Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1

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I thought I would kill two bird with one stone by also publishing this review of Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1.

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerising voice and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

This graphic-novel rendition of Twilight exists solely for the purpose of milking the cash cow – how many young women who devour the Twilight Saga books have picked up a comic book or graphic novel in their lives? I would bet not many, if any. However, there is a method to the madness, and Young Kim’s rendering of characters is beautiful, but cheapened when you notice backgrounds or establishing frames are photographs Photoshopped to look like drawings, as well as the confusing placement of images and the lettering of text (Times New Roman – really?!)

At about double the weight of the original novel, Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 feels lofty and glossy. Save for a few sequences that are coloured, Twilight GN is almost entirely in black-and-white, however it is printed on a glossy paper that distances itself from manga printed on rough paper (which was probably the intention).

Kim’s artwork is beautiful, to say the least, and amplifies the feelings one may experience while reading Twilight – beauty, isolation, confusion – Kim’s captured it all to great effect. Of course, this being the first volume (at the time of this writing, it seems to be the only volume) it doesn’t cover the entire first novel, going up to the famous meadow and sunlight revelation scenes.

Perhaps I may be biased, but I felt this was better than the original novel – despite the fact Stephenie Meyer has to have her name in large letters on the front and spine and was probably breathing down Young Kim’s neck while she was working on this. There is a short dedication from Ms Kim at the back of the book (where, of course, most dedications are [end sarcasm]) where she writes, and I quote:

“To the reader, I sincerely hope that your own unique nature is loved, particularly by yourself… – Young Kim”

I was supremely touched by this and will buy anything I see with Young Kim’s name printed on without second-guessing. Not only is it such a broad yet personal remark that is moving to the reader, but also speaks of Edward’s feelings, especially throughout Twilight, being a monster but wishing to be loved. It’s that why I believe Twilight is popular – Edward finds happiness with Bella after a century of loneliness. It’s that loneliness I believe that is extinguished once someone like Bella can come into one’s life. It’s finding happiness just before you give up looking.

I have become lost, swirling around in the reasons why Twilight could be popular, but the graphic novel iteration is something of a mixed bag. Kim’s drawings are beautiful and romantic, the book’s layout, however, leaves much to be desired, especially with Meyer’s text being adhered to so strictly, however, for any Twilight fan out there, this is surely a no-brainer. Four skulls, half a star more than the novel version due to Kim’s fantastic artwork, but barred from five stars (don’t scoff, it could have been five stars) due to the poor layout and Photoshopped backgrounds.

 

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Machinarium: Collector’s Edition (2009)

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When I was looking through EB Games for a cheap, Mac-compatible game to purchase, I looked through many, many games and those many didn’t tickle my fancy. I can’t play Bejeweled for longer than ten minutes, really. I didn’t quite feel like shelling out the admittedly-small amount of twenty dollars for Plants VS Zombies, despite knowing of it receiving great reviews and also on the recommendation of a friend. It was then a dark, shiny box glinted in the bargain bin at me: Machinarium.

Despite not knowing exactly how to pronounce it (is it Mack-in-air-ree-um? or Mash-in-air-ree-um?), Machinarium is one of the best games I have ever played. It helps that for a slightly dearer amount than Plants VS Zombies at twenty-four dollars, it was a special edition stuffed with really nice goodies, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Players are the small, lovelorn robot named Josef who has been dumped into a tip for a reason the player doesn’t find out until well into the game (no spoilers here, don’t worry). Through a small introduction, the player needs to point and click around the environment to progress further and further into the game, although you’ll need to keep your brain constantly ticking with puzzles almost everywhere you look.

For once, a game that doesn’t pander to its audience; a game suitable for all in terms of content, a game with a simple story and very well-designed, emotive characters. When I saw the game initially, it reminded me of Shane Acker’s feature version of 9 starring Elijah Wood and produced by Tim Burton. It’s a shame, though, whether this can be a compliment or criticism towards Machinarium I’m not quite sure, that this game is much more involving in terms of its plot, and not simply because it is a game, than 9 ever was.

The basic plot revolves around Josef needing to find and rescue his girlfriend robot who has been kidnapped by the Black Cap Brotherhood (robots who, surprisingly, wear black caps – who knew, right?), while the Brotherhood is also planning to rig a bomb and destroy the city.

Of course, the pros don’t come without a few minor cons to Amanita Design’s Machinarium. The point-and-click format of the game helps the graphics, in an odd way, not necessarily overloading the player with visual information and keeping everything simple, though keeping the puzzles difficult. Utilising 2D space, Amanita has crafted a truly beautiful hand-drawn world with Machinarium, a video-game world I haven’t gawked at since I first experienced Rapture in Bioshock. The puzzles are designed so ingeniously that the mind boggles how the developers managed to tell a coherent story utilising nothing but hand-drawn, animated images, music and occasional grunts or sounds from characters. Major props to Amanita for balancing a lot with this game! However that’s also a con: balance of storytelling VS gameplay. The first thing that happens after you assemble yourself at the beginning of the game is a lengthy walk towards the city. You can’t skip it, and the player can’t do anything. There’s a lot of these kind of environments where Josef just walks, or uses such an environment as a thoroughfare to an actual puzzle level, which got me questioning why the developers bothered to put these kind of “shots”, I guess you could call them, into the game? Another shortcoming (pardon the pun) is the length of the game. I finished it in two days, roughly, and I’m not one to finish games very often. Yes, I had major help from the included walkthrough (more detail later) but the game still felt short, walkthrough or not. However, the positive heavily outweigh the negative with Machinarium, it just gives Amanita Design some wiggle room to improve for a hopeful Machinarium 2.

The soundtrack is quite eclectic. It is a dark, although at the same time, upbeat score, perfectly balancing the rust and oil of this world with the very individualistic characters. The track that is quite possibly my favourite out of all tracks is “The Robot Band Tune”, which, I’m pretty sure uses a didgeridoo, so huge props need to go out to Tomas Dvorak for using the didgeridoo if I am correct. Dvorak’s score on the whole is quite a perfect accompaniment to the game itself, but some tracks, like “The End (Prague Radio)”, have the possibility of never being listened to for pleasure because a quota has already been used up within the game – let me explain: “The End (Prague Radio)” is played in a bar where you need to beat a man at a chess/connect four type game and it takes quite a while, and this particular piece got on my nerves quite a bit because I could always hear when it began again – not necessarily when it ended, but when it began again, leading me to think, especially later on my further plays of this robot chess, “Oh no, not this piece of music again.” Thankfully, this doesn’t happen much else in the game.

Now, to the goodies included. Of course, the soundtrack is included on a separate disc, however, there are actual files loaded with artist information and artwork which are also loaded onto the game disc itself, which I found odd (however, only the Machinarium Bonus EP is accessible on the game disc). The next goodie is a small, square booklet which is the walkthrough. Wonderfully designed and drawn, it’s what I think is actually the perfect walkthrough, because while it explained what things you needed to do visually (there is no didatic text), it doesn’t tell you exactly when you need to do at this certain event, and doesn’t tell you where you need to go if you need to fetch an item to use in your current environment. It explained enough while still making me feel like I was working details out myself, and I appreciated that. The last goodie is a fold-out poster with a colourful image on one side similar to the cover art and on the other side concept art, comments and designs. Definitely worth a look for those interested in the visual aspect of the game and not necessarily the technical aspects. Of course, it all comes in a beautiful shiny slipcase that attracts you to it like a moth to the flame.

Machinarium, while painfully short (I mean it, I felt very depressed when I finished), is a fantastic game not without flaws, but as I mentioned earlier the positive far outweigh the negative. It is what Shane Acker’s 9 should have been: involving, emotional, visually arresting and last but not least, entertaining. A definite plus is the game is playable across Windows, Macintosh and Linux, so there is no excuse (besides lack of stock) to not play this game. Get your hands on a copy and play it – you won’t regret it. Four-and-a-half out of five!