AAA game titles are good and fun with all the snazzy bling bling thing going on, but sometimes our computers need a break from the intense workload those titles put on your hardwares, and we need a break from all the flashy hype. There's been a sort of upheaval in the line of independent video games- that is to say, games developed by the little people, probably from their garages. Braid was such a game, as was Zeno Clash. And Bit Blog's Aquaria is yet another one.
Aquaria, which came out in 2007, plays as an underwater fantasy adventure. You take control Naija, a human amphibian living under the sea? Sure. Naija loses her memory at the beginning, and leaves her serene familiar waters for the open seas in search of her family.
It's a 2d sidescrolling game and the primary focus is puzzle-solving and exploration. Everything is interacted with through Naija's singing. There are 8 tunes that Naija can play in her normal form. As she explores the open waters further and further, unlocking the secrets of her family, and the secrets of the waters, she learns songs that gives her the ability to shapeshift into new forms- for example, one of them gives her the ability to hurl bolts of energy at hostile creatures or to power up pearls to open passages, another form lets her swim against strong currents, and yet another lets her become a fish to traverse through small passageways. Songs are also used for lifting heavy objects, attracting particular types of creatures, and so on.
The puzzles are pretty much straight forward and more often than not very simply solved. There are some 'boss fights', and these mainly involve figuring out how to go about defeating them, and then proceeding to do so. Once again, once you know how, it's fairly easy and doesn't prove to be much of a challenge. I played on the normal difficulty, so I couldn't vouch for this in the hard mode.
Exploration takes a front seat above all else. You'll find yourself travelling from one side of the waters to the other very frequently revisiting old territories as new options become available to you. This can get pretty annoying, since it's hard to tell exactly where you have been to, or remember where a particular area is. You'll find yourself wandering around aimlessly always coming back to a place you had no intention of going to. Aquaria isn't very linear, in the sense that you aren't given a particular mission to work on, rather you have to go about finding things out on your own, so you have complete freedom in terms of what you want to do next, provided that you the powers to do it.
Other than just exploring aimlessly, the more homely among us can take a break from trying to figure out what to do next, and get cooking. Yes, cooking. During all the Discovery Channel-esque exploring you'll get to collect ingredients and other items, which you can use to cook stuff. The stuff you cook just don't perform in the range of culinary art, they actually come in use. Most of them help in gaining such necessities as health and speed while others give way to new abilities. Other than that, if you fancy yourself the gourmet cook, well, you can't, because randomly mixing ingredients only gives you drivel. Ah well…
One of the biggest winning points of Aquaria is the art and design. The world of Aquaria is very beautifully crafted, with brilliant artworks, amazingly pretty environments, and the lush vendure is a sight for the eyes. Naija shares the sentiment, too. The music playing throughout the game depends on what territory you're in, and soothing tunes change to something slightly more intense during boss fights. The soundtrack is yet another of the winning points. Haunting, magical and enchanting, to say the least about the beautiful soundtrack accompanying your underwater adventure.
If Aquaria has a flaw, it's that it can be difficult to navigate the seas without a proper guide and a quest system. That's the nature of the game, though, so take it or leave it.
It's a good game, and you can dish out many an hour over it. Give Aquaria a shot. You might enjoy this simple, yet beautiful game.
Album Review by Ihsan B. Kabir
Six time G3 tour member John Petrucci and his band Dream Theater had a lot to answer to after the release of 2007's Systematic Chaos. Few will argue that Petrucci is one of the most talented guitarists ever and Mike Portnoy is one of the icons of drumming, but the rest of Dream Theater, especially the singer James LaBrie, left fans disappointed after Systematic Chaos. People began to wonder whether they could recapture the musical prowess they had when Images and Words was released in 1992. Octavarium, which came out in 2005, was promising, but Systematic Chaos was a major letdown. Needless to say, the band had a lot to answer to with this album. This album was definitely a step in the right direction, as the tracks showed musical and creative genius. However, there is still a lot of work still left to be done.
A Nightmare to Remember- (3.5/5) The guitar sound is interesting in this track. At times it sounds like Pantera, and at other times it's much mellower. The time signature changes are a harsh, and, once again, LaBrie is a major letdown. Petrucci and Portnoy come up with insane solos though. Despite the depressing theme, the lyrics are creative and meaningful.
A Rite of Passage- (4/5) This vocals were better in this song, but it lacked the edge with the guitar that “A Nightmare to Remember” had. The lyrics were quite bizarre, but the changes in time and key signature are much better.
Wither- (4.5/5)- A nice soft song to change direction. The guitar is nice and soft, the lyrics are smooth, and there is not much wrong with this song. Portnoy seemed a bit weak on this track. It's an awesome change in the direction of the album, as the previous two tracks were heavy.
The Shattered Fortress- (4.5/5)- This song starts off really hard and heavy, with really heavy guitar riffs and thundering drums. The lyrics are deep and scary, which fit the music really well, and LaBrie does a fairly decent job. Later, the song softens up, but the time and key signature change. This song is testament to the musical genius of Dream Theater. It was just a tad bit overdone, though.
The Best of Times- (5/5)- This is the softest song on the album. Starts off silky smooth and slow and then the unmistakable guitar comes in. LaBrie sings really well and the additional violins and synthesized violin sound from the keyboard are impeccable. Portnoy manages to pull off a drumming masterpiece with such a soft and delicate sound. This track also had my favourite solo on the album. The lyrics are quite touching.
The Count of Tuscany- (5/5) For some reason this track reminded me of Yanni; it had a grand sound. It was amazing- Petrucci constantly shredding, Rudess tearing it apart, Portnoy leaving his mark, and even LaBrie showing us what he can do. This track had old Dream Theater written all over it. What a way to finish the album.
By The Anarchist Kitten
With the high expectations Sin City and 300 created, The Spirit by Frank Miller was a treat, the whole part of its hype, till the movie actually started. Sin City was one of the best films of the decade, and 300 had great entertainment value. The Spirit entertains passably; the entire film feels like a total farce, an unfortunate mockery of Miller's own unique style.
Having said that however, ignoring Miller's reputation as a cult classic, The Spirit ends up being wondrous and infuriating. A comic book adaptation designed to be a visual feast, Frank Miller was the perfect choice to bring the film to life. One of the most annoying things about the film is the dialogue; the dialogue is often so cheesy and the characters so over the top that the movie never lets you connect into that wonderful moment of forgetting that you're watching a movie. There isn't a single character in the movie that talks like a real person and is relatable. They all talk like comic book archetypes: gruff commissioner, megalomaniacal super villain, brilliant evil assistant, sultry femme fatales, loyal and uninteresting love interest. And on some level this makes the film work. If you're not expecting conventional cinema that is.
Frank Miller takes The Spirit and in creating the movie has great fun with it. It is hit or miss throughout, but lovingly made. A brilliant noir-ist, The Spirit is best in moments of lightheartedness. The noir angles of this film works best when used as a kind of self-righteous satire. When it works, it works well, but the film is a terrible mess whenever it is trying to be serious.
With the proper expectations, The Spirit has potential to be enjoyable for most viewers. There's nothing visually new if you've already seen Sin City or 300 (both Miller works) but that doesn't make the movie any less interesting to this reviewer. Most of the humour may or may not have been planned, but it's there.
The Spirit's level of bad film-making is often a pain. But at other times if one can let go of conventional expectations and just want to watch a film, which goes completely against the grain and doesn't do anything by the books, then this is it. And if for nothing else, the movie's worth watching for Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson. You will know if you want to continue watching this film within the first ten minutes. So it's worth giving it a shot.