Thief 2: The Metal Age on PC (6/10)

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Thief 2 has not aged terribly well. I’m usually not one to complain about dated graphics, but in this case they affect the game. A core mechanic is hiding in the shadows, so when the game engine can barely render a shadow you’ve got a problem. I would plan my movements based on scurrying between dark areas only to discover that I would be running through a brightly lit hallway. There is probably a mod out there somewhere that fixes all this.

The guard AI is pretty janky too. Sometimes you could just clop around in your tap shoes and the enemies would be none the wiser, but then other times you’d turn your head and trigger their alerted state. Eventually I got used to just walking in a slow crouch all the time to avoid them.

There is a bit of a story here which is told as inter-level cutscenes. It’s not bad for what it is (sloppy amateurish art and all) but for some reason the main baddie is voiced in that Howie Mandel baby voice. So goofy.

The Editor (6/10)

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A horror-comedy that takes aim at lampooning Italian giallo and horror films. It never quite nails the comedy part and is more concerned with simply recreating elements from the films of Fulci, Argento, and Martino. For example, it parodies the spider attack scene from The Beyond but there’s no joke other than, “Look spiders!” The sharpness of the digital filming kinda kills the vibe too. I’ll admit I chuckled two or three times but it mostly misses the mark and could have used a joke writer’s sensibility in the writing rather than a film buff’s.

Swamp Dweller - Pen and Ink Drawing

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This is another drawing I created for the Nox Archaist manual as part of their Kickstarter’s call for artwork. We were given a list of creatures from the game but I didn’t really have a specific one in mind when I drew this. I had labeled as a nightmare. They decided this worked better as a swamp dweller and worked some of my design choices in to the creature’s description:

Swamp Dweller manual page
The final page in the Nox Archaist manual featuring my Swamp Dweller illustration.

The Kid Detective (8/10)

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What happens when a child prodigy detective like Encyclopedia Brown graduates out of schoolyard mysteries into solving real crimes? He becomes a washed-up alcoholic who can’t seem to do anything right. The Kid Detective plays mostly as a dark comedy but it is elevated my its tight plotting and smart screenplay. It skates the line between humor and a real mystery thriller perfectly.

Ravilious: Wood Engravings by James Russell (8/10)

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A nice collection of works by Eric Ravilious. This isn’t too text heavy, but each print gets a few sentences of copy. Much of Ravilious’s work leans towards the decorative side, especially his later prints. There’s a bit of the stench of Eric Gill in those simpler images. I much prefer his earlier, more illustrative works. For what it’s worth, there are not many books about wood engraving out there so this one is a fine addition to any collection of books on the topic.

Murder in an Etruscan Cemetery (4/10)

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In keeping with animal themed giallos, this is also known as The Scorpion with Two Tails. I don’t know what the deal is with Etruscans and Italian screenwriters, but that particular lost civilization is not at all scary or threatening. All their sculptures are grinning men with permed hair. The acting in this one is simply appalling. I thought John Saxon would elevate it, but he is dead within the first five minutes. The rest of the film is supposedly carried by Elvire Audray who is embarrassingly bad as an archeologist who is also the reincarnation of an Etruscan priestess or something. The unique hook here is that the killer twists his victim’s heads 180 degrees. Sans-CGI this is accomplished by, wait for it, the actors wearing their clothes backwards. It’s the Kris Kross Killer!

The Iliad by Homer (8/10)

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This is the sort of book that I feel like I have read already but that is mostly because we devoted a class or two of high school English to this and The Odyssey. I was inspired to read this after having watched season two of Great Greek Myths which helped me keep all the characters straight. I can say that for a book that was written two thousand years ago, it’s pretty darn exciting. It is also quite graphic in its descriptions of violence. Homer knows all the places that a spear can penetrate a body. Some of the best moments in the story are when the gods are scheming against each other. On the negative side, there was way too much text is wasted on describing the complete lineage of just about every minor character who is killed. Also, no Trojan Horse! That’s like the one thing everyone knows from this story and it turns out it is not in this book. I feel a little ripped-off.

Crusader: No Regret on MS-DOS (7/10)

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The fake red Boba Fett is at it again in this sequel to Crusader: No Remorse and he just can’t stop murdering office workers! This is pretty much a straight up continuation of the first game with only a few improvements in controls and game play. Again, don’t bother with mouse controls and just force yourself to learn to use the keyboard with a heavy reliance on the shift and control keys to run and roll respectively. The best path to success is to shoot everything and take your time looking out for traps. Stealth, unfortunately, is not really an option.

There are still a bunch of bad FMV cutscenes but the story is irrelevant. One of the big improvements over the first game is the minimizing of the between mission base scenes. There still is a base to refresh your supplies, but you aren’t force to shop for items and talk to everybody.

The game looks great and plays pretty well once you get the controls, but this series is still begging for a modern remake.