As a professional critic of music, TV and video games, I have come to believe the most overlooked element of the reviewing/art consuming process is: mind wandering.
When you talk to people about movies or video games, you discuss whether a new release is good or bad. You judge its brain, heart, plot, style, characters, words, pacing and other classical elements. You may even delve into psycho-spiritual symbolisms.
And yet, we critics and consumers never talk about what actually wandered through our minds.
We rarely say, "Well, that one scene made me think of my mom, which made me think of spaghetti, which made me think of my dog, which made me think of Snoopy, and Snoopy says the meaning of life is ..."
Yet, mind wandering is exactly how we process art consumption. When we experience Shakespeare, Mozart, Picasso or "Afro Samurai," the best that can happen to us is this:
The art form touches us with a revelation or an aesthetic. That makes our minds go wandering for a relevant part of the brain or heart, through which we process that new information in relation to our self, to other people or to the world.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to GameStop.com. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Zumba Fitness Bundle with Just Dance 2" (Majesco) for Wii; rated "E"
2. "Zumba Fitness" (Majesco) for Wii; rated "E"
3. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Wii, PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, strong language)
4. "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" (Ubisoft) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, sexual themes, strong language, violence)
5. "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" (Activision) for Xbox 360; rated "M" (Xbox 360, PS 3, DS)
6. "Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Miniland Mayhem" (Nintendo) for DS; rated "E"
7. "Just Dance 2" (UbiSoft) for Wii; rated "E 10+" (lyrics, mild suggestive themes)
8. "Lego Indiana Jones/Kung Fu Panda bundle" (Activision) for Xbox 360; rated "E"
9. "Halo 3" (Microsoft) for Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, gore, mild language, violence)
10. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" for PS 3
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
Yes, I know that's a deep thought for this week's review of "Lost in Shadow" for the Wii, but so be it, and let's get on with it.
"Lost in Shadow" is a pretty good, side-scrolling platformer. You move your character from left to right, and up and down, while jumping onto platforms, slaying giant spiders with a rusty sword.
This comes with a truly unique and interesting twist that is not just a gimmick. The character you control isn't a person. The character you control is a shadow of a lost child (a soul), and you make him run not across real surfaces but across the shadows of real surfaces in, oddly, a factory castle. At times, you move a light bulb to alter those shadows, then it's a challenge to journey across resulting distorted surfaces.
"Lost in Shadow" may be a fun rental, or a good buy for platforming fans, with its low-fi visual charm and puzzles.
But it's so elementary, I got lost in thought. Here precisely is one stretch of incohesive but telling dialogue that wandered through my mind at one point:
"It was nice seeing Tiffany today. That fudge she gave me is super sugary. This game is pretty good. I wonder what I'll say in my review. It has levers to pull, like in 'God of War.' I hate pointing the Wii wand at the TV all the time. I like this game better than that new Donkey Kong game with all those bananas. Mmm, bananas. Ew, I need to dodge these arrows. "
Clearly, I've had deeper thoughts. But, you see, even a piffle of a pleasant outing like this can radiate the mind, and that is important. Although, since today's wanderings are slight, you may think of them as mind droppings.
("Lost in Shadow" by Hudson is a Jan. 4 release retailing for $40 for Wii - Plays just fun enough. Looks OK. Moderately challenging. Rated "E" for animated blood and mild fantasy violence. Three out of four stars.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.