Editorial, Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Alessio & The Beastly Backlog: Little Inferno

Alessio & The Beastly Backlog is an excuse for me to be held accountable for completing my massive video game backlog. These articles are a hybrid of experiential reflection, informal critical reaction to the content, and a springboard for discussion on all of our social channels. Plus, I like talking about games and what better way to kill two birds with one stone?

This series is fair game for spoiler territory, and so with that being said, if you haven’t completed the game in question and want to have a completely unhindered experience, please refrain from reading any further.

This week: Little Inferno started as a curiosity and then it ate up my entire evening. I’m pretty sure this damn thing is available everywhere, but I played it on PC via Steam. Noticing a trend?

Editorial, Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Alessio & The Beastly Backlog: Hatoful Boyfriend

Alessio & The Beastly Backlog is an excuse for me to be held accountable for completing my massive video game backlog. These articles are a hybrid of experiential reflection, informal critical reaction to the content, and a springboard for discussion on all of our social channels. Plus, I like talking about games and what better way to kill two birds with one stone?

This series is fair game for spoiler territory, and so with that being said, if you haven’t completed the game in question and want to have a completely unhindered experience, please refrain from reading any further.

This week: Hatoful Boyfriend, available and played on Steam and so graciously provided to me by good friend, Asher Smale.

Editorial, Feature, Gaming, Video Games

My Wife!!! #1: Never Alone

My Wife!!! is a series focused around me talking my wife, who has zero interest in games, into trying her hand at some unique interactive experiences. After her time with each game, Kristen and I will discuss what she liked about the experience, what she disliked, and her thoughts on if the game accomplished what it set out to.

This entry we’ll discuss Kristen’s time with the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, and Mac indie-platformer Never Alone. The game was downloaded and played on the PlayStation 4 as part of the PlayStation Plus round of free games in April of 2015.

Gaming, Video Games

Indie Game Three Way

This week I’ve had the pleasure of playing three very fun. All three of these titles were independently developed by small teams, featured 8-bit/16-bit “retro” graphics, and had a very meta, or self-conscious, take on their story-telling. For the video version of this article be sure to head on over to our YouTube channel.

1. McPixel

McPixel is a title by “Sos” that found its way onto Reddit and The Pirate Bay not too long ago. The game was being passed around by internet Pirates, “yaaargh!”, and the developer immediately began endorsing the “theft” of his game. McPixel ended up becoming the first game to be officially endorsed by The Pirate Bay shortly after.

McPixel is a game reminiscent of “30 Second Hero” where the player must make quick decisions in twenty second intervals in order to prevent a bomb from exploding in different scenarios. It’s a bit tough the first time you begin playing, mainly due to wrapping your head around the odd logic in the game’s world, but once you get a feel for McPixel and the world he lives in the game becomes very quick and tense. The game also features a lot of pop culture references and some pretty low-brow humor.

McPixel, overal, is a fun little romp through indie territory. In my opinion the game doesn’t have very much staying power and once you’ve trucked through all of the trial and error puzzles I don’t see much of a reason to come back to McPixel, besides user generated content. The game is available on Steam for PC and Mac platforms for $4.99.

2. Retro City Rampage

Brian Provinciano’s Retro City Rampage has been in development for a very long time, starting as a personal project in 2002, but has it been worth the wait? Not exactly.

The game is essentially a pop culture infused, Grand Theft Auto “clone”, with an NES aesthetic. It’s a funny adventure and it starts out being a ton of fun, but the lack of any real story missions that aren’t fetch quests, and the feeling of redundancy and tired tropes keep this title from really excelling. I loved all of the little easter eggs, unlockables, arcade missions, campy dialogue, and original chiptune music, but the game didn’t stick with me for very long.

Retro City Rampage is available on the PC through Steam, as well as the Playstation Store on PS3 and Playstation Vita, for $14.99, with the Playstation version netting you both the PS3 and Vita releases when you buy either, as well as enabling cross saving for play between the two systems, which is definitely a nice plus.

3. Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami is one of the single greatest releases of the year, in my opinion. I picked the title up simply based on the words of a few friends and an early review of the title and I never looked back. Imagine the themes of the film Drive, the visual aesthetic of an 80’s overdose in pastel, loud and thumping electronic music mixed with chill wave interludes, and a level of violence unprecedented in video games to date. Stir all of these ingredients up with a big helping of gaming culture commentary, questions about violence and our culture as a whole, and a massive amount of self-awareness and you have a very intriguing plot presented very unconventionally and an ultra addicting gameplay system that revolves around slaughtering a massive amount of faceless hitmen, for the most part.

I simply cannot say enough great things about Hotline Miami. The plot is minimal, but delivered in such a way that it couldn’t be presented in any other medium besides a video game, the music is some of the greatest I’ve heard in a game since FTL: Faster Than Light, and the gameplay simultaneously makes you feel like a god and like a disgusting excuse for a human being.

You can, should, and eventually will pick-up Hotline Miami on Steam for $8.99 right now. The title is PC only, with a possible future release on OS X and Playstation Vita.

To see any of these games in action or to hear a bit more commentary from myself, be sure to visit the video on GeekTime’s official YouTube channel.

Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Skullgirls: Fighting Back to it’s Roots


For those of you who don’t know what Skullgirls is, here’s the lowdown:

Skullgirls is an American-made fighting game in the vein of the Marvel vs Capcom games (air-dashing, push blocking, crazy combos) and the cast is comprised completely of psychopathic ladies. If that’s not enough to grab your attention, check out this gameplay.

Yeah. I’m excited too.

A few of the finer points:

  • There is a gameplay system in Skullgirls that allows you to break out of infinites
  • Skullgirls is a downloadable game created by a 10-man dev team
  • The team at Reverge Labs seems focused on adding more content after launch
  • The dev team really wants to create an incredibly comprehensive, beginner friendly tutorial mode
  • All the art in Skullgirls is hand drawn with most characters comprised of around 1400 frames (that’s a lot by the way).
  • Skullgirls is a 2D game being built in 3D engine, making for some incredible visuals.
It seems Filia took some hair advice from Bayonetta.

The development philosophy behind Skullgirls really seems to be back to basics. Reverge really wants to make a game that emulates the fighting games of yesterday, with crazy, open-ended combos and amazing gameplay, while still using all the modern technology we have today to cut out cheating and general cheapness. If you want to learn more about the game, check out the Skullgirls website. Personally, Skullgirls is at the top of my list of exciting indie games and I can’t wait to play it when the game is released later this summer.

Comics, Feature

The Panel – The Pilgrimage Begins


For those of you that did not read “The Panel” last week, I announced that part of the column each week would dedicated to an analysis of various adaptations of various characters. It seems only appropriate to start this pilgrimage into the world of transitions with the comic-to-film, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.

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The world of Scott Pilgrim is one not much unlike our own. The story takes place in Toronto and revolves around an average Joe and his group of friends. One night, he sees a girl in his dreams. Later the following day, he sees her in the library in real life. He then proceeds to fall in love with said girl, and things are going quite well. The catch to this fairytale romance is that, in order to date her, he must defeat her “Seven Evil Exes.” This leads to a long series of video-game inspired fight scenes and thousands of flying coins.

Okay. So maybe it is a highly-fantasized story, but take a closer look and you’ll find that, behind all of the coinplosions and super-powers, the core of this tale is a meditation on how people deal with loss and learn to move beyond it.

At least in the graphic novels. The film is a very different matter.

The Scott Pilgrim Movie focuses mainly on special effects and cinematography. The level of depth that is present in the story of the graphic novels is completely lost in the translation from comic to film. The latter’s primary interest is creating a deluge of colors, and it does this quite well. The special effects here are fantastic and a joy to behold. Colors lance and flash across the screen constantly, but they remain entertaining, never really losing their value.

Most movies that go a predominantly visual route have some problems from too many pretty colors and explosions. G.I.Joe, for instance, gets a little old after a while simply due to everything everywhere blowing up all the time. Not so with Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. All of the effects form a cohesive whole and are in no way repetitive. Each fight has its own stylization and theme, which is really cool.

Another of the film’s achievements is the surreal smoothness of the scene transitions. Each scene blends into the next, sometimes going so far as to make it nearly impossible to tell the two apart. Creating a series of images that flow this well is not an easy task, but it was executed here with the utmost finesse.

The last thing I would like to address about the film before plunging into the comic world is the casting. This is a wonderfully cast movie. Each character fits not only the basic look of their ink-and-paper counterpart, but also their personality. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s casting as Ramona Flowers is probably the best example of this.

Winstead as Ramona Flowers

The one problem with Scott Pilgrim Vs the World‘s cast was Michael Cera. He just did not fit the role as Scott. It just didn’t work.

But, the movie was an overall enjoyable experience, even if it could have been better. Maybe if they had stretched it over a trilogy instead of just one film it would have improved automatically and the the sacrifice of the main theme of the comics would not have been necessary. There just didn’t seem to have been enough time for the film to cover all of the ground it needed to. This makes sense, given that the graphic novel series includes six volumes, the last of which is quite long. But eh. Still a cool movie.

The graphic novels, however, are awesome. There is simply no other way to describe them.

The first volume really seemed to be the problem child in terms of flow. The little snippets of dialogue that rang so amazingly in the film were, to my surprise, from the film. Their absence from the book was sorely felt. Many scenes in the first volume appear choppy and grating. This problem is adressed, however, in later volumes.

In fact, it is addressed in the very next volume. In Volume two of the series, also named Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, the issues with the flow are eradicated, leaving only a comic made with skill such that I have rarely been witness to. The best example is the silent scenes. Silent scenes in a comic are difficult things to accomplish, since they rely entirely on the expressiveness of the artwork. Scott Pilgrim definitely is one of those rare occasions. These scenes, thanks to the expressiveness of the art, flow without end and elicit a much more emotional response from the reader.

The art’s expression is the next item on the discussion list, funnily enough.

The art style used in Scott Pilgrim is very basic. It consists almost entirely of rather plain characters who, at the start of things, are sort of difficult to tell apart. What such a style allows for, though, is an entirely new level of expression. The character’s emotions are made plain through their mannerisms in such a way that you feel as if you are actually speaking to them, watching their body language in an attempt to derive extra meaning from their words and being rewarded for the effort.

This expressiveness really humanizes the characters and makes them quite believable, even if they do inhabit a strange, video-game inspired world. The believability of the characters also lends itself to the relevance of the story. The main point of Scott Pilgrim is that everyone has baggage and that sometimes in life you must simply move on. It is a fantastic study of the dynamic complexity of human relationships.

Another thing that the art does is perfectly nail the sarcastic tone of the work by adding in small details such as guitar tabs and biographical information boxes.

These little flourishes make the series something truly unique, only compounded by the gravity of the overall theme in order to allow the series to reach a height of magnificence that is rarely ever attained.