Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

New Super Mario Brothers Wii:
Mario and Luigi and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a very safe Mario outing. It's really the DS game from a couple years ago translated for the big screen with a few minor embellishments, so if you liked that, or Super Mario World on the SNES, you'll like this one. The game IS difficult though -- a mix of challenging and frustrating, with very little learning curve. There will be occasions of good old-fashioned controller-throwing, but it never gets so frustrating that you give up altogether.

The only MAJOR problem with the game is the introduction of motion controls: shaking the remote does a spin jump, and tilting it left and right operates special platforms and seesaws. Because you're going to be shaking your controller anyhow as a side effect of playing a challenging platformer, a good number of your deaths will result from the game thinking that you wanted to spin jump at the slightest shake. This is more frustrating than finding a syntax error in PHP, but luckily it's only really noticeable in a few later levels. Nintendo should realize for future games that motion controls are only useful if you're bowling.

Final Grade: A-

Coders at Work by Peter Seibel:
I thought this book would be inspiring, or at least interesting, because reading tech books always gets me into a slightly techier frame of mind. And when skimming through in the bookstore, it looks promising. However, the final product is entirely too long and could easily have been trimmed in half. The author talks to notable and obscure programming personalities, asking the exact same questions to everyone and then dumps the complete interviews into this book. Had it been edited down to a few choice thoughts from each programmer and flowed naturally between topics, I would rave about it. Having to wade through endless paragraphs answering the same ten questions for fifty pages per programmer is way too much. I'm halfway through it, and don't really feel like finishing.

Final Grade: D+

Ender's Shadow:
This book is interesting, because it tells the story already told in Ender's Game from the perspective of another character. This is tricky to do right because you can't reuse the same tensions and mysteries from the original story, and Ender's Shadow definitely works best at the points where the original scenes aren't just replaying. The story succeeds because Bean is a more interesting character than Ender, and the plot ends without the random narrative flailing of "how should I end this book?" that characterized the original.

Final Grade: B+

Teen runs up $22,000 data bill on cellphone
Arrow to the buttocks reward for prowler
Dead drunk policeman stripped of martyrdom

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