Venom and Diamonds

Ninja physics

20:15 August 30th '04

Here we go - this is what the physics modelling on a Flash platform game should be like:

N, wherein you are cast as a little ninja charged with escaping each level with just your wits and some nimble jumping, collecting gold on the way. No weapons, and no way to kill the baddies.

Interestingly, there is no scrolling, which, along with the flat colours, is probably the reason the intricate animations for the main character are possible. Trust me, I've spent enough time trying to get natural movement and parallax backgrounds to animate smoothly to appreciate something this clean and polished.

Once you've grasped the basic moves, the gameplay is very well balanced and really rewarding. The characterful and precise physics engine means that timing moves becomes a real art, yet thankfully the small level size means that you never have to retrace your steps too much after a mistake. And since there are a whole variety of obstacles throughout the 300 levels packaged with the game, it certainly provides plenty to go on.

Crickey, did that ever come out as a tacky sales pitch! But it really is good fun. Honest.

Consider some peace

19:40 August 29th '04

I've just read Neil Gaiman's Stardust, a fairytale simple and compact, yet stunningly beautiful and full of detail. You could do far worse than stock up on food and drink, put the Kings of Convenience's new album, Riot on an Empty Street, on repeat and spend Sunday in a comfy chair with that book. It may be a tame and quiet way to spend your time, but I dare you not to feel relaxed and uplifted by the end.



20:17 August 18th '04

Some sporting fun for y'all today:

Hattrick is an online football management game. I'm not usually one for that kind of thing, but it's got a few things going for it: simplicity, massive membership base (there are over 14 000 active players in Finland alone) and a narrative style instead of pure statistics and figures. There's only one league match every week, so it doesn't take an extraordinary effort to keep up with, plus the interface is very smooth to work with once you've spotted the important bits: most elements of the game seem to be reachable within a couple of clicks and related things tend to be grouped together on single pages. As is par for these things there are lots of nuances and little rules, but keeping a handle on them is part of the charm, isn't it? The fact that it's free and runs straight on a browser with no plugins or downloads is a big bonus as well.

On a more immediate tip, there is, a lovely little Java-based ice hockey game. If you've got Java installed, all you need to do is click here to play and you'll find lots of practice games running you can join straight off. Of course, if you register you can get yourself a nick and follow your stats, but the main fun is just in taking out five minutes to play a match every now and then. The controls are pretty intuitive (it's all mouse-controlled), but after a game or two it's worth reading the instructions to pick up the finer points of controlling your little pixel-skater. This might only be one for the northern Europeans, though, seeing as network latency is an important issue and the servers are in Finland. Sorry..

They're pretty different games, but both seem to be made with a lot of care, attention and passion. And they're signs of a great game in my book.


20:09 August 15th '04

So first, there was Doom³, which brought with it some excitement, some well-calculated frights, the end to a month of waiting and the realisation that my current computer setup is not designed for four-hour gaming sessions as my wrist and back can attest.

That was Friday.

Then there was Koneisto, "the oldest festival for electronic music and arts in Northern Europe", which brought with it a refreshing dose of no-guitars-included music. The Streets were surprisingly great, thanks in no small part to the good crowd and Mike Skinner actually being a real showman (having been away from UK radio for months probably also helped me hear them with fresh ears). DJ Craze, three time DMC world champion, was one of many djs playing drum'n'bass evil enough to remind me why I love the stuff. And to give any muscle not yet twisted by failed ergonomics a good dancefloor pummeling. Ellen Allien was a sweet end to the evening, and honorable mention has to go to Les Gillettes for bravely playing several hours of great tunes to an empty dancefloor. Everything else was cool too, so I think I'll have to go again next time 'round.

And that was Saturday.

Sunday has been spent in failed attempts not to play Doom³ and spare my wrist for the coming week of work, and in looking up all the music from the previous night.

Which, by the way, spawned an interesting discovery: there's some industrial/goth/ebm club nights coming up in Helsinki over the next two weekends. Yummy!

What? MTV good?

20:35 August 9th '04

Surely the heyday of MTV ended in the 80's, or at the very least with the fall and departure of Ray Cokes? You might think so, but read on...

Some mornings, when I feel like I still need something extra to get the day started, I switch on MTV Nordic in the vain hope I might be treated to the perfect pick-me-up. Yet it seems the hope may not be in vain, after all.

First, there was that moment sometime in May when Howlin' Pelle Almqvist of The Hives showed up to kick my ass with 'Walk Idiot Walk' and set me off in anticipation of Tyrannosaurus Hives. Cue several hours of me in a filthy good mood. (TH has since fulfilled the promise by being an album of, well, 100% Hives)

In a similar vein, my old favourites the Kings of Convenience also showed up at around the same time to remind me that they, too, are back in 2004. The video for 'Misread' is certainly exactly the kind of stuff we could all use a lot more of. So a copy of Riot On An Empty Street will soon no doubt find it's way into my CD shelf.

What really surprised me, though, is that I'm actually finding new bands thanks to this habit too. Namely an excellent British four-piece called Bloc Party. I'm pretty slow on the uptake when it comes to new bands, but their Police-meets-Joy-Division catchy-yet-dark style just served to remind me that true boundless excitement at something new is always possible. Extra brownie points for having played the Fuzz Club in Sheffield in June. Ah, to have been there.

Then there's the one which finally pushed me to write about this phenomenon, which occured this morning: the second I switched on the channel a group of very professional-looking rock-types popped up in simple black colour-co-ordination to play the kind of rock which I always love to hear. It turns out they were Soulwax, who have always had a tendency to get that reaction from me. Yet I've never managed to buy a single album of theirs. Maybe Any Minute Now will change that?

While we're waiting

11:32 August 2nd '04

The supersweet countdown timer: Union Aerospace Corporation. It's only got twelve hours left on the clock, so you better hurry.

The reason it's supersweet: did Bill, Steve or Linus never pay attention to the opening scene of Alien? All computers should make sounds like that. Sounds like they're actually doing things.

shall we drink a toast to / absent-minded friends