Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review: The Mask of Apollo

Mary Renault's The Mask of Apollo focuses on Nikeratos, an actor of some repute living in Syracuse in the aftermath of the reign of the tyrant Dionysius.

The book does a remarkable job of following a society in which a young man (Dionysius II) has been placed in control entirely in conflict with the fact that he is not a leader, doesn't care for his people and wishes to spend all his time at his hobbies.

The novel focuses largely on the lives of actors in the era and seeing the story of a young man's professional career against the backdrop of great change in the world (Alexander the Great's father Phillip of Macedon makes an appearance in the framing chapters of the story).

A remarkable read and one that has me looking forward to the remaining three Renault novel's I'll be reading next year as I finish my read through this list.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Arrows of Hercules

Although I have spent the last month switching from game to game in the Five Nights at Freddy's series, in my off time I've been enjoying a number of books from all sorts of genres, including todays little voyage to Ancient Greece in L. Sprague de Camp's 1965 novel The Arrows of Hercules.

The novel focuses on an engineer named Zopyros who creates early siege weapons for Dionysius of Syracuse.  The story is full of all sorts of derring do, and from my own experience in fantasy fiction felt an awful lot like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, including the four random fellows of different backgrounds and temperaments who decide to team up for no reason and seek their fortunes.

A lot of the fun of the novel for me was in the way that de Camp relates Zopyros's work to our modern tech-focused world - wherein he has been hired by someone to do a job no one has ever done before and instead of simply spending his time working on his concepts, he ends up spending an awful lot of it dealing with professional rivals and coworkers hellbent on undermining his efforts.

The novel was a lot of fun and following Manfredi's Tyrant, which focused on Dionysius himself, this was a great way to get a man-on-the-ground feel for how one city state dealt with the aftermath of the Peloponnesian war.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Night Thirty-One

So here we are, the end of my trip through five games, two novels, a guidebook, any number of YouTube videos and a family-themed restaurant with some over-enthusiastic animatronics.

In the end, Five Nights at Freddy's works as a pretty fun introduction to horror video games and horror stories - although the game levels can certainly get frustrating, the tension you build in yourself while listening for movement in the restaurant beyond what you can see on the security cameras can be a lot of fun, and the jump-scares are pretty great too.

Although the deeper mythology of the games was a little trickier for me to get a handle on, I cannot deny the marketing, and as you can see in the picture above, you can get all sorts of things from Freddy Fazbears if you're interested.

A neat little horror franchise I was glad to experience.

That's all folks!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Night Twenty-Eight

So here we are at the final (latest) game, Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location and this game finally allows you to move around, more than just from side to side in the same room, and ends with some pretty terrifying concepts.

For me the problem was that each night sort of seemed like a great rough idea of a stage, but then clearly hadn't gone through any sort of revision...

Basically the game has you monitoring an animatronic factory, wherein new animatronics are created and maintained to be rented out for parties.  As with the original three games, you play night staff who must survive your shift by completing different tasks depending on the factory rooms you enter.

In the end, I found the game to be fun, but under-realized, I think if some more work and time had been put into it, it could have been pretty amazing, but as it stands the game is good for a few scares but is largely forgettable.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Night Twenty-Four

Trying desperately to make my way through Five Nights at Freddy's 4 I turned to the official guidebook to the series, Five Nights at Freddy's: The Freddy Files.  This book is a game by game guide to successfully passing each game, including maps, character descriptions and fan theories for each game and both novels.

In addition it explains the mini-games, a staple of the series from the second game forward, in which eight-bit style games are interspersed between each night and work to tell the various back stories of each game.

All in all, for a guidebook it was pretty fun, but I do wish there had been a chapter on Cawthon's original creation of the game, rather than simply focusing on in-game strategy and backstory, as behind-the-scenes info can be some of the most interesting.

Although 4 is almost certainly a wash for me, I've still got a few days to try and crack Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location before the month is over.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Night Twenty-Two

So after making my way through two novels and three games, I appear to have left the restaurant (or theme park) and found myself solidly back in a childhood bedroom, hearing things moving in my house and trying to make it through the night.

Five Nights at Freddy's 4 appears to have left the setting of all the previous games behind, there is no longer a fellow calling on the phone, nor are there security cameras.

Instead you play a child in their own bedroom, listening to noises in your house and either shining a flashlight or holding the door closed as something makes its way towards you.

First up, the graphics are really good - the animatronics look incredibly detailed and the ability to move (even just moving across your room) makes the game feel much more immersive.

The problem for me comes from the sound.  Now to be fair, I think if I had a limitless amount of time I could more easily figure out which sound means which creature is coming and more importantly which door to guard, but as I've only got nine days left this month, I'm afraid I'll have to live with the half week I spent trying to get through this game and then move onto the fifth and most current game Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location - which is where I'll be spending my virtual time next week.

A really neat game and one I'm sure to return to when I've got the time!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Night Nineteen

Having just finished the third game, I moved on to the second novel.  Cawthon and Breed-Wrisley's second novel, Five Nights at Freddy's: The Twisted Ones, follows Charlie a year after the events of The Silver Eyes.  Now a student in University, Charlie is finding she may have her own talent in robotics, following in her father's footsteps.

Having destroyed the original Freddy Fazbear's in the previous novel, all of the original animatronics are long gone, except now there appear to be three new giant-sized animatronics on the move, and this time not limited to one location.

As the novel just came out (it's release date was less than three months ago), I don't want to go too deep into the plot, but it was a pretty engrossing sequel and set itself up for a third entry.

Well worth the read.