Jan 13, 2014

Posted by in Ramblings

Some More Things I Liked in 2013

Some More Things I Liked in 2013

I have to keep my promise to myself and keep doing something for this blog even when my brain is leaking.  I didn’t sleep well last night as it seems there was a police car sat outside most of the night conducted a thorough test of the on and off function of it’s siren.  Also, I am rubbish at sleeping normally so there you go.  I could prattle on about insomnia for a bit but I’m too blah to even blah about blah that.  So instead I’m copping out.  I have a list of things I want to blog about but today is not the day for that.  Here’s some more stuff I liked last year.  This time I’m going with five video games and five books I really liked so you should check them out because my opinion is the correct one.

Top 5 Video Games of 2013 According To Me

Boozer-300x156For all it’s flaws and terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible servers NBA 2k14 for the PS4 is an excellent thing.  The graphics are the best there’s ever been in a sports game, Hell, maybe in any game, and the new modes, whilst not perfect have to be applauded for trying something new with the genre.  The gameplay has it’s bugs but it’s a step up from 2K13.  And did I mention how utterly gorgeous/photo realistic it is?  And the animations.  Jesus wept it’s a good looking game.

Gone-Home-roomI am so glad reviewers got on board with Gone Home (Mac/PC) even if the angry teenagers at their keyboards did not.  The argument over whether it is a game or an interactive novel is a pointless one.  Obviously it is a game.  It is not a traditional game by any means, but a game it is.  And it’s wonderful.  The story, the atmosphere (good Christ the atmosphere), the world of the game, it’s bold by not being in the slightest bit bold.  Sure, you can ‘finish’ it in a few hours but if you really sink yourself into it, it’s what a Punchdrunk theatre shows wishes it was.

NiNoKuniRight back at the start of the year one of the games I most excited to play, pre launch, was Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch (PS3).  It turned out my excitement was rewarded in spades.  As a lover of Studio Ghibli it did everything right.  It sucked you into the world and the characters almost instantly.  The absolute ‘Japaneseness’ worked on every level.  Yes, some the missions get repetitive and the fighting can get a bit tedious at times but there’s always something that drags you out of the bad bits into the good bits.  And the good bits are so damn good.  I’ve never really played a JPRG before and I don’t think the genre is one I’ll go back to either and I think a lot of people feel the same way.  But for this, it’s so very worth it.

The-Stanley-Parable-1I like things that fuck with the norm and work.  Sometimes you can be too adventurous and end up with a mess.  Other times you end up with something truly original, utterly unexpected and very, very good.  Like The Stanley Parable (Mac/PC)  It’s a difficult game to explain.  It demands repeat plays.  It’s very funny.  It’s very clever.  It’s kinda Kafka.  It’s sort of meta.  It might even be totally pointless.  But it is an amazing game you really should play.

And last but not least is a game that is more of a traditional game than any of the others.  On the surface you could say it’s kind of a survival horror game.  And it’s a bit of an action shooter, sort of as well.  And there’s zombies.  Well, not zombies, but near enough. 6947132361_9860b84faa_oBut that’s on the surface.  Because as someone who has played video games for all his life, The Last of Us (PS3) is the best damned game I’ve ever played.  The gameplay is fantastic to begin with.  It’s a challenge, it’s exciting and there’s a real sense of achievement in completing some of the set pieces on the harder levels.  It’s a delight to play and that’s the least exciting thing about it.  Often I will say something like, ‘It’s really well written for a game’.  Not here.  The Last of Us is just really, really, really well written.  The story is fucking brilliant.  The characters are actually three whole dimensions.  And then there’s the performance of those characters and the graphics and the music, holy shit the music, and the fear too.  There’s real moments of tension and terror in this game.  Oh and the ending.  My lordy lordy lord that is a thing of beauty.  If you’ve not played it.  Do it now.  Like, literally now.  Go out and buy it, or a PS3 if you need to as well, they’re cheap at the moment.  The Last of Us is the best game I’ve ever played and also one of the finest pieces of art I’ve ever encountered.

Because video games are art.  2013 really rammed that point home.  And if anyone tells you different, that games are still just for kids and so on, don’t argue with them, pity them.  And give them the sort of face you’d give a kid who’s just dropped his ice lolly.

Honourable Mentions: Flower (PS4), Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4), Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)

Some Books I Read in 2013 That Were Great

I’m not doing a top 5 here because there’s too many genres and so on.  If I said at the top I was doing a top 5 I lied.  I can’t remember and I’m not going back to check.

So let’s give you a couple of graphic novels to kick it off.  Alan Moore’s latest Nemo: Heart of Ice was excellent.  You knew this naoalready because the sentence started with Alan Moore who is seemingly becoming more and more incapable of writing anything not excellent.  I’d also heartily recommend The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon.  It tries to do a lot of things and it does most of them really well.  It’s an adventurous book in terms of ideas and style and it works with the story it’s telling.  The water colour style art also is lovely and it’s well worth hunting down.  Also Rust by Royden Lepp.  I can’t remember if that is a 2012 book though, but the second volume was certainly out last year.  Hunt that down too.

urlWhen it comes to non fiction, as you might expect, I’ve been more focused on the science end of things.  So here’s just some that I’ve read this year I’d recommend you go out and get, even if you’re not into science, they are great reads.  Why Stuff Matters from Mark Miodownik is wonderful, funny, personal and important.  Creation by Adam Rutherford is equally parts enlightening as it is potentially terrifying (Spoiler: The terrifying stuff is really more amazing than terrifying).  The Big Questions in Science from Mun Keat Looi, Hayley Birch and Colin Stuart is as a good a ‘starter for ten’ science book there’s been in a while.  The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh is everything you’d hope and expect for from a Simon Singh book.  It’s not real a book for a hypochondriac like me but it’s so bloody good I read it all the same and that’s Kevin Fong’s Extremes which might be one of the best books on the human body’s abilities I’ve ever read.  Richard Dawkins’ autobiography, An Appetite for Wonder also deserves a mention.

Sadly I’ve not had a lot of time for new fiction novels this year.  I shamefully had never read Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut until earlier this year and that, well, I mean you know that’s good.  Tim Winton has a new one out that I’ve not read but I’m fairly certain that’ll be excellent.

I’ve read some technical books to do with work stuff but you don’t care about those.  I barely cared about those.

So that’s that for now.  I’ll write something proper tomorrow or the day after, promise.

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