Saturday, December 03, 2011

The cat, the other cat, and the egg

Although Puss spins off from the Shrek franchise, the look and feel of the movie starring the feline in the floppy footwear is very different from that of Far, Far Away. Here, we have the origin backstory of the unlikely partnership between Puss and misfit egghead, Humpty Alexander Dumpty. It's a childhood bonding taking the two through a story of crime, duplicity, betrayal and vengeance -- though not necessarily in that order. And a quest for redemption is in there too, holding the whole narrative together.

Where Puss hails from is realistic: people are people, not fantasy backdrops. It's a place where magic doesn't occur on a regular basis; but of course a talking cat with stylish skillz and a walking egg are bound to bring their own fantastic elements with them wherever they go. Magic beans, giant beanstalk, stolen golden egg-laying golden gosling are all part of this Mother Goose mashup, though the stoic residents of San Ricardo accept it all unquestioningly.

Overall, quite a fun romp, though not quite as laugh-out-loud in humour as Shrek. Despite the logic, the fairy-tale elements feel awkward in this mix, and rather than accepting them as natural, there is more effort taken to explain the connections than it's worth. And in the case of Kitty Softpaws, there is no fantasy precedent at all but a sad morality tale about how inhumane it is to declaw your cat. Nevertheless, the story is just about clever and engaging enough to follow through its twists and turns to the end.

Friday, December 02, 2011

M2 amidst the exotics

Took M2 for his 40k servicing at the new service centre in Ubi. Was a bit worried about the staff I knew since Mazda got bought over by Eurokars. Would they have survived the shuffle? Happy to know that SR, Rosie, and Anna the cashier are still around. Oh, the reason for the pix (above) is that the new place also houses the dealership for Porsche and the basement parking lot is full of these pristine still wrapped in plastic beauties. Yummy!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Sweet auto-pimped rides on The Run

The premise for "NFS: The Run" is a coast-to-coast race across the USA over the varying types of terrain therein. Story mode is straightforward: having pissed off the mob, your character takes the offer of a 10% cut of a $25m purse if he can cross the finish line first ahead of 200+ other racers.

It would have been nice to drive continuously from SF to NY, overtaking expensive cars as you go, but the whole sequence is broken up into race segments where you take on a handful of racers at a time. Occasionally, the cops are there to try spoil things for you, running interference and setting roadblocks while you are busy concentrating on being #1 badass authoriTAH of the asphalt.

What's a big innovation from previous versions of NFS is that each race is now broken up into checkpoints so when you wreck, get busted or fall so far behind there's no hope of catching up, you can reset to the last checkpoint and just drive better, rather than restart the race all over again. The higher the difficulty setting, the fewer the checkpoints, of course.

The Run also removes the ability to customize your own ride. If you want fancier wheels and finer tuning, you have to earn them by defeating Challenges.

So, the story is just to get the player's feet wet. The real meat-and-potatoes of the Run is Challenge mode in which the driver not only has to finish first, but also beat the clock to unlock rewards. For the more sociable gamer, there's Multiplayer mode too -- beat real people, win more stuff. Bragging rights go without saying.

There are some annoyances, like keyboard controls reverting to default after customization, and sometimes the screen locks up and crashes back to Windows. Time to install more RAM, perhaps?

Slowly working my way through single player. It'll still be a while yet before I'm feeling sociable enough to take my show on the information superhighway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shopping for loans

Time to think about options for refinancing my home loan. With my 3-year lock in period having expired, the bank is now offering me a generous new rate of 4.08% per annum. While that doesn't sound like much under normal, everyday circumstances, when applied to a 6-figure principal, it's a whopping extra bushel of dosh every year -- I don't gross enough a month to cover the interest alone!

Good thing is, the bank's current refinancing package offers a rate that is actually lower than the initial rate. Still shopping around for better deals, though. I know they're out there.