Category Archives: Games

The Joy of Hatemas

Personally, I LOOOOOVE the holidays (all five Os of it). Sit me down in the middle of a mall with a cup of coffee and an IPod full of yuletide tunes and I’m in heaven. However, I know that many people don’t share my love of the crazy Christmas season. For some, it’s the most woeful time of the year. Especially if everyone around them is walking around in a candy cane scented cloud of good cheer.

But never fear, my grinchy friends! I’ve got a list of angry, explosions-and-anger fueled diversions that are still holiday-appropriate. Add them to your holiday arsenal and whip them out when your elfy-type friends and loved ones (such as yours truly) gambol in your general direction with a glass of wassail and a brightly sugared snowman cookie and chirp, “Let’s do something CHRISTMASSY!”

Note: If the above image just sent shivers of disgust down your spine and made you want to hurl glass ornaments against your garage door, then you’re definitely in the right place.

MOVIES
The Ref (1994)

Denis Leary plays a cat burglar who gets trapped in a sleep Connecticut town after a botched Christmas Eve robbery. With the police closing in, he takes a middle-aged couple with marital problems (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) as hostages. But as their bickering and bitching continues regardless of the life-threatening situation, you start to wonder who the real victim is, especially once the rest of the family shows up for Christmas dinner. Also starring Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns.

 

 

 

 

 

This is probably the most blatantly Christmas-themed of the films I offer to you, but with Leary’s snide comments (not to mention filthy mouth), the fact that it’s Christmas only makes the bitterness that much richer and more enjoyable, not to mention frickin’ hilarious.

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis stars as the iconic John McClane, a New York City cop on vacation in LA as he tries to reconnect with his estranged wife and daughter. However, the Christmas party at his wife’ company is hijacked by a group of terrorists (or so it seems…) led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). With all the employees taken as hostages, it’s up to John McClane to save Christmas…er, I mean, everyone’s lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, do you really need any more reason to watch this movie? It’s a classic, holiday or otherwise, and if you haven’t see it yet–for shame!

Psycho (1960)

A secretary (Vivien Leigh) hopes to gain a better life by stealing a large sum of money from her employer and leaving town. On her way to her long time and somewhat illicit lover, she stops for the night at the Bates Motel, run by unassuming hotelier Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Hilarity ensues!

And by hilarity, I mean murder, cover-up, investigation, more murder, and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s weird but true–Psycho is technically a Christmas movie! Maybe the best kind of Christmas movie for some of you, as no one learns a valuable lesson and there is not a flake of snow to be found (it’s primarily set in Phoenix, after all). The slate at the beginning of the film puts the first day of the story in the beginning of December, and if you look carefully during a few scenes, you can spy Christmas decorations. Take that, girlfriend-looking-to-cuddle-up-with-a-heartwarming-Christmas-tale! No Rudolph for you this year!

BOOK
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

This collection of six short stories depict a darker, more unusual side of the holiday season. The range in form, from straight narrative, to a holiday play review, to one of those family update Christmas letters you might receive with a picture of a smiling family. My favorite is “Dinah, the Christmas Whore”, mostly because it’s based on a real life occurrence (at least, it’s written to make you believe it is). It’s also the most sentimental story in the bunch, so if you’re looking for something harder, I would suggest “Christmas Means Giving,” which is a beautiful, biting piece of satire on consumption and one-upsmanship.

 

 

 

Holidays on Ice a small book, only 134 pages and about half the size of a standard paperback, but if I had to do it over again I would buy the audio version, read by Sederis himself. The stories are written as if they should read aloud anyway–more specifically, read aloud with Sedaris’s endearing deadpan delivery.

Besides, reading is a solitary activity, and holiday resentment just isn’t the same if you can’t share it with the people you love via audio transmission.

GAME
Angry Birds Seasons

You play as a group of birds (or a murder of crow…birds…if you want to be excessively irate and don’t mind pushing definitions just a bit). Several green pigs stole your eggs and hid them being a series of rickety structures and ill-placed rocks. Retrieve them by hurling your feathery squadron at the questionable strongholds.

The Holiday version of Angry Birds (entitled “Seasons Greedings,” in case you weren’t sufficiently irritated yet) functions like a 25 Days of Christmas calendar, with 25 levels for you to play as you count down to Christmas Day and the end of your torment. Play one level a day for extended catharsis, or play all at once to really blow off some steam.

As a nice bonus, if you acquire Angry Birds Seasons to expunge your Christmas rage, you will also have access to other holiday editions as well, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Just in case your hatred is the kind of gift that gives regardless of the season.

Merry Hatemas, Every One!

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One Game, One Show, One Movie: Halloween Edition

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love love LOVE Halloween. It’s one of my top two favorite holidays next to Christmas, and I think Halloween has the edge because the only real fallout is a hangover and temporary makeup-induced skin irritation, as opposed to soul crushing post-consumerism depression.

Because Halloween is such a dynamic holiday, it’s very hard to choose how to approach it. On the one hand, you’ve got kids dressed in sheets and skeleton masks plodding around with bags of candy. On the other hand, you’ve got pyschos with chainsaws. How do you cover all the bases? My answer is to chose one Halloween-themed item from the entertainment categories of Video Game, Television Show (with Halloween episodes), and Movie, each one hopefully appealing to a different group. Don’t be surprised if this kind of uber-post becomes traditional for holidays–there’s a lot of Christmas entertainment out there too.

Video Game: Costume Quest

Photo courtesy of Double Fine Entertainment Inc.


Game Type: Adventure/RPG (3D)
Synopsis: It’s Halloween and you and your twin sibling are about to go trick-or-treating when your sibling is kidnapped by evil aliens trying to steal all the Halloween candy on earth. Travel from your suburban neighborhood to the local mall to the haunted carnival collecting costumes and using their powers to fight the monsters and save Halloween.
Modes: Single Player
Play time: approximately 10 hours
Cost: about $11
Available on Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam

 

 

 

 

As I’ve stated before, I prefer the cutesy, kidsy side of Halloween, and this game gives me to opportunity to relive the innocence of being a kid on Halloween. The art style is adorable, and combined with the music they managed to capture the magical potential of Halloween I always felt when I put on my costume for the first time. It’s certainly not a difficult game, but it’s rewarding nonetheless, especially when you get a new costume and get to try out it’s powers in combat. I like to play this a week or two before Halloween, to get me in the mood for the holiday.

Television Show: Psych

This Episode Sucks (...maybe. I don't know that's just the name of the latest Halloween episode). Photo courtesy of USA Networks.

Format: 1-hour television show
Category: Fictional Detective Comedy
Premise: Hyper-observant slacker Shawn Spencer convinces the local police department he is psychic and can use his gift to solve crimes. He and his partner Burton Guster go on the show up the police at every turn, solving crimes while still managing to get into every wacky hijink imaginable.
Original Broadcast Channel: USA
Off the Wire Location: Netflix (Seasons 1-5), Hulu.com and Hulu Plus (Seasons 1-4, partial season 5 and new episodes).

 

Generally speaking, this show is very entertaining, standing the test of time by still being funny and captivating after 6 seasons. Because it has been on for so long, it now has five Halloween episodes, covering Halloween-esque material ranging from Scooby Doo to Friday the 13th, all the while maintaining the signature goofy humor and good nature that has made the show so successful. These episodes are a good option for the person who is looking for something more mature than It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown but not as gorey as a proper horror film. You should be aware, however, that the most recent Halloween episode (on the slightly-past-its-peak topic of vampires) won’t be available for a few weeks yet as all new episodes are only available 30 days after the original air date. It’s an unfortunate reality, but you still have the four episodes from seasons past to keep you busy.

Movie: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Studios.

Director: Ryhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi)
Writer: Clive Barker (Candyman, Hellraiser)
Starring: Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There can only be one thing that comes to mind when you hear this title, but I assure you this is NOT PORN. Bradley Cooper plays a photographer in New York who stumbles on to a serial killer (Vinnie Jones) that is luring people into the subway in the middle of the night, hacking them up, hanging them in the subway car and riding the train to the end of the line, and before morning the bodies are gone. OOoooOOO, right?

What I like best about this film, besides Vinnie Jones being super creepy and the awesomely gut wrenching twist ending, is seeing how the story, written by an English horror icon, comes to life through the eyes of a Japanese director. The western film industry has been co-opting and remaking Eastern horror films for years now, but this is my first experience with a Western story being interpreted by a Japanese director with American and British actors. It’s a really interesting combination and, most importantly, it creates a really, REALLY scary story. This movie is definitely not for the kids. Then again if you seriously think ¬†showing your 8-year-old a movie called The Midnight Meat Train is a good idea, then I worry about you. And your 8-year-old. Sadly, I couldn’t find this film on Netflix or Hulu, but it is available on a site called iwannawatch.net and potentially in a couple of other places. I haven’t obtained any of those copies though so I can’t vouch for their quality or safety, so view with caution. Think of it as an additional level of suspense–it is Halloween after all.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Gelatinous DOOM!

This game has something for everyone…but it’s got more for some and less for others.

Tales from Space: About a Blob
Game Type: 2-dimensional Side-Scrolling Platformer/Puzzle
Synopsis: You play a gelatinous alien that comes to Earth and is captured by a scientist. You have to escape his lab by solving puzzles and absorbing items to expand your size. As you grow, you can absorb bigger and bigger items until you get big enough to absorb buildings, people, and eventually the world.
Modes: Single and Co-op
Play Time: approximately 5 hours
Cost: $15
Available on PlayStation Network Only

I love everything about video games: the graphics, the music, the excitement, the culture of the fans, everything. Here’s the problem: I am really bad at them. Oh, don’t get me wrong–I can kill it on a Genesis. But if it’s anything in the current generation, I am a total wreck. I can’t get my bearings in a 3D world and if there is more than 4 buttons on a controller I just start panicking.

The old "run-and-jump"

About a Blob is a perfect combination of old school gameplay and present day mechanics. You start off using simple controls–a joystick to move and one button each for jump, run and absorb. As the game continues and you gain more abilities (like being about to attract and repel to certain surfaces), the controls get more complicated, but it’s a slow, manageable progression. This is good for someone like me who hasn’t mastered these new-fangled controllers…like a 3 year old.

This is a fun game, but it’s by no means an all-absorbing game (except for the part where you, you know, absorb stuff). You can play for an hour or two, then walk away from it without diving for the controller ten minutes later shouting, “I HAVE to know what happens next!” Seasoned gamers will find it amusing for a while, but they’re prolly gonna get bored pretty quickly.

Blob's Night Out

However, players of all levels will appreciate the aesthetics of this game. The music is very catchy, quirky and fitting with the funky, doodle-esque art style. My only qualm is that the appearance and score remain mostly the same from level to level, which gets pretty monotonous if you sit and play straight through. Splitting up your game play over several days will make it less repetitive, even endearing. It’s something familiar to look forward to, instead of, “Oh God–this again.”

This is a great game to play in co-op mode, particularly if the pairing is one pro-gamer and one novice. The game is easy but still interesting (if taken in small doses). I would especially recommend this for parents looking to play a game with their kids–it’s not violent or obscene, and the kids will get a kick out of absorbing water towers and townfolk. It’s like I always say: the family that destroys the planet together, stays together.

Hmm…maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have kids.