Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Korg DS-10: Nintendo DS can now be an Analog Synth!


Despite all the attention the Apple iPhone is getting for making downloadable applications available in their store, there are still other interesting portable devices to consider, like the Nintendo DS. Though it's mostly a game system, this little pen-based dual screen computer is starting to get a few non-game programs, such as this really cool patchable analog synthesizer from a real music company, Korg.

Seems like Sony's Portable Playstation (PSP) is getting further and further behind when it comes to cool non-game apps, which is a pity.

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posted by Brian at 3:02 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The GO! Team: Crazy British Happy-Go-Lucky Band Hiding in my PSP Game

Once again, it often takes two exposures to some new things before it sinks into my brain to the point where I notice. This was the case for Jonathan Coulton, whom I had seen perform along side John Hodgman without knowing who he was, then later finding out that HE was the one doing the great folk-songy version of "Baby Got Back" and a bunch of other great songs. Today's rediscovery is The Go! Team.

Sometimes last year I bought Lumines II for my PSP, the sequel to the horrifically addicting block game that features bizarre music (mostly Japanese electronica) and swirly visuals. This new version features actual music videos (!) of a few familiar artists (Beck, Gwen Stefani). I had started on the Basic mode, so none of these appeared. Hadn't played my PSP in a while, so yesterday I put in Lumines II and tried the Intermediate & Advanced modes to discover whatever tunes might be hidden in the game. Sure enough, there's one really, really strange video that sounds a bit like a high school marching band mixed with a previously unknown happy-sounding Janet Jackson or Nina Cherry rap song playing on a cassette player in the basement mixed with a harmonica riff, and a drummer playing an early 70s-style backbeat. Meanwhile, the visuals have a Super-8 film look, cut into a bizarro early 70s Sesame Street-like New York montage (with a few shots of Hollywood?) with no polish whatsoever. Unfortunately, one can't really focus on the visuals because the game itself is underway and blocks cover them up. Doh! How to figure out who made this craziness?

Luckily, the game tells you the name of the song ("Bottle Rocket") as you complete a level, but who was this artist? Was it a guy with lots of samples? Maybe two? A real marching band went home and recorded itself on Garage Band and went nuts, mashing it with 80s rap and adding tons of reverb?

In the back of my mind, I thought "Could this be The Go! Team?" Being an Angel member of the fantastic public radio station KCRW, I get new CDs sent to me every six weeks or so. In this manner I've discovered KT Tunstall, Zero 7, Imogen Heap, LCD Soundsystem, Band of Bees, and so many other great artists that in general, don't get played on mainstream, tightly-controlled corporate radio. Back in the Fall, they sent me an album called "Proof of Youth" by The Go! Team, which sounded like a high school cheerleading section paired with an acoustic drumset. It was a cool concept, but to my ears a little too muddled. I couldn't really make out the lyrics, and some parts were mixed too loudly for my taste. But maybe the creator(s) of this CD were responsible for this bizarre game video.

A quick search on YouTube for "Bottle Rocket" revealed this (albeit in poor quality):


A-ha! Caught red-handed. And this other video reveals that no, this is not the result of only a guy with some brass and rap samples (or a cheerleading squad / marching band for that matter):

Nope. This is a band from the UK, apparently quite multicultural and jubilant:

And how you can you not like a band with TWO drummers and an invisible horn section?

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posted by Brian at 11:55 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Intriguing PSP Game: Crush


It has been a long time since I picked up my Sony PlayStation Portable™, probably due to World of Warcraft and other activities. However, today while searching in vain for a decently-priced Nintendo Wii™, I picked up a game with an interesting premise: What if you're playing a 3-D platform game and suddenly wanted to play it in 2-D? What if the entire gameplay revolved around switching back and forth to solve puzzles?

The premise is you're Danny, a total insomniac who is being treated via this strange mind device called the Crush, which has him roam about his subconscious collecting important articles. Sometimes, in order to reach these items, he must squash perspective down to a flat world, either sideview or top-view. Very nice moody saxophone chill-out music plays in the background as you roam about mostly dark, abstract rainy cityscapes. It reminds me a bit of a cross between the Atari Lynx game Chip's Challenge, the classic Sega Genesis game Flashback, and any of the numerous true 3-D platform games out there (originating with Mario 64).

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posted by Brian at 9:41 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sid Meier's Pirates! is Crack, I Tell You

A month ago I found a used copy of Sid Meier's Pirates! for my PSP. Since then, I've accomplished the following:
  • Married the "beautiful" French governor's daughter
  • Become the #1 pirate on the Spanish Main
  • Had Spanish and British bounties placed on me for almost $90,000
  • Found 3 Lost Cities
  • Rescued my lost sister, uncle, and grandpa
  • Been thrown in Spanish jail for a year
  • Retired rich and famous (though in Poor health) as a Fencing Instructor
  • Undermined history by conquering Havana and Santiago and Barbados in the name of France
Now I'm trying to wipe out a colony, either the Dutch or British.

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posted by Brian at 5:47 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Must...stop...playing...Lumines!

First there was Tetris, the falling block game that sold millions of Nintendo GameBoys. Now on the Sony PSP, there's Lumines, which for me is probably ten times more addictive. Why? Well, it has asian-y techno music that responds to how you play. It has motion graphics going on in the background and different "skins", which like the music you can unlock as you play more. But mostly it just taps into your brain, reprograms it to want to create squares of color, and derive waves of pleasure whenever it does.

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posted by Brian at 12:20 PM 0 comments links to this post