This week's playlist sees Nick prove he's a savant at collectible card games, Steve introduces the team to the most ridiculously addictive game on the internet, Jeremy stares at kids in Bioshock Infinite, and Tim's been dabbling with the mods in Portal 2.
Jeremy Peel - BioShock Infinite
As I stumble blithely down the deserted streets of an apparently idyllic Columbia on my way to the annual Raffle and Fair, I stop to observe two Madame Tussauds children playing in the street. Rooted to the spot, one boy, one girl, these animatronic natives are locked in a perpetual game of rock, paper, scissors. Together, the pair rhythmically count their way through the ancient playground ritual, before revealing what they’re packing. The boy: scissors. The girl: rock. The boy groans and shakes his head, and his conqueror is momentarily wracked with mocking laughter.
She does this every time, like the eagle that eats Prometheus’ liver, day after day.
I know it’s entirely unfair to fault a tiny scene-setting gesture like this. The two children serve their purpose as the player passes through - like the breathtaking acapella rendition of God Only Knows that had literally floated by moments earlier, or the whale that briefly obscures the view from the bathysphere on the way down to Rapture.
But I can’t help but wonder at this $100m, five-year production that reportedly required the work of 200 men and women to complete. Was this little pantomime the sole contribution of some junior animator? Or were they also responsible for the looped water fight that goes on in the next street? Or for the man sitting on the shop steps who pulls his left leg up to rest on his right knee, before allowing it to fall back to the ground again?
I’m incredibly grateful for BioShock Infinite, and to 2K for bankrolling it. I’m completely in awe of the amount of effort that’s clearly been poured into every aspect of its being. But there’s something about those static locals in the opening hour that has me pondering the craft that’s gone into that sense of place, rather than simply absorbing it.
Steve Hogarty - Candy Box!
At least, I think it’s called Candy Box. That’s what it says at the top of the browser tab that’s been open on my desktop for four days straight now. Candy Box is game in which you collect candies. You can eat all the candies or throw the candies on the ground. As you collect candies, well, stuff happens. Stuff happens and it’s good. Please play Candy Box. candies.aniwey.net
Tim Edwards: Portal 2
An entirely made up fact: if you were to lay every Portal 2 puzzle shared on the Steam Workshop in a line, you'd be able to puzzle your way to Alpha Centauri. Another one: there are more Portal 2 levels being added to the Steam Workshop every day than pages created on wikipedia.
What I'm trying to say: there are an astonishing amount of levels on the Portal 2 workshop, and I've been playing them on and off all week. And I don't think I've come close to scratching the surface.
Thankfully, Portal 2 has the best integration of mod packs I've ever seen in a game: it will helpfully queue up new levels for you and download them as you play, presenting you with an endless line of gaps to traverse, puzzles to complete, and turrets to foil. The game will string together a playlist, arranged by the best rated and/or most popular levels, and leave you to it. The rooms are out of context, wildly creative, and easily the equal of those built by Valve.
I think it's an amazing bit of tech, married to a near perfect set of game mechanics. This weekend is a bank holiday in the UK. If you find yourself itching for something to do, let Portal 2 arrange your playtime.
Nick Wilson - Magic the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
It’s my fifth turn and my ingenious plan is set into motion. I lay down another Island, a card that supplies me with one blue mana which is used to cast creatures and spells. Along with my other Islands I then put Panoptic Mirror onto the battlefield. My opponent stops the timer, obviously assessing what this card does and whether they need to counter it (if they have a counterspell). It resolves, and I’m one turn away from victory.
I pass the turn, having no mana available to cast anything else and only a lone Fog Bank on the battlefield to defend myself. My opponent then plays a Primordial Hydra, a card that doubles in power on each of my opponents turn. I would be able to fend it off with my Fog Bank, but as soon as it reaches ten power it gains trample, allowing any damage over my Fog Banks measly two toughness to hit my life total.
It’s my turn, and the moment of truth is at hand. I activate Panoptic Mirror and spend five mana, selecting the card Time Warp. The card is the exiled from my hand, and imprinted onto Panoptic Mirror. This means that when it’s my next turn I can cast Time Warp for free, giving myself another turn. On that extra turn, I can then cast Time Warp again.
I would gain infinite turns.
I pass the turn, crossing my fingers that my opponent doesn’t have a way to destroy my Panoptic Mirror. He was playing a green deck, which is brimming with big and powerful creatures. The only card that I knew of that would foil my plans was Indrik Stomphowler. Upon entering the battlefield he could destroy my Panoptic Mirror and prevent me from executing my plan.
I let out a deep sigh, as they lay down a Terra Stomper. It’s a scary card indeed, and has that trample to get through my Fog Bank. However creatures that have just entered the battlefield suffer from “Summoning Sickness”, which prevents them from attacking that turn. He attacks with his Primordial Hydra, but because it’s only a 4/4, it is blocked entirely by my Fog Bank.
It’s now my turn: forever.
I takes my opponent time to figure it out, typing to me in match chat as to why it isn’t their turn yet. I explain, to which I’m given a ceremonious “gg”. I draw cards quickly to finish him off, pulling a ton of flying creatures that bypass all of his creatures.
The match came to a close, and I felt spectacular.