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Tycho / on Mon, Jun 5 2006 at 12:04 am

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Almost Startlingly Retro

Utilizing an undiscovered cortex, Gabriel and I always subconsciously assess a room’s ping-pong potential.   

As regards feats of virtual ping-pong, tracking the rivalries has been difficult.  There was a period of time where Kiko could beat Gabe, and Gabe could beat Robert, but inexplicably Robert could beat Keek.  Keek has since asserted dominance via a play philosophy I can’t categorize yet.  Gabriel’s is easy to describe:  like the cunning dionaea muscipula, he waits.  He plays a very conservative game until you make your first mistake, at which point the guard leaves close and the process of digestion can begin.  Robert, who I fully expect to make a powerful resurgence, utilizes a systematic approach that treats every round like a part of a functional whole, actively creating misconceptions about his playstyle until - at the moment things become serious - the scheme shifts and he begins doing something entirely different.

I haven’t entered my name in the continuum because I do not contribute anything material to the competitive landscape.  I am there to give players of actual merit a break between epic struggles.  I am the burning pyre which commends authentic heroes to eternity. 

I had some issue with my Steam account on Friday, where the Sin Episodes I purchased - preordered! - was installed on my machine, and I had played it, but it’s as though I lost authorization for it and it wouldn’t play.  It’s fine, I just downloaded it again and my saves were intact, but that hiccup means that I played Sin Episodes and Half-Life 2: Episode One back to back.  It also means that my playthrough of Sin Episodes was delayed until after the recent patch, which brought the difficulty in line with human reflexes and capabilities.  You should understand going into this, as a long-time reader might, that I have an almost fanatical devotion to the concept of episodic content.  You should also know that I pre-ordered both, getting each for eighteen bucks, which is significant when you consider that in my adjusted monetary system, twenty dollars is actually zero.     

The way it breaks down is that HL2:E1 is interesting, and Sin Episodes is exciting.  I’ll go talk about Episode One on Wednesday, but I just finished Sin.  Like, five minutes ago.   

My enjoyment of Sin Episodes: Emergence was increased substantially by the patch I mentioned, but also by reading Richard Cobbett’s online review.  His (pre-patch) deconstruction of the game is so savage that, with its proclamations fresh in my mind, I was able to enjoy the game precisely as (I believe) it was intended.  It’s "pulp," or whatever the digital equivalent is.  It’s almost aggressively opposed to higher brain functions.  It has an overplayed, theoretically sensual villainess who practically twirls her moustache she’s so evil - I was surprised that they didn’t tie up sidekick Jessica Cannon and place her on a "Mag-Lev Junction" while an unseen pianist pounded on his instrument.  Where Half-Life 2 and its progeny are adventure games delivered with a first person metaphor, Sin is a shooter of the old school, those primitive and brutal diversions of a species hungry for annihilation.  When I began playing it, it looked and felt…  I don’t know.  I think budget is the word.  The sequences where you’re riding around in the car feel really chintzy.       

(Is chintzy one of those racist code words, like "gyp"?  I await the terse communiques from Lower Chintzia.)

The game starts in a featureless hallway and then shunts you right into one of these cars.  It did not instill confidence.  In an inversion of expectations, the overall design actually gets stronger as you proceed through the game.  I don’t know how many people finish the games they buy, I would suggest less than one hundred percent,  but I imagine that number increases as the playtime approaches four hours.  In fact, it’s a crucial part of the business model:  you can’t have a cliffhanger if the player never actually hangs from the cliff.     

Ultimately, I found myself enjoying it - sometimes even without irony!  Just keep telling yourself:  "radio drama, pulp serial, they are evil, and I am the opposite." 

(CW)TB out. 

  to forgive all the things that i’ve done


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