Random Encounter #6 – The Betrayal of Gaming’s Most Iconic Character?

The new look Lara Croft. Because 'The Hunger Games'' was REALLY big last yearAfter an extended break, our look at the world of video game culture is back! Kieran Mathers takes the new look Lara for a spin…

This month saw the return of the venerable old lady of computer gaming. No, I don’t mean Samus from Metroid Prime. Crystal Dynamics have released the much anticipated Tomb Raider reboot, starring one Ms Lara Croft.

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled over this gritty story of Lara’s origins, mostly relating to its occasional gameplay flaws and restricted camera control. The bold re-casting of Lara has firmly split online opinion, with some believing it to be the boost the series needed, while other say that this new approach has ruined a character from the early years of 3D gaming.

I’m not going to engage with the gameplay debates, or the arguable over-use of Quick Time Events. Reviewers better than me have tackled those at great length, and I’ll only mention them when relevant. I’m going to look at Tomb Raider 2013 for what it espouses to be: a re-invention of Lara Croft, the icon and the woman. Have these radical changes ruined or saved her?

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The Next Big Thing – ‘The Darkness Embraces’

Skyrim DungeonWe’re all about the writing this week, as our reviewer and sometime podcaster Kieran Mathers takes us on a whirlwind tour of his forthcoming fantasy novella.

What’s the working title of your book?

‘The Darkness Embraces’

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Bizarrely enough, the idea came from playing Skyrim. In that, you often explore great underground tombs and temples, either on your own with a companion. While I was thinking about this general fantasy trope, I found it interesting to imagine what would happen if, instead of a small group fighting another small group, you had entire armies underground who were trying to prosecute a military campaign. So it was a narrative leap into the darkness of the cave, and the very first title was actually Legion in the Dark. Plus, I was raised in Yorkshire, and we’ve got massive caverns and a great tradition of caving there, so I tried to bring some of what I know about that to the book as well.
The book was actually my attempt at NaNoWriMo, the National Write a Novel in a month contest, but it turned out so well that I thought I’d continue it towards publication.

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Game of Thrones – From Page to Screen

Join Caleb Woodbridge, Sarah Burrow and – making his debut on the podcast – Kieran Mathers as they tackle George RR Martin’s epic fantasy sequence.

After an in-depth discussion of the books, including their use of history and magic, the team turns a ciritcal eye on the smash hit HBO series. Where did it succeed? Where did it fail? And how should Season 2 (and Season 3) move forward? All this, plus the burning question: do too many lesbian prostitutes spoil the broth?

PLEASE NOTE: The first 30 minutes of the podcast are spoiler free, but there are significant spoilers for the rest of the running time. You have been warned!


The Walking Dead Review – 2.07 ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’

This is the show’s last chance to impress before its mid-season break. Has it succeeded? Kieran Mathers finds out…

Finally. After hours of wandering through the woods, The Walking Dead rediscovers what it’s good at; theatre like intimacy and intensity; emotional engagement; a Mamet-esque development and understanding of male characters. This episode drives the plot forward and gives everyone in the wider ensemble something to actually do. It also features a climactic zombie massacre that would do the source material proud. At long last, it’s television that makes you want to carry on watching.

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The Walking Dead Review – 2.06 ‘Secrets’

AMC’s zombie thriller approaches its mid-season climax, but will we be tuning in when it return? Kieran Mathers finds out…

My word, there’s an awful lot of shouting in this episode! After several plodding instalments, this season’s incipient conflicts finally rear their ugly rotting heads. Gunfights, sex, violence… it’s all here. I won’t call it a return to form because it’s still pretty poor fare compared to much of last season, but it’s almost watchable again.

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The Walking Dead Review – 2.05 ‘Chupacabra’

Kieran Mathers watches dull things happen very slowly…

I really wasn’t looking forward to reviewing this episode. For the fifth week in a row, the party of survivors wanders through the woods in search of the missing Sophia. There is also friction with the patriarchal Hershel (Scott Wilson) over access to his farm and the liberties being taken by some of the group.

So thank goodness for red-neck hero Daryl (Norman Reedus) whose Touching the Void-style survival exploits reward us with a great series of scenes. His relationship with his missing brother Merle (Michael Rooker), last seen handcuffed to a rooftop in Season 1, is revisited as a means of fleshing out his insecurities about his role in the group, and his eventual acceptance at the end of the episode is lovely – a real highlight.

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