Reviews

Prey the Stars

The clear sign that your console is top gun is that it has crazy, off the wall nonsense like Prey the Stars on it.


Publisher: KOEI
Genres: Action
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Prey the Stars
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Number of players: 1-4
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: KOEI Canada
US release date: 2008-10-07
Website
Amazon
Developer website

Cast your minds back to 1996. Square Enix (at that point Squaresoft) announced that for the first time ever, the latest entrant in their premiere RPG franchise, Final Fantasy VII, would not be on a Nintendo console. Instead, it would move to a new home, the PlayStation. Undeniably one of the most significant events in videogame history, the change in platforms ushered in a new era for our medium, almost entirely changing the landscape of games and their culture, with its aftershock still impacting us to this day.

Soon thereafter, other major US and Japanese companies, buoyed by Square's confidence in the PSX, would follow suit and align themselves and their triple AAA titles with the PlayStation brand. This effectively ended Nintendo's console domination and began a ten-year stint at the top for Sony. Dragon Quest, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Grand Theft Auto, Tekken, Ridge Racer...would these have been on the PlayStation, or for that matter, would they even exist today, had Square not believed that the PlayStation platform was the right place for their vision?

The console that has both Square and Final Fantasy tied exclusively to it, will emerge victorious for that generation, or so history dictates. This of course makes the recent internet furore over Final Fantasy XIII going multiplatform seem almost understandable. Almost.

I say bollocks to all of that. The clear sign that your console is top gun is that it has crazy, off the wall, utterly pointless nonsense like Prey The Stars -- or as I like to call it, the winner of 2008's WTF game so far -- on it.

Games like this exist mainly due to a console having amassed a large enough user base with high enough software sales that companies begin microtargeting niches within that base, in this case a niche that will buy anything Japanese and bonkers. Though this particular game originated in Canada, the Japanese origins are all too obvious.

Of course to get there you need all the big money makers, like the ones mentioned above. No doubt FFVII and its ilk did that for the PlayStation, and as a result you can see that both the PS1 and PS2 are littered with this kind of madcap stuff. The DS is no different, so my point remains valid; shit like this means you're number one, kind of like a backhanded compliment. Games like this mean that the device has garnered the trust of the industry to invest in throwaway titles such as Prey The Stars.

So what exactly is Prey The Stars? Well it's impossible not to draw comparisons to Namco Bandai's Katamari Damacy. You play as a weird dog/shark/Pokemon knock off creature thing, eerily similar to Stimpy from The Ren & Stimpy Show. Gabu, as he likes to be known, and three of his similarly deformed friends run around maps like the mall, a theme park, undersea, "and more," according to the blurb on the back cover. In all of those places they eat things. Initially it's just fruit and vegetables, but as you eat more, you get larger and begin to devour all other manner of large household objects such as TVs, radios and then eventually whole buildings! The winner is the beast that's eaten the most, because eating stuff equals points, points equal high scores, high scores equal victory. Clever, huh?

You chomp on B to chew your food and you can collect different skins to personalize your thing and improve its attributes. Cleverly, there's a multiplayer option with just one card and even an online mode is thrown in. And that's about it. There's really nothing else to the gameplay aside from running around globe like levels and eating stuff, tapping the B button and getting the highest score.

Everything is bright, colourful, and cheery, and Gabu is sort of adorable in a Sloth-from-Goonies kinda way. But if you're here for depth, skill, strategy etc. then you're in the wrong place.

This is a game not celebrating its gameplay, or here to boast some brand new innovation, but instead it feels more like a nod to the industry's silly, arcade, popcorn-fun style games of yesteryear. These are games that are often forgotten about as we pursue more complex experiences, with cutting edge graphics, movie-like stories, blah, blah and blah. So you know what? Leave the cynicism at home, kick back and appreciate a slice of gaming bizarreness. Let yourself be entertained in a way that was commonplace before that group of pesky, spiky haired, emo kids turned up with their grey PlayStation thingies.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image