DID YOU READ

Hands-On: PlayStation Vita Points Sony In New Directions

Hands-On: PlayStation Vita Points Sony In New Directions  (photo)

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Sony’s been getting its glossy plastic behind handed to it in the handheld gaming market for a while now. The PlayStation people launched the PSP a few years back with the hopes of breaking Nintendo’s decades-long hegemony in the portable gaming space but, almost from the very beginning, the device faced an uphill battle. While powerful enough to render graphics quite well, the lack of a second analog stick made developers have to invent bizarre workarounds for camera control in 3D games.

Over the lifespan of the device, publishers stop seeing the PSP as a destination for their AAA content and even Sony started putting only experimental titles out for it. Nintendo, meanwhile, continued to dominate with the DS handhelds. Soon, the only reason to have a PSP was to play pirated arcade classics on the go, thanks to some enterprising hacking. Then, both Sony and Nintendo got blindsided by the sudden rise of games on the iPhone and later Android devices. Suddenly, players had other on-the-go options chock full of cheap and attractive games. Nintendo’s bet big on the appeal of 3D with their new 3DS portable but Sony’s taking a different approach to winning over gamers’ thumbs.

Announced as the NGP (Next-Gen Portable), Sony revealed that their new handheld will be called PlayStation Vita and will retail for $250. Despite the absolutely terrible name, the gadget offers up an interesting mix of technologies for developers to take advantage of. With a touchscreen on the front and a touch panel on the back, two analog sticks, a gyroscope/accelerometer combo and front and rear cameras, the PS Vita harbors a smorgasbord of input methods for games. At E3 last week, I played a bunch of games in progress for the device and came away impressed.

The biggest Sony franchise comes to the PSV in the form of Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The lush landscapes that fans are used to seeing Nathan Drake appear undiminished on the device and you can play pretty well with the touchscreen. Using swipes and taps to guide Drake, you can navigate the jumps and platform challenges that bedevil his every adventure in a new way.

Reality Fighters presented a funny twist to typical martial-arts action by using the camera in two novel ways. First, you can create an avatar with your face as captured by the front camera, further customizing it with a fighting style and outlandish garb. Second, you can fight in front of a background that’s a real-time image of whatever you’re standing on top of. So, “you” can fight a plethora of opponents

But, the best looking (and sounding) PSV game at E3 was Sound Shapes. Developed by wunderkind indie dev Jonathan Mak, the title presents platforming action in a new synaesthetic light. There’s no backing musical track while playing but each quirky shape in the game makes a sound. Successfully, moving through the levels fleshes out the song even more until you get a complete melody. The joy of discovering just where the songs are going to go next propels you through the game. Better still is the capability to build and sahre your own levels, made especially easy by the touchscreen.

Despite these and other promising titles in the works, Sony will have a challenging time carving a slice of the portable gaming market in a post-iOS world. The PSV will have wifi and a 3G option with AT&T (an announcement that elicited groans from people at Sony’s press conference last week) but the PlayStation Network isn’t yet a home for impulse-priced content like the App Store or Android Market. That can change, though, with healthy injections of indie games at launch and over the first few months. Right now, the PlayStation Vita looks like it’s going to fulfill the unmet promise of the PSP: being a hi-def handheld where you can play Sony exclusives without having to compromise on graphics or controls.

How about that name, huh? Are you going to pre-order a PlayStation Vita? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.