Sunday, 29 July 2012

BONUS POETRYCAST - Live from Yours and Owls

This was such an amazing night from Yours and Owls, I had to share it. Great poems from Adam Carr, Lorin Reid, Laura Goodin and J.C. Inman. A fantastic song by local artist, Marc Matic at the end as well. Enjoy!
Also you can download it here.

Episode 2 - The Creative Process Podcast: Talkin' with Adam Carr

This week I talk with writer, poet and game developer, Adam Carr.

That's Adam on the left and his game devving brother, Matt, on the right.

This episode's topics include:

Friday, 27 July 2012

Why Day Z is the best zombie game we have...

I was originally going to write an extremely long post creating a romantic work of prose about my adventures in the ARMA2 mod, Day Z but I felt that whilst I enjoyed my adventures, that there was something a lot more fun and interesting that I wanted to discuss about this game and why people are getting such a connection with it.
And so many people to play with...

The original game ARMA2, which oddly enough stands for Armed Assault, was created back in 2009 and before Day Z the most notable mention of the game was the fact someone had used footage from the game to claim it was official IRA terrorist footage for an ITV documentary and that it had some very interesting DRM. This isn't to say the game is bad in any way, it was just not exactly notable. It's hard to compete in the shooter market when everyone is running around and being stupid. ARMA2 is a fantastic tactical shooter akin to the likes of the Operation Flashpoint series but it's great strength was it's focus on realistic gameplay in vast landscapes. This is where DayZ comes in.
And then promptly leaves screaming "Ahhhh Zombies" 
The great enjoyment, if you can call it that, for Day Z is how it starts. You often wake up on the shore, as if dumped off by a secret government boat and then you have to make your way in the world, finding supplies and taking out zombies. Of course, not knowing there are zombies on the island would have been a great way to start the game, but sadly the title ruins it for us.
It could stand for Zebras...

The island itself is the fake post-Soviet nation of Chernarus, which seems to be host to a series of small towns, some farm land, a few major cities and an amazing forest that even the Blair Witch could get lost in. Chernarus is a very lonely little island and it seems to be over run with zombies for no really good reason but this is the final piece of the great zombie puzzle.

Complete ignorance?
It is this immersive landscape and being truly lost is what gets me into the game. Knowing I can go anywhere and do anything and meet anyone and it all matters. There is a level of importance and the fact that it matters that makes it incredibly satisfying when I find a single can of coke or bandages or even a jerry can is indescribable. Of course, I also feel I'm not alone in the experience but see why so many people are enjoying the game, but I did have my doubts, like any wary player of a new game.

The game was purchased for me during the Steam Sale by a very awesome Twitter follower and whilst I didn't think I'd enjoy the game, mainly due to a poor laptop, I eventually found myself really caught up in the atmosphere of the game. An interview on Tuesday night on Australia's favourite game show, Good Game, Dean Hall made an appearance and was more than candid about how the game came about. It was four days after installing the game and hearing Mr. Hall discuss the game made me feel as if people who were really playing the game understood his intention.

New Zealander Hall states in the interview (which you can watch here) that it came from "a real strong interest in the horror genre" and compares it with his experiences in the army. Despite being a game dev, Hall also was briefly in the New Zealand Army and would take his troops out on survival exercises. Hall says that the mod was intended to really "connect with the emotions of the player."

You know...those kind of emotions.

However, DayZ doesn't particulary have a strong story or any story at all, but it's connection with the player that makes it so significant. The actual survival aspect is integral once you realise how easily you can die in the game and also the fact that zombies are not your only threat, everyone else is as well. The ramifications for simply going into a house and finding a stash of goods can have no consequences in other game, maybe a cop or two or someone calling you a criminal scum, but in DayZ, that stash could be somebody else's. Other games deal with consequences in a binary situation but DayZ has so many underlying factors based on complex human interactions that other games and developers only take such situations into account when people complain about the servers.

To be fair, you were trying to set us up the bomb...
Someone who could have a larger weapon. Someone might have some friends. Someone might be running away from zombies and where you are is their safe house. Someone who could actually help you and so DayZ actually feels like a game with consequences and where anything can happen and this is where players get caught up in the game. This is where the memetic and viral stories have come from players from the world over. At the moment, you can log onto the DayZ mod site section and see over eight hundred players in existence and that the current average lifetime of a player is 49 minutes. 

Dean Hall actually notes that zombie games haven't really "delved into...the characters and interactions" and have left the zombie experience "simplified" emotionally. He goes onto add the games focus on "just hero stuff", which I think he means characters who are overpowered or simply don't generate any empathy.  When you know your life is on the line and a single bite could have you run out of blood within minutes or a few shots from another survivor could leave you hurt indefinitely, then your survival instincts kick in. Maybe you can't make it to the next town, maybe you won't see one for ages and ages, maybe this is where you die. Of course, this is all comes from Halls' Permadeath function which was influenced from his army training. He would often create tactical simulations where ever move could lead to death or create problems for your troop.

You got the safety on, right?

However, the origins of DayZ isn't just all Kiwi tactics but also set in film. Hall talks in the interview about the interview he feels from watching zombie films and how he "gets angry at a character" when they do something stupid or sad when they die. Bringing it back to the Western origins of zombies, the three original Romero "Dead" Trilogy is the high school education for most people getting into the zombie mythos and a cinematic nihilistic look into human interaction. While the DayZ zombies are faster, especially once they have the sound of "human" ringing in their ears, it follows more the human side rather than the dead human side in it's survival and mechanics.

All Chernarus needs is a mall
If you've ever seen any of the original films, you'll know that you easily get caught up in the drama and the characters due to the helplessness of the scenario. Most zombie films have this sense of foreboding or doom and gloom, which has you thinking anyone could die at any moment. However, as the genre evolved and more people got bent on zombie films being pieces of action cinema rather than horror, it became more and more obvious who was going to die.

...or why they won't die faster in the second season.

The situational and trope conditions are what remain in DayZ. Hall is also not afraid to make mistakes and look into actually developing the game into something greater as the year lurches onward. A lot of people have been saying the game is too hard or that it is really hard to get into, but that is how it was made. It goes against the usual design principles of video games where they slowly hold the hand of the player through the controls and the scenario before they're comfortable to take the training wheels off.

It appears as though Hall is approaching the mod, not from traditional game aesthetics, but his own experiences, as well as from the classic zombie cinematic genre. You have to go your own way and make your own decisions. No one is here to tell you what to do and at times it is liberating. When regarding the difficulty of the game, Hall says "people are calling the game hardcore, but for me, that's real life!" He compares the fact that most games are heroes, but we're not heroes, "we don't matter to the world, if we're not there, it's like you know, whatever." 

Words of a true game dev.
I mean, DayZ is not perfect by any means. It has a lot of textual bugs, a few errors, servers are often full or take a long time to load, but I'll save that for another day. But DayZ has all of the beginnings of an amazing game that if you put in the time and effort, you will get a lot out of the experience, especially with friends.

Day Z or as I call it, Consequences with Friends!

It's the fact that anyone could die at any moment. It's the choices of whether you die of starvation or a bite or thirst or simply being gunned down crossing a courtyard. DayZ is the real zombie survival experience people have wanted for a long time and it took the mechanics of army survival, the engine of a tactical shooter and the heart of New Zealander to get the game finally made. 

You can follow me on Twitter or send me an email and we can play DayZ or talk more about vidya.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

How The Shire is fixing Australian TV

During my travels in Finland, I found myself keeping up to date with everything I could via Twitter and Mainly because I don't speak Finnish, the news was easier to swallow and a lot easier to read on my phone or laptop but my favourite international news experience was when The Shire was trending for the full six hours I was in Tampere.

Yes, I know with sites like this, I shouldn't have been on Twitter and enjoying my holiday.
It originally started when I arrived and found a quick Wi-Fi spot whilst waiting to be served for train tickets and it ended when I checked into an American Steakhouse shortly before heading to Helsinki. Despite the fact I had thought the show was cancelled indefinitely due to the negative backlash of both, the community it was portraying and from entertainment critics alike, The Shire seemed to continue like a Rhinoceros with a head injury.

The Blind Side is da best movei evaraaaar!!!!!1111!?#1!

However, the initial reaction was incredibly negative on both Twitter and Facebook, which made me believe that there may be humanity left in the TV viewing population. At the time of the original airing, I checked Facebook to see two of my friends liking a Facebook post along the lines of "Getting this fuckin shit of my telly", which had a total of over a thousand thumbs up. Actually looking at the official Facebook page for The Shire, there are over fifty thousand people talking about it, but less than ten thousand actually like the show.

I'm sure more people like Question Time than The Shire

The first series of articles seemed to come across in only a negative light but a few more people have been opening up to the show in the past forty eight hours. I finally got to watch an episode and whilst I missed the pilot, I don't think I missed much. To sum up the show, I've never seen such a pure and more concentrated form of vapidity and mediocrity in my life. The amount of skewed morals, meanings and mentoring which takes place in a single episode, is not only frustrating but also inspiring.

Dude, she'd be hawt with Botox

The show's style is not your typical reality show, as the camera switches between carefully prepared situational shots and one on one interviews. For those who initially compared the show to that of MTV's Jersey Shore or the UK's The Only Way is Essex, the similarities could stop from minute one. The show is more akin to Home and Away and it's melodramatic style of storytelling and it's simplistic storylines keeps it in the running for a soap opera category, over light or reality entertainment.

...because there is no unintentional comedy category.

But before I get into why the show is inspiring for aspirational TV writers and TV critics, I will mention the people to blame, Shine Australia. They'd had runaway successes in the last half a decade with shows such as the Australian adaptations of The Voice and The Biggest Loser and The Shire seems like one of their first pieces of original programming, despite the similarities to other formats. I think Shine has made good products in the past and probably at the time of the first unveiling of The Shire, they'd already sunk too much money into it to not run it, but I do wonder how the pitch for that show went down.

So the monkeys are...outside the zoo?

Actually oddly enough if you go to Shine Australia official website, there is not a single mention of The Shire whatsoever. And this is where things get interesting. It seems like everyone wants to distance themselves from the show, excluding the stars. I say stars, but they're more like burnt out lights on a Christmas tree, trying to flicker and stay on, but eventually will be trashed or broken before the week is through. The online reaction is incredibly negative, but it's not just from critics like it usually is, it's from the generation and people who the show is meant to be connecting with and that's what is so positive.

...okay, not that positive.

We've seen the nature of where celebutants like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian end up with their famously  TV abbreviated lives and I think Australian audiences, both young and old are not having a bite of it. Taking a look at a great article by TV critic Michael Idato, recaps the show but also let's us in on the ratings for The Shire. He states in an audio recording that the show debuted last week with a pretty nifty amount of people, close to a million and this week, the ratings dropped significantly after people turned over after Masterchef. The show garnered 1.5 million initially, but then things got really bad when the true figures were to be revealed around 750 000.

Which means, more people have seen this than The Shire...which is great.

This is showing a great sliding progression that hopefully will not pick up next week. This is apart of an everchanging cycle of television as we have to remember that Jersey Shore has been running for almost four years and has even spawned a spinoff, The Shire would be lucky to have an episode five. I think the show has more relations to the idiotically popular The Hills, in both style and substance. The Hills ran for six seasons and often focused on the lives of their characters in more of a plot-driven style rather than, let's wait and see who falls over drunkenly first.

Artist Rendering of their Facebook page

Either way, Australian audiences are turning off The Shire and Idato mentions that Australia isn't used to this "soft script" style. I also think the audience it was aimed at was a bit too media savvy to not know when they were being fed something that clearly was not a reality show, at least not in style. Another great article from writer Helen Razer pointed out, regarding the show's backlash that it was "easy to call it 'shallow'...'stupid..." and making fun of "so-called 'bogan'", but the fact remains that "being a snob about The Shire and the people it purports to represent is win-win for critics: it requires no intellectual strain AND it makes us seem especially clever." It makes us feel good to hate this show and that I was initially afraid that people may be hate-watching and hate-tweeting, but with such a drop, I think that the future of Australian TV really is in the hands of the people.

This is why we can't have nice things...

With everything said and done, The Shire did end up 7th on last night's ratings and was sadly probably watched, tweeted and hated a lot more than rank number 19, Q and A. Australian TV isn't bad, it can get better, we just need to watch less of this and more of other things...or someone from TV Land needs to contact me. I got a great pitch about a monkey who spends thirteen weeks living with a typical dysfunctional Australian family.

You can follow me on Twitter and we can talk about The Shire too.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Creative Process Podcast - Episode 1: 50 Shades of A Dark Knight

Welcome to the first episode of the inconsistent podcast on popular culture: The Creative Process. The first episode is fairly loud, because I forgot to adjust the audio. So just a heads up...also massive spoiler warning here for Batman Begins, The Prestige, Breaking Bad, Star Wars Trilogy and of course, The Dark Knight Rises

On the Creative Process, we talk about and review The Dark Knight Rises

The hype surrounding 50 Shades of Grey

The Not-So Amazing Spider-man

Breaking Bad Season 5

and a few other things.

By other things, I mean Marion Cotillard's rack
More awesome things after the jump...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Steam Summer Sale Day 06 - Two Sentence Review Guide

I finally made it to Turkey this evening and found a lovely bit of internet that I can use to my heart's content. Speaking of content, more games are on sale and today's haul is pretty awesome.

Okay...maybe not that awesome.

Front Page Deals:
War Game European Escalation: Finally a game based around the high prices of escalator production companies and the war they waged on high prices. European Escalation is a unique strategy game with a large arsenal of missions and weaponry, I doubt you'll get bored.
9 tiger tanks out of 10
Price: $20.00

I cannot believe they deleted this scene from Die Hard 2

An Open Letter to the Best Western Hotel Pilotti, Vantaa

To Whom It May Concern,
 I recently stayed at the Best Western in Vantaa, close to the Helsinki Airport in Finland. I had an amazing time in Finland. Met some relatives, saw the sights, made some friends, learnt the language, got a bruise from an amusement park ride and got to see what Finland really is all about. I was there for two weeks and sadly the 15 hours I spent in your hotel was the lowest point I spent in your hotel.

I realise how ridiculous and stupid it is posting something like this online. It's a super first world problem to complain about any sort of luxury and I think hotels definitely included in that category, especially chain hotels. I'm not a geriatric, I'm not someone who writes letters to editors, but I am someone who believes in good service. I arrived at your hotel around seven in the evening, which in the Finnish daylight, looks like an average autumn afternoon. Your shuttle bus driver was more than kind and friendly and helpful and I wish, at the time, I had Euro to give him for a tip. The problems began at the front desk. There was an attendant or staff member there who was not exactly helpful during our check-in. I asked some simple question and he referred us to the usual Hotel manual that comes with every hotel room. I was tired and understood the situation but still I asked him another question and he honestly couldn't answer it.

Even if you were hot or new, I could understand, but this was ridiculous
It wasn't a language barrier issue as he was wearing a tag that, I assumed, meant he would be fluent in English and Finnish, or he was a British ex-pat. It was late and maybe he had been there for a twelve-hour shift, I shrugged, asked for the Wi-Fi password, got our suitcases and headed upstairs. Upon opening the door, we were welcomed with a warm climate and a TV that had been left on and was quite loud. I turned it straight off and found the nearest window. Again, shrugged and moved on.

...then promptly opened the window and stepped outside.
I always love reading the hotel room manuals. It's like getting an instruction manual for a room, which is rare unless you go to IKEA. Alas, it was unable to be seen and I was quite disappointed as one would like to know if there is a room service number just in case one gets incredibly lazy and can't walk down the hallway to the restaurant,. Again, shrug, move on.

Do you know how fucking comforting this thing is?

But here's the real kick in the dick. I tried the wireless internet your hotel provided and found on multiple occasions to get barely a signal. I became incredibly frustrated finding any point in the room which would provide a better Wi-Fi signal. Eventually, I gave up when I found two bars when I sat down to write my Steam Sale blog post. It was a fruitless endeavour that I eventually compensated with giving up and having dinner with my loving girlfriend. After a lovely meal, we returned to the room where the highlight of the night was watching the 2001 Chris Klein movie Say It Isn't So, with Finnish subtitles and showing my girlfriend one of the lamps had dangerously frayed wires.

Underrated, even without the Finnish subtitles.

Now, it wasn't all bad, I'll give you that. The beds were the most comfortable sleep I've had in quite a while, the food in the restaurant and breakfast buffet were amazing and the girl who served us was the kindest and sweetest waitress I'd seen my entire time in Finland. However, I have to say, I specifically chose your hotel for three reasons. Proximity to the airport, due to a flight, breakfast buffet and wireless internet. Whilst you hit a home run with the second, the first and third were a bit of an issue. I did state before I was more than pleased with getting from the airport to the hotel, however, getting from the hotel to the airport was met with a compromise.

The tigers...they were the compromise.

The airport shuttle runs between the mid afternoon and nine in the morning. That's all well and fine for all those who were coming and going in between those times, but it's ridiculous to shut it off between nine in the morning and in the afternoon. They have to be your busiest hours, non? I understand this is more of a subjective issue, but I just found it frustrating but also relieving in possibly the cruelest way possible. We had a flight leaving at 1pm and wanted to be there at 11am, so we decided to shrug and take the high road by just leaving at 9.

...and I fucking stole everything.

I found the Wi-Fi and my enjoyment levels waiting for two hours to check in for a flight, more enjoyable than most of my stay at your hotel. I would have rather taken that early bus and gone to the airport, than waited the two extra hours in that room. Of course, this is clearly due to my Dopamine levels linked to internet communication, but still, I thought it was something to take into consideration.

I'm also into Firewire...

I may or may not ever stay at a Best Western again, but I know where I won't be staying. Thank you anyone reading this. I am currently in a hotel room in Turkey, naked, with air-conditioning, amazing internet and a hotel manual, ready to enjoy myself for two days and nights, all for half the price I paid at the Best Western Hotel Pilotti in Vantaa, Finland
Harrison Engstrom*

*I write this purely from my own hands and my girlfriend didn't want any say in it.

Share all your bad holiday stories in the comments or tell me on Twitter

Addendum: Since posting this, as you can see in the comments, my post was taken into consideration and I do have to say, whilst I did not enjoy my time at the Best Western Hotel Pilotti, still think of it as an option and maybe call or send an email to their staff if you have time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Steam Summer Sale - Day 05 Two Sentence Review Guide

So I checked into the hotel next to the airport near Helsinki and have found the Wi-Fi to be quite poor, so today's post will be a lot shorter and possibly less funny. Overnight there were some great deals on Fallout New Vegas but it's gone a little bit higher to $23.99. As stated on every post, the prices may vary due to regional difference, but my thoughts about them are all the same.

The thought being: Ben Croshaw is better at being humourously mean than I am

Front Page Deals:
Metro 2033: A game that deals with the very realistic fear of public transportation in a crowded future? This post-apocalyptic world sim is quite atmospheric, but I'd wait until the sequel, Metro Last Light to be released, or just pay a little more and get S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
7 Giger Counters out of 10.
Price: $2.49

Come for the radioactive fallout, stay for the mutation.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations or the other AssCreed games: Go here, kill this, mention historical reference and then remember you're in a simulator. This historical learn'em up is quite popular and it's easy to see why; people like the word ass.
7 popular franchises out of 10
Price: $13.59

Ancient Heimlich maneuver, GO!

Indie Bundle V: Whether you're traversing your music in Audiosurf, traversing the galaxy of Gemini Rue, destroying the earth in Greed Corp, the narratively sound Tiny Bang Story and the mispronunciation of Ys, you're bound to have a great time with this bundle. Audiosurf is the clear winner here, just for replayability, but the rest are equally fun and will give you plenty of time when you're not playing Audiosurf.
5 out of 5 games in an indie bundle
Price: $9.99

This is how Rush used to compose music

Age of Empires III: An amazing series really hit a high point when they added the incremental value of the previous title. With a great interface, amazing graphics and the same old gameplay, Age of Empires III will surely delight people who liked Age of Empires II.
3 out of 3 Age of Empires
Price: $9.24

Knight of the Old Republic: Sadly, this game doesn't have a Han Solo dancing, but it does have a good storyline, fun gameplay and an enjoyable experience. Knights of the Old Republic may have been the last good Star Wars game and hopefully it doesn't stay that way.
9 "I hate you"'s out of 10
Price: $2.24

Men of War and Men of War:Vietnam : I think this game is like, completely sexist, because there were like women in war as well and it's a shame they don't get shown here, like seriously. Men of War is a great strategy game, if you're a guy or whatever, but women might want to try somewhere else.
8 Feminist pigs out of 10
Price: $7.49

Dear Esther:
Dear Steam,
This was originally a Half Life 2 mod, then Indie Fund game it some money and now it's an indie hit.
A pretty good storyline with some mixed gameplay.
9 bills out of 10 letters.
Price: $1.99

Iron Front: Liberation 1944: Even though the war lasted an extra year, Iron Front wanted to just tell you about the people who were liberated a year before. Between some interesting strategic gameplay and your usual war story, is a lot of fun to be had here, even without a metal codpiece.
8 iron wool's out of 10
Price: $19.99

RAGE: You might.
6 failed projects out of 10
Price: $16.99

Activision Hits Pack: A blur between the gun and the prototype, some packs rise above the call of duty and the singularity of the entire collection transforms into something amazing. TimeShift and Vampire Bloodlines are good too.
3 good games out of 10
Price: $49.99

Kalypso Pack: Tropico 3 and 5 are the real reason why  you know about Kalypso Games, but did you know they have other games? I haven't played them but they're bound to be pretty good, right?
8 clueless reviewers out of 10
Price: $49.99

Bethesda Pack: New Vegas and Skyrim, that's all you need to know. I mean, there are a few awesome DLC packs and Brink, but you know, New Vegas and Skyrim.
9 DLC packs out of 10
Price $49.99

Flash Sales:
F.E.A.R series: Somewhere between the jump scares and the sci-fi fan fiction, F.E.A.R was a good game. Sadly, two sequels, good graphics and a lot of mediocrity haven't saved it either; go play Amnesia.
5 "Did you see that's" out of 10
Price: $4.99

Cave Story: An unending series of caves, a cute story and some amazing graphics save this indie title from being just your run of the mill platformer. Cave Story is an underrated jewel in the indie crown and at this price, it's hard to pass up.
10 awwww's out of 10.
Price: $2.49

Fable III: If you love undelivered promises and mucking around in a medieval village, then Fable III is up your alley. Between poor game design choices and a stunning voice cast, Fable is like a sultry, gorgeous sounding phone sex worker who doesn't know how to have phone sex.
5 Peter Molyneux brains out of 10
Price: $9.99

Oh and the Community Choice was Red Faction Guerrilla or Mars Terrorist Simulator 3000. The game is so much explosive fun, that if you don't already own the THQ Collection, this is a must buy.

I will probably add pictures later because I have to catch a flight in less than 12 hours, but thank you, every single one, who read this. Share it around, I hope you can have a laugh and enjoy some games.

Follow me on Twitter :)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Steam Summer Sale Day 04 - Two Sentence Review Guide

Well, it looks like the new day has dawned and that the sun still shines gracefully on the houses of the world's gamers. Of course, they'll probably never experience that sun, unless they have a summer job and have to venture out into the world and feel the sweat of a good day's work on their brow. I salute you brave ladies and gents who are working for your weekend, while I spend the last few days of my holiday organising a trip between Tampere and Helsinki. Now, let's see what Steam hath in store for us. Again, I think it goes without saying, prices may vary due to regional difference.
Regional Difference, like how Finland depicts their historical wars.

Now we have the front page deals starting with some great 2012 releases at amazing prices.
Trine 2: Try and try again, Trine has shown to be a truly interesting game that you can just revel in it's background and level design. The game's elemental gameplay creates a wide array of useful puzzles that outshine the usual platforming adventure and make for a truly magical experience.
9 fiery puzzles out of 10
Price: $3.24 (Collector's Edition: $4.99)

Hot damn! Dat art!

The Waking Dead: Based on the incredibly frustrating TV series and amazing graphic novel, The Walking Dead is more story zombie-based rather than your usual "aim for the head" malarky. The game sets an even pace of great action sequences, good storytelling and point and click gameplay from Telltale; must buy for fans.
9 lurching creatures out of 10.
Price: $14.99

Zombies in a video game? What an absurd notion!

Cities XL 2012: Based on the series Cities XXL, this game has been sized down from the super-computer port, which was clearly the better of the two. Cities XL is like Sim City, if you got bored of playing Sim City 3000 and then went on to actually play a good city building game.
9 "Why did you put that there's" out of 10
Price: $9.99

Scenery Porn to your heart's content...all made by you!

Indie Bundle IV: With every new day, a new indie bundle and this one does not disappoint at all with each game. The windswept visuals and gameplay of Valley without Wind, the careful planning and smashing gameplay of Atom Zombie Smasher, the sidescroller mattering of The Blocks That Matter, the sanctimonious  and strategy of Sanctum and finally, the magically musical of Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP.
9 carefully placed blocks out of 10
Price $9.99

Choosing who lives and who a sweet surfer soundtrack.

Mount and Blade Collection: If you love mounting things or sharp objects, this is the collection for you. Between taking the swords and experience of your fallen enemies or catching the next ride to the kingdom, Mount and Blade is ready for your purchasing.
9 mounted horses with blades for hooves out of 10
Price: $8.74

This is the last time I do a flash mob!

Serious Sam 3: There is no more serious fun to be had than with Serious Sam 3. Whilst some of the more previous incarnations are more ridiculous, Sam's exploits here are always tongue-in-cheek and ready to mock the current generation of gaming; no one is safe, not even you.
9 Serious Faces out of 10
Price: $9.99

Gigantic pink scorpion: Not included in legit version.

Darkness II: Jackie Estacado is back for dark revenge in this dark sequel to the dark game based on the dark comic book series by dark comic publishers Top Cow. The game has some truly gory, fun and a great tragic narrative that will keep you entertained, probably just as much as the original.
9 Simple Plan CD's out of 10
Price: $12.49's getting crowded in here.

Hitman: Blood Money: In the popular series based around a balding man who's had too much fun in his life named Agent 47, you take out people in either really cool or boring ways. Setting traps in people's soups or simply walking into a market and snapping someone's neck, it's your choice on how you want people to die, regardless of the overarching storyline.
9 piano wires out of 10.
Price: $2.49

Who was I meant to kill again?

Saints Row the Third:  Do everything. Have Fun.
10 naked women firing shark guns into rooftop crowds out of 10.
Price: $7.49

Careful, they're furries!

Now for the usual flash sales that will probably be a lot more expensive by the time this goes live
Magicka: One of the most fun "Diablo-like" games that won't take a lot of your money and leave you sad and poorer, like Diablo 3. Magicka has a wicked sense of humour and some expansion packs I highly suggest you get, especially the one about Vietnam.
10 screaming elves out of 10
Price: $2.49 (Collectors Edition: $7.50)

Yeah, it's just that awesome.

QUBE: If you're looking for a puzzle game with some great ambient music and a cool way to play, you could buy Portal or Portal 2 and turn the voices and subtitles off, but QUBE is great too. QUBE is a genuinely amazing game and one of the great games funded by Indie Fund and deservedly so.
9 weird hands moving balls out of 10.
Price: $3.49

Seriously, bro, stop touching my balls with your weird hands.

Microsoft Flight Collection: Buy expansion packs, fly around. The original game is free-to-play but the expansion packs including flying over Hawaii and Alaska in a P-40...whatever that is.
8 planes, not crashing out of 10
Price: $15.63

Holy fuck, that reminds me! I have to catch two planes this week.

Killing Floor: If you're think Left 4 Dead sounds too American and isn't scary enough, Killing Floor is here to save the day. With a truly industrial and gory feel to it, Killing Floor is the co-op horror game for fans of Clive Barker or Slipknot.
Price: $4.49 (Collection: $6.24)


And now for some expensive Packs that you're more than likely get and only play a few games from.
The THQ Pack: Holy crap, there is a lot here. Everything from the confronting S.T.A.L.K.E.R, the strong strategy of Company of Heroes and the unfathomable fun of Saints Row the Third; go for it!
9 really good games out of 10.
Price: $49.99

Why not Zoidberg?

The Ubisoft Collection: Between some indie classics and some amazing new IP's, Ubisoft has proven time and time again that creativity is their strong suit. With the insanely fun, From Dust, the incredibly popular Assassin's Creed, the relatively stupid but awesome Driver San Francisco, there is so much to enjoy here for the price of just one game.
9 French guys out of 10.
Price: $49.99

See that lava? You control....all of that!

The Squenix Collection: Despite the fact you can play Final Fantasy III on your Android for just under $20, Square Enix still has some awesome games to try out on Steam that aren't RPG's. Quantum Conundrum, Just Cause 2 and Thief are all here and worth the price of admission, not to mention the Tomb Raider titles, because they're not worth mentioning.
9 exploding planes crashing into helicopters out of 10
Price: $49.99

Just Cause 2: This all the time, plus grappling hook. It's like being Batman on a tropical island.
So I hope you're all enjoying the sale, I actually spent all my money on this current trip and will need a real job when I get back, but hey there will always been Steam Summer Sales.

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