Faint heart, strong ambition

Vice is not a comedy. It’s not a drama either. It has platypus-like qualities, so it’s probably best to describe it as a mash-up of a Michael Moore style documentary and a bumpy farce with a very talented cast. It’s bumpy because it not only jumps around in time, attributes real footage of carpet bombing to Cheney’s daydreams, and suddenly lets fake credits roll at half-time, but also because it’s almost as eclectic as Adam McKay’s earlier opus The Big Short. Consider the scene in which Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) recite from Macbeth in their bed. That’s funny, with an undercurrent of dread. Continue reading

Psychotic dentists, mutated lungfish and a turtle named Mr. Pokeylope

You may already have gathered this, but in case you haven’t I have a confession to make. It’s one of my dirty little secrets.

I re-read books. And not only that: I also re-watch films. And, horror of horrors, I re-play games. Old games that have fewer pixels than Dick Cheney has had ethical thoughts. Games that require an hour or two of fiddling with Windows, downloading fan patches and editing game code in order to work on a 21st century operating system.

Of course I don’t replay any and every game I’ve ever played. Your run-of-the-mill first-person shooter is unlikely to get much of a repeat performance with me, unless it’s got that certain je ne sais quoi and is called Half-Life 2, I guess. (Or No One Lives Forever, or Call of Duty 2. For some reason, though, I didn’t even properly finish Doom 3 once.) Just like the films and books I enjoy more than once, some games are so good at telling a story and pulling you into their world, whether this is because of the gameplay or the writing, that I can’t resist revisiting them.

Psychonauts is definitely one of those games. It’s one of the most inventive, best written video games I know, and funny to boot. It’s also one of those rare cases where the gameplay itself is fun but not all that special – but once you combine it with everything else, the game becomes that oldest of chestnuts: more than the sum of its parts.

It’s the sheer exuberant imagination of the minds the game visualises: the paranoid delusions of the Milkman Conspiracy (and its wonderfully off-the-wall G-Men), the monster-movie inspired Lungfishopolis, the many other minds that form the basis for the game’s level. And the often inspired voice work is still among the most perfect in the videogame industry.

Differently from many of the other classic games I replay (or hope to, if I ever find the time), Psychonauts is still available (there’s no need to get it for lots of dough on eBay), namely on Steam. I don’t often do such blatant plugs on my blog, but this game is worth it.