Monday, December 20, 2010

X-Men Arcade: In Defense of Dazzler

This article has nothing to do with Wolvie
Ah, the X-Men arcade game. It's a fun, classic brawler that just resurfaced on the PSN and XBLA. But something I've noticed as a theme in every review: endless jokes about Dazzler. "Better call it now so you don't get stuck playing Dazzler." Having spent a considerable portion of the last week playing the hell out of the game I have to wonder: what's everyone's problem?

I mean sure, Dazzler is pretty obscure (I can't tell you her real name, origin story, or if I've ever read a comic she appeared in). She's not an iconic character like Wolverine, Cyclops or Storm, or a character with a big following like Nightcrawler has. And gameplay-wise, she's not the Mutant Power spam machine that Colossus is. And yeah, I can kinda understand how you might want a more well known character like Jean Grey or Jubilee in her spot, but I've been playing the game and honestly...I really like playing Dazzler.

No adamantium claws or eyebeams. Just PLASMA BOMBS.

She's a pretty solid, balanced character. Not that there's that much difference between the characters- but most of them have a jump attack that tends to send me flying over whoever I'm trying to kick in the back of the brain. Not so with Dazzler- her jump attack is ACTUALLY USEFUL! She's also probably (I have no way of proving this) the quickest character. It might just be me thinking that, but in any case: she's fun to play.

Also, her mutant power is pretty useful at clearing out a bunch of enemies at once. Granted, ALL of the mutant powers are supposed to be like this, but hers is second only to Colossus for spread, and isn't accompanied by a WHOOOOOOOOOOOA!!! Plus, her attack range isn't nerfed to hell like Cyclops.

Anyway, show a little respect for the obscure but oh-so-playable Dazzler. That plasma-bomb mutant power may save your ass sometime.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


So apparently a new Sparkster game has been out for months. I just discovered this on the PSN. Clearly I didn't do any research- even a quick Google search would have turned it up. But hey, the game just slipped in under my radar, and thus its place on my 5 classic series is moot. So anyway, yes, I just had a drooling retard moment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Island of Misfit Spinoffs, Sequels and Reboots

Since my review laid the smack down on Splatterhouse, I've decided to take a look at some other similarly ill-conceived, half baked, or late-term aborted sequels, spinoffs and reboots. So here we go!

Golden Axe: Beast Rider- The fact that it starred teh secksay Amazon from the original game in this reboot with a rather suggestive title didn't help sales of this piece of shit. Probably because they totally forgot what Golden Axe was all about- beating the hell out of people. With your friends. The fact that you can't play as Gilius Thunderhead is a pretty big red flag.

Final Fantasy X-2 - While Final Fantasy X is a pretty stupid game on its own...Good god, I can feel my brain vegetating just thinking about X-2.

Sonic The Hedgehog (06) Sega drops the ball again. I could choose many Sonic titles to criticize, but since I'm lazy I'll go with this one. Why is Sonic's love interest a human? I'm just creeped out by that.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow- I know, everyone likes this one. It just rubbed me the wrong way that this was like the 5th Castlevania where I was controlling an androgynous prettyboy.

Doom 3- I'm sorry Id, I thought this was Doom? Give me a gun, lots of ammo and plenty of light so I can see who I'm exploding into blood sausage!

Alone In the Dark (2008) It was unplayable. And the script was HILARIOUSLY bad. And did I mention THE DESIGN TEAM LOOKED TO UWE BOLL'S MOVIE FOR INSPIRATION. There's no way it could have turned out good.

Final Fight: Streetwise- Capcom thought it would be a good idea to make a Final Fight game without a playable Mike Haggar. This is the least of the game's problems, but that fact doesn't bode well, does it? They attempted to make a series that was reasonably lighthearted (or at least not too serious) and turn it into a grim and gritty urban sleazefest.

Bomberman: Act Zero- OK, maybe grim and gritty wasn't as big of a jump for Final Fight. I mean especially when compared to bomberman. Turning the cute lil' Bomberman into...a Master Chief ripoff was a terrible idea. And that's just the beginning of the problems.

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent- I don't think the crew of this had seen the film GoldenEye OR played the video game. They just heard the name and knew it was a cash-in and turned out this festering communal toilet of a game.

007 Racing- Another piss-poor James Bond game, this one has you driving around many classic cars, only it isn't fun because they all control exactly the same (badly) and it's less a racing game than a shitty vehicular combat game. I'd rather play Twisted Metal, myself.

King's Quest: Mask of Eternity- This is probably the game on this list that I hate the least. It was a decent game, just...not King's Quest.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3- They went overboard with the camp aesthetic here. Although the second game was campy (in the vein of a 50's Sci Fi flick), I just feel they went too far here. Although George Takei as the emperor of Japan is rather amusing.

Warcraft 3- There, I said it. Compared to the first two, it just felt too generic throw-it-all-in fantasy- like they were trying as hard as they could to see how far they could go without Games Workshop suing them. The big shoulders and lack of Bill Roper's voice didn't help. This is probably the only Blizzard game I really dislike (somehow I enjoyed WoW despite the art style). I think this one focused too much on the Hero aspect, which some people love, I just didn't care for it.

Metroid: Other M- Benzaie said it best. "Blah, blah, blah, the baby, blah, blah."

Medal of Honor: Rising Sun- You know, this game wasn't terrible just...not an impressive followup to the legendary Frontline. The gameplay was fine, and the move to the Pacific theater was a good choice. Unfortunately it was too short, linear, and shallow to make much of an impact.

Prince of Persia 3D- Before the truly wonderful Sands of Time, we dealt with this headlong jump into the polygon ceiling. 

Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within- After making a sublime, genre-redefining game with Sands of Time, Ubi Soft decided to go a different direction, turning the once-likeable Prince into...a jerk who smoldered with generic rage. Honestly, the gameplay isn't terrible (it is after all, the Sands of Time engine.), but the game is just...not as fun.

Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness -I'm usually a pretty staunch defender of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series. This is the notable exception where I have absolutely nothing nice to say. It shipped broken and buggy. While the Crystal Dynamics reboots are nothing special, they're much better than this mess.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories- Why do horror games (with the standout exception of Resident Evil) get such shit-tastic reboots? It wasn't scary, it wasn't tense, it wasn't even very interesting.

Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures - Let's take the beloved hero of the classic arcade game, turn him into a henpecked husband and let the player experience THAT! Good idea, Namco! Why is this game practically forgotten again?

Death By Degrees - Now I'm just picking on Namco. Take THAT!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Raging Rant of Great Justice: On Reviewing

Since I reviewed Splatterhouse, I've gotten quite a few personal messages in the various forums in which I've posted it. Messages that tell me I'm wrong, that I wasn't fair to the game, that I should consider that a lot of people worked really hard on the game. I've gotten messages saying it's not my job to rip games apart. Well you know what?

Fuck that noise.

My review is my opinion. Yes, I accentuated the negative. I also highlighted what I liked. The problem was, there wasn't a lot I liked and there was a lot of negative to accentuate. And you know what? I did this because that's what a game reviewer has to do. A reviewer's responsibility is to gamers. To consumers, not producers. And you know what?

You might have a different opinion than I do. That's fine. It's even OK if you like the new Splatterhouse. A game, or a film, doesn't have to be good for you to like it. If you like it, it's your business. I'm not the taste police. But please don't try to tell me I'm wrong. You're wrong for telling me I'm wrong. Any review is subjective.

I developed my theory on game reviewing while my grandma watched me playing Final Fantasy X. It was one of the Cloister of Trial puzzles. And she asked me "Are you having fun?". I realized that I wasn't. I was bored out of my mind at the lazily designed puzzles I was solving. Since then, my key, most important feature of any video game? I should be having fun. And with Splatterhouse the fun ran out in about 20 minutes (loading pauses included). I played through to the end so I could review it fairly. And I gave my opinion, which included all of my problems with the game.

This is called reviewing.

And look, I'm not a paid professional. I'm not even a blip on the industry radar. I'm just writing for fellow gamers and consumers. I'm just trying to give potential buyers my opinion. Games cost a lot of money. I shelled out $65 bucks for Splatterhouse, and I think I should let other gamers know that I found it to be a steaming pile of shit before they spend that kind of money. And then the fanboys (who have formed after the game's been out for a day, that's scary) come out of the woodwork and tell me to shut my trap.

I don't care about the feelings of game producers if they produce a piece of shit. If you defend Splatterhouse by saying "a lot of people worked on this", then you can defend Action 52. Or an Uwe Boll film because a lot of people worked on them. Screw them. If they produce a low quality product, they should feel bad. They turned out a half-ass product and sold it for 60 bucks. They deserve to have their feelings hurt. Mediocrity should not be rewarded!

How dare I pay full price and demand a competent product instead of an unfinished game that rewards me with CG nudie pics. How is that even an incentive these days? I have the internet! I may be pitiful enough to look at pictures of naked women, but they're real flesh and blood women, dammit!

And as for bad jumping controls- Mario has been around for 25 years and competent jumping controls have been around at least since Pitfall on the Atari 2600. I could forgive the early Castlevania gams for tanklike jumping. But this is 2010. There's no fucking excuse. If you can't make a character jump properly in 2010, then stop programming and start working the Drive-Thru window where you belong.

Anyhow. Long rant short, you don't have to like my opinion. I just ask that you respect it so I don't have to call you an internet tough guy assclown who can't tell a Feral Ghoul from a Goron.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Zombie Problem

They're everywhere! And frankly...I'm getting a little sick of seeing them EVERYWHERE. Zombies have been on the pop culture radar, but in the past 5 years or so they've exploded. We now have TV shows, Jane Austen crossovers, and they now appear in pretty much every videogame known to man. There's Nazi zombies, Red Dead Undead Nightmare, the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned...Hell, the only game that doesn't have zombies anymore is Resident Evil (figure THAT one out). The most egregious example to me, though, is in Uncharted. Up until near the end you fight nothing but human enemies in cover based firefights. And then...zombie-monkey things attack you. Um. OK. There was no point to that other than to destroy the cover mechanic THE WHOLE GAME WAS BASED ON.

This kind of thing just leads to me facepalming. Yes, I know zombies are ubiquitously humanoid without those things like thoughts and feelings so we don't feel bad about making their heads a splode. The thing is, they're becoming more generic than Imperial stormtroopers. They're just mooks. That's all they are.

Zombies and vampires have both been bastardized to hell and back in the last five years. Can't we try something new? I mean we had some great body horror films in the 80's, and we're just throwing that aside.

And the people who waste their time talking planning for a zombie apocalypse...enjoy your perpetual virginity. Because like a zombie apocalypse, sex is never going to happen for you.

And by the way: I'm not criticizing Shaun of the Dead because A) it predates the zombie bandwagon and B) it's brilliant.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Selective Fire Canon: Star Wars

"You'll find that many of the truths that we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."
...Obi-Wan explains the film Rashomon

The Star Wars Universe is one big clusterf***. Depending on what you like and what you don't you're going to pick and choose your own canonicity, in spite of what George Lucas says. Because he's old and senile and basically nuts. 

So I count the original trilogy, as originally released in theaters (in 77, 81, and 83), as indisputable canon. I'm not going to argue that Luke and Leia are siblings. I am going to argue that Boba Fett is space-Clint Eastwood and not an australian guy.

I count Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy of novels. Because I like them. I count the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series of games- I accept that Kyle Katarn obtained the Death Star plans from the secret Imperial base and later did other incredibly badass things. And Shadows of the Empire is canon. Again because it's awesome.

I also count Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian trilogies as canon.

I don't count the Special Editions. They were cool when I was 9, but now they just piss me off.

I count some of the prequels' events and characters- as in I believe that most of those characters existed and events happened in the Star Wars universe...I just don't believe that Anakin was such a whiny bitch, or that the clone army was based off of Boba Fett's dad (which is probably the biggest and most painful pandering I've seen short of having Natalie Portman naked for the entire film.). I thought Boba Fett was awesome before that. When you see him as a little kid going "Heh heh heh"...well shit, I'm done.

I also tend to believe Mace Windu was a much cooler character. Not the level-headed guy he was, because WHOSE BRIGHT IDEA WAS IT TO HAVE SAMUEL L JACKSON PLAY A CALM AND COLLECTED GUY?

I tend to believe the exploits of Obi-Wan, Qui-Gonn, and Yoda are well represented. However I accept that the Gungans were actually a race of Hawkmen (as evidenced by the fact that Brian Blessed, Prince Vultan himself, is their leader). However, Hawkmen would have been too f***ing awesome so they were recast as incompetent underwater Jakovasaurs. I believe Darth Maul existed, had a double-bladed lightsaber and looked like the Devil.

I don't really think that Palpatine fooled anyone with his Sidious bullshit. Seriously, have you ever tried to keep a hoodie down like that? It doesn't work for long, and surely everyone would recognize the f***ing Republic's chancellor and wondered where he was disappearing to while meeting with his lackeys.

And finally, I believe Christopher Lee's character existed. I just have a problem with the fact that he's called "Dooku", which is one step away from Dookie. So in the Chad Morelock Canon, he is officially Count Dracula. In space. With a lightsaber.
Dracula Approves.
And for the record, Old Anakin appears at the end of Jedi. While a traditional Ewok celebratory song- Yub Nub! Is played.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shining Force- Save Our Series!

I'm a big fan of the first two Shining Force games (and I'm sure I'd be a fan of the third if I had a Saturn and the money to get a copy). If you haven't played them, I recommend downloading the two Genesis classics from the Wii Virtual Console or checking them out on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PS3 and 360.

I really love them. They're the first example of the Tactical RPG that America saw (while Nintendo did create Fire Emblem first, that series didn't see Western shores until the 21st Century. Your loss, Nintendo. ). In any case, they allow for a much more interesting battle system than you find in Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, much more akin to the wargame-descended tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, allowing you to move units around during combat, use terrain to your advantage, and use traps, ambushes, and area-of-effect spells.

In addition, you had access to a multitude of cool characters- Centaur knights, Hawkmen (DIIIIIVE!), Dragons, Ninja, Samurai and...whatever the hell Domingo is (an egg monster from Mars, maybe?).

Unfortunately, in recent years the Shining Force series has derailed into a series of mediocre action RPGs which don't live up to the storied name of their predecessors.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you about a site that's dedicated to restoring the good name of the series. This site is a campaign to get Camelot Software Planning and Sega back together to continue the series. And they could use your help.

*Whistles the file select tune while you peruse the SOS page*

So anyway, I just wanted to bring this to your attention. You can also follow them on Twitter if you so desire (this is in fact how I learned about the campaign).

C'mon! It'll be an adventure!

Friday, November 12, 2010

5 Classic Game Series That Deserve A Reboot

1. Crusader- The two Crusader games, No Remorse and No Regret, are some of my all time favorite action games. For starters, your character, The Silencer- is one of the most complete bad-asses you'll ever play. Second, this series would benefit wonderfully from modern tech and gameplay mechanics. The Silencer incorporated cover-based gameplay years before Gears of War made it popular, and I think it's time this classic returns. Viva la resistance!

2. Alone in the Dark -2008's Alone in the Dark was a mess. And that's being extremely kind. With the exception of the PS3 version which had a little more time to cook, it was almost unplayable. In any case, since 2000's New Nightmare, the series has derailed considerably from its moody, Lovecraftian source material and become...I don't know what. A sad fate to befall the progenitor of the survival horror genre, and I don't think the series deserves that. The solution? Ditch the CSI/X-Files crap and go back to creepy, mysterious settings- preferably in the 1930s like the original trilogy. Actually have the player the dark!

3. MediEvil - MediEvil was an awesome game for the original Playstation. And what thanks did it get? One measly sequel and a PSP remake. The re-animated skeleton Sir Daniel Fortesque should be one of Sony's most important characters, but it seems he's been left by the wayside. I think it's about time he joins Nathan Drake and Kratos in Sony's Hall of PS3 Heroes. 

4. Rocket Knight Adventures - What might at first seem a takeoff on the Sonic the Hedgehog style mascots with attitude, the Sparkster games were a unique pair of very enjoyable platformers. Konami is one of my favorite developers, and this game is a great example of why- they make games that come together really well, and are extremely fun to play. I'd rather see them give us a new Sparkster title than see another Metal Gear.

5. Star Wars: Dark Forces/Jedi Knight - Somehow lost in the mix of high quality shooters and low quality games based on the Star Wars prequels, the exploits of mercenary/Jedi Kyle Katarn may be gone, but they're not forgotten, as Katarn has become one of the more popular expanded universe Star Wars characters. Unfortunately, we haven't seen him in a new game in ages. And we'd like to. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pissing on your beloved gaming memories

Me and my buddy Anthony riff on one of the most beloved moments in gaming. Let the fanboy rage commence! Now watch the damn video.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sequels to Shitty Games

Well it's been a rather disappointing year in the sequel and remake department. We've had the insulting Metroid: Other M,  the tedious and non-scary Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the love-it-or-hate-it Sonic The Hedgehog 4 (although I fell into the "Love it" camp), and as of last Tuesday, the in name only remake of GoldenEye (played it, hated it, moving on).*

However, these are all games in well-known, storied series. It's natural that after a certain number of games (or in the case of GoldenEye, one inimitable classic), the fanbases become unpleasable and the developers lose steam.
God in Heaven, what did we do to deserve this?

On the other hand, the fact there is a Kane and Lynch 2 is completely inexcusable. And with word that two other critically panned games, Naughty Bear and Wet, are receiving sequels, one has to wonder. WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY THINKING?

The thing that Kane and Lynch, Naughty Bear and Wet share is that none of them did particularly well with critics or gamers. And they aren't cult classics that went unappreciated like Ico or Lunar. All three got mediocre (at best) reviews. Is mediocrity the new great? Is that what developers should be striving for? Remember from the 16-bit days, games like Radical Rex and Awesome Possum? Remember the long series they spawned? Of course not, because they fucking sucked! -or at least were so average as to NOT warrant sequels. Games that aren't successful are usually unsuccessful for a good reason. There's a reason that shit sandwiches like Blinx the Time Sweeper and Space Bunnies Must Die never went beyond a first installment. Because they sucked and no one wanted to own them, or be that weird guy down the street who had a copy of eXtreme Paintbrawl.

And before you ask, YES, all of those games exist. I did not make any of them up.

So anyway, why do we get sequels to lukewarm piles of elephant droppings when there are so many good games that have never received sequels? Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem? A Boy and His Blob on the Wii? Heck, how about a new Earthworm Jim game?

But no, of course not. We get what amounts to big-budget shovelware. The least they can do is, if they're going to give us a rotten game, give us a rotten game that's beautiful to look at and listen to (Final Fantasy X, I'm looking at you). The thing is, there are plenty of good franchises out there. And heck, some games need a second installment to refine and improve the first (Resident Evil is a shining example). I'm not saying that every good game needs to be a franchise, either. I mean I'm sure we could have gotten by with just one God of War,  but you know what? It was a good game that continued in two other good games!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm planning a PS3/360 reboot to Wally Bear and the NO Gang.

*Some of these complaints may be related to my current problem with the Wii- the big name, 'important' games that don't feature Mario or Link have been pretty uniformly awful. But that's a tale for another time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More musings on sexism that go nowhere.

(This is basically my sequel to women in gaming and like that one, I don't know if I have a point)

The funny thing is, for the better part of video gaming's existence, suggestively and scantily clad female characters have been the norm. I think that might be what separates Lara Croft from a lot of other similarly-clad female characters. Sure, she may run around in a tank top and daisy dukes, but she's a very capable woman in spite of that. And at least she has the sense to wear a jacket in snowy weather from the second game forward. The women of the Final Fantasy series are not so lucky, as cold-weather wear for women seems to be an alien concept in those worlds. For VII and VIII I could accept that as part of the graphics limitations. For X and becomes much more idiotic. They don't sell fleece hoodies anywhere?

Although to be fair to those two games, the male characters were just as inappropriately dressed to be galavanting around anyplace cooler than Hawaii in summer, and I'm sure there are some places where dressing like Tidus will have you declared mentally unstable. Seriously, why is one pants leg shorter than the other!

The thing is, sexism in games can be prevalent even where we don't think it is. More often than not, games are skewed toward the male demographic, and also with the thought that all men are perverts. Some games acknowledge the sexism and use it towards humorous ends- Duke Nukem and the old Leisure Suit Larry games are examples of this. In other cases, as in Silent Hill 2, a dark undertone of misogyny serves to disturb the player, to symbolize some of the things that are very wrong with the game's protagonist. The Silent Hill example leads to a particularly interesting dichotomy- if you pay attention, Pyramid Head is the only obviously male monster in the game. We first encounter Pyramid head forcing himself on a mannequin- the same (clearly female)mannequins James has been beating down in the streets. James' problems with women and his sexual frustration are thematically important to the game, and it creates an interesting broken-mirror parallel (especially once you've finished the game).

Have I mentioned Silent Hill 2 is brilliant lately?

To show you that I'm reading WAY too much into this, I'll go out on a limb and say that the classic fairy tale trope of "Rescue The Princess" which we see in Mario, Zelda, Splatterhouse, Resident Evil 4, and countless others- is by its very nature a sexist trope. On a funny note, the first Resident Evil game actually allows you to turn the trope on its head if you're playing as Jill and you rescue Chris from the cell.

But it might give the Zelda series some fresh life if, instead of playing as Link rushing in to save Zelda, let Zelda do some of the footwork. I'm sure some of that Sheik-Parkour would make for a fun game, Nintendo, and it certainly wouldn't be more of the same. Certainly a little forethought into sexism would have prevented the franchise killing Metroid: Other M ( I would be surprised if they can make a sequel without rebooting the series).

I guess to expand on the thoughts in my last post, there is a very strong undercurrent of sexism in the gaming industry. And yes, the lion's share of gamers are male and could give less of a damn. But gaming isn't an exclusive boys' club anymore. Gamers and marketers should be looking for new ways to play and new people to play with, rather than chasing off your potential market by slapping a bikini-clad bimbo on a game cover (of course I'm sexist for assuming that offends women- but then I can never win).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Women in Gaming: The Disconnect

When you look up the term "Gamer Girl" on Google, this is the first image result that comes up. Warning: NSFW

With the small possibility that, as a 360 owner* she may be mentally retarded, what's the first thing you notice? Not the games. You notice that it's a very naked woman. And she has video games covering up her naughty bits.

*No real offense to 360 owners or the mentally challenged intended. Did I mention my Sony bias today?

Now I'm sure some people won't see a problem with this. If this is the case, please seek professional counseling.
By Nintendo. You know, for kids!

 What I'm finding is a divide between real gamer girls- i.e gamers that happen to be girls, and chicks that are basically muddying the waters and helping further the notions that gamers are immature.

1. Real Gamer Chicks: Much like a gamer guy. Can talk competently about games. They actually play video games and are typically a lot of fun to hang out with. Can probably kick your ass in at least one game. They are valued because they're cool, fun, and awesome to hang out with.

2. Fake Gamer Chicks, or more simply: Attention Whores. These are the girls that come onto the gaming scene and throw the fact that you're attractive in your face because they want attention, and insultingly believe all gamers to be so sex-starved that you'll have to pay attention to them, while in reality you want them to leave you the fuck alone. This type is only valued as eye candy.

The fake is the bane of my existence as a gamer. It makes every male gamer look bad because by not vocally objecting we may as well condone it. The problem is, the gaming media sort of pushes them on us (like Olivia Munn. Annoying. Useless.). You'll see them around the internet. Posing with Nintendo controllers on their naughty bits (keep some disinfectant handy), wearing 'sexy' versions of game character costumes that aren't ordinarily sexy, you know the deal. 
You can't see her underwear? Lara Croft is such a prude!

It's not good for male gamers' images, and it's not good for women, either. It makes us males look like we're perpetual 13-year olds and makes women look like their only value is their sex appeal. Granted, game designers don't help with this- it seems a little odd that we've gone from complaining about Lara Croft's depiction in the 1990's and can now look back in the age of Bayonetta and God of War and say she's quite modest at her most revealing. I'm not trying to be puritanical, but think about it- do women serve any important function in God of War than to give you EXP in exchange for sex? I mean even Samus Aran has gone from wearing a bikini in the 'good endings' to wearing the less revealing yet more overtly sexual Zero Suit. And don't get me started on her characterization in Other M. That was just completely offensive to anyone who's lived a day past 1950.
Feels like I'm wearin nothin at all!

Now forgive my crazy ideas, but I prefer to value women on more than their looks. I happen to like women who don't need to look to me for approval for everything that they do. That's a normal function of a well-adjusted adult. 

Samus doesn't need to ask Adam for permission to use the Plasma Beam, and female gamers don't need to dress suggestively to get my attention. I simply ask that we mutually treat each other with respect and enjoy our mutual hobby. And as a male gamer who would rather our hobby be looked upon a little more favorably by culture at large, I request that we all go for respect.

I don't know if I really have a point. Just pisses me off I guess.

Game Review: Doom II RPG

I'll admit it: Since the first time I played Snake on my old Nokia, I've hated cell-phone based games. Playing a game on a screen with less resolution and definition than a Game Boy? Pass. So for the most part I've avoided them.

However, I was pretty bored while waiting for the pharmacy to fill my prescrips, so I started thumbing through the App catalog. Not too much of interest, then I found Doom II: RPG. Well...Doom is one of my all time favorites, and it sounded like it could be cool. So I decided to download it and give it a shot. And you know what? I was actually pleasantly surprised.

The game uses a lot of the assets- images, animations, sound effects, textures- from Doom I and II. There's also some new material, but if you've played the old Dooms (and you almost certainly have) you'll recognize a lot. 

And when you first start it up, you might think it play like a simplified, single plane version of doom. Well, the presentation is pretty similar. You have your weapon on screen and your HUD underneath. You explore the Moon Base much like you'd play a normal game of Doom- a bit of a mix between the originals and 3- you can find logs on computer terminals (or maybe they were inspired by Marathon). Combat, however is a bit different, and when you encounter an enemy you fight them in a turn-based fashion. Your player character- I chose the Sarge because...well, he's the freakin' Doom guy- starts with an Assault rifle and a variety of stats that will influence their combat prowess. The Major starts with better accuracy, the scientist with...I'm not sure, I think he's the wimp that serves as "hard mode"- and the Sarge has superior strength and defense.

 You'll find your way around the base, collecting keycards, talking to redshirts, and fighting demons. Along the way you'll discover ways to increase your stats (i.e. target practice to improve accuracy, hitting the treadmill to increase agility) and Nano Drinks. These temporarily boost one or more of your stats. I recommend stocking up on them- judicious use of them makes the later part of the game much less of a hassle. As you fight, you'll gain experience and eventually level up. Now this is done more in line with a traditional tabletop RPG where your increases in stats will be pretty modest and not take place often, as opposed to a Final Fantasy where you level up constantly. You'll find a variety of mostly familiar weapons- the classic shotgun, chaingun, chainsaw, and BFG are all present- as well as the Holy Water Pistol.

You'll notice pretty early on that the game doesn't take itself too seriously. When you shoot a demon with the holy water pistol their eyes go cartoony and large. Your nano drinks include things like "Power Punch" and "Hell Knight Sweat". One of the enemies is called a "Sawcubus". As well, some of the items you find on corpses are humorous in nature. You'll find everything from a D20 to and a nudie mag in the gag item text. You'll also run into a snarky computer AI (again, they must have been playing Marathon).

And how does it play? Well, for a game on a cell phone, not bad at all. I didn't find it annoying to control. In fact I found it pretty addictive and fun. I can safely say that Doom II RPG will serve as a boredom killer for a long time to come. My only real complaint is that it's very short. However, this might not be a problem for you if you play it in short sessions, as opposed to me, who ran his phone battery down twice in the course of gameplay. However, even when you're done there are three difficulty settings and three characters to play, so there's a bit of replay value. You won't mind coming back to this one. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Reflections: The Scary Vs. The Sexy

"Halloween is a day we honor monsters!" - Michael Scott, The Office 

Well, another Halloween has come and past. Now follows the inevitable winding down I always run into, and I'm a bit thoughtful. What do our Halloween traditions mean? I'm sure most don't give it a second thought. And I know most people my age use it as an excuse to drink and party (and for the females to dress like prostitutes. There is NO REASON a Sexy Wookie costume should exist. What the f*** is wrong with people!).

But Halloween is a festival with a deeper meaning. I've got a little bit of the Scots-Irish blood in my veins, and I can say "Samhain" is a bit of my own heritage. Halloween is a big deal in my family. And for me, I've always been encouraged to go for the more frightening aspects- to have horrific costumes, to make ghastly decorations, and to make things scary with the most cheer possible. And my family gives a good reason for this. We need to be safely scared. We need that jolt of horror. When we dress as the Devil, we don't celebrate him- we make a mockery of him, defang him. Because we all know that's not really TEH SATANS under there, it's just some dude.

The point is, we dress as the horrific, the monstrous and the diabolical to rob them of their power over us. We do ourselves a spiritual disservice by dressing as the mundane or the sexy (with, perhaps the exception of those who have an unhealthy fear of eroticism, although in that case I would recommend going for a sexually suggestive costume with distubing undertones- maybe a Cenobite.). The streets should be lined with ghouls, ghosts, the undead, the demonic, the murderers, and the grave robbers, not with witches in two strips of black cloth and a pointy hat and not with Spongebob motherf***ing Squarepants.

Spengbab, on the other hand...

Anyway, hope you all had a gore-riffically ghoulish Halloween. Happy Ninja-Vember to you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cthulhu and You: An HP Lovecraft Primer

This, ladies and gents, is Cthulhu.

You might recognize him- or something based on him. He may as well be the patron saint of Internet Culture- as linked with insanity as he is, that's quite appropriate. He's appeared personally or been referenced in numerous short stories and novels, a few video games, the Call of Cthulhu tabletop roleplaying game, the title of a Metallica instrumental, and as of Wedsnesday night, South Park. 

He's an important facet of geek culture- you're really in deep when your first response to tentacles isn't to make a joke at the expense of the Japanese but to shout Cthulhu F'taghn!

But let me assume you're not the huge nerd I am. What do you know about Cthulhu and his ilk beyond the fact that they have tentacles? (And not all of them have tentacles, by the way.) Well guess what, folks? You're about to learn something!

This charming fellow is Howard Phillips Lovecraft. He created Cthulhu and many of the places, characters, and tropes surrounding him. Along with Edgar Allan Poe, he is one of the fathers of modern Horror. While some facets of his work haven't aged very well- specifically his racism and classism- his stories have a spellbinding bleakness and stark horror that humanity might not be worth a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. In any case, he was an obscure pulp writer in his time and cultivated a small fanbase (notably the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Robert Howard; and the poet Clark Ashton Smith.) After his death in the 1930's, Lovecraft's fans formed the Arkham House publishing imprint, named after a town that features prominently in his stories.

Speaking of Arkham (and I've run into this a few times) you may recognize the name from the Batman comics' Arkham Asylum. Which I've noticed a lot of people seem to think originated in Batman comics. Well, Lovecraft (considering he died before the first Batman comic was printed) originated the name of the town in 1920 in his story "The Picture in The House", some 54 years before the name first appeared in Batman (in 1974) . The town is a cross-section of contemporary Boston, Salem, and Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, RI. Its most prominent institutions were Miskatonic University (featured in Re-Animator) and the Arkham Sanitarium, which no doubt inspired the Asylum in Batman and was the final stop for many of Lovecraft's protagonists.

Other notable locations in Lovecraft's fiction are the New England towns of Kingsport, Dunwich, and Innsmouth, as well as the Dreamlands. While Lovecraft is most well-known as a writer of Horror, he also wrote a number of fantasy stories, most of which took place in the Dreamlands.

Lovecraft created a variety of bizarre and inhuman entities- maybe aliens, maybe gods- the most well known of which is our pal Cthulhu. However, other entities you'll encounter in his stories include Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, the blind idiot God Azathoth (think a much scarier Galactus), the Yithians, the fungi from's a big, scary universe and you are an insignificant and probably tasty primate!

Not quite a character, but just as important are the various ancient tomes that appear in the stories. Most well known is the Necronomicon, or Al Azif if you prefer, but also appearing are the Unaussprechlich Kulten, De Vermiis Mysteriis, and the Pnakotic Manuscripts. Lovecraft's inventions have notably appeared in the Evil Dead films (pretty different, but a notable reference just the same.) and on the Simpsons. And if someone tries to tell you the Necronomicon is a real book and that Lovecraft didn't invent it, I permit you- nay, compel you, to beat them with a 2x4 until they agree that it's a fictional plot device. If a book of such powerful evil did exist, would you be able to buy it at Barnes and Noble?
On second thought, don't answer that.
Lovecraft's influence extends all over the place. You can see it in later writer's work- Stephen King, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman all take cues from him, as does Mike Mignola. John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon, and Guillermo Del Toro all take influence as well.

Anyways, if you've never experienced a Lovecraft story, I encourage you to check them out. Penguin Books makes some nice, well-arranged paperback versions of his work, and most of it is also available online. If you'd like to start reading Lovecraft, I recommend starting with "Pickman's Model" or "The Dunwich Horror". "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Rats in The Walls", and "The Colour Out of Space", are also recommended. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little look into the work of one of horror's most influential figures.

Online Texts: 
Pickman's Model :
The Colour Out of Space

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Halloween Mix

Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
Wrathchild - Iron Maiden
Hip to Be Square- Huey Lewis and the News
Cthulhu- Zombeast
Vampira- Misfits
Baby Elephant Walk- Harry Mancini
Bark at the Moon- Ozzy Osbourne
Alone in the Dark- Testament
Ghost of John- Bake West
Dig Up Her Bones- Misfits
California Lady - Fish Lipped Guy and the Band That Plays California Lady
Monster Mash - Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers
My Curse- The Chop Tops
Goin' Down to Dunwich- Darkest of the Hillside Thickets
The Greatest Show Unearthed- Creature Feature
Curse of The Pharaohs - Mercyful Fate
Murder in the Graveyard- Screaming Lord Sutch
Jack The Ripper- The Horrors
Am I Demon- Danzig
Dragula- Rob Zombie
Witchfinder General - Carl Douglas
No One Lives Forever- Oingo Boingo
Kickstart My Heart- Motley Crue
More Human Than Human-  White Zombie
Call of Ktulu- Metallica
Return of the Fly- Misfits
THEM!- Misfits
Shine- Mr Big
Skulls- The Misfits
Rob Zombie- Lords of Salem
The Innsmouth Look- Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Part 3)

What a horrible night to have a curse. And I'm cursed to finish reviewing this stupid movie.

I feel...

Okay. So I've gotten this far without saying much about Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. It's not necessarily a bad performance, it's just really off-putting. I mean let's consider our two most iconic portrayals of the character- Edward Van Sloan in the 1931 film and Peter Cushing in the Hammer series. Van Sloan played Van Helsing as a solid center of moral authority; Cushing played him as a determined and inquisitive scientist. Hopkins (who we're used to playing subtle and deliberate characters) portrays him as animated and over-the-top. It's really pretty jarring. It's like seing Samuel L. Jackson trying to play subtle, it's like "Come on, man! Do what you're best at!".

Anyway, Van Helsing both narrates and acts...drunk. At Lucy's funeral he decides to tell her bereaved suitors that he needs surgical knives to mutilate her corpse (presumably with science). Well that's tactful. That's like showing up to your best friend's wedding and saying "Hey, why don't you give me 15 minutes to grope the bride before she walks up the aisle."

We also get more idiocy from Winona describing how (but never WHY) she is in love with Dracula. This is the worst part of an already bad movie. Seriously, one of the funniest lines in the movie when Keanu, sounding more Ted-like than ever says, "It is the man himself! HE'S GROWN YOUNG!" To which I can only add- BOGUS.

We then switch back to Van Helsing and the Three Stooges as they raid Lucy's tomb. The fact that the ludicrous amount of blood in this scene makes it hilarious is rather sad, because it's otherwise a great set and very nicely put together scene with Lucy looking creepier than...well creepier than Gary Oldman EVER is in this film. The icing on the cake is Cary Elwes screaming his guts out like Reb Brown while hammering the stake in.

And then the Stooges decide to strike at Dracula in his bachelor pad. Meanwhile, Dracula is out and about as Winona is taken up to Seward's Sanitarium for safety. In a room with glass doors and open windows, as Dracula emerges as (what I assume is foul-smelling) green gas. Seriously? Why not just have Dracula traveling as a river of brown sewage to fully drive the point that this film is a piece of malodorous shit home?

He also kills off the already completely peripheral character of Renfield.  Yep. Plot point over.

And following comes the most uncomfortable scene in the movie. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I would kill to be watching Manos: The Hands of Fate. I want to be anywhere but here.

Have you ever wanted to see Gary Oldman as Dale Earndhart and Winona Ryder humping each other in period costume? Well, you sick f***, THIS IS YOUR LUCKY DAY! We get Dracula rambling on about how "nobody can love secksay old me" and then Winona starts slapping him in anger. Not viciously, more like that scene in Blazing Saddles with "You brute! you brute! You vicious brute!"

And then Oldman's shirt comes off. And it gets even more drawn out and uncomfortable. Seriously, this scene seems to go on for ages. To borrow a line from the movie, you will spend oceans of time wishing you were anywhere else in the world. To say nothing of how, for an allegedly Romantic character how rapey Dracula comes across as. Which includes Dracula's O-face and then a big hug. AWWW.

Then the Marx Brothers storm the room and Dracula turns into a Bat-Creature that looked far less silly in the 8-bit Castlevania. Gary Oldman's giant forehead, seriously. And then he becomes a big ole pile of rats. While Winona whimpers "Unclean". You speak for every sane person who just watched that scene, Winona Ryder. 

So then Dracula flees England and we get more Keanu narration (haha, BYOODA-pest) as the Merry Pranksters give chase, attempting to cut him off at the pass (I hate that cliche!) by taking a train. They split up for some reason, Mina and Van Helsing heading to Castle Man-Taking-Painful-Dump ahead of the Stooges. This leads to more bizarre and discomforting cinema as Mina starts gyrating and um...stuff, apparently under the influence of Dracula's Bride-Skanks. She then comes onto Van Helsing.


And then attacks him.

THE F***?

I don't know what happened. It was neither sexy or scary. But it ends with Hopkins pushing a Nilla Wafer onto Winona's forehead and lighting a circle of fire around her. FIRE, FIRE, heheheh. And...the brides...kill his horse or something. This movie does so much in silhouette it's hard to figure out what's actually happening and what's just suggested. Anyway, Van Helsing beheads the brides, chucks their heads into a chasm and (I shit you not) yells DRAGO! Yes. Anthony Hopkins in Rocky IV-2: The Hunt For DRAGO-la.

Following this is the only remotely exciting scene in the movie as Robin Hood and his men in tights ride up the mountain shooting at...Dracula's Non-Union Gypsy Labor...while Winona seems to think she's Saruman as she...I don't know. I don't know what in the name of f*** is happening. But this is a pretty decent scene. So I'll let it pass. Although for some reason the Sun keeps rising and setting. Nonsensically.

Then Vigo the Carpathian bursts out of his coffin in what appears to be a robe made of Gold Mylar and he and Mina stagger into the castle to have a little moment. As Dracula has a knife in his heart he starts to...turn into...JESUS? DRACULA...IS...JESUS?


Then she cuts his head off. Dance party! Movie over!