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by L.B. Jeffries

25 Nov 2008

The third and potentially final game in Nintendo’s Art Style series, Rotohex, follows form with its counterparts by focusing on very simple game design and reward structure. With a price tag of six dollars and no concerns about fighting for shelf space, the games are freed up to deliver a much more basic experience than other puzzle games. They disperse with the graphics and focus on core game mechanics while the audience consumes the less visually sophisticated product because of the bargain price. Rotohex is a prime example of what the downloadable game scene and the internet can deliver.

The game is a traditional falling block puzzle game with a very unique twist. Rather than just use blocks and a color matching design, it relies on triangles to apply that concept. The player must arrange six triangles of the same color in a hexagon while more triangles fall down into the game map, which is itself a hexagon. The player points a Wiimote cursor that is also this same shape and presses A to rotate the triangles inside of it.

It takes a couple of plays to orient yourself to this, but eventually you learn how to carry triangles inside a six-sided grid and piggyback them into completed shapes. You wouldn’t really expect someone proposing that Tetris with triangles would involve this radical of a shift in play style, but it really is a game concept in and of itself. The entire way you observe the environment, discover potential combinations, and make combos changes drastically from block-based puzzle games. In order to spot combinations, you’re better off observing the shapes that are away from where you want to make the combination and you also have to start thinking in terms of clusters and pie slices. Versus Mode works about like you’d expect with the added twist of having a controlled delay before the triangles you’ve combined fall on your opponent. There is also a neutral space with which you must make a combo before the the blocks will fall.

Equally interesting is the basic reward structure the game applies to this setup. There are still leaderboards and score counting in the game’s unlockable ‘Endless’ mode, but the basic ‘Solo’ section relies on an entirely different experience. Like with Orbient, layers of music are your reward for making a complete hexagon. The game starts off with a simple series of beeps in the background, and with each combo another layer of a song is added. Drums, electronic music, and numerous other bizarre effects are built onto that basis. Once you complete a certain number of Hexagons, a new color gets added and these must then be combined to add the next layer of song. The effect is a very good use of synesthesia to deliver a gaming experience. You’re not just playing to arbitrarily score well, as one does in Tetris or Dr. Mario, you’re engaging in discovering the next piece of music.

It’s a very good carrot to put on the stick of reward structure, as I discovered in Orbient, because the game is sucking you in through a variety of techniques rather than just your basic High Score reward. As you progress, the layers of music that are crowding the soundscape are abandoned for new ones, creating an ongoing and ever-changing musical experience for the player. The fact that most of my play sessions devolved into me wanting to hear the next evolution of the music instead of caring about beating the game speaks to how much broader of an audience this design can appeal to.

And…that’s the gist of it. The Art Style games are about core mechanics, musical reward structures, and making very small tweaks that have enormous effects on gameplay. It’s still basically just Tetris with triangles but as with Orbient, the changes result in an entirely new gaming experience. Rotohex is still fundamentally a redux on the puzzle game genre, but by making it into triangles and having a musical reward structure it becomes something that stands apart. Proving that it takes so little to teach an old game design new tricks is what makes Rotohex worth a download.

by Mike Schiller

25 Nov 2008

Somehow, it feels as though 2009 will be the PlayStation 3’s year. The Xbox 360 has shown us what “next generation” hardware can look like, and has introduced the necessity of a well-implemented online infrastructure. The Wii and DS have shown us just how wide the audience for gaming can be. 2009 is going to be the year that gamers want to see just how far they can take the new generation of consoles, and the PlayStation 3 will be the console to take them there. 2008 was the year that Blu-Ray won; 2008 was the year that the vocal masses got their way and convinced Sony that a controller that vibrates is important. 2008 was the year that the PS3 got its own version of achievements, and 2008 was the year that Sony’s exclusives started to make people sit up and take notice.  This particular bundle starts you with the biggest PS3 yet released—160GB is enough to store a whole pile of music, movies, and downloaded games—and tosses in one of the first exclusives that actually managed to make other console owners jealous: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Add to this the fact that the whole bundle is retailing for the same price point that the merely 20GB PS3 sold for all by itself two tiny years ago, and the time simply seems right for a PS3. Want to wow a gamer with a gift this holiday season? The PS3 is your ticket. [$499.99]

AMAZON

by Sarah Zupko

25 Nov 2008

This massive 800-plus-page tome, lavishly bound in slipcase and printed on high quality glossy paper, will wow both sci-fi and comic book aficionados. All the major Luke Skywalker stories spanning 30 years from the earliest Marvel incarnation up through Dark Horse’s latest adventures are compiled here in glorious, sparkling color. It’s an art quality book jam-packed with nostalgia. As one of the largest and most comprehensive Star Wars-related compendiums on the market, it will hold wide appeal to the legions of the series fans as well as lovers of fine comic artistry.

AMAZON

by Sarah Zupko

25 Nov 2008

For students and those living on tight budgets (i.e. pretty much all of us these days), the idea of throwing a dinner party may seem financially impossible, both in terms of buying the ingredients and having the equipment to prepare the feast. Shook and Dotolo, chefs at Los Angeles’ new hotly tipped Animal restaurant, remember those lean days well and offer up 100 recipes to impress for those cooking in a small kitchen with limited means. Including are plenty of tips for assembling the bare bones of working kitchen. From salads to desserts, the focus is new American cuisine. [$24.95]

AMAZON

by Chris Catania

25 Nov 2008

Over the last 20 years, Delicious Vinyl has released some of hip-hop’s best singles, along with a few one hit wonders. From Tone Loc to the Pharcyde, the label has managed to blend catchy beats and complex sonic textures. Whether they’re sensual club-grinding narratives or jazz-flavored socio-philosophizing, Delicious Vinyl has continually shown its knack for releasing tracks that are loaded with head-bobbing hooks and the depth and substance to become timeless. It’s not an easy thing to do, but they did it consistently—if not with full albums, then certainly with singles. The decision to compile the anthology began when Peaches and Tone Loc teamed up to do a live remix of “Wild Thing” in November last year. From there, Delicious Vinyl compiled other hit tracks from its catalogue and handed them over to a handful of artists to take a twist of the knobs and slap a new sonic spin on a classic DV track that inspired them. Listening to the remixes reminds you just how well those songs captured an era when storytelling hip-hop and dance floor grooving converged to create songs packed with simplicity, sensuality, playfulness, and irresistible hooks that pushed hip-hop and electronic dance music even further into the mainstream playlist. [$13.98]

AMAZON

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Double Take: 'The French Connection' (1971)

// Short Ends and Leader

"You pick your feet in Poughkeepsie, and we pick The French Connection for Double Take #18.

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