March 18, 2013

“What’s In The Bible” – video series review

Filed under: Christianity,Reviews,Writing — Screenhog @ 9:41 pm

(The Bible) is the best-selling, most influential book in history. It has been banned, burned, smuggled, fought for, lived for, and even died for, and yet many of us hardly know what’s in it.

- Phil Vischer (creator of What’s in the Bible)

“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

- Isaac Asimov, science fiction writer

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I’ve been through countless Sunday School classes and Christian summer camps, which means that I’ve seen more than my share of Christian-themed videos. Some depicted Bible stories, others were about Christian morals, and some even managed to squeeze in a Bible verse or two.

However, I’ve seen nothing quite like this series. It all centers around one core idea – take the entire Bible, from beginning to end, explain it as simply and completely as possible for anyone who happens to watch it, and entertain them while doing it. The result is “Buck Denver Asks: What’s In The Bible?”, a 13 DVD series of hour-long videos.

Buck Denver, like most of the characters on the show, is a puppet, which may give you the impression that this is entirely a preschool show. Fortunately, that’s not the case: while it does go through the classic Sunday School stories like David & Goliath or the parting of the Red Sea, it goes through plenty of higher concepts too, such as how the canon of the Bible was decided, or the relevance of old Jewish laws for Christians today. It also doesn’t shy away from asking the difficult questions: why is there so much killing in the Old Testament? Why would a loving God allow sin?

While this kind of subject matter would seem dry or depressing at first glance, the show does a good job of keeping things light through witty characters (brother adventurers Clive and Ian being my personal favourites). And, to keep things on track, the show never fails to mention that the Bible is actually all about a single story: the fall of man from a state of perfection, and God’s rescue plan of redemption.

Admittedly, the show is not without its faults. Some of the humour does fall flat, and the song quality varies greatly. It also lacks a good female presence: while four of the show’s puppet characters are female, only one of them shows up with much frequency. (The lack of a female presence didn’t exactly hurt the popularity of The Muppets, but it is worth mentioning.)

When I read the news, it’s interesting to see both non-Christians and Christians are encouraging people to read the Bible, albeit with different motives. Many non-Christians believe that people only talk about the Bible as “the good book” out of ignorance, and that if they truly read the book, they’d see it for what it really is. On the other hand, many Christians believe that within the Bible are the keys for people to find life’s meaning and true joy, and groups such as the Gideons hand out thousands of Bibles for free just to get the word out.

In the midst of it all, there’s “What’s in the Bible”, doing its best to introduce as many people as possible to what the Bible is and why it matters. And although the series isn’t completely finished yet (as of this writing, DVD 10 was just released), I’m pretty impressed with how well it’s doing it.

November 14, 2009

Video Game Review: Scribblenauts

Filed under: Reviews,Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Tags: — Screenhog @ 9:02 pm

Scribblenauts is the game of my dreams. I mean that literally… it’s the type of game that an 8-year-old version of myself would have dreamt about, without believing that such a game could be possible, and yet here it is on my Nintendo DS.

The concept is simple, yet profound; you are an odd-looking boy with a rooster hat named Maxwell, and there are a series of minor tasks for you to complete. The reward for solving these tasks is a starite. However, instead of taking the usual video game route where you have very few items to work with and must rely on your skill, in this game, you can summon into existence ANY OBJECT YOU CAN THINK OF to help you on your way. (There are restrictions to the “anything you can think of” rule, like not including vulgar terms, shapes, Latin names, or copyrighted things, but those restrictions do make a lot of sense, and don’t ruin the overall game.)

For example; on the far side of a lake, there is a flower that you have to pick, but between you and the flower is an angry bee that won’t let you go past it. How do you get rid of it? That is entirely up to you. Flyswatter? Sure, it works. Bug spray? That works too. Boomerang? Yep. Sword? Absolutely. Venus’ flytrap? Um… actually, I’m not sure about that one, let me check…

*a few seconds later*

OK, Venus flytrap doesn’t actually try to eat the bee. However, dropping the plant on the bee’s head seems to kill it. This illustrates one of the downsides about Scribblenauts. Just because you can summon nearly anything doesn’t mean that it will always act the way you may expect. An ostrich will not bury its head in sand. Playing the flute will not make rats follow you. A ceiling fan will not automatically attach to most ceilings.
(click to read the rest of this post…)

August 8, 2009

Game Review – VisualEyes

Filed under: Game Reviews,Reviews — Screenhog @ 5:03 pm

VisualEyes is a game of quick-thinking and creativity. It’s a game that anyone can play, but knowing a whole lot of common phrases will give you the edge you need to win.

The game contains 18 dice that have individual pictures on each side. The dice are rolled, and then everyone around the table tries to find common phrases, like I’ve done in the illustration to the left of this review. In one mode of the game, players have about two minutes to find as many phrases as possible on the dice. After the time is up, everyone compares their word lists. If two or more people came up with the same phrase, they cancel each other out, and if someone came up with a phrase that’s a bit of a stretch, they’re voted down by the other players, but every legitimate phrase earns one point. First person to 20 points wins!

Creativity is encouraged, although bending the pictures too much into other things to try and make them fit a phrase probably won’t work. Playing on words is allowed, which means that “peace” can also be “piece”. You can add small words like “a”, “in”, or “and” to help you. Also, the phrases are only allowed to be two pictures long, so my sentence at the bottom wouldn’t be allowed (whether or not it made the other players laugh).

All things considered, it’s a fun game to play with a few friends, and it usually has some pretty hilarious moments. For instance, on one round that showed two dice with a calendar and a penguin on an iceberg, someone wrote “March of the Penguins”. On another round that had an obese man and a parka, someone suggested Chris Farley’s “Fat Guy in a Little Coat”.

There are a few downsides of this game. For instance, if you play this game too many times in a row, you start noticing a few of the same phrases over and over again, which takes a bit of the fun away. Another point is that it doesn’t work to have large groups of people play this, as it gets difficult for everyone to see the pictures on the dice. It’s also more of an adult game… in my experience, younger kids have a hard time coming up with phrases.

Those, however, are fairly minor compared to the actual fun of the game. If you want to see how well you’d do playing this game, see if you can find other phrases on the dice shown here. What about “papercut”? “Cut time”? “Playing with fire”? “Happy hour”? “Clock face”? “Two-faced”? “Time flies”?…

August 5, 2009

Video Game Review – Super Mario Galaxy

Filed under: Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Tags: , — Screenhog @ 8:33 pm

By now, most everyone who knows video games knows Mario, and those that own a Wii are probably already aware of Super Mario Galaxy, a game that burst onto the scene in late 2007. As of this writing, it has already sold over 8 million copies, and my reviewing the game is not likely to cause much of a bump in sales. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to review it anyway, because it is one of the few video games ever made that I could call perfect.

Two years ago, when I heard that Mario Galaxy was coming, I decided that it might be wise for me to get used to playing Mario games in 3D, as I’d never played classics like Mario 64. So, I picked up a copy of the Gamecube game Super Mario Sunshine – which, of course, plays on the Wii – and started playing. I soon discovered that I was not particularly good at the game… I had a difficult time mastering the controls, and there were too many precision jumps for me to master. Less than a tenth of the way through the game, I put the game away, hoping that Super Mario Galaxy would not be as difficult for me.

Fortunately, it is not. The controls are perfect, and the spin ability while jumping means that, if I’m about to land somewhere that I wasn’t intending to, I have a second chance before landing to correct my jump and land properly, which was much easier to master than Mario Sunshine’s F.L.U.D.D. system.
(click to read the rest of this post…)

April 17, 2009

Video Game Review – Boom Blox

Filed under: Reviews,Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Screenhog @ 6:48 am

Imagine, if you will, video footage from a building demolition. A huge skyscraper has been loaded with carefully placed explosives, so that the building will properly implode when a red button is pressed. Now, imagine that the explosives in the huge skyscraper were actually not placed very carefully at all, and when the building explodes, many buildings around it will also be toppled to the ground.

Now, imagine that you and your friends are the ones that get to press the big red button, without any fear of being charged with a criminal offense for destroying public property. That’s Boom Blox. If you have ever delighted in watching a wobbly building made of dominoes get destroyed and wished that it didn’t take so long setting up the dominoes in the first place, this game is for you. Boom Blox comes only on the Nintendo Wii, which is good, because I don’t know what other console could support a game like it.

At first, when I had heard of the concept for Boom Blox, I thought it would be fun for a few minutes, but without much potential for long-term play. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of different options for gameplay that the creators of Boom Blox – one of whom is none other than Steven Spielberg – came up with. There are modes where you hit things for points, others where you hit things to make them explode, and others where you delicately pull pieces out of towers, attempting to leave the rest of the tower standing. There’s a wide variety of weapons, from bouncy balls to six-shooters to, I kid you not, a fire hose that shoots bowling balls. As for variety in targets, there are Chemical Blox, which only explode when two come in contact with each other; Vanishing Blox, which immediately disappear when hit, and Gem Blox, which are frequent objects of desire for different modes of play.
(click to read the rest of this post…)

March 28, 2009

Video Game Review – World of Goo

Filed under: Reviews,Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Screenhog @ 9:58 am

There are some video games that awe me with their artistry. There are other video games that amaze me with their simplicity, coming up with a new type of video game experience that I’ve never played before. World of Goo is both.

The concept is simple. Drag and drop balls of goo. That’s all you have to do. The goo, depending where you place it, can construct towers, bridges, fences and ladders. The goal is to create a structure that will transport other, free-moving goo, to a mysterious pipe somewhere in the level. Get enough goo to that pipe, and you’ve completed that level’s puzzle.

The art design is simultaneously beautiful and dirty, in a Tim Burton sort of way. The music is well orchestrated, perfectly complimenting the art style, and the sound effects are also appropriate, with the goo happily proclaiming “Woohoo!” when they get added to the tower, and angrily grumbling when they are placed somewhere that can’t connect to the rest of the goo.

World of Goo is downloadable on the Wii from Wiiware. It costs 1500 Wii points, and was well worth it. It’s games like this that really show the strength of the Wii controller, being able to intuitively act like a mouse pointer. This game would be much more frustrating if you were trying to place the goo with a joystick or a D-pad.

This game is also available, at the time of this review, for PC, Mac, and Linux. The free demo of this game can be found at 2Dboy.com. Even if you have no intention of buying this game, I highly recommend downloading the demo and trying the game yourself.

February 21, 2009

Game Review: Carcassonne

Filed under: Game Reviews,Reviews — Screenhog @ 10:51 am

When I had first heard of Carcassonne, I had assumed that it was basically a Middle Ages variation of Risk. After all, it’s a game in which you put your pieces on the board, taking over various roads, cities, and other areas of the countryside, and the first two syllables of its name were “Carcass”.

However, I was mistaken. First off, you don’t start off with a static board. The board is made up entirely of square tiles that are built up as you go. Plus, there is no element of removing your opponent’s men. This is purely a strategic building game, and is much shorter than the average game of Risk.

In the game, you are constructing the southern French city of Carcassonne, one tile at a time. The tiles have pieces of roads, cities, and/or fields on them, along with the occasional cloister (monastery). Every time you place a tile, you have the option of playing one of your 7 followers on the tile you just played, claiming a road segment, city segment, field segment, or cloister. Once you’ve placed a follower, he stays there until the road, city, or cloister gets finished (if you place your follower on a field, he doesn’t leave until the end of the game). For every road, city, or cloister that gets finished, the follower on it earns points. Your goal is to get more points than your opponent(s).
(click to read the rest of this post…)

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