Wednesday, February 18

Parting of the Heavens

She holds back
Sparing others
In spite of herself

She should collapse
Cover us all in her misery
So we would feel but a prick

We owe her that

She deserves more
I'd give her everything
But I can't stave space and time

I have my own diseases

My worries are infinite
You'll not hear of them
Not in this dreary weather

You have my ears
Treasures that exist in many places
Make it rain 

It's dangerous to separate 


Friday, February 13

prayers for family

blessed are the absent fathers
and the thrones they can't rest on
they built the castle and tended the gardens
their sons can't wear their shoes
now they live in servants' quarters

blessed are the tireless mothers
they don't need our prayers
and they can't have our ears
ceaseless are their worries
we waited too long to listen

blessed are the youthful brothers
that could never grow up
weakened by empathy 
besieged by selfishness
separated to save themselves

blessed are the saintly sisters
who always look over their shoulder
afraid to be themselves
scared to share the truth
alone and searching for nothing

Sunday, February 8

Resident Evil: Revelations Review (3DS): Serious hardware

For the first time in ten years, I finished a survival horror game.

I blame Resident Evil 4, and the emergence of more gruesome fare such as Dead Space for leading me to shelve the genre almost entirely.  The former was the eminently playable, though horrifically violent match that lit the blaze that was an abundance of increasingly hyper violent horror titles. The fuel has started to dry up though, with tepidly received, relatively recent releases in each of the big series: from Resident Evil 6 to Silent Hill: Downpour.

I loved every minute of Leon S Kennedy's critically lauded adventure on the Gamecube, but after I finished RE4, my resolve gave out. I barely lasted an hour with its sequel, which was dismissed by the majority of outlets and players alike for the partner mechanic, which apparently toned down the scares. I couldn't handle the pressure of Dead Space 2's nightmare-inducing first act. I shied away from anything that looked even remotely frightening.

Enter Resident Evil: Revelations.

Released in 2012 and bought at launch, it sat in my collection almost unplayed until now for two reasons:
1.     I'm a big, fat scaredy-cat.
2.     Even with the Circle Pad Pro (CPP), the game was a monster to control.

Playing without Nintendo's custom-made peripheral made aiming a robotic affair, made playable only because I'd spent fifty-something hours using a similar button configuration to play Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the PSP. With the CPP, aiming was somewhat more fluid, but putting the system to sleep disconnected it. I'm a sleepy, lazy, fearful adult person, so I let it rest.

Enter the New Nintendo 3DS.

Not only is the latest iteration of the 3DS a bangin' fashion accessory, it also has this ugly little nubbin that works as a second analogue stick. It works well, to the point where moving the protagonists doesn't feel like operating an ornate heavy weapon from a bygone era. Finally, you're allowed to aim and move at the same time. As slow as that combined action is, it makes Jill et al infinitely more nimble than Leon was; meaning the intensity gets dialled back a notch.

The narrative at play in Revelations, as with all survival horror titles, is in an incomprehensible mess. You control multiple characters throughout, but the only real difference is that they have different voices and genders. You move slowly through corridors, you shoot abominations of the flesh with a variety of weapons. Sometimes you die, rarely is it overly gruesome. I could handle this combination of flavours, however bland they may have been.

There are some troubling sexual politics apparent in Revelations. From making light of stalking to every woman's combat outfit being puzzlingly designed to show off curves and bare skin. You'd figure that the prospect of infection with a deadly virus would lead the women of Resident Evil to ask for a functioning zip in Jill's case, or a second pant leg for Jessica's outfit in the second arc. Nope. Get those tits and pins out, ladies. Parker and Chris are covered from head to toe at all times though, so I'm glad at least some of the heroes will be free from the threat of infection.

I did feel as though the final act was unnecessary, and there's a distinct lack of variety in terms of enemy opposition, but I think this is what I needed if I was to reengage with the genre. Resident Evil: Revelations is an enjoyable romp, but if you're expecting an adrenaline-pumping roller coaster ride with jump scares hiding around every corner, look elsewhere.  

Recommended if you can find it cheap on any platform where dual analogue sticks are the norm, otherwise let it sink into the bargain bin.

(Image source: http://www.futura-online.com/blog/llega-resident-evil-revelations-a-nintendo-3ds/resident-evil-revelations-ns3ds-7/)

Wednesday, February 4

Irish Nurses

Elaine!
Do you remember me?
We drank wine and cider
You were loud

Elaine!
My wife made new friends 
Your confidant and shoulder
For tonight at least

Elaine!
I worked the catwalk 
I deceived you all
I'm terrified

Elaine!
My friend in double denim
He's taken, I swear
Leave him be

Elaine!
We crossed paths again
Your face said 'Fuck off'
I kept walking

Tuesday, January 27

Loot

Disappointment is a colour
A luminous emerald
Lighting the dark of the moon

Is there nothing more tragic?
Hours farming redundant green
No uses other than scrap

No better swimming in blue
Players rehearse for purple
Striving for nothing but gold

Monday, January 26

Current

Life happens around me
Normally content to ride with it
Only when it slows 
Flows at half speed
You see it all
The potential
Washed away in the current
Careless words stain
Warnings to those who can't comprehend
Who would, but can't now
The current's strong again
They're being carried away
They're going under
They're drowning
You couldn't save them if you tried
If you stayed
If you fished for hours and pulled them out
If you thought to do this years ago
It's too late
They'd swim out if they could
When they could cross their heart
And hope to die
Now they just hope to die

Monday, January 5

High Horse Audit 2014: The top 5 games of 2014

Last year I rediscovered my love of The Grind, and that willingness to engage with repetition has persisted into 2014. It's not like I've finished any 60 hour JRPGs this year, but my word have I invested as much, if not more, time in games which rely on that hook: 5 to 30 minutes where you aim to do the same thing you've done 100 times before, only that little bit better each time.

2014 was a pretty uninspiring year for video games and, depending on your tastes, you might say that's reflected in the list below. I'm not that cynical. I'd argue that each of the games below could've ranked in lists amongst competition like Uncharted 2 and Red Dead Revolver; it's just that there's a lot more chaff this time around.

5. Shovel Knight (played on Nintendo 3DS)

The indie 2D platformer with pixelated graphics, perhaps the greatest gaming clichè outside of the AAA dudebro shooter set in grey and brown corridors starring angry, attractive white men. Still, Shovel Knight works as a love letter to the classics of hardware generations past, and as a game in its own right. Beautiful, challenging, and oddly touching.

4. South Park: The Stick of Truth (played on PlayStation 3)

It's a 13 hour long episode of South Park. For me that's Game of the Year material, for others that may sound like some fresh kind of hell.


Despite the premature level cap and some of the worst tutorial sequences I've ever had to suffer through, I dare say South Park: The Stick of Truth is the best licensed console game since Batman: Arkham Asylum on laughs alone.

3. Spider-Man Unlimited (played on iOS and Android)

Before this year, I didn't love Spider-Man. I love comic books and read them regularly, but I was never the biggest fan of Peter Parker.

I read the first volume of Superior Spider-Man and found the clumsy, though ambitious premise interesting, but I was still not a webhead. Then I played Spider-Man Unlimited.

I was hooked for a good few weeks, but as per my review, the punitive business model squeezed any joy I derived from swinging across New York's skyline. I downloaded the game again about six weeks ago, while I waited for a large Destiny update. It was amazing how much had been done to fix pretty much every gripe I had with Spidey's battle with Freemium.

Ranking up rare characters was no longer a frustrating matter of sacrificing lesser, though still essential members of my playing roster. There were more Spideys, including Spider Women and the Superior Spider-Man. More villains and environments were (and continue to be made) available, and rewards are doled out more liberally. You can now do everything on offer, without having to spend a cent. It's not that content and characters were explicitly gated, but the amount of time and effort required to access everything without investment has decreased significantly.

Now the joy of wall-crawling is almost completely unfettered. I can swing, punch and kick without Gameloft cynically swiping at my wallet. 

2. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (played on iPad and PC)

Carly, my beloved wife, rarely plays games anymore. She's a dedicated professional who is rarely distracted from her life goal of improving education for young women, so when you find her playing a game that isn't Spider Solitaire, odds are it's good. Or distracting at the very least.

Hearthstone is both.

I've seen this game help people deal with trials and failures, tantalising and preoccupying them with its impossible combination of art and mathematics. You bump pretty pictures and numbers together, and it's somehow one of the most compelling experiences I've had in years.

Its pull is strong, and it is constantly being improved. Yes, there are still cards that I think are a little too powerful (most belonging to the Hunter class), but Hearthstone's is a community that is monitored and well listened to.

Tiger Style a la Dr Boom

There have now been two expansions (one paid for, one free) which have substantially changed the way the game is played. Deathrattles and mechs appear regularly in my enemies' decks, but I still find myself sticking with tried and tested cards and strategies. I have, however, learned how to use a few more of the classes.

I text with a close friend whenever we come across a new strategy, or pull off an amazing comeback. We are regularly surprised at each other's ingenuity. That is the magic of Hearthstone.

1. Destiny (played on PlayStation 4)

This year, for the first time in my life, I lived alone. For just over six weeks I did all the chores, I did all the cooking, and I played a shitload of Destiny.

7 days a week, for anything between 2 and 8 hours, I would scour the ruins of Earth and Venus, the catacombs of the Moon, and the orange sands of Mars. I would hunt for guns and armour. I would help complete strangers through increasingly difficult combat scenarios, and we would dance at the close.

Destiny is such a strange game in that it doesn't start until about 20 hours in when you hit the standard level cap. From there, you enter this endless cycle of Daily Heroics, strike playlists, and Crucible (player versus player) matches. The struggles of the avid player rarely bears reward. In fact, the arbitrary loot system trolls dedicated Guardians into fits of rage.

I can remember one lazy Saturday where I was regularly outperforming my teammates and our opposition in the Crucible, only to watch them wreathed in purple. In one match I had literally doubled the score of my nearest colleague and received nothing. Our weakest player, several levels below me, and who failed to net a single kill, was awarded a legendary (read: really reeeeeeeallly rare) hand cannon. I almost cried at the injustice of it all.

Still I persisted. Still I plugged away knowing that Destiny is not a meritocracy, it is exactly as the title implies. Some players are destined for an easy journey, gifted with the tools required to succeed, earned off the backs of those who would work harder. Some are damned to toil for what feels like an eternity before earning the privilege of tasting that sweet purple stuff.