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Much too cleaver (Ripper Street, 2012-2014; Sept détectives, 2012; Mr. Jack, 2006)

Already missing Game of Thrones characters and still not getting any proper news about Telltale’s next episode?

Assistant to Spooks/MI5 Matthew Macfadyen enacting Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (yeah, historical character, head of CID of the Met Police at the time of Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper), here is Jerome Flynn, that you also know as Bronn, playing Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake.

Sergeant Bronn Drake

In episode S01 E05, you may also see Ser Jorah Mormont, aka Iain Glen. Solid cast. Solid setup, nice costumes and good stories, as you can expect when someone dares to use XIXe century London as environment.

One of the latest Sept comic-series episode is also cast in Victorian period. That’s a good example of the best this series can provide -some episodes were unfortunately not overly good-, a series with no set genre, authors, characters, but just focused on this number : 7 (sept/seven). Selected authors are to come up with a story focused on seven important characters from a specific genre. And this one is named Sept détectives.

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Not a surprise, the seven detectives are inspired by the classics of the genre. Inspired but consistent, all of them. Graphics are good. Finally, and that’s probably what matters most in this genre, the story is well written, twisty I might add. I was not familiar with Herick Hanna’s work, the scenarist. Pretty pretty pretty good. Looks promising.

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To stay in context, you’d be wise to give a try to Mr. Jack. That’s a two players board game: one is trying to get the ripper on the large, the other behind bars. I found it well-balanced and properly designed. It does not takes hours to grab the rules neither does it gives too much room to luck. There are extensions to add cards or change scenery (New York version) that I have not tried but would be willing too.

After all, the streets of London can never be safe!

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Unhappy faces ain’t gonna get you in (Life Is Strange, 2015)

I waited a while before giving a try to Life Is Strange. It’s made by a french studio named DONTNOD Entertainment and, over years, I grew wary of frenchness/ubisoftness in video games: repetitive gameplay with teenager philosophy in disguise of an inconsistent plot.

Plus Life Is Strange is a point-and-click adventure game and, these days, with Telltale Games, the standards are quite high.

Gameplay wise, Life Is Strange forces you to click and move the mouse to a text string like “Do this” to do anything. I guess they thought it would be practical in case there are many actions possible. But in most cases, you actually have one or two possibles actions. And when there are two actions, usually the first one is “Look at” which is utterly useless since you are already looking at the said object. The game is labelled “graphic adventure” but you are forced to focus on some meaningless text strings. It’s not intuitive neither graphical at all for me.

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For instance, here’s you opening a door : there is a door handle but a click on it does nothing. You have to click in the circle then move your mouse to the string “Enter” you’ve read – and not follow the arrow that starts from the circle and point to the handle. Everything is confusing there: what you see and what you are supposed to do. The interface tries hard to look smart but forget she’s there not to be smart but discrete.

After fighting a bit with the interface – despite how primitive the gameplay of a point-and-click game can be, next thing you notice is the childish attitude of the main character: poor student in art-whatever wants to cry because, huh, because she’s shy, so she runs to the toilet. Sob.

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Poor girl. Skater boys dont like her. Did they made here totally ugly and not the style of skater boys? Are they having a laugh? Next character: the mall cop/university security nutcase that bullies students and wants to cameras to be installed everywhere. So unexpected!

Least to say the very first impressions of the game are not so great. Plonk then?

What about the story itself? Telltale Games have this notion that your choices tailor the game. Smart way to say that even though a game story can  branch, if there is a real story, your choices cannot change it all. DONTNOD does not tell how much you can influence the story. In Life Is Strange, you dont have to decide fast like in Telltale Games at some crucial moments: you can take as much time you want and test the alternatives before you decide. But since I’ve only played the first episode so I cannot tell really how it unfold and how much the choice you make influence the game.

I can tell however that playing the first episode in full made me acquire the rest of the season. Yes, despite the poor gameplay and simplistic characters design, I’m curious to see where it leads. I think that qualifies the story as interesting enough – at least to be bought during steam sales. Come on feet, teach yourself to move.

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Sure I was young, cheap and chav (Grimm, 2011-2014; How to Get Away with Murder, 2014-2015)

It’s the summer, there are less series than usual. I’m still watching Grimm (as mentioned before) and am astonished that it still take to the main characters, cops, at least half but more like two third of each episode to understand they are dealing with these “wesen” surnatural beast. As they always do. And the clues are not so hard to catch (body slashed by gigantic claws, etc).

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Unrelated, decent but not always very consistent is How to Get Away with Murder. It’s about students in a law school that get internship at their teacher’s law firm. I won’t describe it in details not to spoil it. Least I can say that they’ll learn for their own benefit how to legally get away with murder.

It’s properly paced, interesting despite not being always overly consistent. For instance, they make it look hard to know where was a phone location at a given time, as if it was necessary to access the phone itself or else, while this data can so easily obtained by the telecom provider. Some potential key witness also fails to come forward as soon as possible, such a cop that saw some guys he dont know moving some strange rugs, at the place where he knows someone else live, even though this person involved in a major case suddenly disappeared.

I also  wonder how likely is it to see on a current tv show a main character, supposedly good, that would be white, shouting : “you were screwing some black whore”.

Apparently a second season is planned. It can be good, it can also be improved.

Aside from that steam summer sales started. The Witcher series in on sale right now.

But lately I’ve had dreams of blood You had me where you want me so you thought.

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N’y pense plus, tu es de passage II. (Cities: Skylines, 2015)

Testing further Cities: Skylines, 2015, so far I managed to build a perfect highway interchange. Except that this one, three layered, is overly expensive. Three times the price of my first attempt (some roundabout on top of the highway, typical of “Paris périphérique”) :

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The next logical option was to make a cheaper version by reducing the number of lanes of the direction changes. I even added pedestrian passage.

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It is way cheaper but it’s still a very big thing hard to place. So I just realized that having highway exits on both sides at the same spot could actually be avoided. It’s not clear yet whether two T intersect are obviously less space consuming than one single X intersect. So here’s my next proposal:

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All these are available in an asset collection.

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N’y pense plus, tu es de passage (Cities XL, 2009; Sim City 5, 2013; Cities: Skylines, 2015)

Some time ago, I was replaying good old Sim City 4 Deluxe.  Then I had other stuff to do and it did not make much progress. Then Sim City was released. And by Sim City, they, EA Games, meant Sim City 5. Thanks to my general rule to never buy any game released by EA Games, I skipped it and reviews confirmed that I was not missing anything.

On the side, I also gave a try to Cities XL. The very notion of zoning residential area with a specific social class set seemed to me unrealistic. France’s very own history and her many “cité nucléaire” (common name for suburban areas supposed to host, when built, rocket science searchers and workers and that are now filled by unemployed and criminals) tells how much can differ what you actually designed and planned and what you ended up with on a 20/30 years time span.

And Paradox Interactive published Cities: Skylines. I usually like Paradox approach so I had to give it a try. It’s looks like a new take on Sim City 4. It’s said that transportation is a primary aspect of the game and that’s actually quite a challenge to design some transportation system that scales.

When you start your city, you are limited by cash flow. I did a few clumsy tests. Then I knew from some episode of Myth Buster that roundabouts are more effective that any other crossroads systems. So I went on and designed some big highway roundabout to link districts.

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Soon, though, I realized I just made up something very common on “Paris périphérique”, which one is stuck at least four times a day. Thanks to the steam workshop and clever system of added assets within the game, I found many clever intersections designs. Some people clever did their homework. Road intersections common in Europe are there!

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Still, being quite happy with my roundabout system, even though it does not exactly scale, I made further test with it, for instance split it to serve a district only (intersection as T instead of X) instead of two. I’ve read some stuff, checked some Neufert, and finally came up with the idea to multiply layers. The following works nice:

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Whichever direction you want to take, you only change direction once. The only drawback is that this construction is tremendously expensive to built and to maintain. So my next step will probably to try to make it cheaper, probably but reducing the amount of lanes when you change directions.

2015-05-15_00004 On the road again!

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Où est-il mon moulin de la Place Blanche ? Mon tabac et mon bistrot du coin ? (Fifth Gear, 2002-2015; Ulysse, les chants du retour, 2014; La Revue Dessinée #07, 2015)

I was getting used to it in TV show. For instance, in Fifth Gear, many times you just see the presenters talking, listening to themselves and any a laugh, instead of showing something actually on topic. When they are actually testing a car, you’ll see most of the time their faces instead of the car or the road. Why not, since it’s about how they feel with these cars, it could make sense.

But now it looks it goes also in comics. In Jean Harambat‘s Ulysse, les chants du retour, you’re often faced drawing not of Ulysses but of (somewhat) famous french people that studied him, as historian, scenarist or whatever. As if you were meeting them, or were watching a TV interview. Drawings are good. Thought about the whole Odyssey are smart. Nonetheless, I find these graphic interview somewhat disturbing. It add an extra layer. It’s not longer just about Homer’s epic poem, then I get in front of me someone posing.

It adds extra characters. I gave a lot of consideration to it and my conclusion stands: it’s distracting. Would Plato be fun on prime TV? Not so sure.

In some cases, like in Benoit Collombat et Etienne Davodeau Les barbouzes de la République, as published in La Revue Dessinée #07, since the story is really made as some sort of investigation, it’s actually ok. You see the characters interacting will people they meet and that have a direct influence on their understanding of what they investigate.

I guess in this case, it really add something. Instead of pretending to reconstruct the past, it just show a process to get familiar with it.

But then, in the same La Revue Dessinée, you get a whole investigation about illegal immigrants. Most of it (every drawing almost), you see a supposedly pretty white girl face expressing her view on the topic. There is really no reason to see her face at all. She’s on the side, not illegally immigrating and not affected in any way by illegal immigrants. But still, we see her face and listen to mushy mushy about how cool would be western europe if the whole planet was there.

So, really, I think something is wrong in general in this trend. And it’s obvious when the point being made is crap. Then you are just supposed to identify yourself to the faces you are submerged with, instead of actually thinking about what is being said.

Où ferez-vous alors vos culbutes, Vous, les pauvres gosses à Poulbot?