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A Solid Quarter-Eater: Explosionade

Explosionade isn’t Fouts’s best, but it’s still a solid quarter-eater, especially at a price of four quarters.

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A Solid Quarter-Eater: Explosionade

For anyone who grew up with video games, playing the games of Nathan Fouts is like rubbing your face in a Proustian madeleine scented with Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza. You can practically feel the zits popping on your face as he drops even the most thoughtful devotees of art games into the headspace of a sullen 12-year-old with a switchblade. At a time when gaming is working hard to be regarded as capital-A Art, Fouts’s work is a gleeful punk-rock blast of disreputable goofiness. Explosionade—the title alone!—might be a little too self-consciously retro in some regards, but at an Xbox Indie price point, the only reason not to buy is if you’re determined to slap a green eyeshade over your inner child’s not-yet-receded hairline.

Unlike many developers working in the neo-retro-gaming genre, Fouts doesn’t go for 8-bit fidelity. The shimmering heavy metal riffs that slather his soundtrack would have been unimaginable with the old technology, and the same goes for his triumphantly gnarly character designs, which depend for their effect on the high resolution of modern consoles. Similarly, the smartly dumb writing would’ve been both over the head and under the belt of arcade managers in the average pizza parlor; it’s hard to imagine any game in those innocent days being so irreverently intertextual with other pop culture.

What guides Fouts isn’t technological fidelity, it’s nostalgia for atmosphere. His work is less about recreating the look and feel of ‘80s video games and more about imagining a world where the in-your-face game advertisements that aired during He-Man were accurate representations of digital brain-melting, rather than the product of execs desperately trying to link their clients’ beepy-bloopy products to something a little more, in the parlance of the time, rad. Fouts is to games what Big Daddy Roth is to cars, creating tributes to a scene’s imagined self-image rather than preserving the details of real life.

Explosionade isn’t Fouts’s best, but it’s still a solid quarter-eater, especially at a price of four quarters. The game is a pretty basic 2-D shooter, but with each level confined to a single room rather than sprawling through a side-scrolling level. Your mech is equipped with jet boots and grenades along with the usual blasters, and a shield that lets you protect yourself from enemies and catch major air on bounces. Along with killing small enemies and the occasional boss, you can also take bigger risks for high-value bonus items, and decide for yourself whether you’re going through a level focusing on body counts or speed.

This time, though, Fouts seems to have run out of ideas before he ran out of game. Except for a few bosses, the enemy design is mostly exhausted by level 10, and there’s little by way of new gameplay mechanics or even new music as the game progresses—though the Yngwie Malmsteen-style arpeggio that closes each level never stopped delighting me. The character designs are always fun in Fouts’s games, but here they’re badly served by the distant camera; there’s an option to zoom in, but since that offers no strategic advantage and a pretty substantial drawback (as enemies can target you from the opposite side of the board), you’ll spend the whole game with the finely etched designs looking more generic than they should.

Fouts’s masterpiece remains the sly and creative Xbox Indie Game Weapon of Choice. But unfortunately, too many people are unwilling to spend $5 on an absolutely stellar game that you should, for chrissakes, buy right now! So he’s moved back to $1 projects while trying to get his upcoming titles onto the better-positioned Xbox Live Arcade. So though Explosionade may not be his best, it’s well worth picking up just to see what his work is about; I guarantee you it’s a better fun-to-dollar ratio than the last few big titles you’ve blown your allowance on.

Explosionade. Publisher: Mommy’s Best Games. Developer: Mommy’s Best Games . Release Date: October 7, 2010. Platform: Xbox Indie Games. ESRB: N/A. To purchase, click here.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q6YWDm0GSU
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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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