Other popular areas of concern:

*I took advantage of a deal at the local video gaming emporium and purchased the first two “Ratchet and Clank” games for the PS2 for $30 of my holiday money, just to further feed my desire for platform gaming (although these games are a bit more shooting-oriented than average). My younger sister got the new “Sly Cooper” epic, which supposedly has some pretty seamless integration of individual ‘stages’ into the larger game world. I just finished with the first “Jak and Daxter” and I was pleased with the level of thought and logic that went into attuning each new stage to the overall story and atmosphere of the game. Not that there’s ever any doubt that there’s plenty of individual levels to clear, but the levels largely have pertinent reasons to exist for exploration, aside from merely being present in a video game. I’m not sure why I find such efforts at level integration to be admirable; a game is a game, and levels need only exist to be played, at their core. I think it’s part of the polish of presentation, and an ongoing effort to keep the platformer as close to a seamless experience in a coherent world as possible. Some platformers continue to draw attention to themselves as games consisting of individual levels (see: anything with a hub and multiple open and closed doors scattered around the place), but it seems that the current vogue in such games is still inclined toward the ‘seamless’. Of course, having not too much money, I don’t have the latest “Jak and Daxter” or “Ratchet and Clank” to play, although I’ve read enough about their gameplay mechanics to gather a reasonable notion of where they’re moving toward.

Wouldn’t a platform game based around the art of Jim Woodring or Kim Deitch be the greatest thing ever? The graphics technology is present to pull it off, and I’d really like to see some of those distinct designs brought to life in breathing worlds; I think it’d be a great idea. Of course, I also think it’s be a great idea to have a “Grand Theft Auto” type game as built around the mechanics of silent comedy, with your character sneaking into saloons and hanging from clock-towers and inhabiting a large Jazz Age world of burly cops and runaway trains. That would be great! And I’d also like a baby brother made of emeralds.

*I’d never seen the Marx Brothers’ “The Cocoanuts” before; it’s their earliest surviving film as a group (“Humor Risk”, an allegedly disastrous silent short featuring the Brothers, is presumed lost). Made in 1929 as a full talkie; the technology wasn’t quite up to speed, so there’s plenty of long still shots with minimal angle changes, even for elaborate dance numbers. It’s pretty much a filmed record of one of the big Broadway hits for the Brothers, and there’s very little in the way of cinematic touches. But a virtual front-row seat to a Marx Brothers show isn’t that bad a deal, and the Irving Berlin tunes are pretty good. I saw it on the new Universal disc (as opposed to the old Image release, which apparently has similar print quality), and there’s some pretty big drops in image quality throughout; I guess certain scenes could only be derived from sub-par materials. The Universal disc is part of a box set collecting all of the early Paramount features, with some awfully skimpy extras, especially compared to the Warner box for the later features (excluding the semi-official “Love Happy”, which Lion’s Gate has released in a new extended edition, and the negligible “The Story of Mankind”, which nobody is hustling to release). And bafflingly, the liner notes booklet in the Universal set is attached to the box itself; it cannot be removed separately, so you have to cradle the entire box in your lap just to read the chapter listings or whatever. Very odd choice.