Wednesday, January 2, 2013
End of the year thoughts and the best of 2012 - Games, Movies, Music
As 2012 ends, I look back on everything I've written over the last year and feel pretty proud. In March of 2012, I launched this review blog with the intention of covering video games, movies, and TV shows, while occasionally posting design journals for games I was working on. I only managed to put out six movie reviews in this time, but I got through over 70 game reviews and about a season and a half of Star Trek: TNG reviews. It quickly became evident that TV episode reviews weren't really my thing, and that's fine.
2012 marked the end of HamsterSpeak magazine. I wrote for and edited this online magazine for 63 complete issues and two Best Of issues. I'm very proud of what was produced, but both the OHR game community's interest and my own had moved on. I'm looking for a new outlet for posting the old Sky Flyers comics and more Bob Surlaw short stories, but I haven't really found the right place yet. Bob lives on in the recently released demo of Cool Guy Bob Surlaw for now, a game with a great soundtrack by Mr. 8-Bit and Glock that I hope to finish this year.
I'd like to make a really brief rundown of my favorite media of 2012. I plan on reviewing all of the movies and games listed that I haven't already, but I won't be writing any music reviews; I just don't have a good enough grasp of the language of music criticism. Enjoy, and please let me know your own favorites of the year! In no order whatsoever:
The Walking Dead: A wonderful modern take on point and click adventures that simplifies gameplay and puzzles in order to focus on story and character. Your choices might not change major plot events too often, but they do change the game's tone in a major way that feels completely organic.
Journey: A surreal, cinematic adventure that is unlike pretty much anything released this year and could only work as well as it does in the medium of video games.
Double Dragon Neon: Unlike my other two choices, this one is pure arcade-style gameplay. A great sense of humor, fantastic control, and an incredible soundtrack make Neon the best traditional styled game of 2012.
Asura's Wrath: Like The Walking Dead, Asura's Wrath is primarily an interactive movie, but the two games take the concept in completely opposite and wonderful directions. An insane, over the top tough guy anime movie occasionally interrupted by fun boss fights.
Spec Ops: The Line: A dark, depressing take on third person shooters that focuses more on horror than heroism. An attempt to adapt the ideas of Apocalypse Now into video game form, The Line is a hard, exhausting drive through the hopelessness of war.
As an interesting side note, most of my favorite games this year were low cost, downloadable titles. I hope this trend continues.
Django Unchained: Tarantino's take on the Western, transposed to the pre-Civil War South. Long and full of a little more violence than I was entirely comfortable with, but absolutely dense with interesting subject matter.
Cosmopolis: A fantastic adaptation of a sad, darkly funny book about losing and finding your humanity in modern American business. A lighter, less vulgar American Psycho.
Prometheus: The plot's got some holes, most characters are one-dimensional, and the soundtrack is often discordant with the tone of the film, yet Prometheus remains one of the most interesting sci-fi films in recent memory. It's haunting, beautiful, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks after seeing it. The core premise is great and the art design is fantastic and Michael Fassbender's performance as David is perfect.
The Hunger Games: I didn't really know anything about this film going into it aside from the basic premise. I've seen it called "My First Distopian Adventure" and a Battle Royale ripoff, but you know what? There's nothing wrong with a film being easy to access and I liked this one a lot more than I liked Battle Royale. I absolutely love the art design here and I find its principle cast compelling.
Skyfall: I liked but didn't love Casino Royale and was bored by Quantum of Solace, so I wasn't expecting much from Skyfall. From its theme music to its portrayal of James Bond as a grim reaper to the magnificent scene chewing from Javier Bardem, this is probably my favorite Bond movie of all.
Thick as a Brick 2: Ian Anderson's 30+ year follow-up to one of Jethro Tull's best albums. Surpasses the original.
The Sound of the Life of the Mind: A sad and funny album that marks the reunion of Ben Folds Five.
What We Saw From the Cheap Seats: Regina Spektor's newest release. Feels like a modern sequel to Soviet Kitsch mixed with the talent she grew in Far and Begin to Hope.
Dr. Dee: Damon Albarn is a weird, talented, and experimental guy, and he's at his weirdest and most experimental here. Nothing tops his work on Gorillaz, but Dr. Dee is a fascinating and memorable departure.
Born to Die: Lana del Rey's first major release. I didn't hear this one until long after release and missed out on all of the dumb faux controversy around her but I absolutely love this album.
Amanda Palmer: The Bed Song: Makes me feel terrible in the way the best tragic songs do. The absolute high point on her new album, Theatre is Dead.
Damon Albarn: Apple Carts: My favorite track off of Dr. Dee. Gorgeous, haunting vocals and instruments.