Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Top 10 of the Top 10 Lists of 2008

Chaiten Volcano in Chile erupts during a lightning stormThe Best Picture: The Chaiten Volcano in Chile erupts during a lightning storm

It’s that time again—the time where every news organization, website, and media outlet releases their top ten lists of the stories, events, or things that made 2008. Instead of creating original content, we here at The Intrepid felt that our readers would get far more value out of a compilation list of the best lists of 2008. So in no particular order, here are the best top 10 lists of 2008.

Gamespy: Top Ten Games of the Year

Despite its shrinking stature, Gamespy still has a better reviewing team than Gamespot and its parent company IGN. There aren’t a lot of surprises on this list, but it’s a list that hits all the right notes—Little Big Planet, Rock Band 2, GTA IV, and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. The commentary is lazy at times, but it’s still the best top ten gaming list of this year’s crop.

Onion AV Club: Top Ten Movies of 2008

At The Intrepid we’re a big fan of the Onion AV Club—it’s smart, witty, and damn near always right. Though we sloshed through quite a few top ten movie lists, the AV Club’s list stood above them all.

The Globe’s Office Awards

This list surprised us—it’s actually funny and interesting, two things that the Globe is usually not known for. Personally, we enjoyed the story about the incompetent Best Buy HR worker the most—mostly because we really really hate Best Buy. It seems a former Best Buy employee, Mr. Oliveri, suspected he was getting bad references and emailed his old HR department, while posing as a Target employee. "I will give you the skinny on him but you can't say you got any info from Best Buy or we can be sued," an HR employee emailed. "He was hired as GM and demoted after 12 months or so because he sucked. He is desperate for a job because supposedly his wife left him because he has no job. I would not touch him." Mr. Oliveri sued, and in typical Best Buy fashion, the HR employee was promoted.

The Consumerist: The Top 17 Most Useful Posts of 2008

Okay, this isn’t a top ten list, but it still kicks ass. The Consumerist always has amazing stories about capitalism gone wrong—so a top 17 list is nothing but pure gold. If you only have time to read one story, we recommend The Confessions of a Verizon DSL Tech Support Rep, it’s probably the highlight of the list.

The Huffington Post: Top 10 YouTube Videos of 2008

There are hundreds if not thousands of poorly constructed top ten YouTube video lists for 2008. This is the easiest top ten list to create—just embed 10 popular videos and you’re done—no thought required. You don’t even need to explain your choices—the videos or the links can just speak for themselves. The Huffington Post seems to have a pretty good list this year, but it’s really not all that different from the others.

National Geographic: Top 10 Photos of 2008

This is a nice collection of pictures and stories—probably not the best, but it’s got several great entries that were new to us. The best picture is number 1 (duh), the the eruption of the Chaiten Volcano in Chile—the mixture of ash and lighting is absolutely stunning.

Politico: The Top 10 American Political Upsets of 2008

It’s been a big year for U.S. politics and an even bigger year for political upsets. Nothing on this list is shocking, but it’s a smart compilation and great reminder of the heady days of the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaigning season.

New York Times: The Top 10 Books of 2008

This list is a quick and dirty rundown of the year’s best fiction and non-fiction books. While we haven’t read any of these books, we’re fairly certain that they’re top notch.

Torrent Freak: The Top 10 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2008

Originally we were going to try to find a list complied by some tv critic, but where’s the fun in that—we’re more interested in seeing which tv shows are so good that people just can’t help but steal them. Frankly though, we were surprised to find that Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy fans knew how to use a computer.

Time Magazine: The Top Ten Everything of 2008

This list has it all, politics, viral videos, oddball stories, and even religious stories. While the online version looks pretty and is easy to navigate, the print version is ugly and cumbersome. In our copy, part of the “Lost Forever” list was cut off by the printer and lost forever (ugh). Seriously Time Magazine, you can do better. As a compilation of lists, Time’s Top Ten Everything of 2008 succeeds if only because it has something for everyone, even if most of the lists are dull and rather predictable.

Next Year: The Top 10 of the Top 10 Top 10 lists of 2009.

> Continue Reading: The Top 10 of the Top 10 Lists of 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

DVD Cover Art Sucks

Batman the Animated Series DVD Volume 4
Why are DVD cases universally terrible? We shell out anywhere from $20 to $300 for movies and television shows, only to be rewarded with lazy artwork and sloppy design. Is it so much effort for companies to hire a semi decent art team to produce cover art? The music industry can produce decent cover art, so why can’t the movie and television industry?

Granted, the movie industry is a lot better at producing cover art than the television industry—take a look at the cover art on the Dark Knight DVD case, the “Jokerized” version looks kick-ass. Compare that to the Batman the Animated Series DVD collection, the art looks like a horrendous 60s throwback and the screenshots look like they were picked at random.

Most covers suffer from the same basic problem—the industry is far more interested in slapping an airbrushed headshot on the front cover than anything interesting. Take a look at these examples.

Bland, bland, bland!

It’s time for the industry to stand up. We are sick and tired of substandard DVD art. We’d rather get our DVDs in a brown paper bag than look at this crap.

> Continue Reading: DVD Cover Art Sucks

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fucking Christmas Tree!

Rusty Christmas Tree Stand
Today we spent the entire day trying to put up the family Christmas tree, and it’s still not up!

The day started at Ikea, where we purchased a lovely tree—cut by the good people at Ikea into a Christmas tree shape. Luckily, this process makes the tips of branches extra sharp and gives the tree that manufactured appeal that not even the fake trees can top. But, for $20 it’s a pretty good price.

In the past, Ikea gave $20 in store credit for every tree purchased—no string attached! This year, strings are in vogue. Ikea still advertises “Free Christmas Tree” and gives out the store credit, but it’s not good until after Christmas, and then only till March. Also, the credit is only valid for purchases greater than $75—still a deal, but not a great one.

After bringing the tree home, it was time to set it up in the living room. Like most North Americans we still have a cheap Christmas tree stand, stolen straight from the 1960s. Over the years, the stand has warped and developed that putrid shade of orangey-brown rust, but rather than replace it we just decided to endure. Usually, it takes about an hour of hell to get the tree up. This year, after three hours of hell, mountains of pine needles, and excessive cursing it was time to get a new stand.

After 30 minutes of internet research, we concluded that the best stand was probably the Omega Tree Stand. According to the reviews, the stand was easy to assemble, sturdy, and would fit any Christmas tree. $39.99 ($45.19 with tax) later, we discovered just how awful the Omega Tree Stand really was. Unless your tree has the perfect diameter, the Omega Stand simply won’t work. Instead of using the screws found in traditional Christmas tree stands, the Omega Tree Stand uses nylon clamps which are advertised to be both sturdy and easily adjustable. The problem is that they only fit perfectly circular trunks. If your trunk isn’t circular, which ours wasn’t, the tree will slide around, or at worst, come crashing down.

As it stands (no fucking pun intended!) our tree is leaning in the corner of the living room in bucket of water. Maybe we’ll just leave it there and we can have a lopsided Christmas.

> Continue Reading: Fucking Christmas Tree!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

World of Goo Review

World of Goo Frog's Head
World of Goo is an amazing PC puzzle game that is best described as a cross between Bridge Builder and Lemmings. The objective in any given level is to herd your goo balls towards the pipe—but here’s where it gets tricky, you also need to use your goo balls to construct the bridges, towers, and other structures necessary to succeed. If you use too many goo balls to build your tower, you may not have enough to complete the level, use too few and your structure might come crumbling down.

Not all goo balls are created equal. Green balls can be repeatedly used, red balls act like balloons, skull balls are invincible, and spiky yellow balls can attach themselves to other objects. While most levels only provide a certain number of goo balls, there are usually several ways to beat a level. For the most part, the goo balls and the levels look different from chapter to chapter.

Each chapter takes you to a different part of the goo world, as the Corporation of the World of Goo (your employer) seeks out these wonderful gelatinous blobs. Some parts of the game are cheery, while others are rather dreary, but the game’s quirky sense of humour, sharp 2D visuals, and striking music make it all work.

One of the biggest problems with the game is the difficultly. The game is just far too easy. Sure you can go back and try to get a better time or maximize your goo ball collection, but neither of these options provides much replay value. Most disappointing of all is the last four levels. Before taking on the final challenges, the Sign Painter, perhaps the most intriguing instructional character since Portal’s GLaDOS, tells you that these will be the most challenging of all. The levels hardly take more than 10 minutes to complete, and the last level isn't even a real puzzle.

Now while the game is a little too easy, there are a few ways the developer could have made it less frustrating. Since many of the levels require trial and error, it would have been nice to have the ability to go back to any point in the level. The time bugs allow you to go back up to five or six moves, but this really isn’t enough. Many of the challenges can only be solved in stages, and it can be tedious to have to go back and repeat certain parts of the level just to get to the tricky part again.

The World of Goo may be short and a little too easy, but it’s one of the best puzzle games in recent memory.

> Continue Reading: World of Goo Review