Kingdom Hearts

I approached this game with some trepidation, for as much as I like Square, I hate Disney.  (I won’t go into deep reasons for either of those here.  Suffice that the feelings exist.)  As such, I refused to buy it, because money would make its way from that sale to Disney.  I ended up playing a copy owned by a friend of a friend.

Said playing only annoyed me further, because it’s a good game.  Square made a good game, and Disney did its best with its characters.  So we went and visited Halloween Town and Hundred Acre Wood and many other places where the lands and characters were exactly as Disney had made them.  (For good or ill; Pooh was as lovable as he has been with Disney, and Tarzan was as annoying as Disney has made him.)

There are plenty of side quests in addition to the main events.  You can search out all 101 dalmations, lost among the various worlds; find all of the (often hidden) trinity points to gain treasures and unique items; fight wave after wave of enemies in the Coliseum; spend time building a spaceship to fly around in (which is solely for fun—there’s no bearing this has on anything else in the game); and several other things I can’t think of right now.

The plot is decent.  Honestly, it’s nothing really extraordinary, but it was interesting and I’ve seen much worse.

And then there’s Donald and Goofy.  You play Sora, a young boy who lost his friends when his world vanished.  You have to have Goofy and Donald with you as you travel around.  These two are some of the most annoying traveling companions I’ve run across.  Of the pair, Goofy’s actually the intelligent one, which doesn’t stop Donald from shooting his mouth off every chance he gets.  And they’re largely useless in battle.  They tend to flail away at enemies, doing useless amounts of damage until Sora walks over to actually kill the thing.  Donald likes to cast magic spells, occasionally to useful effect.  And if you ever want to get rid of any items, like potions or megalixirs, just give them to Donald.  Apparently, to his AI, “only use items in an emergency” means “please use up all of your items as quickly as possible”.

One of my favorite sounds is the “wawawawawa” sound Donald makes when an enemy hits him.

So there’s a lot of good stuff about this game, and it’s a worthwhile one to play.  But, even aside from my dislike of Disney, I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.  Borrow it from a friend or wait a while and pick it up from some store’s used games bin.


Not surprisingly, Banks plays a bit with the form of the storytelling in Inversions.  He tells the stories of two people in different kingdoms, alternating between them for each chapter.  Not unique, to be sure, but not a simple, straightforward tale, either.

Honestly, I wasn’t terribly impressed with this one.  The story was average; not one I found immensely gripping.  I did enjoy piecing together the surrounding world from things mentioned in passing by the characters, and figuring out things about Vosill and DeWar via the same methods, but there wasn’t a whole lot of depth the the information derived thereby.  Nor did I really feel the characters were all that interesting.

Banks has certainly written books I liked more.  This was a decent read; not bad, certainly, but nothing special either.

Just a brief note or two below the spoiler barrier.


Well, it’s clear (to me, at least) that this is actually a Culture book, merely told from the other side.  Even so, I don’t think it added much that we couldn’t already have figured out about the Culture.  One could argue that it wasn’t meant to, but I suspect that Banks specifically intended to tell a tale of the Culture’s interference from the point of view of those being interfered with.

As further spoilage, I nailed early on the fact that Oelph’s master was Adlain.  (Despite toying with the thought for a bit that it might be DeWar.)  I wasn’t expecting the narrator of the other half of the story to have been Perrund, though.

The Fifth Elephant

Yet another Terry Pratchett book.  Specifically, another City Watch book, though much of this one takes place in Überwald.  No witches are visible, though there are plenty of werewolves, dwarves, vampires, and Igors.

There is, as usual, a good story.  Being a City Watch book, it’s largely a detective story, with the details swirling around the coronation of a new dwarven king, a very revered piece of dwarf bread, and the politics of the region, including the involvement of Sergeant Angua’s parents.  And, of course, plenty of very funny bits; Pratchett has a tendency to make me laugh out loud while on the bus.

I had worried that Terry Pratchett was losing his plain humor in being overly satirical, but The Fifth Elephant is merely a funny, well-told story with satirical elements running through some of the details.  (Well, “politics” is a pretty big detail, but still…)

Yet another Terry Pratchett book I’m happy to add to my collection.

Impressive LEGO structures

Andrew Lipson’s LEGO Page has some pretty impressive constructions made from LEGO bricks.  The mathematical models are nice, but some of the reproductions of Escher drawings are just amazing.  (Even if he did cheat a little on “Waterfall”.)

Wow, ugly.

Yes, this page is looking pretty ugly at the moment.  Next task is to clean things up and move to a more CSS-based setup.  I can’t guarantee things will come out looking good, but at least it’ll be consistent.