Tag Archives: gaming

“My automatic melancholy” – the all-too-short pop career of Lara Croft

Rhona Mitra as Lara Croft

At the height of the Tomb Raider games’ success, and before a film had been made, a succession of actresses, models and promo girls — including a young Katie Price — queued up to be the real life face of Lara Croft. And somehow one of them, Rhona Mitra, ended up making an in-character pop CD with Dave Stewart.

come alive

Come Alive came out on EMI in 1998, between Tomb Raider II (the one with the Venice and sunken ship levels) and Tomb Raider III (the one where Lara keeps getting run over by a tube train). It only went on general release in France, and there’s so little about it on the web you’d think someone had tried to quietly erase it from pop history.

Most of the songs have a post-Madchester, indie dance vibe with flashes of guitar, landing on a sound somewhere between Sneaker Pimps and Chumbawamba. There’s even the occasional ragga toast. So far so 90s. But what about the subject matter?

Brilliantly, Lara sings about her own fictionality, her longings for a physical life and her confusing symbiotic relationship with you the gamer. In this way it very much picks up the metafictional baton from the ending of Tomb Raider II, in which Lara, about to undress for the shower, magnificently breaks the fourth wall by turning to face you and shooting you dead, saying “Don’t you think you’ve seen enough?”

Lead single Getting Naked follows the same template, teasing nudity while admonishing the listener “I know you want to be my lover boy, but I’ve got a lot of things going on.” And the balance between titillation and domination continues in songs like Beautiful Day where every seductive “Tell me all your fantasies and I’ll tell you mine,” is set off by a stern “I’ll do what I want to.”

The prospect of physical love rears its head in Really Real in which a somewhat listless Lara breathes “I’m real! Really real! Just like you!” While in the next song, Feel Myself, she does what any of us would after making the transition from digitised form and proceeds to “Feel myself for the first time,” complete with some little panting noises. Charmingly, she describes her self exploration in terms any gamer will understand, giggling “Moved on to level 2!”

The album’s themes peak on title track Come Alive, in which Lara muses on her life as a pixellated puppet. “I see myself up on a wall,” it opens over some lovely downbeat electro. She goes on to consider her “fated path,” reflecting “all the walls that I was climbing, all the time that I spent falling… and all was fine when I was drowning.”

The whole thing’s a triumph. A very odd triumph, to be sure, but then those are my favourite sorts. It’s a rare album that lets you hear an iconic video game character sing come-hither lyrics about “fish and chips in Streatham” and “a pint of lager & lime” and somehow carry it off, but this is the one. In case you hadn’t noticed, I spend every other post on this blog deliberately muddling fictional things and real ones (with hilarious consequences etc etc), so once in a while it’s nice to find a piece of pop culture that’s managed it all on its own. And is real — really real.

Monsters at Home: Shadow of the Colossus

What keeps the sixteen colossi of the Forbidden Land going in the long years they spend sitting around waiting to be killed?

club

Shadow of the Colossus is one of the first titles that’s likely to come up in any discussion of games as art. Its narrative, its design and its melancholy themes are tied closely and cleverly together for a slow-burning emotional impact. But as ever with artistic masterpieces, much of the nitty-gritty of daily routine is skirted over and left unexplained. Let’s have a look at the monsters’ secret home lives…

WHAT DO THEY EAT?

As a player wandering around the Forbidden Land the best you’ll manage to forage is the odd lizard tail. That’s about the size of a lentil from a colossus’s perspective so clearly it wouldn’t sustain one. These vast golems who collapse into natural rubble when defeated must have to chew up and shit out great chunks of the landscape itself to keep themselves nourished. The sods.

flying

How DO THEY socialise

If you’ve played Shadow of the Colossus (and a kiss for you, loyal reader, if you haven’t and you’re still reading this) you’ll know that much of the game is taken up with long contemplative treks through the lonely lands at the edge of the world as you search for your foes. In other words they live in total isolation, and as walking prisons for splintered segments of evil energy it’s probably best they don’t mingle all at once. But what’s to stop the big flying one heading up over the plains for a nice day out? Collecting the little boar-like ones for a gentle race over one of the bridges perhaps, or organising a bit of heavy-footed dressage for the larger quadrupeds. No-one should be alone with their sorrow.

wine

What do THEY drink?

When the colossi are defeated, the evil black force sealed within them oozes out to violate our protagonist, progressively debilitating his appearance with each “victory”. On the one hand this invites us to consider the consequences and morality of a traditional heroic narrative. On the other hand it suggests to me they’ve got carried away with the red wine.

What do THEY watch on telly?

These huge lumbering creatures of stone and moss are enjoying the recent revival of Fort Boyard on Saturday mornings, although they feel the Fort is something of an under-developed character.

rock garden

What DO THEY do for fun?

The big ones with their clubs as big as towers are clearly only hoping someone will turn up and bowl them a pagoda for a nice game of rounders. The aquatic ones with their constant electrical discharges are probably just trying to generate enough power to get a soundsystem going. In fact the twelfth colossus, blasting around in the water with that nice big flat rock garden on his head, could have a promising career as a party boat if it wanted.

shadow-of-the-colussus-stab

How DO THEY reproduce?

Any speculation about the sex lives of the colossi must inevitably turn to their secret, sensitive parts – the sigils that are the key to their defeat. These ticklish, glowing areas that act as seals to their enchantment are euphemisms of the first rank. Considering that you spend the entire game sifting through fearsome tufts and ridges to locate these erogenous zones and successfully penetrate each colossus with your weapon, it’s tempting to see the whole game as a glorified Joy of Sex manual. In which case, Shadow of the Colossus’s sex lessons can be summed up by saying – hold on for as long as you can and just keep poking.

5 things I learned from The Power of Three

1. The Power of Ninety (miles a second, so it’s reckoned)

The Doctor’s heartfelt speech to Amy offering perspective on ‘one corner of one country in one continent on one planet that’s a corner of the galaxy that’s a corner of the universe that is forever growing… ‘ as they sat looking at the stars reminded me very much of Eric Idle’s lovely song in Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life.

2. The Power of Pertwee

I really liked this story and the way it balanced a vibe reaching back through various Torchwood scenarios to the feel of the global invasions in Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who all the way back to the nostalgic glow of the Pertwee era. Mind you I mean the good Pertwee era of my childhood imagination – the one based on the Target novelisations and what we were told by the guidebooks and magazines, where everything was cosy and action-packed at the same time and it felt like a family – before the videos started coming out and it turned out the Third Doctor was really just a horrible thankless old bully.

3. The Power of other mobile networks are available apart from Three

4. The Power of KIRSty

Implacable cubes make great enemies, from Dungeons & Dragons‘ Gelatinous Cubes to the Borg, the world of the film Cube and those remorseless advancing blocks in the old PlayStation game Kurushi. There’s something about geometric perfection that inspires unease, even when they’re not blaring out The Birdie Song. And I wouldn’t go so far as to ask Is Doctor Who’s The Power of Three a Shot-For-Shot Remake of Hellraiser?, but you know –

There’s this girl who can make the cubes work

And the wall in the hospital turns into a dimensional portal

And the cube reconfigures itself on its own

And who the FUCK’s this?

– and this is all very welcome to me.

5. The Power of Poultry

Could they be alien eggs? asks Brian. Oh Brian. If only they were.

YouTube Watch: Lookalike make-up tutorials

There are scores of tutorials on YouTube showing you how to ‘get the look’ of your favourite celebrity or fictional character. Everyone from Fern Britton to Ed Sheeran is there! Actually, no, I couldn’t find either of those. But here are the best of the rest:

How to look like Drake ?! A Make-up Transformation Very relaxing to watch, and very efficiently done. There’s nothing not to love about a drawn-on hairline and the issue of Drake’s ENORMOUS ARTHROPOD EYEBROWS is discreetly glossed over while they’re drawn on in MASSIVE STROKES. “Add a silver necklace if you wish, and the look is complete.” Lovely. 4/5

human centipede makeup tutorial First thing: lighting. Open the bloody curtains! Even the most crazed of Nazi doctors wouldn’t work in these conditions. Still, stitches are drawn on cheeks and she does her best to express the longueurs of a hard day tied up and eating shit: “You’re going to have to make your eyes all dark and scary, cos they’re really tired… make sure you put a lot of brown around your mouth.” Crying is simulated with drops of water on the face, and a LOT of make-up is used with results that to be honest aren’t that great. You could save money by literally smearing shit on your face, and then perhaps you’d cry for real. 2/5

Jessie J inspired lips – Do It Like a Dude Brevity’s to be applauded, right? Not on this occasion, no. In quick succession we see the finished result, a tube of lipstick and some rhinestones, and no consideration’s given to guiding us through the application process. The end titles crash in before the afterthoughtish drawling voiceover’s finished. And the lipstick’s not even black. 1/10

Angry birds makeup tutorial Less is more with this accomplished tutorial. Barely a word is spoken as we’re shown how to transform ourselves to take sides in the endless war between bird and pig. It’s tightly edited and all the steps are shown in a very clear visual way. But the best is yet to come. 3/5

Black Swan Makeup Tutorial I really like this girl. She starts in a lovely warm, softly spoken way, talking about being inspired by Natalie Portman. Then after applying foundation she suddenly announces “First I’m going to take some ecstasy so I can imagine Mila Kunis giving me head.” The best way to enjoy the rest of the surprises in this vid, as glowpinkstah gets further and further into character(s) is to watch the whole thing. Absolutely sensational. 5/5

Monsters at Home: ICO’s Shadows

I’m playing ICO in HD. It was already the most beautiful and satisfying game of all time, maybe, and now they’ve remastered it for the PS3. Going back to the castle feels like coming home. Its oily, smoky, capering monsters look more wonderful than ever. Their eyes flash blue as they frolic in the courtyards and the more finely enhanced they are, the more they seem as fluid but substantial as the shapes you see inside your eyelids when you’ve been looking into the light too long. But what do they get up to when they’re not on screen?

WHAT DO THEY EAT We don’t know much about the monsters. We do know that their main aim is to drag Yorda into one of those inky Acme-style portals they ooze out of. So we have to assume they love a traditional Prinsesstårta. Sponge layers and cream covered in green marzipan! It tastes like a princess! OK I’ve eaten the cake but I haven’t eaten a princess. I’ve only got my own assumptions to go on. (The cake was good.)

HOW DO THEY SOCIALISE Of all the monsters I’ve written about on this blog, these are some of the most playful. I love they way they scamper about after Yorda, and their natural friskiness leads me to imagine they like nothing more than an innocent game of Kiss Chase (OK, Kiss Chase that leads to the KIDNAP and ABSORPTION of your soulmate and ENSUING HEARTBREAK, but whatevs).

WHAT DO THEY DRINK Castrol GTX.

WHAT DO THEY WATCH ON TELLY The monsters enjoy Grand Designs, Fort Boyard and Take Me Out.

WHAT DO THEY DO FOR FUN It may be sacrilege, and of course you never see it in the game, but I like to think they creep out when Ico and Yorda have moved on to the next area, in order to sprawl on one of those Sofas Of Reasonable Comfort that you use as save points. Although the comfort level of a wrought iron sofa remains to be proved.

HOW DO THEY REPRODUCE I’ve spent a lot of time watching these monsters (OK, beating them with sticks). It’s hard to say which are my favourites. I like the spidery ones, I like the way one of them tries to pretend-vanish into walls like a retreating stain. But I think my favourite is Turkey Lurkey with his grabby wings. And if ‘grabby wings’ doesn’t fire your own sexual imagination then I can’t help you.

Favourite albums of 2011

20. Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

19. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

18. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

17. Rihanna – Talk That Talk

16. Theophilus London – Timez Are Weird These Days

15. Drake – Take Care

14. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi

13. Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting

12. Lil B – I’m Gay (I’m Happy)

11. Selena Gomez & The Scene – When The Sun Goes Down

10. CocknBullKid – Adulthood

9. araabMUZIK – Electronic Dream

8. Cher Lloyd – Sticks + Stones

7. Riz MC – MICroscope

6. Beyoncé – 4

5. The Sound of Arrows – Voyage

4. Toddla T – Watch Me Dance

3. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

Britney’s people have told her that every song on her album Femme Fatale is inspired by a different femme fatale from history, myth or fiction. Poor Britney just can’t work it out though! Can YOU match the lyrics from the album to the  foxy ladies in question? Answers below.

2. The Weeknd – House of Balloons

Poor Abel Tesfaye has just got the artwork for his epically miserable comedown album back from the designers, but it looks like they’ve strayed from his original vision! Can YOU spot the five subtle differences hidden in the new cover?

If you are having trouble spotting all five differences here are some hints!

  • I wonder who else was at those debauched parties he sings about?
  • There’s a subtle theme running through the album but we’ve “inflated” it
  • “Well doesn’t that put the cherry on top”
  • Track titles ‘MAY’ not ‘ALWAYS’ be correct!
  • A dog’s face

1. Katy B – On A Mission

Here are Katy’s missions explained track-by-track:

POWER ON ME

Attributes: Slowly unfolding; sweeping musical vista; quite long. Mission: 1986 film THE MISSION. (From the IMDB plot synopsis: “Initially, the Guarani warriors prepare to kill him, but after Gabriel plays an unforgettable solo on his oboe, they allow him to live”. And we’ve all had days like that.)

KATY ON A MISSION

Attributes: Bold, purposeful, brill. Mission: KATY’S MISSION STATEMENT

WHY YOU ALWAYS HERE

Attributes: Elegant; structured; accomplished. Mission: MISSION REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE.

WITCHES BREW

Attributes: Startling; Bleepy; Full of twists and turns that leave you feeling dislocated. Mission: Doctor Who‘s 1965 MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN episode with its imagination-gone-mad monsters and lack of regular cast.

MOVEMENT

Attributes: Propulsive; No nonsense; Designed to make you move. Mission: A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION.

GO AWAY

Attributes: Dignified; Luxurious; Satisfying. Mission: The DIPLOMATIC MISSION where the Ferrero Rocher-stuffed Ambassador’s Receptions are held.

DISAPPEAR

Attributes: Solid; A bit old-fashioned; Cheery. Mission: THE GLAD TIDINGS MISSION FROM 60s CORONATION STREET, over which Ena Sharples presided; a handy refuge in case of a gas leak on the Street.

BROKEN RECORD

Attributes: Bright; Bouncy; Pretty. Mission: MISSION BELL (the flower, stupid.)

LIGHTS ON (FEAT. MS. DYNAMITE)

Attributes: Passing the torch from one generation of singer to the next; Shiny; Confident. Mission: THE CONTINUING MISSION of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Enterprise-D.

EASY PLEASE ME

Attributes: Fun; In your face; Sassy with the fanfares. Mission: The original series of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

PERFECT STRANGER (WITH MAGNETIC MAN)

Attributes: Romantic; Irresistible; Destined to help Magnetic Man be warmly remembered even though most people shrugged at their album proper. Mission: A RESCUE MISSION.

HARD TO GET

Attributes: Charming; Laidback; Basking in the glow of all that’s come before. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Horrors Go Skying

Monsters at home: The Silent Hill nurses

Oh, you’ve never played any Silent Hill, you say. Well this brilliant game series, pitched somewhere between David Lynch and the best of Japanese horror cinema provides some of the most unsettling interactive experiences you’ll ever have, outside of a spin on chatroulette. The nurses are among the series’ most recognisable recurring opponents*, and like all its horrors they exist as symbols of unresolved anxieties in the deepening stories of the protagonists. BUT THAT SOUNDS LIKE HARD WORK. So how do they relax?

WHAT DO THEY EAT The cardigan-wearing nurses from the original game, with the slug-parasites growing out of their backs, are found wandering gloomy hospital corridors, waving scalpels around. But with only a scalpel to use, they’re going to be limited to food that can be jabbed. So their staple diet is cocktail sausages, cheese and pineapple cubes, and those olives with things stuck in them.

HOW DO THEY SOCIALISE In Silent Hill 2 the nurses got sexy. Of course when I say sexy, I also mean facially disfigured, twitching succubi lashing out at you with iron bars, but still, you know, voluptuous. Fetishy. It’s a representation of the guilt and sexual frustration the main character felt during his wife’s long hospitalisation. So these nurses save their pennies for trips to the mall to get those too-tight, bloodied uniforms just right, and then hit the wine bars.

WHAT DO THEY DRINK The nurses in Silent Hill 3 are best remembered for how bloody noisy they were. All that heavy breathing, and those horrible screams. I hear a similar racket outside the flat when the windows are open on warm Saturday nights. It’s generally fuelled by Jagermeister. So if they can’t get formaldehyde, that’s what the nurses are on too.

WHAT DO THEY WATCH ON TELLY The nurses in Silent Hill: Origins seemed to have surgical masks melted onto their faces. But it would be lazy to see that and assume that they just sit around watching medical dramas. No, as figures of control and repression, they’re far more comfortable with the overbearing likes of How To Look Good Naked and The Biggest Loser. 

WHAT DO THEY DO FOR FUN In the live action Silent Hill film, the nurses were fantastically choreographed. All their jerky lurching was brought to life in as horrible and disorientating a way as us fans could have hoped for. So clearly there have been some dance classes along the way. Lambada, perhaps.

HOW DO THEY REPRODUCE In the recent Silent Hill: Homecoming, you could — unpleasantly — see a foetus growing in the nurses’ wombs when you shone a light on them. But it’s anyone guess how it got in there. This is a game series in which someone vomits up God’s foetus and someone else eats it, after all. To be honest I’d prefer to write the whole thing off as an optical illusion. I don’t want to see any more nurses. They scare me.

*Ok, obviously the most iconic Silent Hill monster is Pyramid Head. But nothing I write is going to improve on the video below, which appeared on YouTube a few years ago, and to be honest has pretty much inspired this whole Monsters At Home strand. Respect.

The birth of the Cheeky Girls, expressed as a home computer text adventure

It’s the end of 1982 Week. But how better to celebrate the year? We all remember where we were when the Cheeky Girls were born, don’t we. And we all played those early text-based computer games. Didn’t we.


You are in a womb-like area in Transylvania. The walls are dark, red and wet. There is not much room to move around. There are exits to north and south.

> HELP

You are the Cheeky Girls. You are in a womb-like area in Transylvania. The walls are dark, red and wet. There is not much room to move around. There are exits to north and south.

> N

The exit to the north is too small for you to get through. You can see through the uterotubal junction into a Fallopian tube. It is a twisty maze of a passage.

> S

The exit to the south looks promising but is barred by an amniotic membrane.

> WHERE DO I GO

You never ever ask “where do you go?”

> OPEN MEMBRANE

You don’t have anything to open the membrane with.

> HIT MEMBRANE

I don’t know how to hit the membrane.

> WHAT DO I DO

You never ever ask “what do you do?”

> WAIT

You wait. Time passes.

> KICK

A hollow voice says PUSH.

> PUSH

I don’t know how to push.

> EXAMINE MEMBRANE

The membrane seems to be getting thinner and the exit to the south is widening slightly.

> S

You are in a cervix-like area. There is a bright light coming from the south which hurts your eyes.

> CLOSE EYES

It is pitch dark. There are horrible gurgling noises. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

> MAKE LIGHT

This is no laughing matter.

> OPEN EYES

The light is getting brighter. You feel a strong pressure acting against you from the north.

> S

You pass through the cervix and into a bright, cold, open area. Your mother sits down and starts singing about gold. You are the Cheeky Girls and you have been born! Congratulations.

> TOUCH MY BUM

This is life.

Monsters at home: The Resident Evil dogs

Zombie dogs. Zombie, zombie dogs. They snarl, they trot, they leap, they chomp. But after a hard day’s smashing unexpectedly through windows and chewing the living daylights out of you, how do they spend their gentler moments?

WHAT DO THEY EAT So, your average Umbrella Corp. zombified Dobermann obviously prefers human flesh. But when they slouch back to their kennels and curl up with a blanket, that’s not always an option. They have to leave someone around to clear up their necrotic doo-doos after all. So instead they take full advantage of their undead natures and gorge themselves on foods they would have been denied for boring “health reasons” while alive: chocolate, onions, raisins, and the biggest illicit thrill of them all, cat food.

HOW DO THEY SOCIALISE As dogs who’ve been infected with a genetically-engineered T-virus to make them psychotically aggressive, they can be a liability in the park. Owners are advised to let them hang out together in their natural environs, which include creepy deserted mansions and military experimental test islands.

WHAT DO THEY DRINK They don’t drink anything. They’re dead.

WHAT DO THEY WATCH ON TELLY The average MA-39 Cerberus tends to find itself disappointed with typical doggy programming. It watches with exasperation as the sheepdogs on One Man And His Dog fail to savage ANY of the docile tasty herd in the meadow, it barks at Lassie to get herself down the well and eviscerate Timmy to within an inch of his life, and it drools and slavers impatiently while the Blue Peter dogs sit placidly around. Don’t even mention The Littlest Hobo.  They enjoyed Animal Hospital with Rolf Harris, but only when the operations didn’t go well.

WHAT DO THEY DO FOR FUN It’ll surprise many that such a mindless, bloodthirsty creature should have hobbies, but they’ve got long Sunday afternoons to get through just like the rest of us. They’re in fact very embarrassed about their patchy, rotting, blood-soaked appearance and they’ve been trying for years to learn how to knit themselves little doggy coats so they won’t feel self-conscious while chasing STARS agents up and down corridors. But then they get frustrated and chew the needles up.

HOW DO THEY REPRODUCE We all know how easy reproduction is for zombies; one bite and you’re away. So the undead dogs of Resident Evil have tried to bring back a bit of the old sex-urge frisson by kidnapping poncy show dogs and forcing them to appear in gory home-made pornos. If YOU buy a copy of They Prey On Poodles, Borzoi Bugger-Pound or the notorious Shih Tzu Shit Splash, you MAY be liable for prosecution.

The lovely plush toy version of the zombie dog that I used in the main picture can be found here