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DID YOU READ

Insert Credit: “Bastion”

Insert Credit: “Bastion” (photo)

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Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.

For the week of July 18, 2011, you should insert credit into: “Bastion.”

At first glance, “Bastion” looks like yet another homage to the games of yesteryear, specifically the Super Nintendo era. It uses the same isometric camera angle as “Super Mario RPG,” and features an artistic sensibility and design mechanics influenced by Japanese RPG games like “Final Fantasy VI.” There’s more than a little retro to it.

What “Bastion” really is, though, is a ballad, in the antiquarian sense of the word. A long poem that tells a history or an adventure. The legend being told here is that of The Kid, a young hero who wakes to find the world of Caelondia destroyed and disappeared.

“Bastion” takes the old RPG convention of the plucky young lad setting forth in the world to find his greater destiny and turns it on its ear. Yes, there’s shooting, slashing and spell-like powers, complete with the collect-and-improve loot mechanics of most RPGs. But, it comes with a main character who’s prematurely world-weary. And that grand destiny? It’s picking up the pieces of a shattered world. There are no goofy comic relief types to meet, no boon companions to add to your party of merry adventurers. The Kid moves through the world alone, as one ultimately does through grief. People can help you remember and move through it, but really you’re the one who decides what to do with the fragments of loss.

Scouring the web-like paths of his broken world for the remnants that will let it rebuild, The Kid comes across the shadowy remains of deceased friends. You can either smash these dark holograms to bits or just walk on by, but either way you have to move on. The Kid makes his way to the Bastion, a sanctuary where he can rebuild the world.

If you steer him wrong, the Kid drops into the world unceremoniously every time he falls off of a precipice, faceplanting as if just finger-flicked out of the hereafter. It’s a signifier that you’re playing a character that just can’t catch a break. The gravelly voiced narrator-winningly played by Logan Cunningham-talks up almost every in-game move you make. Fall of the edge of the world and he’ll quip “Been meaning to put up guardrails.” Deflect a bullet back at an enemy and he’ll say “The Kid responded in kind.” Bastion’s populated with micro-challenges based around specific feats to earn bigger clumps of XP, but they also memorialize the culture that’s in shambles. So, when you master the War Hammer, for example, and you’ll hear about how it was used to tame the Wild Lands. The stellar writing permeates every aspect of the game so that, no matter what you’re doing, you’re almost always getting story.

Bastion_Boxart.jpgThe game’s Who Knows Where missions show off how well-integrated the intertwining of story and gameplay are. These side battles follow the popular Horde template where you must defeat advancing waves of enemies but, while you get to restock health and super-attacks in between rounds, you also get dollops of backstory. And that’s what keeps you playing. Who Knows Where represents the only chance you’ll get to hear about the Kid’s parents and pre-history before the game starts. It’s not the glory of achievement that drives you to survive the 20 cycles of aggression; it’s the need to know.

There’s a lonesome country-western feeling that hovers around “Bastion” which belies the cuteness of artist Jen Zee’s gorgeous chibi manga stylings. One bit of text pops up when you erect a Memorial in the Bastion: “A necessary testament to the Calamity. By paying tribute to the past, one may better prepare for the future.” As a game, “Bastion” does this and still manages to be its own heartfelt touchstone for an all-new generation of gamers.

“Bastion” can be downloaded from Xbox Live for $15 (1200 Microsoft points).

If you’re playing or played “Bastion,” what do you think of it? 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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GIFs via Giphy

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.