The Null Device


Keita Takahashi, the sculptor turned video game designer responsible for Katamari Damacy, is working on a new game. Details are scant, other than it being named "Nobi Nobi Boy" (which translates as either "Stretchy Stretchy Boy" or "Unrestricted Boy"). There are three images (which may be from the game or merely mockups) on this page (which is in Japanese), from which it appears that this game will retain the superflat aesthetic of Katamari Damacy.

Meanwhile, Namco Bandai are busy preparing a new Katamari game for the XBox 360 (and, some say, the Nintendo Wii), to be titled "Beautiful Katamari". There is A video of the game's gameplay here; judging by it, it appears to be the same concept, only enhanced for a more powerful machine (the graphics may be smoother, and the worlds scale up to larger ones, going all the way to rolling up continents on an Earth). Takahashi has no involvement with this project (and it's not clear how much of the original Katamari team is involved), so it's probably a good thing that they've been fairly conservative with the formula rather than, say, going wild and putting in photorealistic graphics. There's probably something to be said about throwing more processing power, memory and storage space at the Katamari formula as is (as evidenced by the result of going the other way and scaling it down to fit on a PSP; once you get up to the eternal modes, you notice the limitations). Having said that, given that the XBox 360 is considerably more powerful than the Wii, if they do both versions, I wonder whether the Wii version will be noticeably inferior to the 360 version.

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Another front has opened in Google's assault on Microsoft's software dominance, with it emerging that Google Maps contains a hidden flight simulator. The flight simulator is activated by pressing Command, Option and A (on a Mac) or Ctrl, Alt and A (on a PC), and gives you the choice of two planes and several runways. Instructions are here. As you can probably imagine, going anywhere other than into the ground when using a keyboard is somewhat tricky.

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As a British TV company prepares a TV series reuniting Enid Blyton's junior crimefighters the Famous Five as middle-aged adults in today's world, the Graun speculates on what it might be like:

Little more is being said about the project, so it remains to be seen how the Five's crime-busting skills will transfer to a post-Jack Bauer world. Perhaps they won't have to hit the ground running and unravel a dirty bomb plot. "If only," thought Dick, "stern Uncle Quentin hadn't been so weirdly secretive about all his science work in the study at Kirrin Cottage ..."
Indeed, rather than the sense that the past is another country, where they do things differently, the reactions to the Famous Five announcement suggests a feeling that the present is another country, a strange land that must be negotiated in a state of permanent anxiety.
I wonder whether the new Famous Five concept will take a leaf out of the 24/Spooks playbook and have them save Britain (or at least its idyllic southwestern corner) from the apocalyptic machinations of terrorist cells, armed with the requisite high-tech gadgets. That may be a bit of a stretch, though (even though a Famous Five/24 mashup could be gloriously kitschy). Ruling out terrorists, who could be the villains? Child-abducting paedophiles may be a good choice, as it ties in the childhood-innocence theme inherent in reviving such a concept with a popular fear.
After all, these days, the one where Five Go To Smuggler's Top would result in a presumably fatal shooting by chaps whose contraband is grown in Afghanistan, with no comeback from our old friend PC Gone Mad, the porphyric local bobby, who ... No, that's not right. But handled well, the updated Famous Five promises to be the most challenging of TV delights.

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