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Microsoft Announces This Year’s Indie-Packed ‘Summer of Arcade’ Line-Up for Xbox 360

Microsoft Announces This Year’s Indie-Packed ‘Summer of Arcade’ Line-Up for Xbox 360  (photo)

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Puzzlingly, top-tier video games tend to get really scarce in the summer. (This June, with “Infamous 2,” “Shadows of the Damned” and other games has been an anomaly.) Maybe it’s because publishers want buyers to spend their cash on the highly hyped releases that flood retail from September to December each year, or they think that players’ vacations take them away their consoles.

Whatever the reason, Microsoft’s taken advantage of video games’ dog-day doldrums for the last few years, and packaged promising downloadable games into a programming block called Summer of Arcade. It makes use of the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live service to digitally deliver a handful of games The featured titles have been a mix of big studio games and indie efforts and last year’s standouts included “Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light” and “Limbo,” a title that’s gone down as an all-time classic.

While this year’s roster was revealed at E3 2011 a few weeks ago, it was still up in the air as to when Xbox owners would be able to get their hands on them. Microsoft’s just announced availability for the five titles for this year’s SoA and it looks like the months of July and August will be a lot more bearable for fun-starved gamers. All of the games will cost 1200 Microsoft points, or $15 in real-world money. And if you get all five, a sixth game–the retro-styled hack-n-slash “Crimson Alliance” by Certain Affinity–can be downloaded free as a bonus.

The Summer of Arcade game that’s gotten the most buzz has been Supergiant Games’ “Bastion.” It’s the story of a hero called the Kid who’s trying to restore the Earth after an event called the Calamity breaks it up into a series of floating archipelagos. The pulpy narration by a mysterious, gravel-voiced dude is dynamic, meaning that it responds to what you’re doing in the game. The gameplay’s a top-down blend of action and RPG elements, done up in hand-drawn art that makes “Bastion” immediately appealing. Leading the charge on July 20th, it looks like it might be the alpha game of the bunch.

“From Dust” comes by way of UbiSoft, and revolves around a unique terraforming mechanic with lush visuals. It’s the creation of beloved designer Eric Chahi, who’s best known for his classic PC game “Out of This World.” “From Dust” belongs to the god game category, a strategy-based genre once dominant on PC, and it should reintroduce a whole new generation of players to what it’s like to shape a planet to their whims. Look for it on July 27th.

“Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet” hits on August 3rd from developer Michel Gagne and the Fuelcell Games studio. Its blend of artsy silhouettes and old-school side-scroller design has had indie game watchers hankering for months, so it’s great to see it finally rolling out in a significant way.

I’ve already previewed the fourth SoA game a little while ago and can honestly say I haven’t been able to stop thinking about “Fruit Ninja Kinect” since I tried it out. Its August 10th release date can’t come quick enough. Daddy needs to slice some citrus.

Finally, Signal Studios’ “Toy Soldiers: Cold War” blends first-person action and tactical challenge in a game that lets you run wild in a playground made up of the war-crazy pop culture of the 1980s. Imagine all the insane conflicts that you created with your action figures and their vehicles in the form of a modern-day, hi-def video game and that’s what you’ll be getting on August 17th.

Whether you get all of the Summer of Arcade titles or just grab a few, chances arre you’ll be throwing your support behind games made with singular vision and intense commitment. Fifteen dollars is a quarter of the price of a disc-based game, and the perfect price to take a chance on something different. Even “From Dust”, which has the power of major publisher UbiSoft behind it, might have a hard time if it had to entice would-be purchasers from a store shelf. So, pick out a Summer of Arcade and have a fling with it. It could be an unexpected gem.

Which Summer of Arcade title gets you all sweaty? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.