Game Review: Amateur Surgeon Hospital

Title:  Amateur Surgeon Hospital

Type:  Facebook Social

Creator:  Adult Swim and Mediatonic

Rating:  3 Stars

Once upon a time, Adult Swim created a game called Amateur Surgeon. In this game, players perform back-alley-esque surgery with pizza cutters and lighters in an illegal hospital. The premise and stylization brought me in. However, I found it difficult to perform some of the tasks using my laptop’s trackpad and abandoned my surgeon’s post (because, really, I was not buying a mouse for one casual online game).

A few years (and sequels) later, Adult Swim releases Amateur Surgeon Hospital on Facebook. In this iteration, the player is managing the hospital, as well as performing surgery. This includes everything from hiring scummy staff to building rooms to the decorating scheme. I figured I would give it a shot, since the simple Facebook games have been manageable with the trackpad (and I have since invested in a mouse, if the difficulty persisted).

For the first two weeks, this game is enjoyable. There are a variety of interestingly designed characters, as well as items for the hospital. I found the surgery easier than before, but whether that is true to gameplay or me getting better at computer games is uncertain. Players can only perform as much surgery as their blood bar permits, so the rest of the game is time management and layout. It’s easy to set up a hospital shift and let the staff handle the patients while players are away. This also allows the blood bar to fill, vending machines to collect coins, and machines to produce materials.

There are some problems I’ve experienced, though. When I leave the game with a shift in progress, the money earned is usually less than if it is up in my browser, and occasionally, I have reopened the game where the staff has cured zero patients and earned zero coins. I’ve also noticed the tendency of higher level patients flooding in before I have unlocked the rooms they need in order to be cured, which, if lines are too long, will make the curable patients leave in a huff.

The biggest issues for me are the repetition and necessity of neighbor activity and real money. I am into the third week of play and right now all of my quests are curing 50 patients, of several different types. That will take several shifts and a few days at least. I am also getting to the point where I need diamonds, instead of coins, to purchase items. There are a couple ways to get diamonds. Completing certain quests will give you one diamond, but at this point, they are few and far between. Second, players can buy them with Facebook credits, which cost real money. I am not giving Facebook my credit card or Paypal information. Lastly, you can earn diamonds through the loyalty card—where players earn coins, and eventually diamonds, for logging in each day. Otherwise, you can ask a friend to send the needed items to you, but I cannot allow myself to annoy everyone like that.

So I am rapidly approaching the point in which I will be unable to progress–unless Adult Swim allows me to buy diamonds with in-game coins. That would be fantastic. But even if I stop at that point, it was fun while it lasted. Amateur Surgeon Hospital is a decent casual game to kill a bubble of free time too small for anything immersive.

Some people use tongs for cooking. I use them like MacGyver. . .
to save lives.

Don’t forget to check out Adult Swim online for TV programming and other casual online games.

What casual games do you play? Tell me in the comments!

Movie Review: Hick

Hick

Title:  Hick
Rated:  R
Director:  Derick Martini
Writer:  Andrea Portes
Stars:  Chloe Grace Moretz, Blake Lively, Eddie Readmayne
Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis:  Tired of life with her drunken parents, 13-year old Luli (Chloe Grace Moretz) starts a hitchhiking adventure from small town Nebraska to Las Vegas. Along her way she meets Eddie (Eddie Readmayne), a former rodeo cowboy with dangerous charm, and Glenda (Blake Lively), a coke snorting grifter with lots of advice. But the road to Vegas isn’t as glamorous as her TV led her to think. Luli finds herself in one bad situation after another on the road in this coming-of-age story.

My Thoughts:  The driving force of this film is the phenomenal acting. The whole reason I picked this up is because I love Chloe Grace Moretz on screen. She hasn’t done anything I haven’t liked, that I’ve seen at the time of writing this anyway. Blake Lively, who I’ve been pretty lukewarm up to this point, surprised me with this role and her portrayal. Then there’s Eddie Readmayne. He’s British! Not once during the film did he sound anything other than a Texan (or other southwestern state). Usually I can pick up on ‘false’ accents, but not this time. Other great appearances include:  Juliette Lewis, Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Anson Mount, and Ray McKinnon.

Chloe and Blake escaping a robbery gone wrong

Chloe and Blake escaping a robbery gone wrong

As for the plot, it’s meanders a bit. I like a story that doesn’t feel forced, so this worked for me. Luli wasn’t completely sure how she was going to get to Las Vegas, and her voyage reflected that. It’s also a story that doesn’t have a clear moral or message. Portes and Martini let the viewer take what they get out of the story. I really like this format, but I know it’s not for everybody.

While I really liked the film, there were a couple of holes. First, she has a loaded gun with her. Yet she never brandishes it, even though there are plenty situations that would warrant it. Second, she has a wad of cash. After the first or second rough situation, why wouldn’t Luli just buy a bus ticket? This is a character who had enough forethought to create a pros and cons list of going to Las Vegas, where the cons column had “might die.” She knew the possibility, and I’m not sure if her need for love would overtake her survival instinct honed by years of self-raising.

Hick Pros and Cons List

But if she dies in Las Vegas, maybe she’ll end up on CSI? Insta-fame!

Overall, I highly enjoyed watching this film. I can easily see myself re-watching in the future. This is a film not quite like anything else I’ve ever seen. If you like indie films or what you’ve read here, I recommend checking it out. If you’re unsure, Redbox has it! And don’t forget to check out the novel it’s based on, also titled Hick and written by Andrea Portes

Have you seen Hick? What were your thoughts? Do you share my love of Chloe Grace Moretz films? Tell me in the comments below!

In My Mailbox (IMM) #1

There are a few In My Mailbox memes around and even more bloggers unaligned to a specific version. Most of the versions I know are for book blogs and have bookish restrictions. I, however, would like to share all of my non-bookish things with you as well. So for now, I will be unaligned. Here are the goodies that were in my mailbox this week!

First up is a nerdy t-shirt! This design is by Nathan Davis, titled “Black Knight Rises.” I purchased this from my favorite of the daily t-shirt sites, Teefury, but you can still get it from Redbubble. It’s a wonderful mashing of the movies Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Dark Knight Rises.

The Black Knight Rises

“Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! It’s a killer!”

I also received the cd Disc O-Zone by Moldovan pop group O-Zone. This cd was released in 2004 and contains the song “Dragostea Din Tei,” also known as “The Numa Numa Song” popularized by this video. I’ve had a digital copy of this cd for years now, and I love it! But I’ve always wanted a hard-copy to play in my car (since the disc player decides to go kaput any time it tries to deal with a burned cd). The funniest bit, part of the case is in German, and part is in English.

Disc O-Zone

“Haiduc” = Outlaw
Arched Eyebrows also = Outlaw

That’s what I got this week. Did you get anything fun?

Misfits Distraction and Ye Olde Ren Faire

Misfits

Orignaux Moose

I had originally planned to write about my trip to the Renaissance Festival earlier this week, but something wonderfully distracting came along:  Misfits. Misfits is a British television series that has been around since 2009. I’m late to the party on this one, and I have no idea why. I like my British TV (music and movies too). I try to keep up with these things. But even my mother, who doesn’t follow anything British, had heard of Misfits before me. So disappointed in myself.

The plot goes like this:  Six young adults are doing mandated community service when a freak storm sends lightning and ice crashing around them. When struck by a bolt, they contract special abilities. Now they must contend with their erratic abilities, probation worker, conflicting personalities, and a mess of complications.

Misfits: Nathan and Simon

My favorite characters: Nathan (Robert Sheehan) and Simon (Iwan Rheon)

I am entranced by Misfits. I started the first episode as a break from working on forms, and before I knew it, it was past bedtime. As much as the plot sounds like a B-rated science fiction laugh-fest (which, honestly, I still like), it isn’t. The story is character driven. From the cover photo on Hulu (playing full episodes online for free), I thought it would be a teen drama. Nope, quite adult. The situations, language, and actions all have an adult quality to them, which grounded the absurd powers aspect.

The next day, I only wanted to watch more. It’s the nerd in me—it makes me want to binge on media and distract me from all else, which brings me right back to the beginning of this post:  The Renaissance Festival. For those who don’t know, a Renaissance Festival, or Ren Fest, is a fair that recreates the English Renaissance—or thereabouts. Actors wear historical clothing and perform throughout the day. Vendors, usually also in costume, sell crafts including beer mugs, jewelry, costumes, and artwork.

Last Saturday I made my yearly drive to Ren Fest. I haven’t gone in costume since I was very young, but I love people watching those who do. This year I saw some awesome royalty, gypsy, and pirate costumes. I even saw an Orc! This year I caught performances by The Danger Committee, who juggle and throw sharp things, and Vilification Tennis, who throw insults.

In addition to a wicked sunburn, I brought home the following (click to make bigger):

What shows have you binged on? Have you been to a renaissance festival? Share your experience below!

Book Review: Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer

Dead(ish) Cover

goodreads.com

Title: Dead(ish)

Author:  Naomi Kramer

Rating:  2 Stars

Genre:  Humor, paranormal

Synopsis:  Linda is dead. Well, mostly. She didn’t go to the great beyond, or whatever is supposed to happen when someone dies. She’s stuck as a ghost. And until she figures out how to move on, Linda will make every second count by pranking the man who killed her—Mike, her boyfriend.

My Thoughts:  The cover hooked me. It’s so cutesy dark that I thought “I have to read this!” But make no mistake, that young adult style cover is misleading. Dead(ish) is an adult novel.

I really enjoyed the premise of this story. Linda pulls some hilarious pranks, like turning Mike’s skin orange. She also hires a private detective, Trent, to find her murdered body to try and find closure. The pranks and Linda’s relationship with the other characters are by far my favorite parts of this story.

My problems start with the fact that there is no setting. We are told in vague terms where we are, like “apartment” or “veranda,” but offered no details. When something changed in the environment, it didn’t feel significant, as that was the only detail I’ve seen. Kramer had many locations where physical details would have pulled me into the scene and deepened the story.

I also wasn’t sure who the characters were speaking to at times. Eventually it became clear that most of them were speaking to the reader. However, the story doesn’t start that way. It starts with characters talking to each other. I was confused when the fourth wall was broken. What is the situation that I am now part of this story? That question is sort of addressed with Linda thanking the reader for listening, but never fully answered.

Naomi Kramer

Naomi Kramer
smashwire.com

Dead(ish) was a quick read (that only took me about an hour), consumed in between events during a busy day. I found it on the Kindle store for free. The premise was entertaining enough to keep me reading, but I probably will not read the sequel, (technically) Dead.

Find Naomi Kramer online:  website

 

Concert: Girl Talk, 8/28/12

Girl Talk

Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk
independent.com

Gregg Gillis, popularly known as Girl Talk, is mash-up royalty. Somehow he can mix music by artists from different genres and eras, and make it sound like they logically belong together. One of my favorite games (self-created, and in no way is a real game) is to name as many of the original artists as possible:  Ace of Base, M.I.A., Nelly, Avril Lavigne, Journey, Metallica, Eminem, The Police, Daft Punk, Radiohead, the full list (covering the Four albums I own:  All Day, Feed the Animals,  Night Ripper, and Unstoppable) would take pages.

I first saw Girl Talk live in 2008. I remember how tightly packed the floor was, how drenched we became in sweat (gross, I know), and the overall feel-good party vibe. Since I had already seen him live, I strongly considered passing on this concert—a girl’s gotta save some money, right? But then a friend decided that’s what she wanted to do for her birthday. How am I to refuse that? Not a tough sale at all. And after potentially shady Craigslist deal, we had our tickets to the sold out show.

Tuesday’s show at First Avenue was just as high-energy and sticky as I remember from 2008. Gillis worked away at his computer while jumping around and occasionally shouting through the microphone. Behind him, some lucky concert-goers enjoyed their time dancing on stage. And, of course, no Girl Talk performance would be complete without falling balloons, confetti cannons, or toilet paper streamers. What was the result of this performance?

Covered in confetti after Girl Talk concert

Pictured: The result. Not pictured: The ridiculous amount of confetti that I’m still finding, 3 days later

Want to see more? Check out this slideshow from CityPages.

Both Girl Talk performances were amazing. If you have the opportunity to see him live, and enjoy high-energy concerts, I encourage you to go.

Find Girl Talk online:  Website, which includes all of his albums as ‘pay what you want,’ and a free download of his newest album, All Day.

What has been your favorite concert? Did you look like us when you left the venue? Tell me in the comments below.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One cover

barnesandnoble.com

Title:  Ready Player One

Author:  Ernest Cline

Rating: 5 Stars

Genre: Science fiction, dystopia

Synopsis:

Orphaned Wade Watts lives with his uncaring aunt in the Stacks, apartment complexes created from piled up trailer homes. Living in poverty and fear of his aunt’s current boyfriend isn’t too great, but there is one place he excels, the Oasis. Originally created as an online virtual reality game, OASIS has become everything—school, shopping, dating, work. And it could be Wade’s way out of poverty. Before dying, the creator of OASIS left a series of 80s themed puzzles hidden in the virtual world. Whoever solves these puzzles earns his estate. Will Wade make it to the Easter egg first? Or will he be outdone by his competitors or the creator’s rival tech company?

My thoughts:

I was hooked within the first three pages when I read references to Heathers, John Hughes, Space Invaders, and Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party.” While I may not have grown up in the 80s, I did begin my 80s love affair during early high school. I absolutely loved all of the pop culture drops—even the ones that weren’t familiar to me. That’s just more I get to discover. But what about those who don’t fawn over the 80s? Don’t worry! All of the references essential to the plot are explained. Those that don’t impact the plot are easily skimmed over, or if you’re curious, easy to find in a quick internet search.

Heathers Movie Cover

tower.com

Space Invaders Atari Cartridge

atariage.com

While the nerdy references are what brought me in, the great story telling is what kept me reading. Cline creates a wonderfully vivid virtual reality. Different planets serve different purposes. One planet is filled with schools. Another is a cyberpunk cityscape populated with roughnecks and dance clubs. The real world setting feels like a plausible future. Within this world, the ramifications of technology and social issues are explored: anonymity, personas and identity, obesity, fraud, ownership, online friendships, and tons more.

Ready Player One has become one of my favorite reads this year. I will definitely be rereading this one in the future and discussing it with friends. Talking about this book has been almost as fun as reading it. I attended a local public book club, Books and Bars, where we discussed Ready Player One, and played Robotron. The group’s reaction was positive, with most rating high stars. As one participant put it, Ready Player One is a “nostalgic glitterbomb.” I fully agree with this description.

Ernest Cline

Photo by Dan Winters

Find Ernest Cline online:  Website  IMDB

What pop culture reference would immediately pull you into a book? Tell me in the comments below.