frightened by the fact that there exists an an entire industry based on the premise of the consumer paying to be bombarded with problems and asked to solve them. Normally, you'd pay a therapist to help you get rid of your problems, but here you're paying to take on challenges that often times will get you nothing more than a chirpy sound effect or a piece of paper with a bunch of numbers on it. I'll be totally honest with you; logic puzzles are my cocaine. I've come to equate grid-based usually-Japanese logic puzzles with pleasure and stress relief.

This is a bit ironic when you consider the financial strain I put myself in when I'm on a logic puzzle bender. Recently, the fine folks (read: sadistic jerks) at Conceptis Puzzles released Nurikabe, a logic puzzle where you have to create a continuous chain of black squares that divide the white squares into "islands" that have the given area. I've been a member of Conceptis for probably two-and-a-half years now, and since they introduced their pay-to-play system, I've been pretty good at limiting how much I indulge in their puzzles. As soon as I played through all the sample Nurikabe puzzles when they first came out, I immediately bought another load of credits and started spending them like mad on Nurikabe puzzles. It's now about a month later, and I've already gone through half of the credits I bought due to this addiction, which is sad considering I usually make a credits package last 6-9 months.

But I couldn't stop there. Since it's a Japanese logic puzzle, and one created by Nikoli, a major logic puzzle manufacturer, SURELY there must exist a book of these puzzles somewhere out there. After doing a search on Amazon, I found that there were some Nurikabe books, but most were either not-in-stock, too expensive, or couldn't ship to my dorm before I graduate (holy crap, I'm graduating). I settled on a Will Shortz book of a small variety of puzzles (I say small because there are only 100 puzzles spanning five types, I think), though I've realized in retrospect that they'll probably be very low-difficulty puzzles, since the book is meant to be an introduction to new puzzle types.

Not satisfied with this, I ended up going to the Lycoming Mall yesterday to check out their Borders for more puzzle books (and elsewhere for pants). When I got there, I was heavily disappointed in their Games and Puzzles section. Of what I saw on those shelves, maybe 55% were sudoku, 40% were crossword puzzles, and the rest other random puzzle types. And of all that, maybe 70% of those books were Will Shortz books. Don't get me wrong, Will Shortz is a swell guy, and I love his Weekend Edition puzzles and I keep a New York Times Crossword calendar next to my bed, but the utter lack of variety that they had there absolutely disappointed me. There were no Nikoli books, which is a tremendous shame considering they're one of the major developers and distributors of new puzzle types that seem to pick up everywhere. So I left the Borders, angry and empty-handed.

In the center of the mall, though, I couldn't help but watch a rather bizarre spectacle taking place. You know how malls usually have Santa Clauses (Clausii?) on hand around Christmastime to have kids sit on their laps and have their picture taken? Here, there was one with the Easter Bunny. There was a small line with kids and their parents leading to a guy in a bunny costume (think "Harvey"), and one by one the kids would sit on the bunny's lap, talk for a short bit, and have their picture taken by the photographer on hand.

I started to wonder, what would you talk about as you were sitting on the Easter Bunny's lap? I don't think you'd ask for presents, like you would with a Santa. Maybe you'd ask for a certain kind of candy, or specify something like, "No coconut, please." I'd imagine a lot of kids would ask for hints to where he's planning on hiding eggs this year. And I'd imagine that any well-trained mall Bunny would respond with a vague non-answer such as "I can't tell you, that'd spoil the fun!" And then the photographer would take your picture, and you'd send it out to all your relatives in the annual Easter card, along with a list of boring details about what the fam has been up to.

Not that I would expect anything different from a mall Bunny, but I'm surprised to admit that this Easter Bunny looked exactly as I've always pictured the Easter Bunny. As in, I've always imagined the Easter Bunny to be a guy dressed in a bunny suit, not an oddly anthropomorphic cartoon bunny. I think this belief stemmed from a dream I had when I was maybe seven or eight years old when the Easter Bunny asked me to help him hide eggs. He did not speak, he just mimed everything. That image of the Easter Bunny has stuck with me ever since then.

I've not confessed that to many people, as it seems like this is a very unorthodox view of the Easter Bunny. I don't understand why though. Think about it: Unlike the concept of Santa Claus, which tends to have very specific characteristics tied to him (fat and jolly, red suit and hat, white beard), there are no defining characteristics to the Easter Bunny. Probably every interpretation of the Easter Bunny you've seen has been in some cartoon form, and even then there's no definite template for him (except maybe that he has white fur). If I am to be raised to believe that a rabbit comes to my house every year to hide eggs in the lawn, then I'd be more comfortable imagining a guy in a rabbit costume doing it, rather than a small woodland creature dragging a basket everywhere. So there.

Then I went to Auntie Anne's for some pretzel sticks and left.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Because the Internet Needs More Men Eating Ramen in Their Boxers

Just a quick post to let you know of a new feature I've enabled for this site. Since I got a webcam a month or two ago, I've been having a lot of fun with terrible homemade YouTube videos for friends and Skype chats. But then I got to wondering, what other fun things can I do with my webcam?

The result, in case you missed it, is now on the toolbar on the right. I've added a live webcam to my site! The camera is set up just to the left of my computer monitor, facing my chair so you can always see when I'm at the computer by checking the webcam. Now you can see in an instant if I'll be right there to answer a message from you. Hopefully we can start a trend of people opening up their availability on the Internet. After all, how popular are things like FourSquare and other mobile apps that do much the same thing? Check back later to see if I'm around and maybe we'll chat!

[Edit: On the incredibly off chance that you didn't figure it out, this was an April Fool's joke.]