DID YOU READ

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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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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