Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Game Review - Lost: Via Domus

Via Domus (or, if you're a UK resident like me the game has the somewhat less imaginitive title of Lost: The Video Game) is the first console game based on the hit television series Lost. Lost has been a big success, intriguing and drawing in audiences over four succesful series' so a branch into other media was inevitable. A "mobile" game was released on cellphones, roughly following the story of the first series, and Lost has been on the forefront of other media such as web-based "Alternative Reality Games" and "mobisodes" expanding on the story.

Rough Plot

In the game you play Elliot Maslow, a photojournalist suffering from amnesia as a result of the crash. Interacting with the other survivors you must try to survive on the island, discover who you are, and somehow try to make your way home.


The game mostly involves running around and looking at stuff. You explore parts of the island and investigate them closely to find out more. There are also several puzzles you must complete, usually involving electrical panels and fuses that must be placed correctly to direct the right amount of electricity to the different conduits. True to it's parent show there are also "flashbacks" in which you must use your camera to get the right shot and trigger your memory. You can also use your camera in game to photograph interesting items and unlock extras. The fun of the game is running around different locations, and there's more than a few hostiles willing to give chase, making a run through the jungle and exhilerating experience.

From now on there be SPOILERS

Sci-Fi Stuff

I've always wanted an opportunity to discuss the Sci-Fi aspects of Lost and so I will go over a few of them here. I also hope to discuss more games in the near future and I'll keep to this format when I do.

The Incident Room

OK, so this only features in the game, but it does tie nicely into Lost lore and since I'm discussing the game I think it's fine to discuss it here. During the game Elliot finds a compass inscribed "Via Domus" which supposedly leads home - the magnetism of the swan station interferes with it so he decides to go and do something about it. Triggering a 'lockdown' he finds several UV maps, one of which points to an additional section of the Swan. Going on a dangerous journey to get dynamite he blasts his way into a room holding a massive generator with several metallic objects stuck to it. The generator has collapsed partly and is sparking. Elliot turns it off without any ill affects, but the generator is very likely to be linked to the station and the need for the numbers to be put it etc. and was likely destroyed when Desmond triggered the discharge. After disabling it Elliot continues his quest.

The monster

The monster has always been one of the central mysteries of Lost. Only really heard in the first series it was later revealed to be a cloud of black smoke able to take many different shapes and attack with destructive force. Referred to as a defence mechanism for the island it's true origins have still not been revealed, but it makes a great threat. Elliot repeatedly encounters the monster, when travelling though the jungle he is chased by the monster and has to shelter in banyan trees, in caves the monster also lurks, but avoids his light and in one final sequence the monster chase Elliot then, when he faces up to it, studies him closely then dissapears into the jungle.

The Sonar Fence

This plays a small part in the game, but it is intriguing and fairly futuristic I think. The fence emits strong sonic ways so that if you pass through it you die almost instantly. The fence encircles the "Barracks" a DHARMA facility and so presumably built by them. The fence seems capable of also stunning a human and also repelling the monster.

OK, I've gona too far into the series and left the game behind, but i think there's enough there to qualify it as a Sci-Fi title.

Canon to the left of them...

One of the unfortunate things surrounding the game is that the show's producers have declared it "non-canon" that is not an official part of the Lost story. This I think is a big downer as aside from a confusing sense of time and a few easily fixed contradictions the game could have had it's place in the Lost story, but the producers have opted for no - leaving you with a slightly deflated feeling, which manages to take something away even from the mindblowing ending. If they'd said it's official I'd have been desperate for more, but as is...well I'm just a bit confused.

Worth playing?

Despite that factor the game is fun to play - though if you just like to kill stuff this might not be for you! The puzzles are hard enough to be challenging without being impossible either. The story, with it's dual element is intriguing and just being able to inhabit key island locations is a lot of fun. So if you're a Lost fan...well you've probably bought it already haven't you?!


If you've seen the film, you'll know what to expect. The book is word for word like the film, therefore - excellant.
This isn't much of a review, just a recommendation to buy and read one of the best Sci-Fi stories ever. I suggest reading books 1-3 and Prot's report, but don't go any further. From book 4 it's no longer prot as the protagonist and it wears a bit thin. But the first trilogy is self contained, and a bargin where you can find it.
The trilogy is a bit weird. In the first, you're pretty sure he's an alien. The second maybe not. And the third? that would be telling. But it does keep the series going.
Word of warning: There are some quite "adult" themes in this book, and some potentially disturbing ones. But even so, it is a great novel and worth investing in.
See ya.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Matrix Online: Choice and Consequence

Referred to some as Chapter 1.4, Choice and Consequence was more of a min-event than an in-game chapter, but is notable for introducing us to a new Zion crew, some of whom would come to play a key role in the Matrix. It is also notable for letting players choose the fate of one of the crew at the end of the chapter, which was interesting, but a little awkward from a storyline perspective, but anyway - we'll come to that later.

Zion formally introduced it's operatives to the crew of the Novalis 2. Novalis had been a hovercraft operational before the truce, but that went down during Smith (as Bane's) sabotage. The crew were killed, but the hull and systems were salvageable and so an up and coming crew were given the craft as their own. This was the first of the recommisioned fleet, as the Military started to move it's assigned redpills out of Hoverbarges and into independant ships. Read more about the crew in this detailed report.

Meanwhile, all organizations were still reacting to the loss of Morpheus, though each in their own way and with their own perspective. Also the mysterious masked men were upping their presence in the Matrix, openly attacking redpills and others. Two leaders emerged, one named Enmascarado, another Gemaskeerd wearind distinctive coloured bandanas as opposed to the gray most of their group wore. Reports also came in of attacks taking place in the real, which were linked to the group, making them very dangerous indeed.

Things weren't going too well for Zion's premier crew either, one of their number - Neurophyte went missing and this was linked to a very dangerous and very desirable "killcode" making her a target for all organizations. A killcode is naturally very dangerous and a type of killcode is rumoured to be how the Assasin knocked off Morpheus.

[From here events vary depending on what server people played on, but I'm going with the most popular choice and the one that makes the most sense with following stoyline]

Neurophyte was eventually tracked down and rescued by Zion, but things weren't as smooth as might be hoped. The killcode was actually implanted in her mind and killing her slowly. Neurophyte insisted that the code be saved to keep it safe and as a potential weapon for Zion forces, but as this would cost her life Zion operatives rallied to support her and the decision was made to save Neurophyte and lose the killcode...which may have been for the best after all.

While this was going on operatives tracked down the bases of the Masked Men and defeated them, but it was certainly not the last time they would play their part in the Matrix. The same could be said of Neuophyte and her crew, who were now on a well deserved leave. Neurophyte had more to do and there were some on the crew yet to fully reveal their role in the ongoing story.

Right, that's it for this for now, I'll get you caught up with Neurophyte's next adventure after giving you a bit more info on what you can do on arrival in the game, that and some other stuff

See ya!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Heroes returns...again!!

OK folks Heroes has just clocked off here in the UK, but after a somewhat longer break in America Heroes returns in a web based miniseries dubbed "Going Postal" is going live on Monday the 14th of July. I can't say much about it, but a dose of Heroes so soon after the season finale can't be a bad thing right? The trailer is currently online at the official Heroes site HERE.

The series seems to be centering around the life of a postman (hence the title, clever huh?) who develops a power, something to do with manipulating soundwaves to a potentially lethal extent. There are some other characters seen, but not much is shown. One's his wife/girlfriend, there are at least two suit wearing government (company?) agent types and one unusually pale looking fella, who'se probably a power too. And just to hook you in Angela Petrelli appears at the very end, though how connected to the story she is remains unclear. All in all, enough to get you excited yet enough left unrevealed so I at least will certainly be watching.

With it being a US broadcast there's a possibility that it may not work for UK/other folks but I'd hope they'd put it up globally and the trailer and other media work fine so let's hope eh?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

SF at the Movies - July 08

OK, well we're well on our way into July so let's take a peak at what Sci-Fi stuff is showing on screens this month.


Released 02/07/08

The first feature out this month is of a misguided superhero named Hancock who saves the day, but causes massive accidental destruction along the way. Finding himself more hated than appreciated he wastes his time drinking until he bumps into a PR whizz, who'se determined to turn his life around. Hancock is not the laugh out loud nonstop comedy the trailers promise, but is actualy quite a sad story of loneliness and a struggle to do the right thing...with some very funy moments along the way.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Released 11/07/08

A retelling of the classic story by Jules Verne where a scientist has some very differing theories about the centre of our planet, and of course he's right. Travelling down a dormant volcano they find a hidden world of dinosaurs and other wonders hidden beneath our feet. This looks like a modern version rather than a retelling of the story, but it should be good nonetheless. This film is available in 3D in some cinemas.


Released 18/07/08

Yes it's a kids film about a cute little robot, but nontheless it has it's place here. Set when environmental and human factors cause humans to leave Earth our little hero is tasked with cleaning up the mess his creators left behind, but over time he becomes quirky and curious. Centuries later an advanced robot comes to scout Earth and Wall.E follows on an exciting adventure. Created by Pixar animation, who kick-started the whole CG cartoon thing and have created the best works of the medium I think it'll be worth a look.

Meet Dave

Released 18/07/08

Don't know a huge amount about this one, but basically a lot of liddle alien types have built a human size and shape spaceship to go exploring Earth in. It should be fun to see how "Dave" gets on interacting with our species and how the inevitable love interest takes the inevitable exposure of the truth. With Eddie Murphy as lead role the film should be a good larff.

The Dark Knight

Released 25/07/08

The second installment from the new Batman films is set to be this year's big blockbuster. The strength of the film is bound to be Heath Ledger's staggering final performance as the Joker, which will add a touch of sadness to the film. As the Joker makes his move and the chaos spreads Bruce Wayne has to reach further into the darkness within himself to defeat him. This looks set to have all the action and adventure that Batman Begins brought and more - well worth seeing I should expect.

Ok that's it till next month - a quick note on TV. With Doctor Who and Heroes over it may seem like there's not much on - but in case you didn't know E4 has an offering of Sci-fi, with series 7 of Smallville showing on tuesday nights (it's probably about half way through by now, but worth seeing) and Dark Angel showing saturday mornings - the pilot was last week so there's plenty of time to get on board.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Doctor Who: The Recycling Issue

So the Daleks are back once again for this season's Doctor Who finale. So far it has turned out to be a cracking piece of work and I'm eagerly awaiting it's conclusion. But when I heard of the return of Davros and the Daleks I must admit to breathing a bit of a sigh.

While seeing Daleks in action is always a treat I do feel that the current run of Doctor Who is relying too much on the Daleks and other old series species to keep the new version going. So far the Daleks have turned up in every series at least once and I'm starting to almost get a bit tired of them, though thankfully this series has delivered and got me all excited once again. And I do think it is appropriate that old enemies should return to face the new Doctor. The first appearances of the Daleks and Cybermen were exciting and the recent return of the Sontarans was also fun, though not as well executed.

Which I guess makes this a specific Dalek issue. Daleks are probably more memorable than the Doctor himself and are probably the first things I think of when the show is mentinoned. But I think the current staff are playing a little too much on this and using the Daleks as instant moneymaking devices rather than as the occasionally appearing terrifying menaces that they were in the original series. Admittedly I don't know much about the original series scheduling but I don't think the mechanical monstrosities appeared quite so often as they do nowadays.

The main problem I have with it (and a few of my friends think this too, and to give credit where it's due they probably came up with the idea!) is that it's stopping the production team from creating their own recurring villain, but instead they kill off pretty much all baddies within one or two episodes (true to Doctor Who form to be fair, but at least one or two could survive to fight another day couldn't they?) I feel that if they planned a series that didn't include Daleks or rely on the reintroduction of an old series monster they might just have to work really hard and come up with someone or something for the Doctor to do battle with across time, space and maybe a series or two.

But I've a feeling, we'll be hearing "Exterminate!" for quite some time yet - which is fine, but I hope we'll hear and see another enemy to make us duck behind the sofa and dread the words "to be continued."

Anyway - here's a list of species i think could have/could be used as recurring Who villains.

Sycorax - Good classic style enemies, obviously evil and powerful with a simple, but recognisable culture and a set of nifty weapons. Pity Earth used the Death Star on them, but I guess if thee's more they could return and the Doctor might have a harder time moralising about how Earth needs to be saved.

Krillitane - I wouldn't bring these back, but the absorbing features and the fact that they know about the time war gives them potential.

Racnoss - Lots of potential with this one. Huge monster, very scary and also ancient from when even the time lords were young. Plenty of Doctor backstory potential with this one, but no - dead within an episode. These could have made great recurring villains, but I guess spiders can't climb out of the bath so they couldn't escape the Doctor flushing them away. But if one survived - heck, there's potential, lots of it.

Weeping Angels - Included for sheer brilliance, this race were just fantastic and since the Doctor stopped, but didn't kill four of them there could well be more, or possibility for escape and return. The ending of the episode suggested there might be more out there. The terror of many Doctor Who monsters is their simplicity - the Daleks and Cybermen aren't exactly elaborate, but they're much scarier for it - that could work with these living statues.

The Trickster's Parade - my current favourites. The Trickster was an excellent villain, removing Sarah Jane completely from time and replacing her with her friend Andrea, who died as a child. Feeding off the chaos caused by removing someone from the timeline and the destruction caused by their removal. A beetle with similar, yet differing powers appeared in a recent Doctor Who episode and the Doctor identified it as related to the Trickster. The crossover was probably just a fan pleaser, but could have potential and I hope it does.

Well that'll do, but there's probably a few others, but with most enemies six foot underground it looks like we'll be back to standard format when the series returns, but with a new helmsman you never know. I haven't been half as elegant as I'd hoped, but I do hope that I've at least been interesting.

And with that, adieu

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Power Trip 4 - Technopathy

Oops! Missed out a power then, easy to do as little Micah's abilities don't manifest until late in the series but nonetheless he is there in episode one with his mother and thus deserves a mention. A bit like Hiro, Micah is also keen on comic books and superheroes and while taking a different slant on it to Hiro he does see a purpose and a place for his gifts and the gifts of his family, wanting to become a hero like those he's read about, though he quickly discovers things aren't so simple.

Micah is a technopath, which means he can "talk" to all forms of technology and get them to do what he wants, from getting cable TV simply by touching the set, getting money from an ATM without hacking or entering a card and even rigging an election. He has a command ofver all sorts of electronic devices and can interact with even analog devices such as streetlamps as opposed to hacking through wireless and internet signals, which is another power altogether.

As a natural power it is, in one sense, useless. Had it manifested a century or two ago it would have had no effect whatsoever and the "hero" would have been as common as you or I. I don't mind it being in the show, but such abilities manifesting through "evolution" make little sense, it pretty much needs design to give a power that specific. Another example would be Peter Pettreli's power, which seems to anticipate the arrival of other superheroes, but I'll get onto that later. I guess this is filling in for my usual God slot as there are no technopaths in the Bible, but powers such as these seem to require a designing hand which Heroes has tried to fill in with it's somewhat confused concept of destiny.

Micah is not the first technopath in popular fiction however and there are others who get the power from other, perhaps more believable sources. My personal favourite is The Great Machine, from the comic series Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan. In that series contact with an alien artifact has left Mitchell Hundred deformed and with the ability to speak to any piece of technology, from aeroplanes to air-conditioners. However in the comic book he has left that life behind and has revealed his identity to the world and cunningly bagged himself the job of Mayor of New York, where he feels he could do far more good than he did as a hero. but being mayor isn't easy, especially when you have a past that worries people and is also keen on coming back to haunt you. I'd definitely recommend this series to older teens and above - it has a share of gore and language so I wouldn't pass it on to younger folks. And with that nice little plug over, back to the post!

And that's pretty much it actually, technopathy is a fairly new, but not entirely original power, but I think the Heroes team have executed it well and chosen wisely in giving it to the kid as opposed to a combat power.

Sam if you know of other Heroes do share - I hope this colour scheme suits ya