Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Day of the Doctor Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

Before I start getting into things that people could categorize as spoilers, here is my overall impression of The Day of the Doctor. It was a very very good episode, and well worthy of its status as the 50th anniversary special. David Tennant and Matt Smith are amazing together; their collective silliness is one of the things that I love so much about the show. But their characters would probably never stop talking if John Hurt wasn't there to keep them grounded. There was a wonderful moment when he questioned their apparent need to talk like children (timey-wimey) and I thought that was a brilliant bit of social commentary about internet culture.
Now who should watch it? It is well suited to anyone who has been watching Doctor Who since they started it back up in 2005 (aka New Who), but obviously fans of Classic Who will get even more out of it. I'm happy to say that this episode has reinforced my desire to get into Classic Who even more.
I dragged +Kaelyn Olson along and afterwords asked her how it was from the perspective of a non-Whovian. She told me that as long as someone has the basics of Doctor Who (regeneration, Daleks, etc) they should enjoy it. That being said, this probably isn't a great jumping-in point for newcomers. If you are going to introduce someone to the series, either start at the beginning of New Who or wait until the upcoming Christmas Special, when the Twelfth Doctor will be introduced.
One issue we had was that apparently BBC's idea of "simultaneously broadcast in all regions" doesn't include an online live stream. Couple that with the fact that my campus doesn't have BBC America meant that we had to go and find an alternate source to watch it from. Seriously, BBC, you're only hurting yourself by not making this available online. Think of all the ad revenue you miss out on when people try to get it legitimately and then discover that they have to go with the shady route.

Time to talk about more specific things from the episode! If you are hardcore about not knowing things before watching something, stop reading now. I'll try to avoid talking about things that I would consider spoilers.
I haven't appreciated a lot of the big, sweeping, universe-changing things that Steven Moffat has done with Doctor Who since he came onto the scene; it started with the changing rules on how the Weeping Angels work in The Time of Angels, continued with The Wedding of River Song retconning a fixed point in time, and the last straw for me was the finale of season 7 when Moffat shoehorned Clara (a character he created) into the rest of the Doctor's existence, going all the way back to the First Doctor. He seems to think that upping the stakes and blowing our minds by breaking established rules of the series is a good substitute for meaningful character development and relationships.
That being said, I really respected how he handled bringing multiple Doctors together and dealing with the ending of the Time War, something that we have heard a lot of vague statements about, but not much that was concrete. I can't think of anything else that would have been appropriate, given that it is the event that separates Classic Who and New Who. Moffat didn't make up new rules, but cleverly used the situation of having three Doctors from different points in their timeline to solve the obstacles presented to them.

I'd say my message here is pretty clear: if you don't watch Doctor Who, get going now! And if you are already into the series, watch The Day of the Doctor as soon as humanly possible!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Contrast Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

On paper Contrast seems like a really cool game: a puzzle platformer where you can switch between being a physical person and being a shadow on the wall, using the shadows of other objects to get where you need to go. Couple that with a jazzy nightlife setting, and you can't go wrong, right?

Unfortunately that is not the case. The platforming was often really frustrating and the game was fairly buggy. I found a few places where I could melt with a wall or I would have to jump three or four times to make it onto a ledge that was well within reach.

The story was alright. You play as Dawn, the imaginary friend of a little girl named Didi. Didi's parents are separated and she sneaks out in the night on a regular basis to watch her mother sing at a club. Dawn helps Didi to progress past obstacles and fix things, and hopefully eventually to reunite her family. Dawn and Didi are the only ones who appear as three dimensional people in the world; everyone else appear as shadows on the walls, and are often parts of the platforming that the player has to perform.

In a lot of ways I am glad that the game only took three hours. I wish I could recommend Contrast because it has the makings of a cool, unique indie game. But it just wasn't made well at all. Don't buy it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Burial at Sea Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

Bioshock Infinite is still my favorite game of 2013, and I'm not expecting that standing to change anytime soon. So believe me when I say that I've been looking forward to a story-based DLC for the game since I preordered the season pass.

Burial at Sea takes Elizabeth and Booker to Rapture, which is familiar to those of us who played the first two Bioshock games and made a brief cameo in Infinite's main storyline. Speaking of which, you absolutely have to finish the main game before playing this DLC because it doesn't make sense without a lot of information from the end of the main game.

Many of the same themes abound in this DLC- Elizabeth talks about settling debts, they are searching for a girl, etc. Much like in the main story you have the opportunity to walk around the city and listen in on conversations before you're forced to go on a bloody rampage. Luckily this time you do all of your rampaging in an area of the city that is uninhabited except for Fontaine's outlaws who have been trapped there, Arkham City-style.

All of the citizens seem interested in talking about the power struggle between Ryan and Fontaine, but the artist Cohen is the major player from the first game who makes an appearance in Burial at Sea. And he is every bit as off-the-wall as he was back in 2007.

Hi there.

The combat is more similar to Bioshock Infinite than the original, though with far fewer weapons and plasmids available. They even brought back the skyhook, though in Rapture it is called an air grabber.

It took me about 3.5 hours to play through the whole thing, and I would be surprised if anyone varied too much from that- there isn't a whole lot of exploration you can do.

If you want to know if this DLC is worth $15, ask yourself this- how did you feel about the ending of Bioshock Infinite? If you thought it was deep and thought-provoking, go buy this DLC right away! If you thought it was utter crap, you won't appreciate this DLC. Personally, I enjoyed it a ton and I can't wait to see what they have cooked up for Episode 2.

EDIT: you can now read my review of Episode 2.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Plug: UPS

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

This week I've been walking on air because the Nexus 5 that I ordered was shipped on Sunday. UPS received it Monday morning, and since I chose two-day shipping I was expecting to get it on Wednesday. I obsessively refreshed the tracking page about once every half-hour, and it became evident that I would probably get my phone a day early on Tuesday.

So on Tuesday I started refreshing the page every ten minutes, and I hung around the University's mail room waiting for that little slip of paper that said I had a package. It never came.

Right before my 2 o'clock lab the tracking page suddenly changed to yellow and said: "Exception: Invalid Street Address." At first I thought that the system was complaining that I was using a PO box. A lot of shipping system complain about that, but the University always makes it work.

Then I looked at the receipt I had from Google, and realized that I had done a stupid. I put my home zip code at the end of my University address. So the package was wandering around the Twin Cities looking for a Morris address. Not good.

The tracking page said I should contact the sender and have them change the address, but Google said that they can't do that for security reasons (to be fair, I totally understand that and they responded in about two minutes flat.) So it was up to UPS to do the right thing.

I started a live chat with one of UPS's support people, and they made the necessary changes right away. They did have someone from the warehouse in Minneapolis call me, but I didn't have to provide any extra information.

The most amazing thing about this is that the package was relabeled and sent to Morris during the night, so it is arriving today (Wednesday) which is when I was expecting to get it in the first place. UPS, I give you serious props for your efficiency and your quick and easy customer support.