Pinback Reviews Various Indie Games & Demos
Jan 26th, 2009 by Pinback

Over the past week or two, I’ve played quite a few indie games and demos. I will now give you some thoughts on these indie games and demos.


THOUGHTS: I would describe this as a mix of Galcon, Phyta, and the Little Prince. Artsy, abstract minimalist presentation features “asteroids” (circles) which you have to conquer with your “seedlings” (little mosquito-lookin’ guys that grow off trees on your asteroids). This is all set to a serene, new-age background score. It all makes for a somewhat hypnotic experience, and it’s artful presentation makes you forget at first that this is really just straight-ahead 4X, almost like Galcon in slow-mo. The lack of depth and languorous pacing hurt its replayability, but it’s definitely a new aesthetic take on 4X, and worth a look if you are a fan of the genre. TWO AND A HALF (**1/2) STARS

INDIE DEMO: Defense Grid: The Awakening

THOUGHTS: I am a veteran of the tower defense genre, in the sense that I have played almost all of the demos ever made for these games. I’ve never purchased one, or completed one, simply because by the end of the demo, I’ve pretty much had enough of it. I doubt that will change with Defense Grid: The Awakening, but if I was going to buy one, this would probably be the one. Nice graphics, good interface, and some actual quality, humorous voiceover work, which is unusual in the indie scene. But past that, you know what you’re getting. Set up towers. Kill baddies. Set up more towers. Kill more baddies. Upgrade towers. Wash, rinse, repeat. A “pleasant diversion”. THREE (***) STARS

INDIE GAME: Crayon Physics Deluxe

THOUGHTS: I saw the pre-release demo of this which gave you a little taste, and the taste I had made me think this would be the most amazing puzzle game I’d ever seen. Now the full version is out, and I’m not sure it isn’t. The goal is to get a ball to a star. Everything is drawn in crayon. And the way to get the ball to the star is to draw whatever you want in crayon, and everything you draw will behave according to Newtonion physics. You can draw a car, and it will roll down hills. Though there may not be limitless solutions to each puzzle, it sure as hell feels like there could be. You can draw anything you want! You don’t have to pick from a palette of doohickies, or pre-built mechanisms. If you can think up some contraption which will help get the ball to the star, you can just draw it, and it will behave like it should. This game might not be “in your face”, but this quiet little gem may just in fact be the most amazing puzzle game you’ll ever see. FOUR (****) STARS

INDIE GAME: Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy

THOUGHTS: Let’s get this straight, I only got this because Pirates! stopped working on my machine. To call this “Pirates! Light” is getting close to it. It is Pirates!, minus the dancing and the swordplay, minus the few nods to realism that Pirates! gave you, and with the addition of some of the most obnoxious, ridiculous voice work you’ll ever hear. In the recording studio, I just imagine the producer yelling “NOT PIRATEY ENOUGH!” after every take, so the final product is so over the top and embarrassing that you just feel bad for everyone involved. And about that realism. At least Sid Meier put in things like wind, and different types of ammo, and stuff like that. None of this is on offer in Buccaneer, where you sail your ship like you’d drive a car. Including “reverse”. So it’s all very silly, and yet I’ve spent more time with this one that everything else on this list combined. I attribute this to the fact that I am just a sucker for this kind of gameplay, and Buccaneer manages to not quite be awful enough for me to not play. TWO (**) STARS FOR MOST, THREE AND A HALF (***1/2) STARS FOR ME.

My Top Five Favorite Games of 2008
Jan 23rd, 2009 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Here are my five favorite games from 2008. I’m throwing Crayon Physics into the 2009 category, since you couldn’t buy the full version last year. I should also state that I did not have the time to play any text games released in 2008. Nor were there any Vectrex games released in 2008 that I purchased, and those are two genres/platforms I usually enjoy.

5. Space Giraffe (PC)

Space Giraffe is that it is the only video game I’ve ever played that tries to take the visual element, the frigging graphics, out of the game… and get you playing on a different level of consciousness. Looking at it, it’s clearly a mess – you can’t perceive any sense after the first few boards. But the idea is that you’re both picking up clues on where danger is through sound (and to that end, I always turn the music down and the effects up) as well as the part of your brain that tends to only speak up when you are “in the zone” with a pleasurable activity.

For me, the first few minutes of play are totally wasted, and I can’t have any distractions while playing it. I would not want them all to be like this, of course, but this is a marvelous experiment.

4. Left4Dead (PC)

I enjoyed this game at the following ratio:

10% of the enjoyment came from the gameplay, level design, art direction and general sense of hopeless doom.

90% of the enjoyment came from the hilarious people I played with, thanks to the voice chat.

I’m not saying that, if I played with voice off, that the game would get a 1/10 or anything – but what I am saying is that my friends are incredibly witty, and I was giggling throughout. L4D is just as cheesy as it needs to be. I am willing to give Left 4 Dead credit for this, because two of the developers ran a website that caused me to meet my fellow players in the first place. This is some serious New Games Journalism shit right here.

3. Persona 4 (PS2)

It’s 2:02 AM. I want to play a little of this game before I go to bed. I was optimistically hoping I could get ten minutes in and call it a night.

Well, we find the mirror image of Yosuke. And I’ll give the game credit: at 2:20 in the morning, mirror-Yosuke with the fucked-up eyes was a neat little effect. Leading up to it, where the girl he is sweet on does the “pain in the ass” routine — that was actually a good scene with okay writing in a video game, which is pretty rare these days. The fight drags on, and now it’s almost three and I really want to get to sleep.

Everybody finishes up, I kill the enemies JRPG-style, and the girl-next-door of our party, Chie, gets pissed and runs away. This is not an uncommon experience for me, with females and particularly late evenings. At any rate, it looks like I am going to be able to save.

But then, boom, out of nowhere, the pretty brunette student drops in and makes an appearance with (back of hand to forehead) howhorribleher life is. ALL I WANT TO DO IS GO TO BED and there’s that gal finally deigning to talk to my character when I really had to go. But, of course,she had been the most difficult character to get to know because she’s not around all the time. Forget save checkpoints – I kept playing because I wanted to know more about her. One constant in my life is that I seem to be attracted to women that are emotionally, physically or otherwise figuratively unavailable to me in some sense, and here is a fucking video game, thirty-years after the most complex one in the world involved shooting line-drawn rocks in space, making a subtle gambit for my soul, casually and en passant, like it was no big deal. This frigging game played upon the qualities of my empathy, playing melike a violin in the process.

It was the realistic experience I’ve ever had in a video game. I’m nowhere near finished with Persona 4, but it seems to be a great game. However, from here on out I’m treating it like a mogwai, there’s no way I’m fucking around with it after midnight. And yet, it plays sooooo good at night.

2. Gravitron 2 (PC)

I love arcade games, but they don’t make them much any more. This is a PC game, but it would fit perfectly in a wooden cabinet taking tokens. I wrote more about it here. The only other thing I’d add is that it’s a perfect game for playing in an airport.

1. Fallout 3 (PC)

There are games you might feel all right talking about with non-gamers. Fallout 3 is not one of these games. It’s a dork and nerd’s paradise ofshibboleths. I feel like a moron for bringing it up with people who like games, but simply haven’t played this one. Fallout 3 gives us one of the best-developed virtual worlds, and does the best job of any game in the world at letting us deal with the consequences of whatever random decisions we feel like making.

It’s a beautiful game, of course. My video card doesn’t do it justice, but even with the settings low it’s a serene backdrop for brutality and violence. The new gameplay elements like VATS and the Mysterious Stranger perk are two things I’m going to wish all subsequent games had. There’s just so much… content in the game – it really is impossible to get bored. I just love little touches like suddenly wandering around a unique enemy called “The Torcher” who has a flamethrower, since it is a microcosm of the care and craft that this game was built with. The cherry on top is that it returns to its Wasteland-of-1986 roots, offering the ability to walk around in a nuclear-ravaged world that we couldn’t do in 1986, thanks to the limitations of the hardware at the time. This is one of the ten best games I’ve ever played.

Fallout 3 is far from being that magical “game in your head” that all gamers would like to create. But it’s probably the closest representation of that free-form ideal I’ve played so far.

Jan 14th, 2009 by Pinback

Brainpipe is the latest offering from Digital Eel, the fine folks who brought you the world- (or at least geek-) renowned Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.

And this time, they may have brought you the weirdest world of all.

This is a game, like Space Giraffe, where psychedelia is the key between a rather humdrum game and an experience. Unlike Space Giraffe however, in Brainpipe it works. (Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the SysOp.)

The game is simplicity itself. You go down a long tube, supposedly a twisting maze of neural pathways in your own brain, leading deeper into consciousness itself, ultimately reaching a level of awareness which allows you to transcend humanity and consciously choose your own next evolutionary paradigm. Or some shit. The story and atmosphere is as bizarre as you’re likely to find in a game this well put together. But really, with your mouse and your left mouse button, your job is just:

1. Avoid the obstacles.
2. Gather some little good things which give you points.

You steer with the mouse, and can slow down periodically with the mouse button, should you need to pull in the reins a little. That’s it. Without the trippy-dippy graphics and sounds, this is dullness epitomized.

Whether the sound and fury which accompany the basic game mechanics work on you or not, you’ll just have to try the demo to find out. Me, I was enthralled. The game is not difficult in any real sense — I got my high score, and completed all ten levels of the game, on my very first try. You can always go back to get a better score, and there is a terribly difficult “bonus level” awaiting you at the end, but a consistent challenge, this game will likely not provide for too long.

What it will provide at length, and what keeps me going back to play (and starting on level 1, intentionally) is just the visceral experience of playing it. It is some sort of frantic meditative exercise, mixing swirling lights and shapes with eerie, echoing sound effects, spacey music, fractured dialogue snippets spinning around your ears like a nightmare…

There are subtle touches here too, though. As your “ship” (or whatever it is) delves deeper into your mind, level after level, the sounds — ostensibly reflections of memories and thoughts swimming past you — become more and more lucid, more urgent, more specific. At the beginning, random sounds and rudimentary tones, but as you get closer and closer to the root of your own consciousness, echoes of Broadway showtunes make their appearance. Slot machines ringing in symphony. Hysterical screaming. A rambling Timothy Leary type exhorting you to flush your mind. Musings on death and fear. Discord. Cacaphony.

All the while, you are still just dodging obstacles and collecting the little whatsits.

It has neither the depth nor staying power of Weird Worlds, but if you ever use games as a short-term injection of surreality and escape, even just for 15 minutes, Brainpipe might be right up your alley.

The demo offers two of the 10 levels, though it will let you go into a third level (“Coma”) which is so brutally difficult that it essentially functions as a “demo over” indication. A cute, if confusing way of doing it.

2008: The Year in Television
Jan 13th, 2009 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Here’s a list of all the television shows I watched, from start to finish, in 2008. They all happen to be Saints games. One is missing, the one in Denver, which I didn’t see on TV, but instead paid $65 to have ruined for me. 

They are in order from “most enjoyed” to “least.” 

Week Four: Saints 31, 49ers 17. 
In 8MM, Nicholas Gage says to Tony Soprano, “I will never get tired of hurting you, Eddie!” I feel the same way about the modern-day Saints beating the shit ouf of the modern-day 49ers. I hope the Niners are terrible forever. 

Week Twelve: Saints 51, Packers 29 
I have always resented the Packers and I don’t know why. This game, everything finally clicked for the Saints, and they won two in a row the only time this season. It was a MNF game, so everyone got to enjoy this absolute battle-raping. Tony Kornheiser brought up Brett Favre literally every 8 or 9 minutes. 

Week Eight: Saints 37, Chargers 32 
This was the last gasp of hope, for Saints fans this year. Christ we BEAT THE CHARGERS! Granted, it was in fucking London, which is hilarious, because 21 hours’ worth of travel is pretty much what the Saints WOULD need to exhaust the Chargers to where they could beat them, meaning that the two places in the world the Saints come out on top here would be England and half-way to the moon. 

Week One: Saints 24, Bucs 20. 
In an episode of the Kids in the Hall, Dave Foley (as a teenager) tells his parents that it’s not just a D he received in class… it’s a D with promise!Week one of the NFL season was like that. 

Week Sixteen: Saints 42, Lions 7 
Here’s the best part of this: both the GM and coach of the Lions got work within a few weeks of being fired (the GM, on tv, and the coach is the new defensive line coach for the Bears), while the rest of Detroit suffers through some of the worst unemployment in the country. What a giant fuck-you to everyone who is at least competent at what they do. 

Week Eleven: Saints 30, Chiefs 20 
I remember watching the tail-end of some Chief games before I saw this one. I am convinced that you could give Herm Edwards a time piece, and a caveman all the individual parts of one, and by the end of one regulation football game, the caveman would tell you the correct age of the universe, and Herm would have found a way to go back in time and destroy all human life on earth. (Is this OK as a clock management joke? I don’t want to repeat what anyone else has ever said of him.) 

Week Fourteen: Saints 29, Falcons 25 

Week Six: Saints 34, Raiders 3 
Everyone on the Saints was pretty much stat-whoring by the second drive. I think even Shockey caught a touchdown. (No he didn’t, he didn’t do that all year.) I’m not going to pretend that beating the crap out of a JV team is remotely entertaining. 

Week Seventeen: Panthers 33, Saints 31 
The Saints were already eliminated, but Brees was less than 20 yards away from breaking Marino’s record for passing yards in a single game. He still had over 400 yards passing on the day, which lead to Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas braying about how it was a matter of pride to not let Brees break the record. Throwing for 400 fucking yards in a game was apparently okay, though. The last time the Cardinals won a playoff game was in like 1998, so I am not kidding when I say that before today there were probably less than 53 people not collecting Social Security who would have to stand forward if asked, “Did the Cardinals ever beat you in a playoff game.” (The 98 Cowboys were the team here.) The fact that we can now add everyone on the fraud that was the 2008 Panthers to this exclusive company is fantastic, as far as I am concerned. I hate them, and I always will. 

Week Thirteen: Bucs 23, Saints 20 
I’m trying to remember what the hell happened this game, but I can’t. I assume I was drunk, and I assume that I could simply check my text messages to gsdgsd and get my memory refreshed. As I’d like all the memories of this season to be used for anything – everything – else, I’m not going to do that. 

Week Ten: Falcons 34, Saints 20 
“Don’t we need this game??” we all thought. Though we didn’t admit it, we knew that if we couldn’t beat the Falcons, we had no business thinking playoffs. Too much ground to cover, too little time. 

Week Two: Redskins 29, Saints 24 
I had actually called my brother up before the game was over. 90% of people on CBS Sportsline picked the Saints to win, and I was laughing, saying, “Usually when that happens, the team picked that heavily LOSES!” Then Santana Moss burned our secondary (people on the WhoDatZone have said it was Tracy Porter, who was our best CB, but I am suspect of this) and boom, the game was fucking over, Redskins win and what I was cackling about came true. The best part is – it’s not even the first time I had seen that “type” of game. Curtis Conway did the EXACT SAME FUCKING THING in the 4th quarter for the Bears back in 1999. Here’s the goddamn box score to show I am not lying. Ashley Ambrose held Conway in check all game, but got bitch cramps in the 4th, and Conway ran past ex-49er Tyrone Drakeford two times to win the game. 

Week Seven: Panthers 30, Saints 7 
I watched this at a sports book in Las Vegas. I lost twenty dollars on this game. Reggie Bush, who is probably second only to Roy Halladay, Rickey Jackson and Mark Recchi as my favorite entertainer of all time, and of the four, the only one where I have seen every game they’ve played, tore his meniscus, and was out for four weeks right before half-time in this one. I was also amazingly thirsty because it was the desert and I had been drinking the night before, and I wasn’t sure if I had to tip the cocktail waitress for water. 

Week Five: Vikings 30, Saints 27 
With Reggie Bush having microfracture surgery this off-season, it is likely that he will never be the same With that in mind… you know what, I already talked about this shit with Pinback, so I will just provide the chat log: 

ICJ: That Minnesota game on MNF was in doubt the entire game, and Reggie was singularly the best player in football at that moment… And they still fucking lost
ICJ: Fuck this, FUCK this 
ICJ: I don’t even get the, “The team was playing like shit, but REGGIE BUSH pulled them through!” story. 

Pinback: That was the game when I learned to love, and yet be glad I don’t actually root for, the Saints. 

ICJ: Yeah 
ICJ: … yeah 

And the absolute worst thing I saw on television in 2008… 

Week Fifteen: Bears 27, Saints 25 
I will always hate the Chicago Bears. I will sum up why by simply stating that Lance Briggs shot his retarded mouth off to the local media before the game, saying that Drew Brees has no experience playing in cold weather. 

Lance Briggs was born in California, and played college ball in Arizona. I am not joking when I say it is probable that he had never seen snow, literally never seen it, before he was drafted by the Chicago Bears, a team he loves so much that he publically threatened to hold out until he got the contract he was looking for. 

Drew Brees played college ball in Purdue, which is in fucking Indiana, where it is currently 24 degrees. It takes a special brand of NFL player to be thought of as THE FUCKING DUMB ONE, but congrats, Briggs: you’re a winner here. 

Fuck the Bears, fuck the NFL, fuck television. 

(Also, I didn’t see the Super Bowl in its entirety, so that is why it is not on the list.) 

(I caught parts of other playoff games and other NFL games in 2008, but I would wander back and forth, that’s why they are not on the list.) 

(I saw most of Roy Halladay’s games in 2008, but through a shitty Flash player, not on a real tv, so that’s why they are not on the list.)

Pinback Reviewz The Hot Saucez 2K9
Jan 12th, 2009 by Pinback


Jolokia. The word strikes fear and desire into the hearts and minds of any fan of capsaicin, any hot food enthusiast. The mysterious pepper, discovered a couple years ago and found to be, by far, the hottest chile on earth, eclipsing the previous record holder, the habanero, by nearly a factor of three. Known as “Naga Jolokia”, “Bhut Jolokia”, or sometimes the “Ghost Pepper”, one word is enough to say all that needs to be said. Jolokia.

That being said, I had yet to actually taste it when I arrived in Colorado. Perusing our local hippie grocery store, I picked up a bottle of “Gilberto’s Gourmet Goodness’ Zesty Cayenne” sauce, I took it home, sampled it, and immediately fell in love. This will be an upcoming review, but suffice it to say I was so impressed that I immediately contacted the maker herself to express my appreciation. Imagine my surprise when she wrote back, expressing hers in kind, and then telling me all about their operation in Fort Collins. An in with the local hot sauce guys! Awesome.

I mentioned later that their other sauce (Habanero/Garlic) reminded me of Danny Cash’s Bottled Up Anger, which was always one of my very favorites from back when I became a serious hot sauce nerd. Another surprise, she said Danny was one of their best friends. ANOTHER surprise, Danny is local too, right up the road a few miles in good ol’ Englewood, Colorado!

Well, knowing that I’d be supporting a local product, I went right onto Danny’s website and pretty much bought everything in the store. Another Bottled Up Anger. The habanero-laden Radical Heat. The Smokin’ Tailpipe chipotle sauce.

And then I saw it. A 5oz flask of Jolokia Havoc. Nothing but jolokia, and a little vinegar and salt. This was it. This was what I’d been waiting for.

The package arrived, and I frantically, like an obsessed pit bull, rummaged through the box to find the flask. I peeled off the plastic wrapper, and then went about opening the flask. This proved to hurt just as much as the sauce would later, as the flask is, while cool, a real piece of shit, that required me to get pliers out to unscrew the damn cap.

Finally, though, I dug and scratched my way in there, and shook out about a dime-sized dollop onto a corn chip. Within a half-second, I just launched the damn thing into my mouth.


Hmm. Nothing. I was braced, both mentally and physically, for a searing blast of horrific heat which would knock me back into the corner of the kitchen counter, cause me to tumble over, likely crack my head on the pantry door, and then bleed to death while the tarantulas giggled to themselves in their little plastic cups. But it didn’t come.

And I waited, and waited, and… after about 30 seconds of waiting, I realized that in my fear of the heat, I had overlooked one really amazing thing about this sauce, this homage to the jolokia legend — it tasted fantastic! An indescribable deep, rich earthiness, with even a touch of smoke, and even a hint of sweetness, provided maybe the best balance in a 1-ingredient hot sauce I’d ever experienced. Right then, I fell in love.

And right after, the jolokia decided it was done waiting, and kicked into high gear. I’ve never had a sauce with that long a build. Not even close. I would say it didn’t hit full strength until at least a minute after I bit into it. But when it gets there, you know it, and if you’re like me, you’ll love it, and just sit there with a goofy grin on your sweating, red-hued face.

I am addicted to this sauce, in love with the Jolokia, and cannot thank Danny Cash, and the fine folks at Gilberto’s for paving the way for me to enjoy it.

I give Jolokia Havoc:

A million whimpering losers crying out, and then suddenly silenced!

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