Monday, July 30, 2012

ResidualVm ist Krieg

A few years back, my iMac G5 died its fifth and final death. Some of the unit's unique, proprietary parts were plagued with bad transistors which lasted maybe eighteen months at a time. Thanks to my ludicrous commute eating most financial resources, I snagged a fairly weak Dell a friend cast aside. Sure, the "futuristic" case looked cool but it required a custom-molded motherboard with on board CPU and sound. So I maxed out the RAM for $40.00 and settled down with XP since the idea of going 64-bit with something that permanently weak was pretty ludicrous. My major consolation for this was the fact I had Windows98 compatibility mode and could attempt playing Grim Fandango.
Of all the Lucasarts adventure games, that one achieved the greatest mystique. Many hyped it as the best game of its genre ever made. Few were able to get it running with the sort of stability needed for a complete play through. By the time my copy became un-lost, even the aforementioned weak P. (O. S.) C. was a bit too powerful and experienced game killing graphical bugs. Thankfully, some dedicated folks have made major progress with ResidualVM and GF is completable with some minor bugs.
For some folks out there, the major "bug" in the game is the control scheme. While still an adventure game with all the puzzles that moniker implies, Grim Fandango isn't point and click. If you want to try stuffing a balloon into something, you need to pull it out of your pocket, walk over to the desired vessel, and issue the command. The game helps a bit by automatically inclining main character Manuel Calavera's head towards usable objects. However, you've still got the standard early-3D gaming tank-like molasses movement to contend with. I found things a bit clunky but intuitive enough to not skip game play in favor of watching the cut scenes online.
A nice part of having some semblance of stability back is the fact one can pause to admire the art direction. Characters and scenery are an amazing combination of Calaca figures, other Aztec afterlife-inspired traditions, and film-noir. Voice acting is so well done you can feel Manny's pain as a friend dies while still admiring the beauty of the flowers sprouting through their skeletal forms which signal their second deaths. In my experience, it's rare to find a videogame world that's beautiful, immersive, witty, strange, yet fairly logical. I'd love to not be one of those moderately annoying Tim Schafer fan boys. However, this game explains why he's their Jesus and then some.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Treehouse Brewing Co: Making it Hard to be a Cynical Douche Since 2012

It's easy to become a cynical douche if you like craft beer. There are entirely too many people in the scene likely to feel intense pride in making a Hill Farmstead bottle release event even at the price of stealing the family car before dawn thus forcing their first born to miss dialysis. Shaun makes some great brews. It's a rare treat for me to get them. However, it feels wrong to not call my brother and share the "wealth" when it happens. For me, beer should enhance life not completely dominate it.Semi-sadly (for my liver at least), annoyance at the idiocy and elitism are over ridden by places like Treehouse Brewing Co. in Brimfield, MA.

The passion Nate, Damien, and Dean have for what they're doing over there is as refreshing as their Berry Water beer. I tried the brew to be polite. Even after tripping over and spilling a flask, the dudes still let me observe their brewing operations and go "ooooh what's this" every couple of minutes. So even though I swore off fruit beers years ago, I felt obliged to try theirs. Unlike most I've had, the nose was pure fruit and not some high fructose sludge. Taste-wise, it was a revelation. Instead of overly sweet slime, I met a delightful, refreshing blonde with just the right level of fresh strawberry goodness. It reminded me of going out back at my parent's house and gobbling down all the red goodies next to the magnolia tree. Just... gah. Sublime? Yeah. We'll go with that.
A fortunate side effect of Berry Water was it finished cleansing my palate so I could experience Nate's Citra. This one is in the same league as the hop-centric brews The Cult of Vermont so enjoys lording over me. At first whiff, it's clear you're dealing with Citra hops thanks to that intoxicating tropical, fruity aroma. Then the glass tilts back and wow. Such amazing balance between fruitiness and bitterness with an absolutely perfect mouthfeel. I am glad they were a bit short on growlers because my coworker gave me the plague and although 6.5% ABV is a bit above what I will session, my taste buds could feasibly win out on this one.
My hope is Dean's Spawn lasts until the next visit. My sample didn't pop as much as the other two. However, I think that's Nate's doing. It wasn't until an hour's worth of hydration and some pot roast sampling that I stopped tasting Citra. So jury's out on that one.

Treehouse made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Great beers crafted by passionate people at a picturesque spot less than an hour from home? Only way I wouldn't hype these guys through the roof is personal greed. Given current supplies at the brewery, even my one lone reader could feasibly cause me to go without what I hope is a monthly fix of Treehouse. Still, please make the trek to 63 St. Clair Road in Brimfield. I'd rather be dry for a few months than deny someone the opportunity for this level of greatness.