Yesterday was primary election day in Illinois. I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't able to make it to the polling place, which is effectively a vote for the status quo. (Note that some people may tell you that not voting is a way of expressing your dissent with the system, or some such thing. These people are lying and you should ask yourself how they benefit from keeping others apathetic and silent.) However, I'm pleased that the status quo worked out in at least one aspect, namely that the definitely non-crazy Judy Baar Topinka won the GOP nomination for governor and so there will be a credible alternative this fall to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a complete ass who I wouldn't cross the street to vote for if he were on fire. Hooray for the tiny sliver of Illinoisians (Illinoisites? Illini?) who had it together more than me when it counted.
Right, now that I think of it, I'm a registered Democrat so I couldn't have made any difference there anyway. Hooray for excuses too, then.
Also yesterday I was playing a rather fantastic Half-Life 2 mod called Mistake of Pythagoras. It's by the completely crazy Japanese modder Koumei Satou ("K.S.") who also perpetrated the HL1 mod Sweet Half-Life that I've plugged in this space before. I was up late for a genuine reason last night: I had to see how this thing came out. The less you know going into Mistake of Pythagoras the better, so I'll put the other remarks behind this cut -- oh, hello!
Anywho. Mistake of Pythagoras takes place in a sort of parallel world. In this world, the Combine (creepy alien techno-fascists the player, as Gordon Freeman, battles in the real HL2) are actually the benefactors they claim to be: the Striders and APCs are a friendly, albeit clumsy, presence in the streets of our cities and the looming Combine Citadel is a reassuring symbol that Earth is protected in a hostile universe. This was certainly a startling experience as I wandered through the seemingly familiar streets of City 17 at the beginning of the game, to see relaxed citizens rubbernecking at police lines and not cowering in fear before the Combine stormtroopers, and encounter the various "rebel" characters from the real game now working hand-in-glove with the Combine to fend off a new threat. What's remarkable is how much the designer really makes this concept work: late in the game, I found myself cheering out loud the sudden and lucky appearance of a friendly Strider and Gunship laying waste to the bad guys who had me pinned down. For someone who's as into Half-Life as I am it's a strange inversion indeed.
Most of the game takes place in the invaders' world. The invaders -- it's not clear if you ever meet the invaders themselves or just their hardware, but they are personified by enormous triangular spacecraft and a habit of dropping huge stone numbers out of the sky when they launch an attack -- are a surreal and frankly impenetrable bunch. Somehow, though, K.S. has given them personality and even, in one case, individuality and a sense of tragedy. Because of that, the ending of the mod affected me quite strongly... something I've rarely encountered even in actual games, much less add-on levels.
I should add that technically the mod doesn't disappoint, either. Just like with Sweet Half-Life, K.S. has pushed the game's engine rather farther than one would expect it to go, and it does bend a bit -- but it bends gleefully. I'm especially thinking of the... okay, I said there'd be spoilers but I don't know if I should give it away here. Suffice it to say the, um, new thing you get to do right at the end of the game, and where you get to do it. It's awesome.
Executive summary: Recommended.
Also, I've played the Darwinia demo. I'll probably talk about Darwinia more later but I will say the free demo available over Steam quickly convinced me to buy the game. You know, I'm digging this new game distribution paradigm or whatever.
OK, I suppose I should go draw a comic now.