As I do every time they come around, I took advantage of the latest massive summer sale on Steam to fill out holes in my PC gaming library (currently numbering 434 games, I inform you with an even mixture of pride and shame). But if I’m being honest, I often feel like I enjoy owning the games, with the ability to play them in some potential time-rich future, more than I do playing them; I can’t count how many are just sitting idly in my roster, watching enviously while I boot up The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth or Dark Souls for the hundredth time.
But when I snagged Ori And The Blind Forest, I thought it might have a chance. Everything I’d heard about the lusciously animated, brutally hard action platformer suggested it would sit firmly in my wheelhouse. And, since I’m an expert on me, and what I like, I turned out to be completely correct: Ori is one of the best games I’ve played in some time. It’s not just the beautiful, smooth visuals—and the way they’re used, right from the get-go, to tell a story that managed to punch me in the heart harder than anything since Pixar’s equally affecting Up—or the difficult challenges, perfectly tuned to create that mixture of panic and confidence that I’m after when I play games like Super Meat Boy and their ilk. It’s the speed that keeps me coming back.
The longer I’ve been playing games, the more obsessed I’ve gotten with how we move through virtual spaces. Almost every game has some form of movement system, and the ones that stick with me are the ones that make it sing. (I’m currently in a love-hate relationship with Dragon Age: Inquisition because the plodding navigation keeps standing between me and my fun). Ori is one of the most agile characters I’ve gotten my hands on in years, fleet of foot and responsive in a way that makes me think of a crisper version of old-school Sonic The Hedgehog. Stapling that movement to Metroid-style exploration is a perfect recipe for fun. [William Hughes]
J Fernandez doesn’t sound like the name of a band that plays chugging, Krautrock-inspired indie-rock, but it is most of the name of Justin Fernandez, a Chicagoan who’s built some beautiful atmospheres on this debut full-length. It feels to me—and I’m dating myself here—like 1993, when Unrest and Stereolab went on tour together, each band at the height of its powers. Though I was a big fan of both bands, the pairing didn’t make sense to me on paper—the weird American indie band with the British experimentalists who were fresh off the massively weird Space Age Bachelor Pad Music. But it made perfect sense once it was right there in front of me. J Fernandez should’ve played in the middle of that bill. [Josh Modell]
There’s been a lot of talk recently about Pizza Hut’s new Hot Dog Pizza on this site and others, and I find it all rather upsetting. Life is short, why eat something so terrible—with a mustard glaze, yet? I may feel so strongly about this because I come from the land of the world’s best pizza—Chicago—and the world’s best pizza-maker: Lou Malnati’s. It’s hard to explain the magnificence of Malnati’s pizza to those who haven’t experienced it: Its deep dish resembles a meat pie more than anything, nestled atop this pizza house’s legendary “butter crust.” Malnati’s just opened up a new restaurant right near my neighborhood, and it’s already constantly packed. I say this not to make anyone who’s not Chicago-adjacent jealous, but to suggest an option. The Tastes Of Chicago website sells the foods Chicago is famous for—from Malnati’s pizza to Garrett’s popcorn—via mail order, so you can send delicious stuff off to anyone all over the country (for a price). Malnati’s offers a pizza six-pack for a little over a hundred dollars: Come on, that averages out to less than 20 bucks a pizza. Totally worth it. You can even order a Portillos or Vienna Beef hot dog kit to go with your pizza. Just not on your pizza. [Gwen Ihnat]