September 22, 2009


No, that's not gibberish, it's Finnish! (Even though it may sound like gibberish, I must admit.) By now, all the Finnish people out there will know exactly what this post is about; it's kind of a general post about life, the universe, 23:07... and everything!

Did you ever enter "the answer to life the universe and everything" in Google? This is what happens:

(Did you - by the way - use the Google calculator before? It's really great, also for conversions of currencies! Just type "10 US Dollars in Euro" and it will show you the result! Just thought I'd mention it as it's quite surprising how many people haven't heard about that.)

But in this blog entry I actually didn't want to start writing about that incomparably awesome novel series by that incomparably hilarious Douglas Adams (who'll - sure as hell - look down on us from some strange and incomprehensible afterlife-ish place while splitting his now non-existent sides with laughter about us not having a clue about life, the universe and everything)! Just one thing: if you haven't read "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", "The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe", "Life, The Universe And Everything", "So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish" and "Mostly Harmless" yet: PERKELE!! (that's Finnish again) JUST WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING HERE, READING THIS MINDLESS LOAD OF CRAP?? GET OUT, BUY THE BOOKS AND WASTE YOUR TIME MORE THOUGHTFULLY, WILL YA??!

With that out of the way, let's get down to business here.

It's really hard to explain what "life", "the universe" and "everything" actually IS, so let's split this up into three seperate things and change the order a bit:

1.) The Universe: what it's made of
2.) Life: what it's really about
3.) Everything: what extraterrestrials would think of us

1.) The Universe: what it's made of

It seems that most people out there ignore the fact that the way our universe is "built" is really bizarre! I mean... what if you were to create a universe? Would you really think about burning balls with other balls (not burning, preferably) floating around them? With nothing but blackness between them? (Well... maybe you chose a black background instead of a white one because a white background just isn't that cool, just like in Windows Paint or something...)

But the real problem is thinking in bigger proportions! Space is huge! Vast! Let's quote Douglas Adams here: "you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space!"
I mean... just imagine the whole thing is infinite! That's a thing we humans just can't do: imagine something that's not limited in any way (except for maybe unlimited refills in a Subway's or something)! That's the invisible wall against which our minds regularly crash. Just like a fly that simply can't comprehend that there's a solid transparent material (like a window) one can't fly through and thus keeps smashing its tiny head to goo, we Humans always imagine a place with walls or cliffs or other restrictions. No matter how large something is - it definitely has to end somewhere!

So I guess we all agree that the construct of our universe might as well just be a construct of someone's imagination. Like a huge dream in which we all play a part. That's the theory of The Maya (not that people/culture called the maya, but that illusionary/universal thing of the same name - read THIS); it's like we all live in ONE dream of some creature - that's almost too easy an answer, isn't it? As lunatic and fucked up as this world is, this might be the only solution obvious enough to be true. Then again: what's death? Do we die because that one thingy which is dreaming all this crap is fed up with that one piece of the mosaic which is the person that dies? Who knows. But it's a funny thing to think that way! Even if it means that we're never gonna see the "real world" because we're just residents in a dream and thus don't even really exist.

2.) Life: what it's really about

So what exactly is life about? About politics? About career? Religion? - In my personal opinion that's exactly what life is NOT about. From a universal point of view (imagine yourself looking down on Earth from the outside): what does it matter whose "God"-figure is "superior"? What does it matter which politician is obliged to decide something? Who cares how much money your neighbour makes an hour? Or that you're still missing that very rare Pokémon in your collection or something?
You know what? There's only ONE SINGLE THING that actually counts:


Really, come to think about it, it all comes down to emotions. It's the only thing that counts. It's the source of all the little things that count: love, pleasure, the warm sun on your skin, music, a good book, that incomparable shiver you get when you suddenly remember a long forgotten toy from your childhood, the carefree laughter of a child. There's nothing else that really counts. Life is short. Even if you're one of those guys who believe in reincarnation you'll agree that the timespan of one lifetime is really short! So what should we concentrate on in our lives? Jep: the really important things. And not making that timespan even shorter for other individuals (i. e. killing people and other such uncomfortable things)!

Let's think about politics and all the worries we have about the country we live in. That's absolutely insignificant!! Imagine some thing in space which makes our planet drift out of it's normal course around the sun or something like that! Or the fabric of the Universe crumbling into bits for reasons unknown to us humans (because - and let's admit that - we don't know crap about the real consistence of the universe, let alone its purpose)! What do we have left then? What do we care about then? About ourselves and the ones we love, exactly.

3.) Everything: what extraterrestrials would think of us

I don't think that - if that universe-crumbling-occasion actually happens - anyone in those "suicide-bomber-countries" will think "goddamn it, we couldn't finish that war against our enemies" or anything like that in that last minutes of his life! So what's the purpose of our stupid conflicts on Earth?

"If I could fly high above the world, would I see a bunch of living dots spell the word 'stupidity'?"
("Stranger Than Fiction", Bad Religion)

Yep, that's the line that always comes to my mind when I imagine extraterrestrials (supposing they actually exist) watching us ass around pathetically.

Imagine this (transcription of an alien dialogue):

Gzrîa: "Hey, Nllè! Look at these creatures I found living on this small planet!"
Nllè: "Oh, Gzrîa, how many times have I told you not to care about those insignificant beings on the planets in this sector! Enough that you drew a face into the sands of that red planet right next to this one!"
Gzrîa: "I was bored. Anyways, have you seen their activities down there? It's the strangest behaviour I've ever seen! They're holding little sticks in their claws, putting them in one of their inhalation holes and thus producing blueish grey clouds that are poisonous! Who would do that?"
Nllè: "Oh, it's the Humans you're talking about! Yeah, rumours about this space sector say that Humans are quite sadistic, suicidal and masochistic. You know what they do to their dead?"
Gzrîa: "I don't know if I want to hear that..."

Nllè: "They dig up a hole in the ground and bury them in there to be eaten by the little creatures living underground. Nasty, isn't it?"
Gzrîa: "Those Humans really give me the creeps."
Nllè: "Oh, that's nothing!! They're actually producing video transmission material showing what they'd do to visitors from other space sectors - if they'd be stupid enough to land on their planet! You curious...?"
Gzrîa: "Well... let me see!"
Nllè: "HERE it is. 'Enjoy!'..."
Gzrîa: *makes a noise that's supposedly equivalent to a human 'gulp'*

(End of transcript.)

So I guess some might still wonder what that "23:07" I mentioned up there means! It's a simple, yet quite strange and funny thing. It's that specific time (11:07 PM for US citizens) which tends to pop up uninvited everywhere! Well, for me personally, that is.
You know when you look at your digital watch (makes you proud, your digital watch, doesn't it? :D) and find it funny that you're checking the time the exact same moment you've done the day before? If that happens it's not really strange because it may simply indicate that you've got a strict rhythm in your behavior - even in little habits such as checking the time.

But there were plenty of happenings that made me find this 23:07-thing absolutely strange. Not creepy because I think it's a cool thing, but strange. Here's one of those happenings I found really funny:
I was in the kitchen of my first girlfriend because she wanted to introduce me to her mother. It was about three o' clock in the afternoon and when we went back outside I took a quick glance at the time display on the microwave which said... of course... 23:07!
Another time I was getting ready to go to a party with my girlfriend and was quickly checking the time before we left for that party and the clock said 23:07. Not that spectacular. But when we arrived there, I couldn't help but notice the huge "23:07" that was displayed on the TV screen to which the Wii of that party host was connected. Again: not creepy or anything, just funny.

Those things happen to me all the time, so I started to joke around whether it's some kind of omen or something. Will the world end in the year 2307? And what do I care? I'll be long dead then!! Did something significant happen on March 2nd, '07 (or Febuary 3rd, '07)? I don't remember but I don't think so. Each year on the 23rd of July I'm waiting for something special to happen but it simply doesn't.

Guess that would be too easy, right, Universe??!

September 2, 2009

The second biggest blog entry I've ever seen!

Okay, first of all let me get the nostalgia stuff out of the way:

I am - like most people I know who like computer games - a huuuuuuge "Monkey Island" fan. The first "Monkey Island" game was the first adventure game I had; back when I had a 386 SX with 2 megs of RAM and 20 MHz.

Before that, I got to know "Murder On The Mississippi", then "Maniac Mansion" and then "Zak McKracken" - I played all of those on the Commodore 64 of a good friend, so I wasn't a complete stranger to graphic adventures with a SCUMM interface back then.

I remember sitting at home of another good friend watching him play through "The Secret Of Monkey Island" in two sessions together with that friend I mentioned above. So it was basically more like watching a funny adventure film in two parts on two evenings rather than playing a game because we "only" watched. It was an awesome experience nonetheless, of course. So later I got the game myself and really enjoyed it. (Probably mostly because I still remembered the solutions to most puzzles in the game, I must admit.) You might imagine the awesomeness of having an own comedic, piratey world to explore in form of a computer game at home.

That was 19 years ago.

Of course, I also got the sequels that were made. "Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge", the voodoo-soaked epic adventure with the weird and definitive ending which was so strangely glossed over (if not huggermuggered) about six years later by the long awaited, near-perfect and very moody comic extravaganza "The Curse Of Monkey Island". Apart from the fact that main (anti-)hero Guybrush Threepwood(, Mighty Pirate™) had apparently turned into a skinny beanpole and the whole epic plot from the predecessors were replaced by a story that resembled a comedy series feel like "oh fun! What will that droll evil LeChuck be up to next?", everything was just perfect. With the (again, long awaited) fourth part of the series, "Escape From Monkey Island", which came out another 3 years later, it got rather bland. The once so romantic and adventurous pirate world was replaced by some dull 3D environment that felt like an artificial tourist trap of the present day instead of a pirate-infested caribbean dream - with real estate brokers, Starbucks, desk job contracts and lawyers. Well, at least it still was relatively lively and full of detail and contained some recollections of places and persons of the first game, so it was sort of okay. If you were able to cope with the horrible keyboard controls, that is.

Now it's 2009. For 9 years nothing had happened in Guybrush's world. Then - suddenly! - three things happened. Firstly, I nearly got a heart attack when I read the headlines that secondly, there was a new "Monkey Island" underway and that thirdly, the first part of the series would get a remake by LucasArts themselves. Little did I know what all this would turn out to be...

Let's first turn to the remake of "Monkey Island 1", called "The Secret Of Monkey Island - Special Edition". It contains all-new comic graphics, speech that's done perfectly and the great soundtrack that's also been redone. "What more could you ask for?" you might ask.

Well... for starters, Guybrush's looks quite... erm... take getting used to a bit (the portrait you can see above is one of the better pictures you'll see in the game). With the rest of the character portraits (that were so magnificent in their original versions in 1990) it also varies a lot! Carla, the swordmaster was masterfully recreated as well as her acquaintance Smirk. The two guys they absolutely f*&ked up graphically are the two pirates in the Scumm Bar: Mancomb Seepgood and the other guy with the glass eye that's so afraid of LeChuck. Well... some people say they fit in that new style of graphics but in my personal opinion they look absolutely ridiculous. In their original portraits you could take them serious, you could imagine they're real pirates. In their new versions they look like retarded fools, nothing more. This new graphical character design is a shame - because the locations in the game are breathtakingly beautiful!!

Thus, it's a good thing you can change from new graphics to old graphics in an instant by pressing a button, of course! But that doesn't make the new style of graphics any better, does it? Oh, and they messed up the controls, too... with an emphasis on changing between keyboard and mouse control it gets unneccessarily difficult. Anyone ever tried freeing Otis with these controls? Another thing which in my opinion sucks a lot is the fact that as soon as you change to the old graphic style you don't hear any speech anymore. I can understand that it changes the background music to the old style but the speech should have been there anyway! Why didn't they implement an option where you can turn it on and off? Would have been the best way if you ask me.

Oh well, let's stop hanging around in the past and let's see what the NEW stuff is like! Telltale Games, the ones that already gave us the great episodic "Sam & Max"-series now makes a new series called:
Until now, there are two episodes out already (yeah, it's episodic, too, following a monthly schedule), called "Launch Of The Screaming Narwhal" and "The Siege Of Spinner Cay". I've played through the first one and I'm right in the middle of the second one. Which actually is the reason I started this (huge) blog entry in the first place.

In the past few weeks Telltale Games began spreading the word that "Tales Of Monkey Island" is their best selling game series of all time - like that's some kind of achievement! Yeah right guys! No matter what other company would have made a new "Monkey Island" game - it would have sold JUST AS MANY COPIES AS YOU!! 'Cause it's a "Monkey Island" game! It's a game each and every adventure gamer has been waiting for in the past 9 (read: NINE!!) YEARS! Just what did you think would happen??! Each time the topic "graphic adventure" is mentioned in a conversation anywhere in the world, the next words that come up are "Monkey Island", sure thing!

Bad things first: the new "Monkey Island" is in 3D (am I imagining things or did I actually hear some fans yelping in frustration again...?) with some surprisingly empty locations, (senselessly) horrible controls and really sparse dialogue. The worst thing about the controls is that you navigate Guybrush via the WASD-keys on the keyboard or (if you really feel like you need the extra frustration) you hold the right mouse button to make guybrush run and turn some tiny compass that's to be seen around him with the mouse to specify the direction - you can see that (really thin) circle with the arrow around Guybrush in the picture on the left. That simply sucks. It is beyond me why Telltale didn't use a simple point & click interface! Or... as the Angry Video Game Nerd would put it... "what were they thinking??" Sometimes I think they used these controls to hide the fact that there are too few things to click on (that's what I've been talking about above by mentioning the "surprisingly empty locations"). If they had used a point & click interface it might have been too obvious that there's actually not much to point and click on!

And as there's not much to see, there's not much to say either. Remember the huge amount of funny lines, all the hilarious dialogue from Monkey Island 3 and 4? I've played through those two games quite some times (German and English versions) - and still I know I haven't heard all of the countless contained comedic comments! Now, "Tales" may leave you sore as there are roughly five short lines to choose from in each dialogue with a character and as soon as you've clicked them you'll recognize that there aren't any more! They just repeat all over again! Also, Guybrush doesn't seem half as funny as in the previous parts! In Monkey 4 he always had a funny (and senseless, most of the time) comment to say between two sentences. Well, not anymore. Just keep that in mind when you buy "Tales", so that you aren't that unpleasantly surprised later on.

And did I mention that Guybrush - again! - looks quite strange? In my opinion his face is a lot too long and the emphasis on his cheekbones looks unpretty. I liked Guybrush most in Monkey Island 2 (in-game) and Monkey Island 4 (on the boxart). Then again, that's a matter of taste, too...
Well... as soon as you're actually IN the game you'll recognize that it's an experience you want to make anyway! Wanna know why that is?

"Tales Of Monkey Island" has some brilliant voice acting (featuring the original voice actor for Guybrush: Dominic Armato, who REALLY did a great job), an awesome soundtrack, nice puzzles and an interesting plot. In fact the plot is so interesting - I wish they had done something like that earlier on in a 2D-game!! On the other hand it already seems quite a bit predictable how it all will turn out.

How it will turn out exactly? I guess we'll have to wait another 4 months for that - until the last of the six episodes will be released. I'll launch ScummVM now and play a bit of "LeChuck's Revenge" again... now where did I leave that bottle o' near-grog again...