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March 26, 2012 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-26

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8A - Monday, March 26, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

VIDEO GAME NOTEBOOK
A'Dark Descent' into terror

'Amnesia' provides
realistic scares only
for the bravest
By JULIAN AIDAN
DailyArts Writer
At some point, everyone has
seen a scary movie and wondered
"what if that were me?" Not one of
those "Underworld"- or "Resident
Evil"-style flicks, in which you
would be a leather-bound badass
armed to the teeth against an
onslaught of hapless zombies, but
something more along the lines
of "Cabin Fever," "Texas Chain-
saw Massacre" or "Hostel." One
in which you're the helpless one,
trapped in an unfamiliar place
with no means of fighting back
against an onslaught of faceless,
sadistic psychos whose goal in life
is to destroy you in the most pain-
ful way possible.
Intentionally putting yourself
in that situation would be crazy,
right? On a scale of terrible things
that could possibly happen, from
losing your pencil to finding out
you made out with your sister,
waking up somewhere unfamil-
iar and knowing you're being
hunted would undeniably reside
close to the worst. That's where
playing "Amnesia: The Dark
Descent" fits in.
Frictional Games is a studio
known for making scary games.
The creators don't make and-
then-a-skeleton-jumped-out
games or bash-zombie-faces-in-
until-you-win games, but instead
survive-in-the-most-creative-
way-possible productions - such
as the "Penumbra" series - in
which "creative" means "passive,
and while crying."
"Amnesia: The Dark Descent"

is notorious in certain circles for
basically being one of the most
terrifying games on the planet.
You can't fight. You don't get a
map. You don't have the luxury
of being heavily armed, being an
Olympic sprinter or having night
vision - in fact, staying in the
dark too long makes you start hal-
lucinating, because being stalked
by deformed servants of a quasi-
immortal extraterrestrial in a
crumbling castle isn't terrifying
enough. You need to learn how
to hide, and fast - "Amnesia" is
nothing if not unforgiving and
relentless in its psychological
assault. ... Appetizing.
In case you haven't heard of
it, or you're considering giving to sit down in front of "Amnesia"
"Amnesia" a serious run, the game with a serious intention of making
follows Daniel, our protagonist, any kind of significant progress.
after he intentionally imbibes an As a general rule, as much time is
Amnesiaelixir. Daniel embarks on spent at the pause screen catching
an enjoyable romp through a cas- your breath, crying, or both, as is
tle - avoiding deformed monsters spent trekking through poorly lit
and an interplanetary facewreck- hallways and solving puzzles. It's
er known as the Shadow - in an a game best enjoyed in the dark,
attempt to destroy the aforemen- wearing headphones, with a full
tioned semi-unkillable alien- box of tissues and a camera so that
Baron before he turns everyone's all of your friends and the entire
lives into some mind-numbingly Internet can laugh at you, if the
horrifying mix of "Silent Hill" and hundreds of videos on YouTube
Black Death-era Europe. Got it? are to be taken seriously.
Good. "Amnesia" garnered a decent
Baron Alexander von Brennen- amount of recognition on Red-
burg's chateau is artfully decorat- dit and other Internet gaming
ed with torture rooms that would sources in the year following
make Jigsaw blush, and upkeep its release, due in equal parts to
has been relegated, pretty unsuc- its flawless writing and atmo-
cessfully, to a group of Servants sphere, and that getting other
- Gatherers and Grunts, mostly - people to play the game is as
who seem more preoccupied with entertaining as jamming a table-
unceremoniously brutalizing any spoon full of cinnamon into
living creature they can get their their mouths. Because game-
hands on (hence the name Gath- play is relatively simple and the
erer) than making sure the entire game is well-optimized to run
place doesn't fall to pieces. on systems not built for high
It takes a special kind of per- performance, non-gamers and
son (read: someone who is heavily hardcore players alike can expe-
intoxicated and/or a masochist) rience every second of Daniel's

FRICTIONAL

waking nightmare and the joys
of therapy necessary for dealing
with the immense psychological
strain "Amnesia" induces.
None of this is to say that
"Amnesia" is a bad game, or that
you shouldn't play it under any
circumstances. It's awesome. The
scare factor is second-to-none,
and even though it's a year-and-a-
half-old, the graphics look pretty
good for a small developer such as
Frictional. Playing "Amnesia" is
an experience literally unlike any
other, and causes an adrenaline
rush that I'm pretty sure you'd
only feel when actually running
for your life.
Casual gamers and thrill-'
seeking hardcore players alike
can take advantage of its intense
atmosphere and simple gameplay
if they have the right mindset,
and anyone with even a passing
interest in gaming or a profound
disregard for the sanctity of their
undergarments should give it a
shot. Just snake sure to have a
good therapist on speed dial and
a good bit of caffeine on hand to
make up for the sleep you're guar-
anteed to lose.

NONESUCH
Looks like Brad has some pain behind those eyes.
-Mehidan shows
jazz is still1 al ive

By GEOFF MARINO And despite combining rather
Daily Arts Writer disparate musical elements into
one narrative, it never feels labo-
You probably have one of two rious. The result doesn't dwell on
attitudes toward jazz. You may the massively popular influences
ooze with nostalgia when you it draws on, and it still breathes
hear the names John Coltrane Mehldau.
and Miles Davis, thinking fondly In Mehldau's latest produc-
of a musical era that explored tion, the references aren't as
the depths of creativity and uti- popular as Radiohead, but rather
lized "real" instruments, or you other jazz musicians and child-
may just be kind of indifferent hood heroes such as Aquaman,
toward jazz. Those names ring who finds himself as a title of one
a faint bell, but only because you of the songs. But Ode, released
remember seeing them on your this month by the Brad Mehldau
parents' old, dusty records. Trio, is still a valuable reminder
of the more artisanal possibili-
ties that can arise from music
The point where likejazz. .
Catering to the modern lis-
Radiohead and tener likely isn't Mehldau's pri-
mary concern in formulating his
Aquaman meet. music, and this is a good thing. It
keeps the Radiohead inclusions
from feeling like one big mar-
keting ploy. Obviously, Mehldau
Either way, jazz has become is simply intrigued by the music
somewhat of an anachronism in surrounding him, giving him a
our culture. Its biggest stars were worldliness that could give his
in their prime more than 50 years jazz that extra bit of palatability
ago, and there is no jazz musician that it needs to thrive today.
we can point to and assume most Yet, it's still hard to tune in to
people have heard of him or her. a jazz album. Though, it can be
Yet, there are some who still poke helpful to know that the great-
their heads out and appear in the est growth can happen outside
Arts sections of the nation's lead- our comfort zones, and by giving
ing newspapers. Mehldau a listen, we can expand
One such figure is Brad our conception of creativ-
Mehldau, whose traditional jazz ity. We are used to often tinny
talents for extensive and creative and predictable productions,
improvisation are enmeshed in a but Mehldau's work is far from
playful worldliness. He is known this. The richness of its classi-
to pick and choose what he likes cal instrumentation reaches the
from popular culture, such as depths of our eardrums, and
themes from Radiohead's famous when combined with the inher-
songs, and use them as a base ent spontaneity of jazz, the result
for his improvisations. His Live is music more engaged in the
in Tokyo album from 2004 fea- present without the concern of
tures a 20-minute long interpre- where it's going to go. It may not
tation of Radiohead's "Paranoid exploit knowledge of what hooks
Android," and also adaptations tug hardest at our heartstrings,
of the music of George and Ira so the experience may not be so
Gershwin, Thelonius Monk and easily gratifying. But, it's freer.
Nick Drake. This is not meant to dispar-
This makes for an intriguing age pop music. It's not to say
experience for the modern jazz Mehldau and other jazz musi-
listener, who probably could use cians are the real deal because
some context for the wild cre- theyusethepiano andstringbass
ativity that will ensue. The atten- and not Auto-tune. It's merely an
tiveness needed to fully digest invitation to see how spontaneity
jazz could fall by the wayside, changes music.
and jazz could again be seen as If you suddenly feel receptive
an uninteresting relic from the to the age-old and annoying-as-
past to a listener likely more hell cliche of "expand your hori-
intrigued by Kanye West's thrill- zons," and don't want to get your
ing production hooks. fingers all dusty perusing old
Luckily, Mehldau easily inte- records, maybe you'd enjoy lis-
grates the network of popular tening to any of Mehldau's exten-
musical themes into his jazz. sive, and brilliant, works.
IN THE SUMMERTIME
WHEN THE WEATHER
IS FINE ... YOU
SHOULD WRITE FOR
DAILY ARTS.
REQUEST AN
APPLICATION BY E-MAILNG
ARTS@MICHIGANDAILY.COM

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