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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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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