The Rear-View Mirror: Shadow of the Colossus and Psychonauts (2005)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Video games are the cosplayers of modern media. They like to dress up as other media, in particular movies and comic books. Look at the biggest-selling games of almost any year and you’re likely to see games dressed up as Michael Bay movies or as the latest Marvel extravaganza. In some ways early video games had more of a unique voice, not least aesthetically, because when you’ve got pixels the size of pomegranates and harsh bleeps and bloops it’s futile to try and look like a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick. There was an abstraction to the classics, the Space Invaders and Pac-Men of yore, that came with technical limitations. At least since the modern days of real-time 3D graphics, and especially in the last ten years, video games have come to look less and less like abstract art and more like what we see at the cinema, a big bucket of popcorn in our lap.

Space Invaders
Continue reading

Habemus PS3…

… and a stomach bug brought home from Egypt. All in glorious HD.

So why have I, a stalwart PC gamer (with a PS2 obtained originally for entirely academic purposes, I swear!), got myself one of those newfangled PS3 Slims? Two reasons, really: 1) Blu-rays and 2) The Last Guardian. Obviously I had more reasons than that, but they’re the main ones.

1) When we originally got digital TV, I was told that our connection was fast enough for HD channels. And yes, it was pretty glorious (in a nerdy way) to be able to record and watch both volumes of Kill Bill in high-def. Even boring old football (that’s “soccer” for y’all yanks out there) just popped off the screen in a way that made it watchable. For five minutes. At most. But you could see every blade of grass, and every pore on people’s faces! (Makes you feel all Walt Whitmanesque…)

But then our digital connection was downgraded. Why? They couldn’t tell; in fact, they were pretty mystified why I’d been told to begin with that the connection was fast enough. Guess I imagined all those red pixels in Kill Bill

In any case, yesterday we watched our first complete Blu-ray disk, Sunshine. To paraphrase another brainy sci-fi flick, “My god, it is full of details.” While I still have problems with the film’s ending, this visually stunning film becomes doubly so in HD. Almost makes you want to dive into the sun yourself… in a good way.

(If you’re interested in seeing a good comparison of DVD vs. Blu-ray, check out this YouTube video. Make sure to watch it in HQ though.)

2) This one is a bit more esoteric, perhaps. Two of my favourite games on the PS2 are called ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, and they may just be the main reasons why I got the PS2 to begin with. I was writing a paper on games as art (Et tu, Roger?), and both of these seemed to fit the bill, combining subtle storytelling, beautiful art direction and gameplay in ways that few other games have managed. The developer’s new project is called The Last Colossus, and the trailers definitely have left me more than curious: