Minecraft: Extreme Tree Farming

Friends, today only I will share with you, at absolutely no charge, my incredible 100% guaranteed four step method for farming trees both awesomely and efficiently. You will be amazed. You will be astounded. You may wish to leave now if you are pregnant or suffer from a heart condition.

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Minecraft, and freaking spiders.

Minecraft has been occupying a lot of my time lately. Describing it succinctly is difficult; I suppose I could say it’s a freeform/sandbox/building/exploring/crafting/resource-gathering game, but I think we passed succinct quite some time ago. Everything is made of blocks, and there are monsters like spiders and skeletons that live in the dark (i.e. in caves, or at night, everywhere). The only real goal is surviving the monsters, but once you have a rudimentary shelter (a hole in the ground or a hollow cube made of dirt will do fine) and some torches to light it with, that becomes pretty trivial, and you can turn your attention to other matters.

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In VVVVVV you play Captain Viridian, whose spaceship has crashed in an alternate dimension, leaving the crew scattered around in need of rescue. It’s your job to go out into the open world (and into its linear ‘dungeon’-like levels) and bring them back, via the time-honoured medium of 2D puzzle/platforming. This is the latest from distractionware (aka Terry Cavanagh), and indeed you might call it his first ‘proper’ game in the sense that it’s quite long and costs money, except that that would be to the disparagement of his earlier free games, which are entirely proper in their own way.

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Paradise Found

Burnout: Paradise is the fifth instalment in Criterion Games’ excellent series of smashy crashy driving games, and it retains the essential elements of the previous games while moving in an interesting new direction. Burnout’s hook has always been fairly simple: it’s not just about racing, it’s about shoving, slamming or casually nudging your opponents into walls, pillars or other cars, resulting in a satisfying slow motion zoom on their twisted wreckage as it slides to a halt or (preferably) describes a graceful parabola off the nearest cliff. Running a rival car off the road like this is called a “takedown”, and performing takedowns (as well as other stunts like driving in the oncoming lane, or drifting around corners) rewards you with Boost, a limited resource which you can use for a bit of extra acceleration when you need it.

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A couple of thoughts on the Tomb Raider: Underworld demo

1. It really feels like Tomb Raider. Awesome scenery, great environmental puzzles, frustrating repetition when you can’t quite figure out what to do next; all that good stuff.

2. Surely there is a point in Archaeology School when somebody says “Do not kick the possibly priceless ancient pots, even if you think there may be an inexplicable first aid kit inside”.

That is all.

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If we learned anything from Portal, it’s how a shorter game can offer as complete and fully realised an experience as a big-budget mainstream title. Perhaps even more so, because it can be tighter and more focused. It can dispense with the need to stretch out its ideas to occupy the 8 – 10 hours considered the mandatory minimum for a full-price game. It can divest itself of any filler and present just its most interesting concepts, allow us to enjoy them only as long as they remain interesting, and then come to a conclusion in its own time, without overstaying its welcome. In Braid, Jonathan Blow has created a game which is the best proponent of this philosophy since Portal itself.

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Another one for the highlight reel

The pre-review-section editorial in this month’s Edge is about, well… what games are about. When they try to be about things. How well they succeed in being about things. Whether they need to be about things at all. Among others, it makes specific mention of Call of Duty 4, and the “uncomfortable line” it walks between trying to show what it’s really like to be a soldier, and entertaining with dramatic set-pieces and tense action.

Obviously, COD4 can’t show us what it’s really like to be a soldier; no game can. There’s no way it can overcome the fact that I’m sitting comfortably on my couch with my Xbox controller in hand, and not lying prone in a roadside ditch in the Middle East with bullets whizzing over my head. So it doesn’t try. It gives me drama, and tension, and spectacle instead. This is all good and right; that’s what I want from it. Most of us want nothing more than this kind of distant simulacrum of soldiering, and the game can’t provide anything like the real experience anyway, so everyone’s happy. Continue reading

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