Mar 292011

I have two ice hockey heroes.

Yesterday they amassed 7 points in Ducks’ crucial win over Avalanche.

The lion’s share was claimed by Teemu Selänne, the original finnish flash from 18 years back, proved that powder is still dry. A hat trick accompanied by a duo of scoring passes. He’s now sharing the eighth position in the points statistics, not bad at all for a second string winger.

The other hero – Saku Koivu – got two scoring passes.

Despite the heroics on ice, Anaheim’s position remains precarious – with an average of six games to go, they have not confirmed their playoffs slot yet.

Mar 292011

Mass Effect 2 logoFinished Bioware’s Mass Effect 2 a short while ago. I liked the original a lot, and the sequel was an improvement over it in several ways.

The plot doesn’t really continue where it left off in part 1. Quite the contrary – the protagonist gets killed in the very first act and ends up being anonymously resurrected by a bona fide terrorist organization. Jack Shepard is actually a non-person for a good chunk of the game. Even if the character is believed dead, his actions from the original live on – a lot of familiar faces appear as do results of decisions made in Mass Effect.

But the truth is soon revealed, and the mail plotline kicks off. Shepard is off to assemble a motley crew of incompatible professionals to go against the escalating threat against the civilized galaxies. The quest takes Normandy to a variety of planets, moons and space stations. Thankfully the drive-around sections of the original have been dispensed with – vehicles exist only in additional downloadable content to the game.

The crew collection takes a good while, and ensuring the individual crewmembers loyalty brings in a new dedicated mission per person. The individual missions are pleasantly complex, mindless slogging through dozens of geth or other opponents doesn’t pollute every mission Shepard’s posse undertakes. But there’s no shortage of combat, plenty of shooting occurs during the saving of the galaxy. Shooting has been simplified considerably since the original – the skills of the character have been replaced by good aiming, the guns and ammo are treated a lot simpler. This smooths out the experience a lot, to me the obsessive-compulsive inventory management was one of the least appealing aspects of Mass Effect.

The biotic and technological powers of the characters are simpler as well, and Shepard’s computer-guided companions quite adept at using them without manual intervention.

The difficulty curve is smooth in the sequel. The original featured a final fight that demanded skills no previous battle required. Here the last combat is again different from the main game, but certainly beatable without extra attention. Unlike the original, finishing the final fight doesn’t end the game. Which is a good thing since there’s plenty of downloadable content to enjoy in addition to the main game. Especially the latest piece Lair of the Shadow Broker is well worth the money, and it expands the universe a lot.

The budget of the game is considerable indeed, the game took about forty hours to finish, and I by no means explored every nook and cranny of the universe. There’s plenty of graphical fireworks and music, and the voice acting is certainly worth an extra nod. The highlight for me was Martin Sheen as the mysterious patron, Seth Green returns as the wisecracking pilot of Normandy. The likes of Carrie-Anne Moss and Tricia Helfer (from Matrix and Galactica, respectively) hid themselves well, picked them out only from the credit sequence.

Especially when compared with the original game, the issue of achievements was handled very well in Mass Effect 2. A normal playthrough nets a good chunk of the points – and there’s little need to finish the game multiple times.

Mass Effect 2 consumed a good chunk of playtime during the last year, and I’m definitely looking forward to the final part of the trilogy due out towards the end of the year. According to Bioware developers, the gameplay of the finale will be significantly shaped by the decisions taken in the two first parts – exactly the kind of role-playing game I want to see from the start to the finishing line.

To tide over the intervening period the franchise offers both books (Drew Karpyshyn’s trilogy will be expanded by at least one further novel) and comics (at least four series are either being published or already available in collected form).

Mar 242011

Slow Loris have quietly evolved into youtube darlings, even I fell for the big-eyed prosimians back in 2009.

However, as the truth about the trade in these fascinating creatures emerges, they hopefully will be left to roam the jungle canopies rather than poached, cruelly doctored and basically left to die in the hands of wannabe ticklers.

[ via Boing Boing who have an awesome image to accompany the article. ]

Mar 242011
Photo Thursday #200: ProcessThis picture of a venetian carnival mask was taken on the sofa, in the darkened living room. The light within the mask was provided by a flashlight pushed inbetween the backrest cushions. The diffusor for the light was a piece of thin paper that distributed the white light with a truly spooky effect. The only diminishing factor of the image was the persistent leakage on the left side.

Photo Thursday #200: Process.