Playlist: June 7th

Comeback week here on Scanline. After a week and a half with no computer access to speak of, I return, and I’ve got a lot to write about. With E3 coming up so, so rapidly, it looks like that’s just in time, too. Look for a suite of articles next week, written on my brand new desktop! Here’s what Ben and I have been playing.


The Swapper


I already wrote a small article about The Swapper, and I don’t want to say anything else about the game. It’s a fantastic journey filled with discovery, and delving deeper could potentially ruin that for you! Still, I WOULD like to reiterate that The Swapper’s handcrafted clay levels are sublime. For a pittance of the budget used to make cutting-edge games like Crysis, Facepalm Games have built one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever seen. If The Swapper doesn’t win some form of award for its lovely Theseus (among other reasons), I won’t eat a hat, because I’m not a goat. However, I’ll likely stare sullenly at the ceiling and shake my head.

Serious Sam 3 + Call of Juarez: Gunslinger


Ever since the credits rolled on BioShock Infinite, I’ve considered abandoning the first person shooter genre altogether. Gunning through enemies felt as exciting as sweeping a floor or taking out trash, and it made me wonder why I bothered picking up the controller in the first place. Sure, BioShock Infinite had an interesting world and story, but books manage to hold the same strong narratives without the mundane headshots.

If my apathy was a distress beacon, Serious Sam 3 and Call of Juarez Gunslinger were the two strapping heroes that rushed in and taught me why the first person shooter still deserves a place at the table. Both games put me in the shoes of larger than life heroes who refused to bother with petty constraints like realism or grittiness; they wanted every bullet and strafe to feel great. Though they both tried to tell stories, they treated the shooting as the main attraction instead of a checked-off requirement, and it paid off in spades. As I ran from screaming headless bombers in South Africa and outdrew a wild outlaw at high noon, I couldn’t help but chuckle. By stripping away most of the distractions and focusing on what made the genre shine in the first place, these two stalwarts restored my faith in the power of the almighty digital hand cannon.

Hotline Miami


Part of my PC gaming catch-up, and the first game I installed on this new computer, Hotline Miami has been a wild ride thus far- a technicolor rollercoaster of pumping bass and blood. Awash with neon and the thumb of electronica, I’ve been doing my duty as Miami’s underworld cleaner, and it feels damn good. The combat is a blast, the horrifying scenes that you create are treated with a stunningly level of nonchalance that makes them even more effecting, and I’ve said it twice already, but dat music. I would frequently just sit still in an empty room to listen (though that didn’t do wonders for my Time score).

The story was pitched to me as being twisty, unexpected, and surreal, but it’s basically played out exactly how I expected so far- and I have gotten past the twist, for the record. It seems like the exact story a game like this would have to tell… and that’s fine. Beyond some glitches, and a bad boss fight or two, I can wholeheartedly recommend the game. Just… you know. I hope you have a strong stomach.

Mark of the Ninja


This, I had really been looking forward to. The hype around this game… it sounded like the perfect game for me. Well executed predator stealth is like fine wine to me. My computer couldn’t run it before (A 2D game. Sad, I know.), but this new one could easily, so I slipped on my mask and polished my sword. My metaphorical sword, not the crummy display sword currently hanging out in my closet.

I’m sad to say, though, that I’ve been kind of underwhelmed. Maybe it was how much it was talked up to me? But it’s just not impressing me all that much. It’s fine. It’s kind of fun. But hunting the AI is not fun- they’re too stupid and dull in their reactions. I wanted the kind of satisfaction I got from Splinter Cell Conviction, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Tenchu, among others. Instead, I got these brainless thugs that don’t even feel that good to kill.

I don’t know. Maybe I just need to be in the right mood. I’ll stick with it, but it’s not blowing me away.


Now You See Me


The Usual Suspects was an incredible, groundbreaking film for its time, but after leaving a recent showing of Now You See Me, I can’t help but silently curse it. Ever since the world learned the identity of Keyser Soze, writers have coveted the unexpected plot twist, hoping to wow audiences with the cleverness of their scripts. They often forget that there were 98 minutes before Verbal Kint ditched his bum leg routine, and those 98 minutes told an engaging story with a likable rogue’s gallery. Now You See Me is the culmination of several decades’ worth of screenwriting amnesia; I counted five or six “Gotcha!” twists, and each one of them had zero impact on me.

The magician-thieves, their marks and the police pursuing them all abandon any pretense of likability in a plot that requires me to carry an ounce of sympathy. Nary a nice word is said as every character treats their partners and associates like they’re five years old. Who do I root for when Jesse Eisenberg is taking potshots at his ex-girlfriend’s weight and Mark Ruffalo is drunkenly chiding his partner from Interpol for doing her job? Twist after twist rolled by, and I sat there unfazed, wondering when this trainwreck would put an end to the suffocating smugness.

Now You See Me would be better off pulling a disappearing act. See, I can make crummy film critic jokes, too! When do I get my slot on the Today show?