Lifeless Planet

“The Flood” b/w “Red Sauce Revisited” by Mike Pace And The Child Actors

“I’m listening to a lot of Supertramp and mid-period Christopher Cross,” my friend Mike Pace recently wrote in an email. Rather than sarcastically replying “There’s more than one period of Christopher Cross?”, I chose to read these listening habits into the tracks on Pace’s new digital single. Building on the sounds of Best Boy—the debut LP from the former Oxford Collapse frontman’s newest project, Mike Pace And The Child Actors—“The Flood” and “Red Sauce Revisited” wholeheartedly embrace AOR pomp and prog-rock complexity, maintaining the anthemic heights of my favorite Best Boy cut, “Summer Lawns.” Packaged as a double A-side, both songs would fit comfortably between “The Logical Song” and “Ride Like The Wind” on the playlist of your local classic-rock station—though I give the edge to “Red Sauce Revisited,” with its dramatic shifts between gooey, guitar-driven romance and piano-pop stomp. Beneath the dense layers of instrumentation, there’s a wistfulness to the songs that make for ideal fall listening, the cheeky closing line of “Red Sauce Revisited”—“Please don’t tell me this is how it ends”—feeling particularly suited for end-of-the-year reflection. [Erik Adams]

Lifeless Planet

While it’s not hard to find video games that are fun to play together, I often struggle to discover games that it’s fun for one partner to watch while the other ones plays. So it was an unexpected delight to happen upon Lifeless Planet, the 2014 puzzle platformer released last year for Windows but just ported over to the XBox One this summer. The story centers around your lonely astronaut, sent to investigate a planet supposedly teeming with life, but which turns out to be completely desolate. As you wander among the ruins, however, you start to piece together what happened—and soon, you realize you might not be alone, after all. The gameplay isn’t exactly the most impressive, and it’s not always terribly advanced in story or style, but there’s something about watching your small character wander among the massive landscapes, taking tiny steps across cavernous interiors and enormous mountains, that makes it great fun to watch along as the person on the couch next to you slowly wends their way through these strange worlds. My partner generally doesn’t like to play a solo game when I’m there, and neither do I, but we’ve both had a ball piecing together the mysteries of Lifeless Planet. That’s true even when (maybe especially when) a teetering tiptoe across wires atop mountains ends in a fall hundreds of yards to the ground below. My partner will get across it next time, I’m sure, although the cat is starting to look askance at us. [Alex McCown]

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Escape rooms

As a self-described puzzle junkie, I knew I was in trouble the first time I heard that people were building real-life versions of the old “Escape the room” Flash games that used to eat up so much of my idle online time. So when I plunked down the cash for my first one back in April of this year, I wasn’t surprised to feel a new addiction start to grow. It’s not that I necessarily love being locked up in a room with a group of my friends (or a bunch of strangers, if I can’t find a group to go with me). But I like exploring new spaces, I like seeing new puzzles, and I love the thrill I get when I (or my partners) work out a new solution. Consequently, I’ve done four of the things now, driving out to weird industrial parks and re-appropriated office buildings across America to test my old adventure-game solving muscles against ciphers, math puzzles, and every configuration of clues, artifacts, and electronic sensors you could hope to find. They’re definitely not for everybody—looking at you, Conan O’Brien—but if you ever spent your afternoons poking at Myst or Monkey Island, and if the thrill of working with others to piece together weird puzzles gets your nerd brain humming, you owe it to yourself to check if your nearest metropolitan center has one so that you can spend an hour seeing if it’s your cup of tea. [William Hughes]