Marked as Blue (Defend Oxford Against Invasion)

lv5-01The objective of the fifth level, “Defend Oxford Against Invasion”, is straightforward enough: the city is under attack, and we’re to fight off the Martians until a human base can be constructed. The game’s midpoint is in sight: we know the drill. That said, there are still some interesting firsts here. We’re immediately struck by the visuals: this is the first level to be set during night, which it manages well, giving us a nice velvety purple-blue sky lit by a faintly pixellated moon. (For the invaders, with their tiny and invisible Phobos and Deimos, this must take some getting used to: one wonders if they marvel at our own vast and silvery satellite – if their sad longing for Earth was due, in some small part, to the draw of Selene.) The opening flyover cinematic takes us through a Martian base, across bridge and field and river, and on to Oxford’s first line of defence.
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The Case of Alan Moore v Twin Peaks

alan moore twin peaks 1Considering Alan Moore’s aversion to the popular culture of the 21st century, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an interview in which he shares his thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return. Imagine my alarm, then, upon finding that the omnibearded demiurge’s response includes the words “I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered”! The greatest living writer of the English language expressing mild dislike for the greatest television series ever made? This must be how people who love both of their parents feel when they fight. No, this simply cannot go unexamined – cannot go uncontested. In an act of self-annihilation to rival Icarus himself, I am going to have a go at Alan Moore.

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Silk and Amphetamine (Casanova Companions)

something for the weekendTo an attentive Divine Comedy fan in the mid-1990s, it would appear that Neil Hannon was releasing EPs under two banners: the Companion and the Indulgence. A record is a Companion when it’s associated with a particular album, and an Indulgence when it’s not. A Promenade Companion is clearly a satellite in the orbit of the album Promenade; meanwhile, Indulgence No. 1 is slightly more mysterious, and seems to exist for its own purposes. All very good. In 1996, however, this nascent classification system experienced some turbulence when someone decided that the three singles from the album Casanova would each be subtitled “A Casanova Companion”, followed by a number. As such, the number of Divine Comedy records with the words “Casanova Companion” in the title is… six.

I know. Bear with me.
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A Multi-Doctor Manifesto

apprehensionMulti-Doctor episodes are the best. Strangely, however, there seems to be some confusion about this. A sizeable contingent of fans hold that those Doctor Who episodes in which incarnations of the Doctor meet one another are “indulgent” and “complicated”; that they should be saved for the occasional round-numbered anniversary, and rationed out like sugary sweets. This idea is poisonous buzzkillery, and its adherents have lost their way: multi-Doctor stories are the lifeblood of the show, and we can never have too many of them.
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And Never the Bride (Casanova)

casanova divine comedyIn 1996, The Divine Comedy entered their imperial phase with Casanova, the album that finally broke Neil Hannon into the mainstream. Together with its immediate precursors, Liberation and Promenade, it forms the final part of a three-album plateau of artistic excellence. (Should we call it the early-to-mid-nineties trilogy? Too vague. The fancy-monepic-title trilogy?) However, when considered with the next two, A Short Album About Love and Fin de Siècle, it instead forms the beginning of a three-album streak marking the band’s greatest chart success. (This is easier to name: the Britpop trilogy.) Casanova is the undeniable triumph at the two trios’ intersection. Hannon’s later work strays into a multitude of styles and genres – from slight and silly to profound and moving, from simple and conservative to wild and experimental – and offers something for everyone, but while plenty of these are defensible as favourites, and make for interesting choices, it’s telling that, when Hannon becomes nostalgic and self-regarding, the time of Casanova is the one he attempts to channel. It is also The Sex One.
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Beyond the Boundaries of Sense (Indulgence No. 2)

indulgence no 2 redIn July 1994, an odd promise was fulfilled as The Divine Comedy released Indulgence No. 2, the sequel – at least in a certain sense – to 1993’s Indulgence No. 1. That shared name is really the only thing connecting the two EPs, whose contents could hardly be more different: where No. 1 consisted of two oddball covers and one remixed instrumental, No. 2 is instead a live record, and consists of versions of three songs from Promenade, the studio album released in between the two Indulgence EPs. But is it any good, and what’s this “Indulgence” business really all about?
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The Martian Farm (Recapture Dover)

lv4-00After two levels in the general “rural England” mould and a third that’s just London, The War of the Worlds gives us its first genuinely unconventional setting. This is the point where the game definitively steps beyond the narrow geographical territory of Wells’s rather perambulatory novel – a stop by the coast before we begin our long road-trip to the north. Perhaps most importantly, it’s just a fun idea: really, how many science-fiction video games are set in Kent?
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