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.

Bill Murray in Ghostbusters II

Hopebusters, Too

Ghostbusters II Predicted the World Will End on Valentine’s Day 2016

Catch Ghostbusters II this month on IFC. Provided the world doesn't end, of course.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

Far be it from us to contradict Mr. Bill Murray, but a prediction made in a scene from one of his films is about to be put to the test. If you remember Ghostbusters II, then you know that at the beginning of the film, retired ‘buster Peter Venkman is the host of a chat show called World of the Psychic. According to a guest on the show, the world will end on February 14th, 2016 — this Valentine’s Day.

Now, before you start looting, keep in mind the source of this information is a tad unreliable. Elaine (played by Sid and Nancy star Chloe Webb) sits with Venkman and relates how she received this intel from an alien who may or may not have disguised a UFO to look like a Holiday Inn in Paramus. Let’s just hope she misheard, otherwise there will be some awkward date nights this year.

Check out the grim prognostication in the clip below. Hopefully the world will still be here when Ghostbusters II airs Monday, Feb. 15th and throughout the month on IFC.

Comic-Con: Black Cat bares her claws in new “Spider-Man: Edge of Time” trailer

Black-Cat-in-Spidey-Edge-of-Time

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Batman’s not the only superhero with a femme fatale showing up in his video game this year. A new trailer reveals that Felicia Day–the super-thief known as the Black Cat–will be showing up in Activision’s “Spider-Man: Edge of Time.”

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Developed by Beenox, the game will pair up the present-day Amazing Spider-Man and his future counterpart Spider-Man 2009. The latter’s trying to stop the original wall-crawler’s death from creating a dystopic future. The Black Cat’s been a sometime villain, sometime partner/hook-up and all-around tease in Peter Parker’s life. But, by the looks of the trailer, she may be out for some of his radioactive blood this time out. For what it’s worth, perennial girlfriend Mary Jane Watson also shows up in this trailer, but she’s never been much good in a fight. The game’s being written by Peter David, a respected writer with beloved comics runs on Hulk, Aquaman and various X-Men titles to his credit. He’s sure to give fans a Black Cat who’s as memorable as she is sexy.

Catwoman or Black Cat: which feline felon are you more excited for? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

“Need for Speed: The Run” breaks the speed limit

“Need for Speed: The Run” breaks the speed limit  (photo)

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In most racing games, the cars are the lead protagonists. The sprightliness of gear shifting, durability of its chassis and top speed count as character traits, with some titles not even bothering to model a driver character behind the wheel.

“Need for Speed: The Run” is different. Main character Jack owes the wrong people a whole lot of money and both cops and crooks want his head on a platter. But, all that drama goe away if he can win the $25 million first-place prize in an illegal, off-the-grid cross-country race called The Run.

Previous “Need for Speed” games tried to tell stories before, but most of those efforts had you in control of an anonymous nonentity. Jack’s different. You’ll take him out of the car during frantic chase and fight sequences where he’s jumping off rooftops and fighting cops. These quick moments play an interactive cutscenes, rather than any kind of “GTA”-style open-world exploration. the cutting-edge Frostbite 2 game engine from EA’s DICE division powers “NFS: The Run,” delivering sharp-looking simulated physics, lighting and animation. Of course, there’s tons of automotive eye candy, too. A start-studded line-up of rides will include impressive models like the Porsche 911 GT2 and McLaren MP4-12C. Dozens of cars you’d never be able to afford in real life will unlock as the game progresses, making this game a must for car cognoscenti.

Autolog-the in-game social network that tracks and compares your friends’ progress-lets players view dynamic status updates and forms the hub of the multiplayer experience, which constantly challenges you to beat your friends’ performance on various tracks. When I played it yesterday, “The Run” impressed me with how it handled the visual challenges of a chaotic urban drag race while transitioning to top-shelf character animations. It’s like playing the bastard child of “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Fast & Furious.” The game’s due out November 15th for all major consoles.

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