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Shoot the Breeze: All Dressed Up and Nobody Cares


It's been some time since I wrote, hasn't it, dear reader? I hope you enjoyed the reprieve, but I fear the spell of serenity has been broken, the guileful spiderking of indolence fought from his keyboard throne and the cobwebs dusted off with him. A prodigal son among prodigal sons; an off-forgotten hero who fought his battles in the margins of the fairy tales never read; the, uh, the guy who wrote a blog once.

Prodigal? I meant procrastinating. Let's get this obscenity over with.

A smashing good time.

Oh lordy, Halloween. Was that only a week ago? I'm not a man to put much faith in a calendar, but by the best estimations of the soggy pumpkin cadavers still lining the street, their misshapen and moldy faces evoking more horror than their spirited carvers could ever hope to rival, it's been at least half a fortnight. November has come.

Here's hoping you had a good holiday, my ever-patient reader, one laden with a bounty of tricks and/or treats. Myself, I dressed up as Haskell, the hipster programming language - complete with jeans so skinny one might suppose I didn't purchase them so much as weave them about my lower extremities as a Pabst Blue Ribbon-loving caterpillar might do his cocoon. I lost my best vest to an aspiring pirate - a chain of events someone with more sense might have seen coming. And, of a marginally less uninteresting nature, I spread open my coffers that the latest Steam sale might loot the ever-lovin' bejeesus out of them.

Terraria I'll write off as a game whose painful inoffensiveness may never grab me and Amnesia was - well, was a waste of money. I'm never going to play that game. I'm not a tremendously courageous man - I'm too afraid to even install it. But anyway. We're here to talk about the lovely Zombie Atom Smasher, so let's do that.

Zombie Atom Smasher, by Blendo Games - a name I have let fly with cheer before - is a sort of real time strategy game pitting you against an army of zombies threatening to overrun mankind. Your primary goal here isn't to crush the legion of the undead that floods the metropolitan city sections - though a strong counterattack can reclaim these territories for mankind - your aim is to rescue as many of the stranded and helpless human populace as you can before they're consumed by the festering horde.

Uh, the "festering horde" would be the purple dots.

You'll start the game with only a rescue helicopter at your disposal. This valiant propellered steed attracts citizens to it as it swoops in for a landing, providing a means of shepherding the otherwise mindless humans to key locations and away from the incoming brain-eating mob. As the game progress, you'll gain access to a variety of additional forces like rooftop snipers, trip mines, and zombie bait, all of which you'll make keen use of in ever more desperate tactics against the growing undead threat.

One of the things I love about the game is how truly harrowing it is. Make no bones about it - or should I say no brains abo- okay, no, I see you're not a fan of that one - it's an unapologetically difficult game. If you don't make the most out of your troops and keep a careful eye on your wards, you can lose the city in a heartbeat. Moreover, even in the best case, you're going to lose some citizens. It's terrifically agonizing as you lose people to the horde. Some of the best moments come when you realize that you can't save everyone and victory is a matter of choosing who can't be saved. There's a real sense of personal responsibility to the gameplay and it's a real treat.

In fact, it's not difficult to get to a point where loss is inevitable. While the main game is this intimate strategy, it takes place within the context of an overworld divided into the territories which make up the battlegrounds. At the end of each battle, points are awarded to both you, the human team, and the zombies based on how many territories each group holds. A few losses can give the zombies a huge foothold which snowballs into almost inescapable defeat. However, even this feels right in its way - it gives the undead the power of being a credible threat.

But, of course, I'm not much of a strategist, so take any claims of difficulty with a grain of salt. I mean, my worst fear is that someday someone asks me to strategize my way out of a paper bag. That bag is going to be my coffin. They are going to bury me in that bag and the only condolence to my grieving family will be that the thing will be biodegradable.

Uh. Boy. Anyway. It's a really good experience. So, y'know, play it.

God take those windows

I'm back to playing Canabalt. It has become, in fact, the primary means by which I squander the precious hours of my day. I adore the simple flow which flourishes in the game, the minimal elegance that as only that the player play. The moments of absolute zen the space between heartbeats, between jumps, is the stuff of the sublime.

With more time, I've come to realize far greater depth. Nuance. The care of a tiptoe tap to make a toddler's hop over the smallest obstacle; the lungs-full-of-sky lunge that careens over rooftops; the weighty gamble of voluntarily crashing into a box to slow down, exchanging speed for safety at the bank of sure-hope-I-make-this-next-jump. I don't know whether this great hidden scope I imagine really exists or it's my feeble brain trying to justify the time I've frittered away with some notion of fully exploring the mechanics, but it's pretty enjoyable

The game has also taken on a new kind of meaning in the space of my friendships. Among my fellow software engineers - a virile and strapping group, make no mistake - there has arisen a sort of quiet rivalry about who can step furthest, who can fling themselves an iota more. At about twenty thousand, I've eked out a fragile lead, but that's largely inconsequential - there's celebration of our victories as a collective. It's a refreshing thing, that the sum is wholly positive, and it's something whose importance I haven't quite been able to put a name to. For today, let's say that just in this regard, the lives of the engineers are good.

But man, the windows in that game. Jesus. How many times have I hit my head trying to jump through 'em? A buttload, is how many.

Protest the Yeahs

For the past couple of days, I've returned to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Protest the Hero. And that's pretty nice.

You know Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They were in your Rock Bands or some such and besides, Heads Will Roll is scientifically accepted as the best sound that ever was. I'd forgotten some of the band's less glossy moments - the breathtakingly ragged Tick, for example - that really grab the soul and give it a shake. Anyway, guess I'd forgotten what Yeah Yeah Yeahs was about - just so we're clear, it's more than yelling "wait - they don't love you like I love you" on the streets - and it's pleasant to have reminded myself.

Protest the Hero is a band I'd never given much chance and I resent myself for that. The vocal range on that guy is a dream, transitioning from soaring falsetto to bloody-knives screams with the ease a man might normally reserve for flicking on a light switch. The thunderous and undeniably metal instrumentals are a treat too and, more important by far, the band can poke fun at itself which is kind of essential for a genre as steeped in posturing as this.

Riding the whirlwind

So that was a blog I guess? I wish I'd spared a few more words for Zombie Smasher, but man, some of us have midterms tomorrow. How'd we do here? This felt all sorts of lacking in charisma, which is always a concern, and I'm not sure whether or not I truly enjoyed it, but it's certainly a blog. Maybe we'll try this again in a month's time.
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About Beyamorone of us since 1:10 PM on 06.24.2009

I知 a gamer. Take a minute and get over that shock. I can say I知 an Xbox man, though I値l support anything that advances gaming (I love you Sackboy). I致e also got a DS Chunky, so I can take this whole nerd thing on the road.

As far as genres, shooters and western RPGs top my list. Halo, Fable, and Morrowind, for instance, rock my socks hard. Of course other things, stuff like Animal Crossing and Kingdom Hearts, do their share of stocking rocking.

In the world outside of buttons and pixels, I知 an engineering student (that nerd thing I mentioned? I do it hardcore) on the west coast of the Great White North. I知 a fan of a harder rock, bands like Breaking Benjamin and Hurt, though I値l kick it (very much figuratively) to stuff ranging from The Fray through Franz Ferdinand to Five Finger Death Punch. Optimus Prime is my hero, but I do love Starscream. Finally, thumbs up to you for reading this. You池e never getting that time back.

Kirbey by the talented and generously endowed (probably) Enkido