The Bush of Goats

Marc Williams, writer & designer: 'Life's too short for empty slog ans'

Playing a game of Limbo

My Xbox 360 has sat under all the TVs in our new house, but for the first time since we moved here nearly three years ago, I’ve recently found the time and the inclination to play it. My first act was to finish a game I bought from the arcade 18 months ago, but never really had the time for. But now I’ve played it and finished it and loved it.

Limbo is an independent production from Copenhagen and does game play just as I like it. Simple, with repetition in small part, not overly long, a plot you only really get to understand in the blank empty spaces as you try to figure out how the latest little block & weight puzzle needs solving, and perhaps most importantly, a really quick reload. Control is simple (back, forward, jump, action) and the manner of executions hilariously macabre: your little 8 year old boy is impaled by hidden spiders, crushed by blocks, drowned by dirty water and best of all, minced by circular saws. Luckily, all that horror and gore is depicted in a Jan Pienkowski-esque silhouette, adding to the fairytale feel.

Despite the youth of the protagonist, this is a very adult game (asides from the deaths) as you are given no real eexplanation for what is happening, or why. You must trust its worth it and do without the clodden hoofed exposition most games seem to think it is their duty to impart. best of all might be the ending, which tells you something – there’s a girl – but tells you nothing really. Seriously: she looks up; not even at you. I had feared the gloom would lift and it would be revealed as some kind of Nyan-Cat Mario-Land, but developers PlayDead held their nerve. I await their next production with much interest.




Filed under: Uncategorized

The Hunt of Tony Bliar

Last night m’wife and I watched, from a recording, The Hunt For Tony Blair.

The Hunt takes place in an imagined England of the 1940/50s and has an opening not unlike 39 steps, where the central ‘everyman’ (Blair) is framed for a crime and must flee to prove his innocence. Blair, on the run, searches for help from the friends he has bought along the way, who all hang up on him or double cross him. He eventually finds himself on a tumbled down neglected country estate, owned by none other than Lady Thatcher, sprawled like a 40s movie star across a chaise longue. In the end, it’s a crazed Gordon Brown who shoots Blair in the arse, falling from the open doorway of a cruise liner into the sea. After appearing to have drowned, lying facedown in the drink, Blair rolls over, and clasping his hands behind his head, drifts off to a happy ending.

Narrated throughout by Steven Mangan’s Blair, it is the view from inside Blair’s head; ‘of how it really happened, you know?’. He is, in his vision of what happened, immensely smart, somehow unique and surrounded by naive dummies. As everyone around him is forced to adhere to the rules of the genre , trapped and laid low by the challenges of an everyday Britain – Cherie appears several times to complain that the washing machine has broken – Blair himself is permitted to sidesteps the rules of his own imaginary universe. The restrictions of the genre, of the world Blair has created, act as a beautifully conceived cipher for the manner in which all around him is trapped by a certain comprehesnion of the universe, and are therefore incapable of thinking outside of the box. Only he is allowed to step out of the  game – like an 11-year-old forced to play with 7-year-olds, he must be allowed to manage the rules, because only he could hope to understand what the game is actually about.
Despite all this, it remained somehow lacking. The script was good, if not consistently brilliant, there were some lovely shots, lighting and dress, and it did on occasion feel like a lost Powell and Pressburger, but overall it felt laboured (which you could almost argue was a product of the millieu – the overlong look into camera – were it not for the looks of knowing on the actor’s faces). There were many great ideas (repeated references to the published biographies of Blair, Bush and Mandelsohn, Thatcher as a fallen idol, obsessed with ‘her war’) and some laugh out loud performances (Robin Cook chief among them) it just didn’t bite quite hard enough.

I heard a a thought on the radio recently (I cannot recall from whom or in what context, but it might have been Andrew Collins) about satire. He said, ‘the only satire which has ever worked was Smashie and Nicey. Overnight, every DJ on radio, everywhere, abandoned the radio personality they had spent years refining and began to speak normally.’

I wonder if in an even tighter homage to the era and its media, this should have instead been a serialisation: wherein the grinding ubiquity of Blair’s dogged adherence to his doctrine over everyone else’s might be exposed in its simplicity and unilateral benefit. If we were to have this week in, week out, it might start to have the imagined power of satire and perhaps even bring a closer examination of the man responsible.

Not ‘arf, mate!

Filed under: Thinking

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January 2012


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