BADLAND Review: Something In The Night (iOS) Game

In the spring of 1978, a twenty-eight year old Bruce Springsteen released Darkness On The Edge of Town,an album that reimagined the liberating, escapist fantasy of his career-founding Born To Run as a gritty, realist take on the promise of the America dream. The album crafted a murky, distorted lens with which to view hope and progress. To quote Pitchfork, it was a work of “grim acceptance and pressing on in the face of doubt,” a work best compared to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. The twin developers at Frogmind Games, despite arriving thirty-five years later, have provided us with a similar lens. Their latest title, released in the spring of 2013 by twenty-seven year old programmer Johannes Vuorinen, is called BADLAND. It’s a gloomy, cruel, and explorative journey through a strange world, and more importantly, it’s a game with enough depth to satisfy both casual and hardcore players.

Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland //
Got a head-on collision, smashin’ in my guts, man //
I’m caught in a crossfire that I don’t understand

Printed above are the opening lines of Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town. They’re words expressed to portray the angst and uncertainty of a young man staring into the future, yet they do just as well to describe the violently cryptic cycles of Frogmind’s most recent creation. BADLAND is an iOS sidescroller, but not one to be taken at face value. The title envisions a puzzling synthesis of Pikmin-brand survival mechanics and Limbo-style art direction, a fusion held tightly together by the glue of an almost Jetpack Joyride-esque control scheme, one that allows for weighty acrobatics and nuanced movement. It’s a synthesis that allows the game to exist on two dichotomous levels: For the casual subway-surfer, it’s an artful, level-based gem best consumed in small bites. For the veteran Cannabalt-er, it’s a puzzling amalgam of visual storytelling and challenging replayability.

While the App Store provides an overly crowded sea of similarly side scrolling experiences, BADLAND succeeds in staying afloat on a raft of ambiance and nixed frustration. Succinctly, the game’s sound design and graphic arts come together to create what becomes a beautifully desolate landscape. It’s a scenic, alien locale smeared with Super Meat Boy’s portfolio of meat grinders and rotary blades. Yet, at closer inspection, the rich, expository detail of the backdrop is brought to attention. It’s hard to focus on the scenery while you’re busy guiding your lemming-blob through an increasingly perilous gauntlet of death traps, but this ultimately proves to reinforce the title’s subtle messages regarding progress and perseverance. As Springsteen belts on Born To Run, “Beyond the Palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard, Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors, and the boys try to look so hard.” You may not get a great view of the shore speeding eighty down highway nine, but there’s a sense of place that’s reinforced by this blurred, vibrant backdrop.

Moving forward, one unfortunate hallmark of any level-based sidescroller seems to be the innate frustration associated with failing miserably at the end of a long level. For once, this roadblock has been cleverly avoided. Frogmind clearly understands that repetition should never come as a punishment. To this end, failing a challenge plops you right back in front of the offending obstacle, sans game over screen, so you won’t have time to hulk-smash your precious iDevice into the nearest sewage grate. As the critic Mark Richardson elucidates, Springsteen’s characters, like the protagonists of BADLAND, are “cursed with the burden of survival.” This is something that’s strongly communicated with such a rapid-fire respawn rate, and it conveys similar feelings of cyclical trial-and-error. Interestingly enough, it also makes for some pretty convenient subway sessions.

One slight pothole in the formula, however, is the sense that BADLAND features exceptionally strong narrative delivery, but little explicative detail. This semblance of story helps distinguish the work from its more soulless counterparts, but the game seems to expend a disproportionate amount of energy delineating the setting while forgetting just about every other aspect of storytelling. Springsteen’s ballads have always found way of using Asbury Park (or the United States, full stop) as a foundation for the crafting of developed characters and poignant conflicts. Frogmind, however, leaves plenty of room for the addition of essential plot devices like character and motivation, which are glaringly absent from the title. If you can muster even the slightest sliver of concentration, you’ll likely observe the many demonic rabbits in the background, the origins of which are left entirely unsubstantiated. Even more exasperating is the absence of detail regarding the plight of the game’s hedgehog-like protagonists. You’ll spend your hours guiding them along on some sort of buoyant, forced pilgrimage, but beyond that skeletal framework? Nothing. It seems that Juhana Myllys and Johannes Vuorinen aren’t storytellers in the traditional Springsteen-ian sense, but they’re headed in the right direction.

Ultimately, what Frogmind has created isn’t your standard office time-waster, it’s instead a work that explores hope, failure, and determination in some of the same pragmatically hopeful ways that Springsteen managed while simultaneously cruising the coastal highways of his native state. Just as Bruce croons in the opening lines of Darkness, Frogmind’s title envisions a silhouetted, troubled “heartland” full of environmental hazards and “head-on collisions.” That being said, it’s a strange alien world, and in this way, the setting stands in stark contrast to the homey Americana of coastal New Jersey. The strongest parallels, then, lie in the shared themes, the attempts to explain—through setting and atmosphere (and respectively, lyrics and mechanics), what it means to be both dogged and perseverant. The lemmings of BADLAND are trapped in an inescapable cycle of trial and retrial, a cage that’s all too familiar to the cash-starved characters of Springsteen’s work. Richardson says it best, as he encapsulates the album in one short sentence: “With no chance of escape, you have to figure out how to deal with what’s in front of you.”

Truly, the grungy, outlandish realm of BADLAND stands as a vicious neo-New Jersey, a province with rules seemingly dictated by the undying optimism of an ever-rising generation of sanguine, energetic recruits. Frogmind has a focal design mentality: that a player should learn from their individual mistakes and sacrifices, and when the time comes, solider on in the face of adversity. It’s an expansive philosophy, and one that mirrors the struggles of a young man facing the angst and uncertainty of an indomitable future. “We’ll keep pushing ‘til it’s understood,” shouts Springsteen on the album’s opening chorus, “And these badlands start treating us good.”

Limited Time Offer!
Limited edition book, The Light in Darkness, less than 200 copies left.
Focusing on Springsteen’s Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
Save on Shipping When You Order June 3 – August 1, 2013
CLICK HERE TO SAVE NOW- The Light in Darkness
*The Light in Darkness book is not sold in stores.

Link to this post | Leave a comment

Queuing in Europe : A Smart Guide To Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Towns

A smart, quick guide to those European towns Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band are going to play in, in the next Spring and Summer (Rome, Paris, London and other gems like Turku, Padua, Leipzig and many others). In this book, you’ll find essential, practical information about each “Wrecking Ball Tour” city, including how to reach it, a brief history and the list of tourist attractions you must see between a roll call and another (if time allows you to!). Read it to chose in which towns you prefer to attend Bruce’s concerts, or to decide how long to stay in the city where the show you already have tickets for takes place. And, if you are not a Springsteen’s fan (how dare you?), you can make a virtual sightseeing through main European towns and some unsuspected gems, and chose which to visit.

The book is for sale here:

Springsteen Tour Book 2013

A Smart Guide To Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Towns

Link to this post | Leave a comment

“THE GREATEST SHOW SPRINGSTEEN NEVER PLAYED”

They’ve re-created eight historic Bruce shows, including the legendary Capitol Theatre and Winterland shows — concerts most Springsteen fans are well familiar with. Now, the acclaimed Springsteen tribute band Tramps Like Us has consulted with a panel of Bruce experts to create what they would consider to be the greatest Springsteen concert never played. The 35-song / 4-hour show’s setlist (which can be seen here) was put together by Tramps frontman Mark Salore along with the input of Mike Appel, NJ.com blogger Stan Goldstein, The Light in Darkness author Lawrence Kirsch, and former E Street Radio program director Tom Wilkinson.

The first “fantasy concert” performance will be this Friday at the Stone Pony, as E Street Radio broadcasts from the boardwalk across the street (see below), with two additional performances to follow in July:

• Friday, May 24 at THE STONE PONY – Asbury Park, NJ – Tickets
• Friday, July 12 SHOWCASE LIVE – Foxboro, MA – Tickets
• Wednesday, July 17 at BB KINGS – Times Square, NYC – Tickets

Advance tickets are recommended for all of these shows. More information can be found at trampslikeus.com.

Exclusive Bruce Springsteen Music-News.com Limited Time Offer!
Limited edition book, The Light in Darkness, less than 200 copies left.
Focusing on Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
Free Shipping When You Order May 14 – May 31, 2013
CLICK HERE TO SAVE NOW- The Light in Darkness
*The Light in Darkness book is not sold in stores.

Link to this post | Leave a comment

35 Years Ago: Bruce Springsteen Launches ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ Tour

Dave Lifton May 23, 2013

When the ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ tour kicked off at Shea Hall in Buffalo, N.Y. on May 23, 1978, Bruce Springsteen was looking to restart his career after nearly three years on the sidelines. By the time it ended seven months later, he had cemented his reputation as one of the most electrifying performers in the entirety of rock music.

The story of the problems Springsteen encountered in making ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ is well-known. The success of ‘Born to Run’ in 1975 made him a star, but he soon learned that the contract he signed with manager Mike Appel put his lucrative publishing rights in Appel’s hands. Springsteen sued to break the contract, and Appel counter-sued, getting an injunction barring Springsteen from entering a recording studio.

Unable to make the follow-up to ‘Born to Run,’ Springsteen spent most of 1976 and 1977 on the road. The concerts furthered the E Street Band’s reputation as one of the best live acts in the country, as well as further integrating drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan and guitarist Steven Van Zandt – all of whom joined in 1975 – into the band.

In May 1977, two months after the ‘Lawsuit Tour’ ended, both parties finally came to an agreement, and Springsteen and the E Street Band began the marathon sessions recording ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’ A year later — ten days before the album was released — Springsteen returned to the stage.

At the time, three years between releases was practically unheard of. Springsteen has often said that he was worried that the general public had forgotten about him in the interim. With punk and disco capturing the public’s imagination during his layoff, he had no idea how the new material would be received, and channeled that into his performance when he took the stage that night in Buffalo.

“What I remember most was the raw emotion that Bruce presented on stage,” Lawrence Kirsch said about that opening night in ‘The Light in Darkness,’ his 2009 collection of essays about the tour. “I would even say he was a bit tentative and nervous. But by the time he launched into ‘Something in the Night’ and screamed so his body shook, we knew that he was going to take no prisoners that night, even if it killed him, and us.”

Concerts on the ‘Darkness’ tour, which ran between 2 hours and 45 minutes and three hours, were broken into two sets. The first often opened with a cover of an early rock song, such as Buddy Holly’s ‘Rave On’ or Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues.’ Springsteen then moved into ‘Badlands’ and most of the other songs on ‘Darkness,’ including an extended version of ‘Prove it All Night’ (revived on his current tour) that featured a searing introductory guitar solo. The set closed with ‘Jungleland,’ after which the band took a 15-20 minute break.

Springsteen usually began the second half with a few songs he hadn’t yet released, like ‘Fire,’ ‘Sherry Darling’ or ‘Paradise by the ‘C’,’ a spotlight for saxophonist Clarence Clemons. From there, however, he took fans on a roller-coaster ride through his then-small catalog. ‘She’s the One’ often began with a few verses of ‘Not Fade Away’ or Bo Diddley’s ‘Mona.’ Then it was ‘Growin’ Up,’ which featured Springsteen making up a story dealing with his own frustrations as a teenager with rock and roll dreams before launching into the final verse.

Then it was on to ‘Backstreets,’ which, as it had during the ‘Lawsuit Tour,’ included a stream-of-consciousness break down before the coda that became known as ‘Sad Eyes.’ The section involved Springsteen describing a betrayal by a lover that could easily be interpreted as his anger towards Appel, which took the already-emotional song to new heights. The second set closed, as always, with ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).’ ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Because the Night’ and a cover of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Raise Your Hand’ formed the bulk of the encores on most nights.

A handful of the dates on the ‘Darkness’ tour — most notably Los Angeles (July 7), Cleveland (Aug. 9), Passaic, N.J. (Sept. 19), and San Francisco (Dec. 15) — were broadcast over radio, and the tapes from those shows remain among the most beloved Springsteen bootlegs. In addition, the performance of ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’ from the July 8 concert in Phoenix was filmed and broadcast the next year on an ABC television special called ‘Heroes of Rock and Roll.’

By the time the tour ended in Cleveland after more than 110 shows on Jan. 1, 1979, Springsteen had graduated from theaters and ballrooms to arenas in his biggest markets. He would soon be filling stadiums worldwide on the heels of the success of ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ but the ‘Darkness’ tour remains the favorite of many of his most devout fans.

Exclusive Music-News.com Limited Time Offer!
Limited edition book, The Light in Darkness, less than 200 copies left.
Focusing on Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
Free Shipping When You Order May 14 – May 31, 2013
CLICK HERE TO SAVE NOW- The Light in Darkness
*The Light in Darkness book is not sold in stores.

Link to this post | Leave a comment

Bruce Springsteen 2013 Tour Book Offer- Free Shipping

Exclusive Music-News.com Limited Time Offer!
Limited edition book, The Light in Darkness, less than 200 copies left.
Focusing on Darkness on The Edge of Town 1978 album and tour.
Free Shipping When You Order May 14 – May 31, 2013
CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW- The Light in Darkness
*The Light in Darkness book is not sold in stores.

Link to this post | Leave a comment