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BORDERCROSSINGS

29 December 2007

The weekend before the winter solstice (alright, Christmas), I spent a day with my family and some burly friends of theirs to assist in moving my parents to their newly built house in Germany, just across the Dutch border. Yes, my parents have emigrated, and I helped them do it. It was a long Saturday filled with the odd nine hours of restless dragging of boxes and furniture into a huge truck that choked up the whole street of our old suburb. And afterwards carrying everything out of the truck again and into their new 'crib'.

And it's quite a nice new homestead, too. They've opted to build a new house somewhere in some German meadow that's now being transformed into a bungalow park. I must say, it's a serious improvement. Aside from that their old neighbourhood had gone down the drain in recent years because of some ill-bred teenagers terrorizing the streets in what was once a nice place to live, the house itself is also roomier and more awesome. The only thing was, it wasn't finished yet. So we spent Christmas eve sitting amidst piles of boxes and playing Scrabble because there was little else to do. Presents were also absent save for the ones I had bought hastily for everyone because it's a poor Christmas that doesn't feature at least some surprises.

Fortunately, the day after we had our annual decadent diner with the whole family, which was great and warm. But the whole ordeal was very tiring and I'm happy I'm home again to catch my breath. And also, to work on my new comic project for Openminded. Did I tell you this already? I'm making a comic from a scene from Wagner's beautiful Der Ring Des Nibelungen opera. Sketches of all the characters are already made and I've prepared the pages on which to draw. Now all I have to do is spend the next couple of weeks drawing and inking. And since I have plenty of time to do that (I've taken a few months for wrapping up some old projects, getting my business running and developing my skills), I look forward to it immensely. Drawing comics is fun!

And in the restless lulls where I don't want to work, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is waiting for me. If there's one game that I looked forward to, that I feared wouldn't be as good as I hoped, but in the end was all that and more, it's this. I can't tell you how much it surprised me. I was expecting a short, nice but depthless railgun shooter like they had in the arcades a decade ago, but it turns out to be full of joys. It's a solid game. First off, it's excellent fun. Shooting zombies in the face remains ever satisfying. Blasting them off with a well-aimed headshot is tricky but good for the selfesteem. Secondly, it's deliciously campy. Stupid oneliners, bad voice-acting and hilarious camera movements where the first thing that happens when you enter a new corridor is that you slide over the back wall ten seconds. You just gotta love it. Then there's upgradable weapons (and zounds of them, which I hadn't expected) and the best part of all: the game just never stops. In the beginning you are disappointed when you see just nine levels. But then you start unlocking solo missions, and the replayability is excellent because you WANT to rack up the high scores and gain stars to maximize your weapons and get your mitts on all those extras. And then suddenly, when you think it's all over, you get another full set of three multiplayer missions. Again, this may not be terribly overflowing in comparison to other, normal, games, but when you realise I was expecting an extremely short game, it's like seeing a small car scoot onto the stage and then suddenly sixteen massive clowns exit through every side of it. And equally ridiculous. If it wasn't for its quality brand name, I'd call Umbrella Chronicles a sleeper hit. It certainly had the same effect on me.

The next episode of August will probably not feature Houmpapa LeChic, but you can never be too sure, of course.

Roderick.