Monday, December 31, 2012

The Third Annual Wherein I Rant Awards - 2012

Wow, time for one of these end of year wrap up posts already, huh? Well, it's sure been an interesting year. I stopped updating, I lied and said I was going to start updating again, some other... Stuff... Happened... In any case, it's not important. What is important, though, is my opinion on 2012's movies and video games! It's been an... Interesting year for those too. I've been calling 2012 the year of surprises. The Avengers surprised everyone by being one of the biggest movies ever, Joss Whedon surprises the studio by proving that he can make money for them, some of the biggest games of the year come right out of nowhere, not even having been announced when the year began... But all of that is relative. It doesn't matter how big the surprise is, how good is the surprise? And that's what I'm here to talk about, the best video games and movies of the year. You guys ready? All right, here we go.



Best Film

5 - The Dark Knight Rises

While the film isn't as good as The Dark Knight, and is indeed probably the weakest of the Nolan trilogy, I still loved it. The pitch-perfect casting which all three films benefited from, as well as a story which is really gripping if you don't think about it too hard, helped me really enjoy the movie as I was watching it, even if I did immediately pick out half a dozen plot holes as soon as I left the theater. Borrowing from several very recognizable Batman storylines helped my inner comic book nerd be satisfied, and the film features, in my opinion, the best version of Catwoman ever put on screen, large or small.

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are both better films, but The Dark Knight Rises was good enough to close out the trilogy, and even the worst Nolan Batman film is better than most other stuff out there. I had a really good time with it.

4 - Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph sold itself with tons and tons of video game cameos in the commercial, and while it has quite a few of those (which I appreciated, being the lifelong gamer that I am), the reason the movie works is because it's a love letter to gaming far beyond that. The way it pays tribute to the little things about gaming was something I really appreciated, and the fact that it was a fine film, with a lot of heart, on top of that, was just icing on the cake.

3 - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a film which I was very excited about, but also very nervous about. The fact that they were splitting The Hobbit, not a long book on it's own, into three very long films was enough to make me wary, but so far the seem to be pulling it off.

The added material works most of the time, although you have to accept that the film is a series of short vignettes set in Middle Earth which just happen to tell the story of The Hobbit as a framing device.

Also, side note, the 48fps version of the film looked incredible, and I don't care what anyone says. It's good to see progress actually, you know, progressing. 

2 - The Cabin In the Woods

I've mentioned this before, but really, I can't say much more. Cabin In The Woods is an incredible movie, but if I tell you why, it ruins a lot of the fun. Just, give it a try some time.

1 - The Avengers

Again, The Avengers is a film I've mentioned before. It's simply fantastic. The film felt like both a Joss Whedon product, and the perfect Avengers film, and really, what more could you ask for? Everyone saw this already, but man, it's so good. Just... So, so good.


Game Of The Year:

10 - Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line is a game I don't think anyone saw coming. Not that people didn't realize it was coming out, but because all the leadup made it appear to be just another generic modern military third-person shooter. When the game actually released, and turned out to actually be a brutal deconstruction of the modern military shooter though, and on top of that, one with an absolutely insane storyline, it took a lot of people by surprise.

I actually only recently got around to playing this one, and I'm glad I did. It does a lot of really interesting things with it's story, and while the risks it takes don't always play out, and it stumbles in a few too many important spots for me to really love it, I respect that it actually tried to deal with such mature themes, when most modern military shooters go out of their way to avoid them.

My biggest problems come in to the fact that the game is really just not any fun to play. The difficulty is screwed up (I recommend just playing through on easy to see the story, I struggled through most the game on normal, dealing with bullet sponge heavy enemies, until I just gave up because I was so bored of the combat). I've heard some claim that the game being un-fun was part of the "point," and I'm not sure I'm convinced of that.

The game is also gorgeous, especially when set to the "vibrant" color scheme. It's set in Dubai, which has been hit by multiple sandstorms, so at times it falls into the "brown is realistic" problem many shooters do, but when it hits you with a great vista, it was the prettiest game I played all year. In addition to this, the way the main character and his squad members are transformed throughout the game, going from being a very restrained, protocol-following soldiers, into obscenity hurling, vicious men, filled with white hot rage, was incredible.

I'd definitely recommend giving this one a look.

9 - The Darkness II

I never played the original The Darkness, and I never really felt compelled to. It being a console exclusive when I'm primarily a PC Gamer (though I do own several consoles) kind of steered me off, and while I heard decent things about it, there's really only a few things people tend to remember about it, and nearly all of them involve Jenny. The part where you can watch all of To Kill A Mockingbird on TV with her, and the part where she dies are the two I hear cited most often, specifically.

So I was actually quite surprised when I bought The Darkness II on PC for a pittance, and had a lot of fun with it... For all of five or so hours. While the game is unfortunately short, what's there is undeniably entertaining. The darkness powers are all really fun, the executions are satisfyingly brutal, and the characters are... Well, the characters who actually get fleshed out are pretty solid.

Even though the story was overly predictable (and done much better in the Buffy episode "Normal Again," for the record), and I literally predicted the post-credits twist halfway through the game, the story beats themselves are done competently enough not to get in the way of the game itself.

If you give The Darkness II a chance, and a few hours, however, you'll find a very entertaining experience, and there's something to be said for a game which can be gone through in a few hours, and be reflected back on as being pretty darn fun.

8 - Super Monday Night Combat

I really, really liked the first Monday Night Combat, and it's player-versus-player, third-person-shooter take on the tower defense genre. Now, Super Monday Night Combat not only attacked a new genre, the MOBA (or Dota-like, if you'd rather), but a new business model, by launching as a free-to-play game, with all of the character classes unlockable lots of play, or by paying some money (essentially, the League of Legends model).

Super Monday Night Combat is an incredibly fun take on the genre, is extremely fun to play, and is actually really funny (the first time you hear the lines, which are inevitably repeated far too many times). The classes have tons of variety, but none of them felt incredibly overpowered, and each required skill (albeit some more than others) to play effectively. It's some of the most fun I had with multiplayer this year, and if you haven't tried it yet, it's free, so go try it out, it's a lot of fun.

7 - FTL - Faster Than Light

Perhaps no game signifies 2012 better than FTL - Faster Than Light. Not only was the game made via a successful Kickstarter, a trend which only began this year, but it is an incredibly ambitious game, like many of the games you'll see further up this list. It is, in it's own way, entirely about player choice, as are the top three game on my list, which was a huge theme for games this year, although it's 

The game is essentially the Star Trek game I've always wanted. It lets you take the roll of the captain (well, controller of the captain, along with other crew members) of a space ship on the run from the rebel forces, with the only plans which will let you defeat the rebels, blah, blah, blah, generic science fiction story.

The reason to play this game, is because it lets you command nearly everything about the small ship you're on, during space battles, and just general space combat. Every time you jump to a new beacon, you'll get some sort of random event. Sometimes they're hostile (Slavers are attacking you!), sometimes they're neutral (A merchant wants to sell you some stuff), or sometimes nothing of consequence happens at all. As you travel the galaxy, you can build up your ship in all sorts of ways, focusing on weapons, or shields, and upgrading them with scrap, or using the scrap as currency to buy new items or crew members. During attacks, you can have your crew attempt to fight off boarding parties, or open up the airlocks for the rooms the boarding party is in, and vent the atmosphere, suffocating them. You can destroy ships, or send your own crew in to disable them, and defeat their crew, giving you more stuff.

The sheer amount of tactics which appear in the game is astounding, and the game is incredibly fun to play. Unfortunately, a few mechanics that I just didn't click with prevented me from putting it any higher up on this list. The rebel fleet is constantly getting nearer to you, and as a result, you have to keep constantly progressing toward an end goal. The result is that, by the time you finally start to feel built up, you inevitably reach the extremely difficult final boss, which I have yet to defeat.

I hope to see improvement upon this in a sequel, letting me take my time, in more of an open world. As it is, FTL is a fantastic game, with a few incredibly disappointing caveats. Definitely give it a look, especially if you're a science fiction fan.

6 - Rayman: Jungle Run

The only iOS/Android title to feature on my list, Rayman: Jungle Run is a runner released by Ubisoft, using the same engine and art assets as last year's extremely good Rayman: Origins. Now let me be clear, this is not an endless runner, it's a runner. This means that, while you don't have full control of your character (only having the ability to jump, hover, and punch, while constantly running forward), there are still goals beyond "run as fast as you can," as there are 40 levels (50 with the recently released free update), each with a set number of Lums (collectibles), and with an end goal. 4 of the levels are "Land of the Livid Dead" levels, which are extremely challenging, and only available after meeting a set number of Lums collected.

While I am typically extremely off put by runners (I can't stand the "endless runner" genre, and I find them an utter chore to play), I had an extremely good time with Rayman: Jungle Run, partly due to the inventive, and entertaining level design (though it should be noted, I recommend playing by trying to collect all the Lums, as the game is extremely easy otherwise), and partly due to the incredible presentation. The art assets are just as GORGEOUS as they were in last year's release, the music (which is primarily taken from the Rayman: Origins soundtrack) is fantastic, and the world of Rayman is as zany as always.

As someone who doesn't like this genre of game, this one is so well made, I didn't care, and couldn't help but have a blast with it. Me putting this on my list, and especially so high up, and above such good games, should speak for itself. I'm not the kind of guy who plays a ton of games on my phone, but this is one you definitely shouldn't overlook. Plus, I could listen to that perfect score music all day. HOLY CRAP IT'S SO GOOD! I realize it's from Rayman: Origins, but I kind of want to call that, like, 15 second loop, song of the year anyway. So, so good.

5 - Torchlight 2

I liked the original Torchlight, but I had a few, very specific, very large problems with it. The repetitive, eventually boring environments, the absurdly overpowered Alchemist class, the terrible, terrible final boss fight, and the lack of co-op all eventually put me off of the otherwise entertaining experience. Torchlight 2 solved all of these problems, albeit coming with it's own set of them.

The environments are more varied this time, the classes and their powers more well-balanced, and the game is a blast to play co-op with a friend. The world feels bigger, and although you're going down a set path, it doesn't quite feel that way, since you're in an overworld, not just descending deeper and deeper into a cave. 

Despite it's almost non-existent story, Torchlight 2 triumphs by making the player feel powerful, and with all the different classes, and randomized areas, there's tons of replay value. Back when I was playing it near launch, Veteran, which I was playing on, seemed to be pretty messed up, however, with the difficulty curve being way out of whack. That may have been fixed, I haven't checked, but points were taken off for that. Still, that was a minor complaint, and Torchlight 2 is a great game. Definitely give it a look if it's your kind of thing.

4 - They Bleed Pixels

By 2012, you wouldn't be remiss for ignoring every indie, 2D, retro graphics platformer to come out, since there are about 8 released every day. Still, when I gave They Bleed Pixels a try despite that, I was really pleasantly surprised.

Not only is They Bleed Pixels extremely challenging, but unlike games like Super Meat Boy (which I also really like), the keyboard controls actually work well enough for me to make it through the game, despite their warnings that you should use a gamepad. They Bleed Pixels is an extremely challenging, extremely fun 2D platformer bathed in the Cthulu mythos. It also has a very well made combat system, which lets you kill enemies with various moves, and build up your score by executing combos. After getting so many points, you can actually earn checkpoints, which you can drop anywhere in the world where you're able to stand still for a moment, or, if you think you're good enough, you can refrain from dropping your checkpoint for a large point (or "pint", if you'd rather), bonus. It's a clever idea, and one unlike anything I can think of in other games. The checkpoint system lets you drop checkpoints before, or after sections you've found difficult, and it's really well executed. 

On top of that, the incredibly difficult, very well designed levels are a blast to play, if you're good enough. They're far, far longer than something like Super Meat Boy's, which helps set it apart from games like that, even if it obviously took a lot of inspiration from them. This one comes highly recommended.

3 - XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown sure was a surprise this year, wasn't it? Not only was the game not even announced when the year began, but XCOM, the first person shooter which had next-to-nothing to do with the actual old turn-based strategy series was much maligned. Now, all of the sudden, the shooter has disappeared (presumably undergoing some heavy retooling), and the strategy game, made by the kings of turn-based strategy, Firaxis, has come out, and oh boy, it is glorious. 

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a tense, difficult, highly entertaining game. While I've never played the old ones, so I can't speak to how it treats the franchise, on it's own, the game is wonderful. Losing soldiers, especially those you had begun to build up, and named or customized. 

The enemies were all extremely well designed, the upgrades were all crucial, and yet you simply couldn't get all of them, at least early on. You were sure to lose people, and since death was permanent, it really meant something (R.I.P. Captain Machismo, my first heavy, your facial hair will live on in folktale and legend). The actual story of the game itself was simplistic, but that left plenty of room for letting you create stories about what was going on yourself. The game is fantastic at letting you do that. 

The game does eventually suffer from maps being repeated a bit too often, and there are (or at least, were when I was playing) quite a few bugs which hurt the game, but the game overcomes those things, to be one of the most incredible gaming experiences all year.

2 - Mass Effect 3

It's a real shame that any time I have to talk about Mass Effect 3, an absolutely phenomenal game, I have to use the disclaimer "other than the last ten minutes." Let's think about that, shall we? The Mass Effect trilogy was a hundred hours of near perfection, and the last ten minutes left such a bad taste in my mouth that I try to pretend they never happened, because they retroactively make everything that came before them worse.

There's very little to be said about the ending of Mass Effect 3 that hasn't been said already, so let me be brief. I didn't like it. It didn't work on a lot of fundamental storytelling levels, it felt rushed, the extended cut was essentially butting a bandage on a mortal wound, and "Leviathan" probably would have fixed most of my issues with it, were it not for the fact that it, you know, WAS PAID DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT. That's the biggest load of garbage I've ever seen, and genuinely breached the trust I had with Bioware.

That said, holy crap, Mass Effect 3 is an amazing game. The high points of Mass Effect 3 are easily the best moments in the entire franchise. The story is great. The setpieces are breathtaking. The quiet character moments are among the best the series has seen. The combat is the best it's ever been. You get to see all of your favorite Mass Effect characters, and see what's happened to all of them. You get to solve some of the biggest problems in the Mass Effect universe. You go to incredible locations. The game looks incredible (I'd easily say it's the best looking game on this list, other than the occasional odd looking human character).

My only complaint, aside from, as I said, an ending which Bioware should be absolutely ashamed of, was that the side missions were picked up in an incredibly halfhearted way, and completed as such.

The game also features multiplayer which, despite all odds, is absolutely fantastic. I do, admittedly, have some complaints with how the unlock system works, and would have preferred a store which let you choose unlocks, perhaps tied to your persistent N7 levels. Of course, the flipside of that is, the store (which, for the record, never requires you to spend a dime on unlocks, if you're willing to sink lots of time into the game) seems to have made them enough money that each multiplayer expansion, of which there have been several, all high quality, has been released for free. I think it's the best "horde mode" I've ever seen in a game.

It's a shame all anyone talks about from Mass Effect 3 seems to be the ending, because while the ending is a pile of hot garbage, the rest of the game is wonderful. If it hadn't been for that lackluster ending, this would have been an easy pick for my number one slot, because the game is just so utterly fantastic, and was a great ending to the trilogy... Up until the actual ending for the trilogy.

Mass Effect 3 is a great game. Not a good game, a great game. Aside from it's last ten minutes, I can't say enough good things about it (and I'm still playing the multiplayer all these months later). It's just a shame it had to end on such a sour note.

1 - The Walking Dead

Dear God... Dear God... The Walking Dead is unlike anything I've ever played. It's such an emotionally draining experience. It forces you with choices which, unlike many games with choices, don't have a clear right-or-wrong answer. It makes you care about characters, and then mercilessly kills them off. It's the first to really take advantage of the episodic method of storytelling, to the point where playing the episodes as they were released was, in my opinion, the best way to play them.

It tells a crazy story, in a horrible world. Yes, there are zombies, but just like the other form of The Walking Dead fiction, this story is about humans. For my money though, this is the best The Walking Dead there's ever been, and that's as someone who really likes the comics, and likes what he's seen of the TV Series.

The Walking Dead, while oppressive, and bleak, and tragic, is also a beautiful experience to have. The fact that it lets you-- that it makes you care about these fictional people so much, is utterly astounding.

If you haven't played The Walking Dead yet, you need to do so. It's an incredible experience, and a great story. There are a lot of reasons why I loved this game so much, but rather than describe them, I'll leave you with this: Play The Walking Dead. It's the first adventure game I've really, truly loved in a very long time.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Significance of The Walking Dead (Spoiler Free Edition)

I really like Telltale's The Walking Dead. In fact, it's probably my favorite game of the year, and that's saying a lot. It's easily Telltale's best game, and I really liked Puzzle Agent, Poker Night At The Inventory, and what I played of Back To The Future. The Walking Dead is a game which, I feel, finally gets everything right that Telltale, and the video game industry in general, have been trying to get right for so long. I'd even go so far as to say that The Walking Dead feels like a progression of the medium.

For those who don't know, The Walking Dead, by Telltale Games, is an adventure game tie-in to Robert Kirkman's extremely popular comic series The Walking Dead. I say tie-in because, unlike the television show, Telltale's The Walking Dead is not an adaptation of the comic books. It tells a different story, with different characters (or occasional appearances by characters from the comic), set in the same world with the same zombies. It's even considered canonical with the comics, as a matter of fact.

The major "hook" of the game is that it presents you with extremely difficult choices, and gives you virtually no time to select them. Unlike the morality systems in games like Mass Effect series, though, these aren't black and white, right or wrong choices. In most cases, there's no "good" answer, and both options outright suck. The spirit of the game is simple, showing you the cold reality of what this sort of apocalypse would be like. Even those who jokingly (or seriously), say that they're ready for the zombie apocalypse to hit, will find themselves faced with situations they've never considered. And, even more interestingly, the series drama doesn't come purely from the zombies, it primarily comes from the people.

The episodic format for games has been around for a while, but I don't think it had really been done right until now. Telltale's experimented with it with things like Back to the Future, and that was all right, but splitting it into episodes like they did, didn't really add anything to the game that splitting it into chapters wouldn't have achieved. Poker Night at the Inventory was presented as the pilot for a new series, but that was two years ago, and nothing more has come of it. Even huge companies like Valve struggle with the format, as evidenced by the infamous lack of Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

The Walking Dead, however, actually feels like it benefits from the episodic format. The weight of each choice the series faces you with is so heavy that, to be honest, I felt like I needed the month long break between episodes. Each time I finished an episode, I felt like the worst person possible. In fact, this is the first episodic series I've played where my advice would be, even if you've waited for the full series to come out, give yourself some time between each episode to decompress, and reflect upon the choices you've made. I wouldn't have said that for the episodes of Half-Life 2, or for the episodes of Back to the Future. While it was fine that those game came in the episodic format, the episodic format did not inherently enhance the experience, as I felt it did with The Walking Dead. In fact, in the future, I hope Telltale sticks to the episodic format even more strictly, keeping a solid month by month release schedule, and sticks to it (although I realize why they would be hesitant to do so).

But what really makes The Walking Dead so special, in my opinion, and what makes it beat out great titles like Mass Effect 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Torchlight 2, FTL, or They Bleed Pixels, all astoundingly good titles in their own right, as my GOTY, is that it feels important to me. And it feels important to me for one specific reason; The Walking Dead is not fun. It is not a fun game. Allow me to explain.

Up until this point, games have always been about being fun. And don't get me wrong, that's great. I love fun games. But the thing is, The Walking Dead manages to be a great, super engaging experience, without being fun. The Walking Dead is not a fun experience. It's stressful. It's emotionally distressing. The choices you have to make are horrible. It makes you care about characters with wonderful writing, and then has horrible things, up to and including random senseless death, happen to them. It's a grueling experience, and the fact that it manages to be so engaging, and such a great experience, while also being one that's not "fun" in any sense of the word, seems super important to me.

Back when film was first invented, most of the earliest films were comedies. The reason why was simple, slapstick comedy is easy. That doesn't make it lesser by any means, and I absolutely believe that comedy can be art, but with the medium being so new, and so primitive, comedy, or eventually more "fun" adventure films, were a simple way for the medium to become established. Once people had started learning the medium, and it had become more established, we started seeing the beginnings of what film would become. It wasn't until the later days of silent films, and the early days of talkies would we see films start to tell dramatic stories which were designed to emotionally engage the viewer. Movies like Gone With the Wind, for example, couldn't have existed in the very earliest days of cinema, because the format wasn't established enough for anyone to know how to use it to effectively tell a dramatic story, so comedy (slapstick and otherwise), were used to learn, and evolve the medium. This was a very important step in the evolution of film.

I feel like that's what we're seeing here with video games. Before this point, games have been about fun. That's not a criticism, that's a fact. Even games which I feel are indisputably art, Bioshock, Wind Waker, Mass Effect, have been about providing the player with a fun experience. The Walking Dead is the first game where I wouldn't say that hold true. It's a great experience, it's a great story, it's a great game, but it's not "fun". I'm not sure if The Walking Dead is the first game to do this, but it's the first game I've ever felt this way about, and it's the first game to do this which I feel has achieved this level of success.

I don't think The Walking Dead is the Citizen Kane of gaming, by which I mean the game which will sort of legitimize the medium in the eyes of the art snob out there (not that it needs legitimization), but it does feel like a progression of the medium to me, and one which I'm excited to see. Everyone should go out and play The Walking Dead right now. It's a great game, and possibly a very significant one for the future. It's seen such success that Telltale, a studio which I feel has always struggled to find it's place, between mild successes like Back to the Future, or critical and financial flops like Jurassic Park, has already announced both a Season 2, and a game adaptation of another popular comic book series, Fables. Not only is Telltale's The Walking Dead the best The Walking Dead there's ever been, it's an astoundingly huge success, in a year where even big studios have been coming under fire for their restriction of player choice.

Go play The Walking Dead. It's really good.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mobile Game Review - Wreck-It Ralph

Disney's Wreck-It Ralph (available on iOS and Android) as you might expect, is a game based on Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, an absolutely fantastic movie you should go see right away. More specifically, the game is a collection of three games, with a fourth to come, based on the games the characters visit during the film. As such, I should say a few things about the games individually.

Fix-It Felix Jr.

"Fix-It Felix Jr." is the actual arcade game which the main character of the film, Ralph, is from. You see the game quite a bit in the film, and I'm glad to say that not only does it look exactly like it appears there, but it's a lot of fun on it's own, even without the ties to the film. You play the title character, Fix-It Felix Jr., as you try to fix the windows which Ralph has wrecked, and avoid falling bricks and flying ducks. You also collect pies to grant you temporary invincibility, and double points gained during the effect.

As you climb the building, and rack up points for fixing windows (and not running out of time), the actual stage gets more complicated, as flower planters, and open blinds create obstacles  preventing you from moving in certain directions.

It's a simple concept, but one that's extremely difficult to master, especially as obstacles start appearing to limit your movement. This has quickly become one of my favorite games on my phone, and I highly recommend the game for this alone, the ninety nine cents are absolutely worth it for this alone, as this is a five star phone game.

Sugar Rush Sweet Climber

Unfortunately, while I still recommend the app purchase for the first game alone, the other two are... Not so great. Specifically, "Sugar Rush Sweet Climber" is practically worthless. The game plays as a Doodle Jump clone, and on paper there's nothing wrong with that, as Doodle Jump is a very, very fun game. Unfortunately, the issue arises with the fact that "Sugar Rush Sweet Climber" is oddly sluggish, and unresponsive to your movments, making it very difficult to play.

It's disappointing, too, as the actual "Sugar Rush" game seen in the movie is quite obviously a play on Mario Kart, and if they had released that game, in full, as an actual Mario Kart mobile clone, even if they had charged five dollars for it, that would have been really great. Unfortunately, the didn't and "Sugar Rush Sweet Climber" is a very disappointing, halfhearted effort.

Hero's Duty

"Hero's Duty" is better than "Sugar Rush Sweet Climber" purely because it's actually functional. This version of "Hero's Duty", unlike the one we see in the film, is a dual joystick shooter. It's... Fine, I guess. I mean, it works. If that's your thing, go for it I guess.

All I really have to say about this game is that there are much, much better dual joystick shooters on both iOS and Android. Ones which are actually creative, and fun. I'd recommend Beat Hazard Ultra, which just launched on Android a few days ago. Although it's a lot more than this app (and admittedly I haven't gotten the paid version on my phone yet, I've played a lot of the game on the computer), it's also a much more interesting, and inspired take on the game.

Again, it's disappointing that they didn't go the extra mile, and create the actual "Hero's Duty" game seen in the film. If they had created a first-person shoot like N.O.V.A. (a popular android FPS), and charged five or six bucks for it, just like with Sugar Rush, that would have been a much more interesting course to take, and one that I imagine would have paid off for them in the end.

There's a fourth game promised on a coming soon page, "Turbotime", which is seen in the film, but telling you how would be a spoiler. Personally, as "Turbotime" was supposed to be an 8-Bit racer in the film, I'm hoping they'll stick closer to the "Fix-It Felix Jr." method of actually creating a fun, interesting arcade game, instead of just making a crappy flash game which would have gotten stuck on Disney's website five years ago.

Don't get me wrong, this app is definitely worth your time and dollar, just know that while a third of the games included in the collection are fantastic, the other two are mediocre, to just plain bad.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Best Six Films of 2012 (So Far) In No Particular Order

While, thus far, this year's video game releases have left something to be desired (if purely for the lack of ANYTHING COMING OUT), this year has been absolutely phenomenal for films, particularly genre films. In fact, I can't remember a year with so many astoundingly good films... Ever. 2012 may not have produced the best genre films ever (though I do believe some of these will be considered among such in years to come), but it's certainly produced a lot of really, really good ones.

So I thought I'd share six of the best movies to come out this year so far. These are all great movies, definitely worth your time. These are in no particular order here, though I will tell you that I'm absolutely torn apart trying to decided which among three of them is my favorite film of the year. Without further ado, six films from 2012 you should make time to see.

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph began to get a whole lot of buzz earlier this year when the first trailer came out for it, and revealed that not only was the plot pretty unique (the villain of an old arcade game deciding he wants to be the hero for once, and "game jumping" to find somewhere he can be), but that there were literally dozens of cameos from real, actual video game characters.

Well as it turns out, Wreck-It Ralph is every bit the love letter to gaming that people had hoped it would be, but not for the reasons they thought it would. While the cameos are there, and very well used for the most part, the reason the film works as well as it does is because of the attention to detail it pays, and the way it really gets video games in a way Hollywood never has before.

From the absolutely gorgeous pixel art featured in places, to the way the music sounds like video game music, to the way it mirrors video games in dozens of other ways even down to things like camera angles, or the way they actually got Buckner & Garcia of "Pacman Fever" fame to write a Wreck-It Ralph theme, to the way the characters look different depending on what kind of game they're from, to literally dozens of other things I can't even begin to describe, this movie works in every way it needs to. 

While there are a couple of jokes that didn't land, especially from Sarah Silverman's character Vannelope (LOOKIN' AT YOU "HERO'S DOODIE"!), for the most part Wreck-It Ralph is a fun, funny, great film. Every gamer should see it, people who don't like games should see it anyway, for a legitimately good film.


Paranorman is a PG comedy version of The Sixth Sense. I am not kidding. Norman, the main character, is a boy who sees ghosts. Unlike Haley Joel Osment's emotionally scarred character however, Norman is pretty ok with this.

From Laika Animation, Paranorman is a stop-motion animated film, and honestly, that's all you had to say to get me excited for it, because seriously, I love me some weirdly dark stop-motion kids films, as evidenced by the fact that The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my two favorite films. Beyond the exceptional animation, however, there's also a fantastic, really interesting story in the film. Each character is bizzare in their own delightful way, and while it bugged me that Norman's powers are kind of forgotten for the second half of the film, when you've got satirical take downs of small-town american's chasing after bumbling zombies in the second half of the film, it's impossible not to love it. There's a few surprising twists in the story I don't want to spoil, but suffice it to say that the movie is, again, well worth your time.


Holy telekinetic superpowers Batman, this is a dark film! Chronicle is a found footage movie about three teenagers who get superpowers. I'm pretty sure that sentence just sounded like the worst thing ever to a sizable portion of the world, so let me clarify. Chronicle is a found footage movie that's super well written, uses the found footage format extremely well, and has teenagers who are likeable, or at least sympathetic, even when they're objectively terrible people.

The main character of the film, Andrew, is an outcast, emotionally (and at times physically) abused kid, who has no friends, and videotapes everything that happens to him (it works in this case, trust me) except for his cousin (and fellow main character) Matt, and even that's more out of pity. When Matt invites him to a party, the two of them, plus another friend of Matt's, Steve, discover a cave which leads to a bizarre thing which gives each of them telekinesis.

What follows is basically a story about what a group of teenagers would actually do if they got super powers, which is to say, totally abuse them. It's also an incredible character study into the mind of an emotionally unstable teenager, and the kind of person who could eventually grow up to be a serial killer. Sound like fun?

Seriously, even if you're turned off by the idea of another found footage movie, this one uses it a lot more intelligently than anything else I've ever seen (it's heavily implied that someone is putting together footage from hundreds of cameras after the events of the movie, perhaps as a sequel hook), and is a great film. Plus it has an insane third act which I won't spoil for you (though the above movie poster pretty much does). If you're in for a dark, tragic tale, but an extremely well written and directed one, Chronicle will not let you down.

The Avengers

Oh come on. It's The Avengers. Of course it's on here, it's a fantastic film, and pretty much everyone saw it, judging by the box office. But yes, needless to say, The Avengers is very very very very very very very good film, and unlike anything that's ever come before. Marvel's ambitious project hasn't produced a bad movie yet, and this is probably the best one yet. Despite a simplistic plot, The Avengers did everything it needed to do, namely let us see all our favorite Marvel heroes (that they still have the movie rights to, that is) up on screen together, playing off of each other. The perfect casting made each of the characters feel exactly how they needed to, it had the king of ensemble casts writing and directing it, Joss Whedon, and the end result is one of the best comic book adaptations ever put to film. Go see it if you haven't already, it's very very very very very very very good.

The Dark Knight Rises

I already wrote quite a bit about this movie, so I'll keep this brief. The Dark Knight Rises is a good film. It is not as good as The Dark Knight. Some people would have you believe this means it is a bad film. Those people are crazy, because if not being as good as The Dark Knight makes you a bad film, then there are no good films other than The Dark Knight.

The Cabin In The Woods

Oh man. Oh man oh man. The Cabin In The Woods is a very difficult movie to write about, because the more I tell you about it, the worse it becomes. Suffice it to say that Cabin In The Woods' advertising was extremely misleading. On the surface it seems to be the most stereotypical slasher film in the world, a group of archetypal characters (The Jock, The Bad Girl, The Stoner, and so on) go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend, and horrible things begin happening. But then you start watching it, and you realize there's something more going on, significantly so. 

If you've read anything about the film, you probably already know at least the first twist upon that plot (which, for the record, is FILLED WITH THEM), but if you don't, I encourage you to go into the film as blind as possible. The unexpected places that the film goes will surprise you in ways you would never expect... Plus, when I said Chronicle had a crazy third act, that was nothing compared to this movie. This movie has one of the most insane, and wonderful third acts in film history. You MUST see this film for just that if nothing else, if you have any love for horror movies, slasher movies, or just monster movies in general.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

TV Review - Beauty and the Beast Pilot

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most bizarre comedy of errors that I've ever seen. The show is not strictly based on the classic fairy tale, as one might think (especially with the rise of fairy tales stories seen recently with Once Upon a Time, Grimm, and multiple Snow White films), but on the 80's TV Series which ran for three seasons and gained a cult following.

The original series was a re-imagining of the classic fairy tale (before re-imaginings of classic fairy tales were a thing) which set it in 1980's New York. The titular "Beast" and "Beauty" were Vincent, a mysterious cat-person who lived within, and protected, a secret underground society underneath New York, and Catherine, a District Attorney. I'll admit that I'm not super familiar with the original material, having seen only a few episodes, and having a general understanding of what the show is about, but it has a fair number of fans, both from when the series originally aired, and who have learned of the show post-internet. Also it had Ron Perlman playing Vincent, and how can you not love that?

I'm not even sure whether to make a Fallout or a Hellboy reference here. That's how awesome Ron Perlman is. So c'mon.

The point is, it was a charming show where Vincent would help people, and there was romance between Catherine and Vincent, and it was pretty good, from what I've seen of it at least. I'm sorry if I can't provide deep insight into the nuances of the original show here, but that's because I just don't know that much about it.

Fortunately, I don't need to understand the nuances of the original series to identify the many flaws with the new series. The new series features  Smallville's Kristen Kreuk playing Catherine, and Jay Ryan of, uhm, stuff, as Vincent.

No, that's not the wrong picture. Those are our leads. You may notice something. BEAST IS KIND OF NOT UGLY.

Let me be clear, while this is one of the issues with this pilot, it is not the only one (or even the primary one). But yes, it is a huge issue to have the character of "Beast" look like... A guy.

So the "hook" for this is that Catherine is in school to become a lawyer (Fandom nod?) when she is witness to her mother's murder. The killers chase her into the forest, but she is saved by a mysterious beast.

Years later she's become a cop, and after a series of killings based off the works of a famous author, seeks him out to try and get in the head of-- Wait, no, sorry, that's the wrong show. Years later, Catherine has become a cop, and is forced to work with her eccentric mathemetician brother who-- No, wait, sorry, that's not right either.

The point I'm getting at is that Catherine becomes the lead in a pretty terrible procedural cop drama, and I say that as someone who really likes well done procedural cop dramas (Castle is one of my favorite shows on the air right now). After a dead body surfaces with DNA belonging to a dead doctor/soldier (by the way, there's an absolutely terrible piece of exposition about Vincent's motivation where you find out he lost his brother in the Twin Towers, OH GOD WON'T YOU FEEL SOMETHING FOR OUR POORLY WRITTEN CHARACTER?!), it leads her to discover Vincent, living not in a spectacular underground society, but in a warehouse with an Xbox and a nerdy roommate. Are you in awe?

As you may have picked up, this is really an in-name-only adaptation, which, aside from some similar character names, has nothing to do with the original show. Vincent here is only in beast form (which still has him look like a guy, but with some veins on his face, so scary) when his adrenaline kicks in, and now Vincent, who as it turns out faked his death, tries to help people from the shadows, while he searches for a cure to his condition.

Let me restate that. This is a show about a man who faked his death after a science experiment gone wrong gives him a condition which gives him super strength, but also causes him to lose control of himself, when his adrenaline kicks in (say, from getting too angry, or hurt), and who tries to help people without drawing too much attention to himself, while simultaneously searching for a cure.

That's right, this show has more in common with The Incredible Hulk than it does with Beauty and the Beast.

This show is a series of baffling choices, and I don't see it lasting more than a season. It shall not be missed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

TV Review - Revolution Pilot

Revolution is a new TV Series from Executive Producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias), created by Eric Kripke (Supernatural), the show runner. Now, given that I loved Lost, and really enjoy Supernatural (despite itself, at times) I was rather excited for this show to debut. Now I've sat down and watched the pilot and... I didn't really like it. At all.

The plot of the show is, one day, out of the blue, all electricity on Earth stops working. Anything powered by electricity, computers, planes, cars, lights, all of modern technology and modern society is rendered useless. The show is then set 15 years later, where society has fallen apart and only begun to rebuild itself through small forms of chaotic governments, militias, who strong arm honest people into paying them taxes, and war with each other.

Now, if at any moment that sounded interesting at all, I hate to break it to you, but it's really not. The first mistake this pilot makes is by skipping over the most interesting thing it has going for it-- The world falling apart. By skipping forward 15 years we miss the most interesting aspect of the premise, which is seeing how the world would react. By the point our plot is set, the world has mostly reformed into something new, and seeing all of that happening would be a million times more interesting than simply seeing the reactions.

The next problem with this pilot is that it's incredibly predictable. I could accurately predict everything that was going to happen five to ten minutes before it did. Predicting who's going to die at the end of a scene before the scene begins, who a character really is as soon as he's introduced (as someone else), predicting that one character isn't who he seems as soon as we meet him... The result is a tedious slog of an episode. The only thing I didn't expect was one twist at the end, which admittedly was well executed, and will probably make me come back for more.

Another problem this pilot has is the characters, if you can even call them that. "Archetypes" is probably a more descriptive term. You have the brother, the love interest, the nerdy guy, the dad's new girlfriend, the bad guy (oh, and on a positive note, the actor who's playing the bad guy of the episode does and excellent job, he also plays the Mirror in Once Upon a Time), the scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold, and of course, not-Katniss.

Because the characters are so archetypal, you don't care about them in any way. It's a pitfall you run into in any pilot, but I want to be clear here, it's certainly possible to introduce characters in a pilot and make you care about what happens to them. Supernatural, for example, Kripke's other show, introduced, in the first episode, the two brothers, and managed to make them feel like more than just archetypes. You learned immediately how these brothers got pulled into the world of the hunters. You learned about how they were raised, how they hadn't spoken much recently, how Sam and his father had a falling out, how Dean always stuck with his dad... I don't consider Supernatural to have the best first season out there (or, indeed, even a very good first season), but you definitely cared about the two characters enough to have reason to care whether they lived or died. And when Sam's girlfriend dies at the end of the first episode, you care.

In this, however, I couldn't care less about what happens to anyone. They introduce so many characters, so quickly, that you don't understand who any of them are. That's likely a problem that can be fixed over time, by fleshing out the characters over a season, but even Flash Forward, gave us more details in the pilot about it's characters than this did. I didn't remember drunk-cop's name, but I could tell you at least one thing about his backstory (that he was an alcoholic). I don't remember lesbian-cop's name, but I could tell you at least one character trait (that she was a closeted lesbian). Instead, this one introduces not-Katniss to the viewer, but doesn't really tell us anything about her. Her entire character, thus far at least, is that we know she doesn't like dad's new girlfriend and we know she's protective of her brother. Ok. This is not enough to build a character upon. These are not personality traits, in anything but the broadest of strokes.

I don't think I can describe how boring this pilot is. Since I don't care about any of the characters, it shrugs off the mystery until the very end of the episode, and the plot is so predictable that I knew what was going to happen ten minutes before it happened, I just found the whole thing tedious. All that was left was the look of the episode and... Yeah, I guess it looked pretty good. You know. If you like watching Life After People. But then that raises the question, why aren't you just watching Life After People?

The actual disaster aftermath, and societies regrouping, is nothing I haven't seen before... You know, what, let me be honest. I don't think I liked this, because I've seen this done infinitely better before. I've played Fallout. I like Fallout. I even love some Fallout. I'll give Revolution a few more episodes, and I hope that it'll get better, I honestly do, but so far, I just want a Nuka-Break TV Series.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Story From My Time With "Amnesia: The Dark Descent"

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a scary game. I don't know if it's quite as scary as some of the reaction videos would have you believe, but it's pretty darn scary (Strong language, but hilarity, behind that link). I've been slowly slogging my way through it, because I hate myself I guess, but I had an experience that I thought I would share. I was only about an hour and a half to two hours into the game when it happened, but if you really want to go into the game totally spoiler free (and I'll be very vague with specifics either way) you may not want to read any further on.

I stood in Castle Brannenburg, my heart beating. I knew only that I needed to get a key to progress further. I stood in a small room, one that I knew contained the key somewhere. As this was Amnesia, my heart was pumping, and I was trying to get the key, and get out of the small cramped room. I ran through the door to the room, and saw some drawers, and two standalone closest. As I trembled through the room, I threw open the drawers, knocking several to the floor in my haste. No key. I searched around the drawers, under them, and finally decided to check one of the closets. As I threw open the doors, I heard the door to the adjacent room suddenly, and, after my heart skipped a beat, I threw the contents of the closet to the ground, and jumped in, as it was the only place to hide.

I heard the beast enter the room. As I heard its agonizing groans, I sat, still and silent, in the closet. Petrified to even breathe, though rationally I knew it would have no impact. Its footsteps were my only hint as to the location of the corporeal death which sat outside the thin wooden doors.

Step. Step. Step. I heard it walk to the dresser, and knock some of what sat on it to the ground.

Step. Step. Step. It walked to the other closet. Crunch. It tore it open. I held my breath.

Step. Step. Step.
 It walked to a painting on the wall. Whack. It knocked the painting off.

After this came a long silence, during which I dared not even move. It was still there, it had to be. But where was it? My heart was beating like a drum.

Finally, after what felt like ages, I heard it again. Step. Step. Step. It was headed toward the door. It was leaving. It had to be. Just a moment more.

Step. Step. Step. It was still by the door.

Step. Step. Step. Something was wrong. It wasn't getting any further away. Why wasn't it getting further away?

Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

Had I done something wrong? Was the creature never to leave? Was hiding in this closet a mistake, one which the game would punish me by forcing me to meet my own fate of my own volition? Surely I couldn't wait here much longer, the insanity would cripple me before too long, making sure I had no way of escaping.

Step. Step. Step. I finally built up the courage to peek out of my safe, dark corner. I had decided to make a break for it if I could. I grabbed the door, and pushed it open just a crack.

The creature had bugged out and gotten stuck on one of the drawers I threw to the ground. 

I crept out of the closet, pulled the drawer out from under it's feet, and it ran to the door without giving me a second look. Mood ruined. I hit save and quit.

And that's the story of quite possibly the funniest moment anyone has had while playing Amnesia.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Movie Review - The Dark Knight Rises

*This review is spoiler-free. The only things I will mention specifically are things seen in the trailer.*

People who have followed this blog will know that I think Christopher Nolan's Batman films are absolutely wonderful, and that The Dark Knight holds as one of my favorite films ever made. Both films had absolutely perfect casting, great direction, and great screenplays backing them, and the way the second film never gave you a moment to rest, and managed to have a running time of nearly three hours which never seemed padded even for a moment was one of the biggest achievements in comic book filmmaking.

So naturally I was very excited for The Dark Knight Rises, the epic conclusion to Nolan's trilogy. Does it stand up to the other two films, or does The Dark Knight Rises fall (HAH! COMEDY!) under the weight of it's predecessors?

The Dark Knight Rises is a very, very good movie. If you take nothing else away from this review, then at the very least take that away. The action is great, the cinematography is great, it continues the trend of perfect casting, it tries to tell an original Batman story, while at the same time taking loads of inspiration, and even plot points, from some of the best Batman comics ever written. For the most part, this movie succeeds in the same way Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did, in that it takes the characters, and places them in a grim and gritty, realistic setting.

The cast of this is absolutely phenomenal, just like the other two. Anne Hathaway is, without a doubt, the best Catwoman ever seen on screen, and I don't think she could have possibly done a better job to portray the character. Is she as memorable as the Joker from the last film? No, but that's nearly impossible. Her performance is every bit as good as Liam Neeson's R'as Al Ghul, Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow, or Aaron Eckhart's Two-Face, all of which are great, great roles. 

Tom Hardy's Bane is more difficult to judge, partly because the character takes more liberties from the comics than any other character in the franchise to date, and partly because Hardy is confined to be wearing a muzzle throughout the entire film, but at the end of the day, he did a great job in the role, and the character always feels like a presence. Even when he isn't doing anything, you just feel like Hardy is standing there, with unbelievable strength being constrained. Bane also comes across as intelligent, an important aspect to making the character a legitimate threat to Batman, and not just another brute, though the complete removal of venom from his backstory seemed to betray the character a bit. At the end of the day, some may view this as one of the best parts of the movie, and others may view it as an in-name-only version of a villain who's only notable for breaking Batman's back that one time, it depends on your view of the character, I suspect, but personally I liked this version. (I should mention that I had a ton of trouble understanding what the character was saying in my theater, but I've spoken with people from other showings and it sounds like that might have been an audio problem on my end.)

The problems The Dark Knight Rises face, however, and what holds this back from reaching the levels of greatness the second film had, are an unfortunate pacing in the first half, and several gaping and obvious plot holes. Now, I won't list them specifically here, but there were four or five things throughout the movie that just irked me, and either felt like they betrayed a character, or outright made no sense. One of the great things about The Dark Knight is that, as I said above, while it was nearly a three hour film, it never felt padded, and every scene felt essential to the experience as a whole. This movie doesn't have that, even though it's longer than The Dark Knight was. The first half just feels like it takes it's time to get going, and spends a lot of time setting up the events of the second half through a convoluted plot which, while it makes for a great action scene, leads to one of the movie's biggest plot holes by the end, which a screenwriter could have solved very easily, and either cut out a half hour of the film, or given different motivation to the action scene that time filled, or even given Catwoman more screen time and development, something that would not have gone unrewarded, as her scenes are some of the best in the film.

That said, around halfway into this movie, when things start going nuts, things start going nuts, and when Batman fans like myself realize exactly what story arc the second half of the film is borrowing from, their probably going to get very excited. The entire second half of this movie is incredible, and a great ride, provided you can ignore some of the plot holes and sloppy character derailment which it took to get that far. Bane manages to be genuinely chilling at moments, especially in the second half, and if you're willing to look past a few irks, this is easily one of the best movies of the year, giving The Avengers a run for it's money. 

As it is, while The Dark Knight Rises doesn't manage to match Nolan's previous film, an unrealistically high bar, it still manages to thrill and entertain, and I can't imagine a much more perfect ending to the series. You should absolutely see this movie, make no mistake.

Monday, June 4, 2012

5 Reasons "Majora" Is An Internet Project You Should Be Watching

Hello readers! (Yes, both of you!) Sorry for my long absence! It's been quite a while since my last post. 5 Months! College really caught up with me, and I haven't had a moment to spare. Luckily it's summer now, and I'll have quite a lot more spare time! I'll likely start blogging more regularly now, and I thought, what better way to start than by talking about something I really, really like? And it's a list! You're the internet, you love lists! So, "What's 'Majora'?" I hear you ask? Well dear reader, to put it simply, Majora is awesome. Majora (the site can be found here) is a project being worked on by a youtube user by the name of MBulteau13. It is an opera, set to the music of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, an N64 video game released in 1999. There are currently 4 Demos and a few instrumentals out, with promise of more to come. But why is it worth your time? Well, allow me to list five reasons.

1 - It's Based on Majora's Mask!

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is, in my opinion, probably the best Zelda game. (Though it's tough for me to pick between that and Wind Waker, I admit most of the reasons I like Wind Waker have more to do with the visuals, and soundtrack, while Majora's Mask has the better gameplay, set pieces, and probably is just a stronger game overall.) For those unfamiliar with the game, after the events of Ocarina of Time, Link goes to search for his fairy, Navi, in the Lost Woods, only to be attacked by a sprite-like creature called Skull Kid, who, using the powers of an ancient mask (Majora's mask, to be precise), turns Link into a plant-like creature called a Deku Scrub. Link then follows to him to an alternate dimension known as Termina, where Skull Kid has used the power of Majora's mask to begin pulling the moon toward Termina, which it will crash into in three days. Using the power of magical masks, and the Ocarina of Time, Link manages to keep repeating those same three days over and over again until he can find a way to stop Skull Kid. Basically, it's Groundhog Day, but even MORE awesome. If you haven't played it yet, I highly recommend giving it a shot. If you have a Wii it's available for around ten bucks on the virtual console, and there's rumors (and I stress that they are just rumors) of a 3DS remake being in the works.

The game is a fantastic example of game design that still holds up extremely well today. The entire game has an eerie feel to it, and a constant feeling of dread, as you slowly see the moon get closer and closer to Termina. The entire world is in a terrible state, and it's certainly the creepiest of the Zelda games. Using this setting of fear and dread as the setting for an opera is, to put it simply, inspired. 

The game also already has an excellent soundtrack, as all Zelda games do, so the fact that the opera is all set to music from the game is equally brilliant.

2 - It's Still Doing It's Own Thing

While it is based on Majora's Mask, it doesn't appear that it's going to be a rehash either. According to the creator Majora takes place in a world where Link, the main character the game, never came to Termina. It instead centers around Kafei, a minor character from the game, involved in one of the biggest and best side-quests ever featured in a Zelda game. Shortly before his wedding, the mask which would have been used in the wedding ceremony was stolen from Kafei by the thief Sakon. In this version of the story, Kafei will set out across Termina, similarly to how Link did, in search of Sakon to get his mask back. In the original Majora's Mask, Kafei had also been turned into a child by Skull Kid, but I'm unclear if that part will be kept in Majora.

Needless to say, the parts about the moon falling will still be in effect. The story of Kafei and his love Anju is a very sad and powerful one in the original game, as they are only able to reunite, if Link even does everything correctly, moments before the impact. Whether their tragic story will be as, well, tragic, here remains to be seen.

Needless to say, you shouldn't need to be a fan of the series, or even to be familiar with the game, to appreciate this opera.

3 - It Still Seems to Really *Get* Majora's Mask

But I should stress that every indication so far is that this still hits all the same notes of Majora's Mask, from the big epic ones, like an enormous royal execution, to the small, sincere ones, like a little girl singing for her sick father, to the frantic, to the frightening... Sometimes switching as rapidly as the game did. There's something about Majora's Mask that's just constantly unsettling, and that feeling is one of the greatest things about it. Even in times when you have no reason to believe something sinister is going on, there's a general uneasiness that keeps you on your toes, in large part due to the giant moon literally staring you down the entire time.

Oh yeah. Did I mention that the moon has a face? The moon has a face.

While Majora has yet to show us the moon (the demos have all been fairly simple) the demos also still seem to manage to get that same feeling across. From the frantic desperation of the Mayor in the first demo, to the sinister nature of Sakon in the second, to the... Well, watch the third for yourself.

Being both charming and innocent on the surface, yet discomforting at the same time due to something lying just beneath is not an easy thing to manage. The game managed it consistently, and was all the better for it, and Majora has so far shown that it can do the same.

4 - It Might Actually Make It

Let's be honest folks, this sort of internet project, time and time again, has shown to be a lot more likely to fail than to succeed. It wouldn't have been shocking to see this post one instrumental, put up one blog post and then never go active again. 

But that's not what happened. Over the past couple months, four demos have gone up, and the progress bar on the side has constantly gone up. There have been 10 Q&A's posted on the site since the first demo went up. This project doesn't just seem like wild ambition, they could actually go somewhere. Everyone working on it thus far seems dedicated, at least from an outsiders point of view. I would love nothing more than to see this actually come to fruition, and get fully made. Everything that's come out so far has been great, and there's no sign of it stopping yet.

5 - It's Really, Really Good

Above all though, the reason you should keep an eye on Majora is that what's been released so far has been phenomenal. I shouldn't have to tell you that, I've posted all the demos by this point. Each demo released so far has not just fit the game well, and not just been a great idea on paper, it's been a lot of fun to listen to. The lyrics flow extremely well. The music sounds great, and what changes they've made (such as speeding it up from the original in demo one) have worked perfectly. I've been checking the blog daily to see if the new demo was out yet. I've listened to all of the demos multiple times by now, I've enjoyed every second, and I'm guessing I'm not alone. 

If you hadn't heard of Majora before, I hope these reasons have convinced you to keep an eye on it. I know I'll continue watching the project with great interest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Brief Critique of Dead Space 2 (So Far)

(Short post tonight, just sharing some thoughts I've had about Dead Space 2 whilst playing it.)

So I played some more Dead Space 2 today. I stopped at the beginning of chapter 5. While I find the fact that the villains are essentially scientologists hilarious, I'm still a bit underwhelmed by it in places. It startles, sure, but I don't think the first act has had enough pacing to really be "scary." So far the whole game seems to be "Go down hallway. Lights flicker. Cat scare. Real monster. Ahhh." And there's not really anything wrong with that formula, it's become so common for a lot of good reasons, but when you keep reusing it over and over, it stops being very effective.

Not to sound like any more of a Valve fanboy than I already do, but the reason something like Ravenholm manages to genuinely scare, is because it manages to make you paranoid. The scariest parts of Ravenholm are not the points you're fighting the headcrab zombies, they're the points where you aren't. The points where you hear the moaning, or skittering, or maybe it was just the fire crackling, or maybe it was a headcrab and oh god there's a corpse there is it really dead or is it a zombie I could shoot it but I'm low on ammo and don't want to waste it and OH MY GOD HEADCRAB FLANKING ME WHYYYYY...

Erm, you get the idea. In Dead Space 2 (keep in mind all of these comments are restricted to the second game, as I've yet to play the first), you get plenty of ammo, and due to a very predictable routine in every few rooms, it's just... Not scary. And I mean, I'm one of the easiest people in the world to scare, I have very low horror tolerance, if I'm not scared by something branded "horror," then something is very wrong with it.

As it is, it seems to be putting a lot of the set pieces you would see in something actually scary, (a nursery, a dark room, a hospital, etc.) but because of the way it's done it's just so blatantly manipulative that, most of the time, it only makes me laugh.

Not to mention a lot of the game seems to reeeeeally want to be BioShock in a lot of places, and it's just... Not anywhere near that good. (I'd still put it over BioShock 2 though...)

But I do like the game, the zero grav stuff, what little I've come across at least, seems interesting, the game has a good visual design to it, the monsters are cool looking (although I am confused as to how a "virus" literally FUSES BODIES TOGETHER) and the way the interface is integrated is a stroke of brilliance. I might do a full review of it here eventually, as I think it's pretty alright for an action game.

Oh, and little kid zombies? Really? I'd say you're "trying too hard," but that would be like calling the Titanic a "small boating accident." *facepalm*