Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Know People, Game Review: Botanicula, and Formal Verse Series #5: Ode to the Television

I’ve been wracked with a sort of hypomanic irritability lately, probably due to the fiery breath of hellish 90+-degree weather ravaging Seattle, and as a result, I’m getting a lot of unimportant things done. Once of those things was cleaning up my Linked In profile and “friends” list, or whatever you call it on Linked In. I’m annoyed that I have to have a Linked In account at all, but it feels inevitable. I don’t want to  maintain it, I don’t want to deal with it, and the whole thing is a complete nuisance, but I’m afraid if I don’t have one, it will somehow negatively affect me. I’ve given in to some unspoken pressure, or maybe it was spoken pressure at some point; I don’t remember now.  Anyway, I recently went through and deleted a lot of “bad” contacts, and reviewed a very long list of potential contacts, which was fascinating. I do know a great number of those contacts, or at least am somehow tangentially connected to them through my profession or my writing life. It was like a journey through the last ten years of my dual careers. I sent out about ten “connection” requests as a result. I realized through this process that despite thinking of myself as a semi-hermit, I actually have a fairly large circle of acquaintances. I’m out there, meeting people and doing things! Oh, God, just writing that sentence exhausted me.

Because I can’t sleep, (heat), and The Secret World keeps crashing (heat), I recently downloaded a quirky little point-and-click game from Amanita Designs called “Botanicula”. This is the same studio out of the Czech Republic that put out “Machinarium” a few years ago, which I took a good stab at but ultimately found too maddening. However, “Botanicula” is a complete delight. I find it very meditative. The visuals are beautiful, the score is stunning, and the “puzzles” are far more intuition than logic-based, which works well for my right-brained bent. There are no instructions or “hints”—you’re just left to potter through the beautiful landscape (a mystical tree born of a fallen star) and click around until something happens. The game is extremely immersive in that the score, the sound, and the gameplay all work together to allow your mind to let go and just intuitively follow the internal (non) logic of its weird and wild landscape.

The gameplay itself involves navigating a scrappy band of critters on a mission to save their tree from corrupt forces that threaten to destroy it. This adorable team is composed of a flowering twig, a lantern, a mushroom, a feather, and what appears to be a chestnut seed.  They each have individual talents and personalities, but the group is never separated. They travel through various sections of the tree, rescuing critter-babies, saving fishermen, finding keys, and in my favorite section so far, retrieving the oddly specific number of fourteen chickens in a dementedly complex and hilarious sequence of  bribery, trades, and cunning puzzle-solving. There’s also a highly entertaining “mini-game” segment where each of the critters takes a hallucinogen and has a bizarre dream. You have to play their mini-game dream sequence until each one comes down from their trip. I’m taking a four-day weekend and I’m between writing projects, so “Botanicula” has been a marvelous brain un-winder. I highly recommend it. (The trailer below is a bit misleading—the game is very slow-paced, and enemies rarely pursue the critters with much verve.)

Continuing on with the Formal Verse Series, below is a good poem for a sticky-hot, brain-sapping July day—a silly rhyming poem I wrote a number of years ago after flat-out lying to a co-worker about my TV viewing habits. Mind you, I didn’t mean to lie—she was one of those super-smart, liberal NPR types who said she “didn’t own a TV”. Without even thinking about it, I piped up with “Oh, same with me! I never watch TV." This was after a weekend of binge-watching for about ten hours straight. To this day, I don’t know what compelled me to fib. I guess I was just trying to fit in. Anyhow, enjoy “Ode to the Television”:

Ode to the Television

Give me your background noise, your winking lights,
Your Iron Chefs and your spandexed fights;
Your Animal Planet, your wild girls,
Your Adult Swims and your rapping earls;
Your Easter colors and hushed affairs,
Your stomping models with their sullen stares.  

Give me those abs, as flat as a nickel,
The slayer with his rusty sickle;
Astute detectives, forensic porn,
A frumpy mother done-up, reborn;
Tell me my skin can glow like honey,
And quitting my job will lead to money.

Grant me grace in the dark when I’m in pain,
When my loneliness asserts it’s reign.
Give me your shocks, and your wives done wrong,
Your perfect ending, a cheering throng;
Your spangled dancers, your jazzy band,
Your laconic hosts and your hipster brand.

Tell me that my deepest, scariest ill
Can be vanquished with a common pill.
That I’m sexy with this latest scent,
Then I’ll sleep easy, at last content.
Tomorrow I’ll claim to hold this view.
like Judas, that I have never known you.


--Kristen McHenry

1 comment:

John Socrates said...

Great poem! However, the last line of it you need to capitalize the l in Like, the first word of the last line. Other than this, right on!

Patrick