Fez Review: The gaping maw of madness

Fez

One of the many secret messages in Fez reads, “Trapped in a fez factory. Please send help.” This is a plea straight from the mouth of the game’s creator, Phil Fish, who for nearly five years, was trapped within the padded walls of his own creation. This game all but killed him, clawing away at his health, psyche and relationships.

And it shows.

Fez is the chronicle of Phil Fish’s descent into madness as he struggled to develop the game, and through endless mystery, obfuscation and complexity, it invites the player to suffer the same fate.

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Review: The Rapture – In the Grace of Your Love

The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love

Brooklyn-based trio The Rapture perfectly exemplifies the devastating hype cycle of music in the Internet age.

They exploded onto the scene in 2002 with the classic single “House of Jealous Lovers,” a danceable blast of punk rock that descended onto the awkward and thoughtful drama geek that was early aughts indie rock like a manic, wedgie-happy bully.

The Internet hype-machine kicked into high gear, hastily labeling The Rapture’s mixture of angular post-punk guitar and disco beats as “dance-punk” and celebrating the resurrection of legendary sounds from bands like Gang of Four, New Order and The Talking Heads.

But the Internet is a fickle beast. It tore The Rapture down just as quickly as it had hoisted the band into stardom, calling them plagiarists and puppets of the now famed production duo DFA, also known as James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy — the founders of LCD Soundsystem and owners of DFA Records.

That short taste of success was enough to drive the band to a major label for its laughably inconsequential third album, another all too common story among indie bands. Shortly after its release, the band’s lineup began to crumble, with vocalist Luke Jenner quitting then quickly rejoining and bassist Matt Safer splitting for good. It looked like the end for a band that had, only three years prior, changed the face of independent rock.

Now, five years since its last album, The Rapture is back on DFA Records, the label responsible for its glorious “House of Jealous Lovers” moment, for the release of In The Grace of Your Love. Sadly, it seems those Internet naysayers were right all along.

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Shadows of the Damned Review: A Supergroup That’s More Cream than Chickenfoot

Supergroups sound like a great idea on paper: take established artists, clump them together in one band and let them collaborate without interference. However, the same reasons that make the supergroup concept so exciting are often their undoing.

Famous artists are famous for a reason. They do something people enjoy and they do it well. The trick with supergroups is melding those talents together and hoping the end result is something cohesive. Sometimes you get Cream, the original supergroup and progenitors of both heavy metal and jam bands. Sometimes you get Chickenfoot, a concoction of tired hard-rock machismo with a terrible case of dissociative identity disorder.

That same danger applies to a collaboration of successful artists in any medium. Luckily, Shadows of the Damned, the product of gaming’s latest supergroup — Suda 51 of Killer 7 and No More Heroes, Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami and Silent Hill’s aural mastermind Akira Yamaoka —  is more Cream than Chickenfoot.

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Musings: A Japanese June; or Mini-Review Rundown: Child of Eden and Shadows of the Damned

Many in the games press bemoan the increasing irrelevance of Eastern game developers. Outside of Nintendo’s titles I would be hardpressed to name the last Japanese game that made a major financial splash here in the west. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is probably my best bet, but even that is bolstered by its inclusion characters familiar and dear to Western audiences.

Critically things aren’t much better. Japanese stalwarts like Final Fantasy have taken a beating by the press as of late and taking a look at the titles that make up the wave of post-E3 hype, I haven’t found nary an Eastern game (Another Capcom fighter, Street Fighter x Tekken, comes to mind. Dark Souls as well.).

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Review: LA Noire

It’s rare that a game is designed around a new technology in the way LA Noire was.

A few years into the game’s development, which actually dates back to 2004, Team Bondi began researching more meticulous facial animation solutions. They eventually partnered with an Australian tech-company named Depth Analysis whose MotionScan 3D motion capture system would provide Bondi’s project with the unparalleled facial animation which it enjoys.

The LA Noire that eventually emerged from this very long development is essentially a modern take on the classic adventure game.

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Review: Deepak Fights Robots (Flash)

Deepak Fights Robots, the latest game from Tom Sennett, best known for the indie hit RunMan (available right here), seems like the fever dream that would follow a long night of playing Bubble Bobble and Super Meat Boy while listening to Ravi Shankar and Curtis Mayfield records. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what it is.

You are Deepak, an everyday family man who is for some reason kidnapped from his desk at Wondertech Enterprise Solutions by a pimp robot and made to suffer the trials of the Robot Cave. This cave is, of course a psychedelic wonderland full of danger, floating food-stuffs and…robots.

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Review: Dragon Age 2 (Xbox 360)

Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2 is a game that wears its development on its sleeve. Its strengths and weaknesses seem to be products of its shorter-than-would-be-expected development cycle — one of only about two years from the very beginnings of pre-production compared to the at least five years of its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins. The resulting product sacrifices scope and variety for a more intimate story concerned with individuals and social dynamics.

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