Archive | December 2010

Retaining the Ashes: “great”

England retaining the Ashes (albeit by securing a drawn series at the least), prompted this interview with David Cameron that I caught on BBC News. Dave’s enthused. It’s great with the help of strength.

“Really fantastic.”
“A great team performance.”
“A great team performance.”
“Made the whole country proud.”
“‘A great late Christmas present for England.'”
“After the great win we had…”
“A fantastic performance.”
Great sense building.”
“Doing a brilliant job.”
“Andrew Strauss, great captain.”
Well done to them all.”
“Really really deserve victory.”
“Had so many defeats over the years to great Australian sides.”
“A really great performance.”
“Outstanding individual performances.”
“Really strong team.”
“Showing what a strong squad what it is.”

Great stuff, Dave. Strong insightful appraisal of the series there. The series so far that is.

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As England’s first innings end…

I wake up and the radio tells me that Australia are 174/6 in the third Ashes test. England are in trouble, reckons the Radio 1 newsreader. Trouble? Because England aren’t knocking off 500 again? A nip onto Twitter reaps just as much “perspective”. This is becoming typical.

Keep some perspective, yeah? When did the English become so “highs” and “lows” with their cricket? It’s either sweeping success or miserable failure. Is this a modern psychological phenomenon, fuelled by the “footballisation” of the game? Is it supposed arrogant belief that England should be the best at this game? Is it just ignorance of the intricacies of the game? Have the English always been like this? Is it cricket fans the world over? It’s certainly an English thing, as the English press is just as swinging with their take on cricket, hardly ever any moderation (witness the “perfect team” pieces following the previous test).

Looking back through that list I can’t remember such senses of gloating triumphalism and numbing despair in my earlier days. Is it technology, letting people express – like I am doing now – their immediate feelings more readily, started by the phone-in approach lead by Radio 5 in the ’90s? I don’t know, but we need some perspective.

The scene was set before the game. Australia are up against it. They can’t afford to lose. Defeat means they can’t regain the Ashes. They were always going to fight back. Their batting in the first innings was persistent, while the England bowling didn’t have consistent rhythm, whereas the Australian bowling was consistent.   It’s proved a great return for Mitchell Johnson as well. If England had batted first would be looking at a different picture? Of course. But what?

It’s an uphill battle in this test – Australia have a decent lead, three days to go, and the pitch can only veer ever-more over in the bowler’s favour – but the game isn’t over. Australia don’t have a killer lead. England aren’t down by a massive score. There’s still play left today, for England to use the ball. It’s a key session, a fascinating session, the kind of period that lifts test match cricket above any other sport. It’s still a game on. It’s down to how the two teams respond. And that’s the beauty of test match cricket.

Just remember that, yeah?

Canabalt

Belt and jump along the roofs and through the offices of a cyberpunky future world where smoke plumes and towering robots lurk among the towers and buildings on the horizon. Canabalt’s simple premise is just that – a sideways scroller where your character continuously runs, picking more speed as you tap the screen to make your hero jump to avoid obstacles (crates, gaps, leaps to higher runways. the occasional falling object, the building crumbling downwards as you hurtle over it). It’s a simple game but one which is executed perfectly – smartly and distinctly.

The controls and way the character responds to the landscape is the main difference in this game. It actually feels good. There’s a smooth build of momentum as your character runs along the landscape. It’s not sudden, it’s not fast, it’s gradual, to the point of easing you into the game. Before you know it, your character is belting along. Until he hits a crate which slows your speed. Also the longer presses of the screen actually produce the jumps you expect.

While most games employ explicit sprite collision detection, Carabalt smartly places the sprites’ collision zones slightly withdrawn, meaning the edge of the main character touching an obstacle doesn’t produce contact. If the contact extends a little further then contact is registered. This makes the game far more fluid, far less frustrating, and far more playable. It’s not cheating – it’s an allowance for the speed of the game and the player’s reactions on the iPhone screen.This mutual tolerance between game and player is very smart.

All this clever-clever gameplay would be a touch lost if the game didn’t at least look and sound the part. Again, the grey scale and pixelated graphics are spot on, providing the right amount of detail, but also the right amount of blocks of solid colour to not be distracting. You can follow the gameplay, There’s also some lovely little touches, like the glass smashing as you break through windows and the John Woo-like doves that fly away when you run near them.

Carabalt is one of the few iPhone games that carries a soundtrack that enhances the game playing experience – rather one that grates or, worse still, can just be switched off. It’s soft techno, in much the same vein as WipeOut and countless other future shock games. It is well worth following the game’s confident request to listen through headphones.

With its simple but compelling gameplay and easy-to-pick controls, Canabalt is a game that you can immerse yourself in bouts of a good 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You’ll return to it, maybe less and less, but you’ll fire it up once in a while for a quick rush.

The question is is there anyone that can push the sideways scroller in the iPhone beyond this and return the playability?