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A New Hope

Yes, I am indeed caught up in the hype leading up to next month’s release of The Force Awakens (I quite enjoyed cover features in both Entertainment Weekly and Wired), and so have decided to re-watch the original trilogy – I may re-watch the prequels as well, but I’m still not sure if that’s a journey I really need to embark on. It still bums me out that I need to watch the “special editions,” as what they add really is terrible, and because it’s mostly CG, they are also the bits that age the movies the most. But despite that, it was indeed very fun watching this again, as it had been a while. During the final battle sequence, I had flashbacks of playing the old Star Wars arcade game as a kid, the one with vector graphics. Good times.

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The Comeback Kid

All I know of John Mulaney is that he was a writer on SNL (and was responsible for the Stefon bits) and that after he left that show he had a short-lived sitcom that wasn’t considered very good, but I’d heard good things about his new Netflix comedy special, The Comeback Kid, and so decided to check it out. I’m glad I did, as it’s a really fantastic stand-up special. Not only funny, but I really like how he builds his jokes, forming long stories that grow and grow. Highly recommended.

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/W Bob and David

Even though I never watched it back in the day, I know that Mr. Show is considered a true classic of comedy, and so was pretty excited to see this new follow-up series on Netflix – especially since I really do love both Bob and David in whatever I have seen them in. But after watching the first episode, I just wasn’t feeling it, it wasn’t funny to me at all. I started watching the second episode, and have yet to finish it. Since it’s only a set of 4 episodes, I may still get through all of them, hoping it gets better by the end, and that I somehow just haven’t been in the proper mindset to watch them.

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Master of None

This is absolutely one of the best series to come out of Netflix. Even though I quite like Aziz Ansari (I loved Parks and Recreation), I wasn’t necessarily sold on his new series from the get-go, and wasn’t even really feeling it while watching the first episode. But by episode 2 I was in, and by the end I was so in love with the show. Also, the opening credit sequence for each episode uses a different song each time, and every single selection is fantastic. Can’t recommend this series enough.

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Let’s Play TV Games

This past Friday I got the new Apple TV, and the day after the Nimbus controller that wirelessly syncs with it (over Bluetooth). I’m having a blast.

I’ll start by saying that I’m a longtime and very strong user of Apple TV. It’s now turned into a pretty successful product for Apple, but I was an early adopter, and it quickly became indispensable for me. The killer feature for me has always been AirPlay, and on top of streaming lots of video content to it, it’s also been my main “stereo” in my home (first by streaming music from iTunes, then Spotify, and these days Apple Music).

But I’ve always been waiting for the moment when they would finally add a proper App Store to it, so that we’d start getting proper apps that were made for use on a TV screen.

And that of course means, TV games.

The best thing about plugging it in and logging into my accounts (as a citizen of the world, I have Canadian, US, and Japan accounts) was that I already had access to a bunch of games courtesy of the few Universal apps out there that have already jumped on the TV front. Early faves so far include Canabalt, Badland, Edge/Edge Ex, Phoenix HD, Jetpack Joyride, and a game that I’m finally having fun playing for the first time (because I’m playing it with the Nimbus controller), Asphalt 8.

(And to be fair, even though it’s not a game I particularly like playing, Crossy Road does look great on the big screen.)

The game I’m playing the most though is Rayman Adventures, a free-to-play game that plays exactly like a regular Rayman console game when you’re playing with the Nimbus – it’s not like the (albeit excellent) auto-runners that have already come out on iOS. There’s also another free-to-play game that I’ve been enjoying, a hover ship “runner” called Breakneck, although it was crashing for me consistently when I was reaching a certain level today.

As I mentioned at the top, I quickly bought that Nimbus controller – which is a very solid piece of hardware, by the way – because for most of these games, I wasn’t really enjoying playing them with the Siri Remote. But one very big exception, and the only game I’ve bought so far, is Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising, which was specifically designed to play with the Siri Remote, and in fact does not support play with a controller. I found myself really enjoying playing that game with the remote, and as someone who was not a fan of playing games with the Wiimote (along with the nunchuck controller), I think what makes it better here is that the Siri Remote is so much smaller and lighter, and so it’s not as tiring to be holding it up. Add some gorgeous HD visuals, and you’ve got a legit great space shooter.

The App Store is a bit strange though. Right now you can only find games through a featured page, through a page of things you’ve bought (and so any Universal apps that you’ve previously purchased on other iOS devices show up there), and through a search page. It’s not surprising that there’s no charts yet, since the store just opened, but I would have liked to see some category pages – I have a few friends who I know have created Apple TV versions of their iOS games (Shaun Inman’s The Last Rocket, Eric Koizol’s Rainblocks) that you can only find if you specifically search for them. I also find it strange that you can’t buy Apple TV apps through App Stores on other devices (or on your computer).

So what’s the verdict?

I think it’s pretty clear that I’m already quite excited for this device, in terms of games, and I think this will finally be the micro console that sticks. Just like what happened with the iPhone, tons of people are going to buy Apple TVs to watch video content (which I of course do as well) and as they start discovering the high-quality games you can play there, it’s going to make it that much more attractive for creators to develop Apple TV versions of their iOS games, or even better, games that may be created specifically with the TV in mind. Also, the fact Apple is strongly promoting the sales of controllers like the Nimbus means that I’m sure more and more games that play better with such controllers will be coming out on the device.

To me, this feels like a new console launch, and a good one at that.

Update: I just realized that I forgot to emphasize another thing that is a huge sell for me – although I alluded to it when I mentioned Asphalt 8 – and that’s the ability to finally play games that use virtual controls on iOS devices with a real physical controller. I absolutely hate playing games that way (with virtual on-screen controls), and there are tons of quality games that I’m sure would be a million times better if I could finally play them with a proper controller – a recent example is Downwell, a game I did still enjoy, but that I still found to be a bit awkward because of the controls. Yes, you’ve long been able to use wireless Bluetooth controllers with iOS devices, but that’s not a practical thing to do. There’s nothing more natural though than using one when you’re playing TV games.