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Indie Games – lovingly crafted video games for the discerning gamer

Recently, while scanning through Netflix Instant’s “New Releases,” I found a documentary that piqued my interest called “Indie Game: The Movie.” Indie Game is about the burgeoning independent video game biz and it follows the development of two games: Super Meat Boy and Fez.

These aren’t your typical multi-million-dollar-budgeted blockbuster games like Halo or Call of Duty, they’re personal projects painstakingly designed and coded (often by just a couple of people), where ingenuity in gameplay takes precedent over flashy graphics. The budgets for these games are small, too, and most of them don’t have big publishers like SquareSoft or Bethesda to promote them after the game is finally complete.

The movie does a great job of communicating the passions and frustrations of these game designers. And though I consider myself a life-long gamer (chronologically from Rogue on my first PC in the 80s, to the NES, Sega Genesis, N64, PlayStation 2, and, now, Playstation 3, with plenty of other PC upgrades and games along the way) I never really knew how games like these were made. Indie Game gives you a peak inside that process through interviews with journalists and such indie game luminaries as Phil Fish (Fez), Jonathan Blow (Braid), and Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy). If the creators of Fez and Super Meat Boy are anything like other indie game designers (and I think they are), the process seems to include a lot of late nights, coding, poor nutrition, legal battles, and stress. But they make really cool games.

Watch the trailer to get a feel for the film:

This documentary is about more than the steps it takes to create a independent video game, it’s about gaming as an art form and a way of life. These guys grew up on classic games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the Castlevania series; they want to contribute to the artform that captured their attention as kids. As they attempt to, you can see them struggle with creating just as a writer or painter might. They’re fighting to make their dreams tangible, and then, struggling to accept the opinions of the critics and gamers who suddenly have access to a part of them.

If you’re into gaming as a hobby or a possible career choice, or you just want to watch an interesting documentary, I suggest clicking over to Netflix and giving Indie Game a shot.

Beyond the story that Indie Game tells, there are indie video games themselves–they’re really worth checking out. Most are available as downloadable titles through X-Box Live Arcade, the Playstation Network, and the Wii Shop. X-Box currently has the best lineup of indie titles, but the Playstation Network is offering more all the time.

Indie Game picks:

The Unfinished Swan (platform: PS3)The Unfinished Swan is a videogame about exploring the unknown. The player assumes the role of a young boy chasing after a swan who has wandered off into a surreal, unfinished kingdom. The game begins in a completely white space where players can throw paint to splatter their surroundings and reveal the world around them. [Metacritic]


Journey (platform: PS3) Enter the world of Journey, the third game from indie developers thatgamecompany (creators of “flOw” and “Flower”). Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with others’. You wake alone and surrounded by miles of burning, sprawling desert, and soon discover the looming mountaintop which is your goal. Faced with rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds, your passage will not be an easy one. The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose. Travel and explore this ancient, mysterious world alone, or with a stranger you meet along the way. Soar above ruins and glide across sands as you discover the secrets of a forgotten civilization. [thatgamecompany]


Limbo (platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC) LIMBO, a black and white puzzle-platforming adventure, puts players in the role of a young boy traveling through an eerie and treacherous world in an attempt to discover the fate of his sister.


Braid (platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC) Braid is a puzzle-platformer, drawn in a painterly style, where the player manipulates the flow of time in strange and unusual ways. From a house in the city, journey to a series of worlds and solve puzzles to rescue an abducted princess. In each world, you have a different power to affect the way time behaves, and it is time’s strangeness that creates the puzzles. The time behaviors include: the ability to rewind, objects that are immune to being rewound, time that is tied to space, parallel realities, time dilation, and perhaps more. Braid treats your time and attention as precious; there is no filler in this game. Every puzzle shows you something new and interesting about the game world. Braid is a 2-D platform game where you can never die and never lose. Despite this, Braid is challenging, but the challenge is about solving puzzles, rather than forcing you to replay tricky jumps. Travel through a series of worlds searching for puzzle pieces, then solving puzzles by manipulating time: rewinding, creating parallel universes, setting up pockets of dilated time. The gameplay feels fresh and new; the puzzles are meant to inspire new ways of thinking. [Microsoft]


Super Meat Boy (platform: Wii, XBox 360, PC, iOS) – Super Meat Boy is a tough as nails platformer where you play as an animated cube of meat who’s trying to save his girlfriend (who happens to be made of bandages) from an evil fetus in a jar wearing a tux. [Metacritic]


Fez (platform: XBox 360, PC) This quirky platformer stars a little white creature with a bright red fez. Gomez is a 2D being living in a 2D world. Or is he? When the existence of a mysterious 3rd dimension is unveiled, Gomez embarks on a journey that will usher him to the very end of time and space. Utilize your ability to navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct 2D perspectives. Explore an open-ended world full of secrets, puzzles and hidden treasures. Re-open the mysteries of the past and discover the truth about reality and perception. Alter your perspective and see the world in a different way. [Metacritic]


Happy gaming,

Corey, The Labs @ CLP

Teen Review: The Legend of Zelda™: Symphony of the Goddesses at Heinz Hall

Hi, I’m Henry. Since I was born 16 years ago, my biggest claim to fame has been winning the state geography bee in 2009. I run cross country and track for Seton-La Salle High School. I play trombone in the school’s marching band and am a member of the Mock Trial and Academic Games teams. I like to read the Greeks and Romans, and I love opera.

Heinz Hall: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

As I arrived at Heinz Hall Friday evening, I couldn’t help noticing a number of things I normally do not see here. One of the most conspicuous of these was the select number of the audience who arrived dressed for the occasion in green caps that made them look like as if they were decorations in the spirit of the music we were to hear. All in all, the crowd generally seemed to have been drawn more by the “Zelda” in the title than the “symphony.”

The stage was dominated by a very large screen suspended over the orchestra’s chairs. When the conductor, a Ms. Eí mear Noone began the music, the screen showed screenshots from different games of the Zelda franchise. The images on the screen evoked laughter from time to time among the audience in general, but I, having never played a game in the franchise, was not sure when and why to laugh.

At the beginning of the symphony, I resented the screen as an unnecessary distraction; by intermission, I was curiously mesmerized by it. It was a very different experience from when I’ve been there for more conventional works. I think it would be detrimental to some works whose music is attractive enough to sustain interest (in my case, music of Mozart and his generation); for others which I do not care for as much (e.g., Bruckner, Debussy, Wagner, etc.) it would almost certainly hold my attention better.

The music itself presented, I think, did not need such sideshows. It was, as is much video game music, catchy and facile (in the best sense of that word). The main theme was repeated innumerable times, but not ad nauseam. The style of the music defied categorization, but I would call it modern if I had to call it anything. My personal favorites were the first two movements, which were respectively descriptive of a dungeon and a pastoral village in the universe of Link and Zelda.

In its entirety, I thought the show was better than average, and not merely for the novelty of the staging or the unusual music (or, perhaps, in spite of them). The quality of the music was overall very good, and, as usual, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra showed us the reasons why it is so highly acclaimed.

Teen review: Angles by The Strokes


My name is Isaiah. I go to CAPA for theater, and I guess that’s okay. I do a lot of music stuff outside of school. I play bass and do some rapping too. Also, I’m always up for any review recommendations, so if there’s anything you want me to review, just let me know and I’ll check it out.

Angles by The Strokes

Today I will be reviewing another Strokes album, their brand new one, Angles. Although I have reviewed The Strokes before, I hadn’t gotten into them until right before this album came out, so this sort of was what got me into The Strokes. Today, I think I’ll go track by track because this album has so many different sounds that I couldn’t do it justice by only doing a few.

The first track is called Machu Picchu. I’m really digging the sound of this one, it’s very light-hearted and cool. As I’ve said before I look for the opening track to draw me in and make me want to continue listening to the album which is what this one does.

The next one we hear is the single, Under Cover of Darkness. When reviewing The Strokes in the past I said that they always choose the greatest singles, this still applies here. This is one of my favorites on the album and one of my favorite Strokes song in general. It opens with a very cool and unique sound and as it goes on it just gets better.

The next one is a track called Two Kinds of Happiness. This isn’t my favorite track on the album but it features some of Julian Casablancas best singing I’ve ever heard. And it is far from bad, just not my favorite, still fun to listen to.

The next track is called You’re So Right. This opens with a cool bass line that really adds to the song. One thing that I like is how there are some parts where the bass line (which is really cool in itself) is playing while the guitar is doing some crazy stuff.

The next song is called, Taken For a Fool. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, I’m not sure, there’s just something about it that is really fun to listen to. The chorus is also really good in my opinion, very fun to groove to.

The next track is called Games. It starts off really simple, but then this bass line comes in that really draws the listener in. It then goes to an amplified version of the simple part for the chorus, which is really cool.

The next song is called Call me Back. I’m really digging the tone of this story. It’s a little softer (although The Strokes are far from heavy) and it adds something new the album. It’s also has a good bit of structure, and each piece is really cool, so this is a good one to me.

The next song is called Gratisfaction. Now if you were to ask around this is almost undoubtedly the best song on the album. It’s extremely fun to jam to and if you listen to one song on the album, I say either listen to this, or the single, Under Cover of Darkness.

The next track s called Metabolism, I’m really diggin this one too, the instruments are doing some really cool stuff and the singing goes extremely well and is fun to listen to.

The last song is called, Life is Simple in the Moonlight. This song also has a little bit of a softer tone at first, it doesn’t take away from the song at all though. It leads up to an extremely cool chorus, it’s really fun to listen to.

So all in all I believe this was a really good album, maybe not The Strokes best but still really good. It’s definitely worth checking out and you can of course get it here at the library. So I’ll give Angles a strong 8.5/10.

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