Game Spotlight: Little Orpheus

Have you ever played a video game where your jaw just drops and hits the floor? That’s pretty much been my experience with a gorgeous new indie game called Little Orpheus.

Little Orpheus is available on Apple Arcade, and my son and I have been loving this game to pieces. (Haven’t heard about Apple Arcade? It’s Apple’s $5 / month “all you can eat” gaming service which is perfect for families, since you have full-access to over a hundred games, there are no in-app purchases, and everyone on the family plan gets to play on the device of their choice). This game was lovingly crafted by the award-winning developer house The Chinese Room — and it shows. Every shot is cinematic, every frame is lush, and each new level is pulpy-good fun. You follow the adventures of a hapless Russian cosmonaut whose mission did not go as planned (to say the least).

Now, I’m not a hardcore gamer anymore (note I said “anymore”), so if you happen to be playing games 24 / 7 — please take what I say with a grain of salt — but this game truly is a marvel from start to finish. It’s not a long game, but every moment is saturated in glorious technicolor, the scenery will blow your mind, and the different modes of play keep things interesting (think “move block here to climb up there, time your jumps as you slide down, crank this lever to move that”, etc.) There’s also some lovely narration and cut scenes where our Russian hero regales his journey to his skeptical comrade, and it keeps things light and moving along. If I had to nitpick anything, it would be that the controls can be a bit stiff at times (I play with an external controller), however the difficult level is relatively low, so it’s really not a big quibble.

Full circle — if you like atmospheric platformer games that are more about art and less about button mashing (i.e. “INSIDE”, “Stela”, etc.) then you’ve got to give Little Orpheus a shot. Check out the trailer below:

Book Spotlight: Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace

Finished reading: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull 📚

What makes Pixar so … magical?  Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace unveil the secrets behind Pixar’s mysterious legacy in Creativity, Inc. In each chapter, we see the struggles and perseverance of a company not built on platitudes and mantras, but a community fortified by hard-work, honesty and passion.

For example, did you know that Toy Story 2 had a deadline to hit theaters in six months—and the Pixar team decided to rewrite the script because it wasn’t working? (Keep in mind they still had yet to animate the film.)  Yeah.  Pixar mustered the chutzpah to attempt that kind of gambit because they wanted the film to be the best it could, and yet pay off it did–as Toy Story 2 was released to a massive box-office haul and universal critical acclaim (with many saying it trumped the original).

You’re also welcomed to be a fly on the wall of a Pixar screening of a film in early, rough animatic form–which is followed by the hallowed “Braintrust” meeting–where open candor and constructive criticism rule the day.  Brilliant writers and directors give their heartfelt notes to a director and producer (who may be a wee bit too close to the material), and everyone honestly points out what’s working and what isn’t, so that the story can ultimately blossom and be the best it can be.  This is not a culture built on fear, but rather they understand that falling down is simply part of the creative process, as is dusting yourself off and getting back up.  I believe the storied Director Andrew Stanton said my favorite quote in the book:

”Fail fast and fail often.”

What Ed & Amy share with us isn’t glittery magic—they pull back the curtain on a team that forces itself to ask the hard questions about their work—and this team keeps working as a positive, encouraging unit until they get it right.  While this is especially convicting for a writer like myself, I believe the principals presented in this book can benefit anyone who creates or works with others to get their job done.