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.