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.


Hockey + Space = Funny

The Force Is With the Benders Star Wars Poster

The Force is with Benders Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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A long time ago in an ice rink far, far away, the gang from Benders decided to pay homage to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster that recently hit the Web.

It is a period of civil war in amateur ice hockey. The taxation of beer kegs to outlying rinks is in dispute and it can’t be settled on the ice. Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of hockey sticks in front of the Zamboni, the greedy beer distributor has stopped all shipping to the small rink where the Chubbys play.

While the Congress of the Penalty Box endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Referee has secretly dispatched two of the best forwards in the league, the guardians of peace and justice on the ice and in the galaxy, to settle the conflict. But first they need to get a healthy buzz on.

Check out the Benders take on Star Wars below.


Marc Maron – Maron, Gallery Art – Photo Credit: Katrina Marcinowski / IFC.

WTF with Bob & David

Listen to Bob Odenkirk and David Cross Talk Comedy With Marc Maron

Todd Margaret returns January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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For fans of Todd Margaret and Better Call Saul, this week’s episode of WTF with Marc Maron is mandatory listening.

Bob Odenkirk stopped by Marc’s garage to talk about his new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Not content to have one of comedy’s new legends on hand, Marc got David Cross on the phone so the duo could talk about working with the Mr. Show gang once again on the new project, Bob’s work on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and more. David also dropped some hints about the third season of Todd Margaret, which he calls “quite different” and Bob dubs “mind-blowing.”

Listen to Bob and David on the latest episode of WTF below, and be sure to catch the return of a very, very different Todd Margaret when season three premieres January 7th at 10P on IFC. You can also catch up on seasons one and two of Todd Margaret on Netflix and on IFC this Thanksgiving during our Sweatsgiving Marathon.

Who is Todd Margaret? Find out below.

Want more Todd? Check out the season three trailer below.

Catch up on seasons one and two of Todd Margaret right now on Netflix.

Stephen Merchant Everett 1920

Cringe Humor

10 Moments That Prove Stephen Merchant Is a Master of Cringe Comedy

Stephen Merchant brings the awkward to Comedy Bang! Bang!.

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They say that behind every squat, successful British writer-producer is a lanky, six-foot-seven bespectacled co-creator. All right, maybe no one said that ever, but it certainly applies to the duo responsible for some of the most awkward moments in television history. Masters of cringe comedy Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short — along with many other moments that caused viewers to avert their eyes and squirm in their seats. Even when flying solo in shows like Hello Ladies, Merchant can provide just as many unbearably uncomfortable moments as an incompetent talent agent, an inelegant pick-up artist or just a bloke sharing a story about being turned down by a nightclub doorman.

To get you ready for Stephen’s appearance on tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are some of his funniest cringeworthy moments.

1. Performing Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty,” Lip Sync Battle

When you have to sway a crowd and you’re built like a flailing-arm inflatable balloon man, you gotta play to your strengths. So when tasked to perform Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” on Lip Sync Battle, Merchant proudly bared his midriff, upper thighs and soul in a cutoff T-shirt and flared leather chaps. While we applaud his self-confidence, we don’t have the inner strength to be caught dead doing that.

2. Discussing his first Golden Globe win, The Graham Norton Show

It’s hard to imagine a time when The Office was something of an underdog, but the original UK version was just a plucky upstart when it won its first Golden Globe. Unfortunately for the then-unknown Gervais and Merchant, their long, awkward walk to the stage was punctuated by the announcer mispronouncing their names and Stephen’s head getting cut off for the front page photo.

3. The Oggmonster, The Office

Although Gervais’ David Brent was the poster boy for The Office, Merchant only appeared twice in the original series as Gareth’s gangly pal Nathan, AKA The Oggmonster. Even more ungainly and off-putting than the Assistant to the Regional Manager, Oggy is pushed to tears by David Brent’s relentless joshing about his appearance. We feel for ya, Oggy.

4. Nudie pen, Extras

In this very NSFW clip from Extras, Merchant plays the highly incompetent agent Darren who, between failing to get acting work for Gervais’ Andy, is caught in flagrante in the company of a novelty nudie pen. Inappropriate, unprofessional and utterly humiliating given the focal point, his moment of self-gratification is somewhat vindicated when assistant Barry is caught doing the same thing.

5. Trip to Rio, The Ricky Gervais Show

Debuting as a radio program in 2001, The Ricky Gervais Show was among the first wildly successful podcasts and spawned countless comedy audio programs in the years since. Co-host and whipping boy Karl Pilkington was the breakout star, but Merchant supplied a heapin’ helpin’ of embarrassment with cringeworthy anecdotes, including this story of his trip to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Hopeless nightclub pick-up artist, Hello Ladies

Without Gervais on the roster, Merchant shined as hopeless romantic Stuart Pritchard in HBO’s Hello Ladies. Showcasing his true-to-life awkwardness around women, the sadly short-lived series upped the cringe-ante that he and Gervais injected into The Office — and this torturous nightclub scene is perfect proof.

7. Eager wedding guest, Hello Ladies

As we all know, weddings are a meet-cute hotbed, but it definitely requires optimal positioning. Unfortunately for the viewer’s nerve, Stuart is keenly aware of this. Persistent past the point of rejection, he monopolizes the line to congratulate the newlyweds and wedges himself into a table with single women. Eagerness has never been so unsettling.

8. Denying Warwick Davis a loan, Life’s Too Short

Having to turn down a friend in need is so unbearable, most of us will compromise our comfort with favors just to avoid it. Not surprisingly, Gervais and Merchant — playing heightened versions of themselves — don’t have an issue with sidestepping support for diminutive actor Warwick Davis when he asks the successful team for a loan.

9. Behind-the-scenes dance party, Extras

Yes, it’s Stephen dancing for the second time on this list. But honestly, it’s never not cringeworthy.

10. Nightclub zinger, Conan

Single life is unanimously the worst, but it can be easily mitigated through fortune and stardom. And while Stephen Merchant is a household name among comedy geeks, his notoriety has yet to hit the radar of certain LA nightclub doormen. Appearing on Conan, Merchant shares a story of trying to get into a nightclub but being thwarted by the bouncer at the door with a devastating putdown.

Dodgeball 1920 Everett

Grab Life by the Ball

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dodgeball

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There was a time, not long ago, when Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and their “Frat Pack” of fast-talking comedians ruled Hollywood. From Zoolander to Anchorman, these cut-ups couldn’t help but churn out hit after hit. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story itself grossed $124 millon at the box office, even after every studio in town initially turned it down. Thanks to a wrench throwing Rip Torn and a Lance Armstrong cameo that’s more uncomfortable in hindsight, this little comedy that could has grown into a much-loved classic. To celebrate Comedy Crib’s new dodgeball comedy Ball or Nothing, here are a few fun facts you may not know about the comedy that told us to “grab life by the ball.”

10. The Hoff’s Cameo Was Last Minute Magic

David Hasselhoff’s cameo as coach of the German team was a last minute addition, after stunt coordinator Alex Daniel mentioned he knew the Baywatch beefcake personally.

9. Roadhouse Was An Inspiration

Stiller is a film connoisseur, so it’s no surprise he chose to honor the seminal ’80s action classic Roadhouse by using Patrick Swayze’s hairdo as inspiration for his character, calling it a “super quaffed power mullet.”

8. Justin Long Took One For The Team

Rip Torn played the wheelchair-bound coach Patches O’Houlihan who motivated the team by hurling wrenches at them. The prop wrenches were made out of rubber, but that didn’t make things easier for Justin Long, who had his eyebrow split open after one particularly hard throw. Patches (and Torn) doesn’t mess around.

7. The Director Pulled A Hitchcock

For his feature film debut, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber made a cameo appearance as the guy who throws a drink at Steve the Pirate in Vegas.

6. Happy Accidents Helped Make It A Classic

Vaughn’s character, Peter LaFleur, makes a unique first impression in the movie, having a group of guys push his stalled car up to the Average Joe’s gym. This was in fact a last minute addition after the car on set actually broke down.

5. Norm Macdonald Made a Cameo

In a film chock full of cameos, the most unheralded probably goes to Norm Macdonald, who was supposedly an extra in the background during the Globo Gym ad. Is that him in the clip above lifting weights next to some musclebound bro-dude? Sure looks like Norm.

4. The Film Gave a WWE Diva Her Big Break

Future WWE Diva Candice Michelle briefly appeared as a sideline dancer, long before taking her talents to the ring.

3. Patches O’Houlihan Was Inspired By The “Miracle on Ice”

Patches insults his players by saying “it’s like watching a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob.” This was in fact a reference to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey coach Herb Brooks, who once said “it’s like watching a monkey trying to hump a football.”

2. The Writer/Director Made the Terry Tate Office Linebaker Ads

Dodgeball wasn’t Rawson Marshall Thurber first time tackling sports comedy — he got noticed after directing the memorable Reebok ads where NFL player Terry Tate enforces office etiquette through punishing tackles.

1. Dodgeball Will Be Back!

It was announced in 2013 that Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story would be getting a sequel, which will no doubt be called Dodgeball 2: The Search for Patches’ Golden Wrench.

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