Murble Murble?

September 14, 2006

Mood: Have a headache, and I’m tired, but otherwise good.
Music: Star Wars Soundtrack.
Game: WoW (Yes, again…), Dead Rising, Second Life, Lego Star Wars II
Book: Sandman, Neil Gaiman
Watching: Nothing.
Weather: Too early to consider the weather, but it’s raining.

So it’s 6am, and I’m up already because I’ve got one of my patented sinus headaches that comes from sleeping on feather pillows with a cat nearby when it’s raining outside. If you don’t have bad sinuses, you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you do….

Anyway, I figured I COULD complain about all that, but I’d really much rather talk about the game I picked up Tuesday.

Lego Star Wars II for the 360. It’s fabulous. I mean, really, really good.

“But Glenn!” I hear you protest. “Glenn! That’s a KID’S GAME!”

Well, maybe. But to be blunt, it’s probably the best game I’ve played in a long while. The design is fresh and clean, the animation is gorgeous, the colors pop. The real time 3D is easily handled by the 360, and the sound design makes it all one huge laugh-fest.

You see, Lego Star Wars is, at its root, a puzzle game. You run around as one of literally hundreds of Star Wars characters from the original trilogy, and go through a very slightly bastardized version of the movie. The cut scenes are taken straight from the movies, all done in animated lego, and not without a touch of humor. The music is John Williams finest. The sound effects are straight from the movies. Blasters, Landspeeders, Jawas…all right from the movies. The dialogue? This is where the genius comes in. The dialogue is all mumbles and burbles…think Charlie Brown’s teachers…but with all the voice effects laid over it. So even though all you hear is “murble murble mur!” because the Stormtrooper voice filter has been laid over the murbles, and the clicks before and after they speak are there, you KNOW it’s a Stormtrooper speaking. Because you know the story, you know what’s being said. All together, it places you in the movie…if the movies were cartoony 3-d platform puzzle solvers…with Legos.

And that’s the next part of the genius. While bumbling, shooting, and generally running through the very familiar levels and landscapes, you’ll find all manner of objects built of Legos. Most can be moved, destroyed, or otherwise played with. Occasionally, more than sometimes, and less than always, you’ll run across a pile of jiggling Lego blocks. By running up to them and pressing action, your character starts throwing the Legos…building with them, whatever object is comprised of those Legos. You don’t decide what gets built…but whatever gets built inevitably furthers you either directly through the level, or brings you closer to yet another hidden treat.

These piles of legos have become, for me, so far, an ATST I need to drive to blast a path through obstacles, flowers to pick, a bicycle, a crate I can move through the force to stack on other crates to climb to something, control panels to activate doors…and even doors themselves where there was nothing but a blank wall. It’s all very post-modern.

Did I mention that each one of the characters has its own sound and attack mode? Or that characters like Ben have “the Force?” The force allows you to move or manipulate objects without touching them…but also allows you to do some amazing stuff. Stack blocks you can’t lift, open little grates, cause flowers to grow, move a staircase from one area to another. Certain characters can grapple to new levels, if there’s a grapple point. So a sequence might be using Obi-Wan to remove the lid from a garbage can and pull out a stack of jiggling blocks which you then assemble into a grapple point, you switch to Han Solo then grapple to a level above to pull a lever which opens a door to reveal a bunch of jiggling blocks which then assembles to a piece of a vehicle which Obi-Wan then moves through the Force to create the full vehicle which everyone gets in to drive away.

There’s the story mode…then there’s free play. Once you’ve been through it with the characters that actually were there during the story, you can run through the level in free play…and choose which characters you want to play with. This becomes key, because you don’t always have the powers you need to see everything…and you DO want to collect all the hidden things because the hidden things allow you to make vehicles and other objects in other places. So you’ll go through each level a few times with different sets of characters just to be able to see everything.

There are doors that are keyed to certain types of characters, such as Bounty Hunters or Stormtroopers, there are places you can only go if you have a Jedi with you, there are places you can only go if you have a Dark Jedi with you. There’s things that require you to blow them up with a Bounty Hunter’s thermal detonators so that you can get the parts build a switch that you activate to move an object that drops some pieces to create a grapple point to get to an area that has a hidden piece. For a kid’s game, it’s remarkably deep.

I’ve spent about four hours playing all in all, and I THINK I’m about 5% of the way in. In Story terms, I’ve just shot my way into the Death Star detention area, and “rescued” the princess. Along the way, I missed about 50 doors labelled Stormtrooper only…so I’m going to need to free play it as a Stormtrooper and who knows who else.

In short, it’s a fabulous game. I know what I’m doing this weekend.


Where’d I Leave That Armor, Again?

September 4, 2006

Mood: Neutral.
Music: Come Out and Play, Offspring.
Game: WoW (Yes, again…), Dead Rising, Second Life.
Book: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond. (Still…I read Watchmen and V for Vendetta in between…)
Watching: Nothing.
Weather: 60, Partly Cloudy.

Rebecca has opened her eyes, grabs fingers, and is responding in general. Apparently, as far as these things go, she’s doing really well.

The rest of the family, however, with the exception of Eric and my mother are basically basketcases. I don’t think it comes as any surprise that Eric is a tough son of a bitch. My mother mentioned that she wished I were there, also, because “you’re so good in these kind of situations.”

Reflecting on that…I guess I am. The truth is that when bad things happen, I do kind of just get on with it, once the initial shock is over. The unfortunate part is that I have way too much experience with this sort of thing. I lost my half-brother as mentioned last time when I was in high-school. I lost my father just before I graduated highschool. I lost both of my grandparents on my father’s side during my first few years of working at Modem Media. I’ve lost friends from high school and other places through the years.

In a lesser way, I handle crises in the same way pretty much. Lose the emotion, get rational, and just set about doing what needs to be done. This was true during car accidents, fires, closing offices in Tokyo, bombings in Atlanta. the loss of the World Trade Center…in short…anything that seems to create a level of stress that’s potentially paralyzing. Those things don’t match up to losing a father or brother or niece…they don’t. But I’ve always had that ability to compartmentalize. I don’t know if it’s due to my ability to rationalize, or just how my psyche is built to defend itself.

The danger part, as I’ve mentioned before, is that if you find yourself in extended periods of needing to compartmentalize, you forget how to release the emotions. You forget that during that “function first” mode, you’re incapable of caring or feeling, with the intent of doing it “later…right now I need to get this stuff done.” No lie, it makes you a cold, callous son of a bitch. Doesn’t mean that the human side didn’t poke out now and again…but it does mean that you’re largely impervious to being charming or tactful or caring or warm…except as the task at hand requires.

So I kind of understand what my mother understands when she says “I’m good at these sort of situations…” but I’m not sure how much of a compliment that is, really. I suppose being strong in the face of adversity is a positive attribute, and I suppose being able to function in moments of extreme stress is what enables me to be a project manager, but again, I’m pretty sure it’s a double-edged sword.