Monday, September 17, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: It's Mah Birfday!

      Whelp, it’s my birthday! And because it just so happens to fall on a Monday, I’m doing an MMwMM on my birthday! Isn’t that great? Now, I can practically hear you begging your computer screen, “Mike, seriously, it’s your birthday. You can take the day off. Trust me, we don’t need one of these every week!” That’s kind of you to be thinking of me, but, honestly, I don’t know where you guys would be if you didn’t have MMwMM every week. The way I see it, the conservative answer would be: y’all would be getting guillotined for unspeakable acts involving computers, the government, free-range chicken eggs, three and a half sporks, and a gallon of hoisin sauce. That’s why I can’t miss a beat, even on my birthday! Now let’s get to the action…only if you consider sitting and reading consecutive paragraphs to be “action.”
I think that clone's gonna get stepped on! This cover's got everything!
       I was at my cousins’ house (they’re about 5/7 respectively) over the weekend and, of course, they love havin’ me there because it means that I help them to get past those tough levels. Well, this outing’s game happened to be Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars or something therein. The game is based off the TV series so I had no idea what was going on story wise (probably because I skipped the intro to every level), but, not surprisingly, this doesn’t hurt the game one bit. I remember buying this game for them like, I wanna say a year ago, but that’s probably not true. It was a while ago though. And they’re still playing it! I couldn’t refuse helping them out, so I took a stab at it for probably the third time ever. I’ll say right off the bat that, in true “Lego” game fashion, the game is really, REALLY, good. This one is chest and waist above previous installments and here’s why!
This actually exists...who knew?
      It all starts with what you’re going to notice first: the camera. I remember playing Lego Star Wars I and II multiplayer with my brother or sister and some of the frustration that ensued when we both tried to do something on opposite ends of the screen. It was a battle of wills at that point and the first one that submitted had to wait until the other guy did what they wanted to do before her desires could be met (see what I did there? My sister always submitted). But this title does away with that altogether! The screen will dynamically split in half and let each player do their own thing! It’s crazy helpful. And unlike just basic split screen, the line that splits the screen will rotate based on where the two players are in relation to each other. It was little things like that made me realize the game would be pretty sweet.
Ah, dude! Two things at once! Crazy!
            The other thing that makes this game so sweet is the varied gameplay throughout your adventures. Not only do you have levels where the screen intentionally splits and each player is in charge of completing separate objectives SIMULTANEOUSLY (i.e. Obi-wan is creating a diversion while Anakin covertly sneaks on broad to rescue a fellow jedi) effectively giving you twice the levels…basically... but you also have levels where you are, quite literally, fighting in the Clone Wars. You get these zones (or bases, I guess) where you can build stuff and you use the studs that you collect from killing the enemy units or tanks or whatever to build barracks, cannons, air support landing zones, and shields. Then you go and destroy everything on an enemy base and you can then build there! These types on levels actually had my cousin and me debating on who would play as, if you can believe it, the clone commander instead of the jedi! And that’s because the commander, not the jedi, can take control on a clone squad and lead them around and own the heck out of everything. An actual incentive to play as someone without a lightsaber? Sign me up! This game kicks butt and I can’t wait for Lego Lord of the Rings! It’s gonna be sweet! And just a side note before I talk about the next game, if you play those “war” levels in free play mode, you can have C-3PO and R2-D2 can drive around in these speeder bike things and shoot at people, it’s awesome!
The horrors of war between machines and clones...oh wait, lack thereof.
            The next game I played was a little gem by the name of Final Fantasy IX. “Yeah, no way you played enough to review this one, Sir Worksalot!” That genius of a wordsmith is correct, dear reader. I only played about an hour and a half to two hours of this game…and by “play” I mean that I watched a friend of mine play this game for about 1.5-2 hours. This will just be a little of my first impressions of the game and since this game is already widely praised (or so I presume) by so many other “more-qualified” individuals, I don’t know why you’d be looking here for an honest review of this game. First of all, this game looks really good. It’s hard to believe it’s just a regular ol’ Playstation game sometimes. The story’s pretty creative so far. You’re a bunch of thieves and your wanna kidnap this princess so you come up with the elaborate plan to pose as a theater group and kidnap the princess through that means…I guess. Ok, so I didn’t really pay attention to the story while I was dickin’ around, but it’s Final Fantasy, right? Story’s not really important…oh…. But hey, gameplay wise the game puts you in pretty creative situations to instigate battles, like scenes in the play. And there’s like early quicktime events, those aren’t too bad. One complaint is that the game’s tutorial doesn’t really teach you much other than “pressing X is the way to go, bro.” They don’t really mix it up in terms of battle strategies where it would be beneficial to have the player explore strategies. But hey, I literally didn’t play it so what do I know? Well, after not playing the game for so long, but still being intrigued by the deep characters of Zidaneo, J Pesci, De Niro, and some fourth character, I’d say that I’d continue! This part of the article exists so that I don’t talk about only one game for, like, the umpteenth time in a row.
Hahaha, it's Zidaneo, you dolt!
            Now, I have the perfect way to end this article. Since it’s my birthday, let’s all sing “Happy Birthday” to me! “Happy Birthday to me…Dear Michael. Happy Birthday to me!” I hope you all sang! …oh, well ‘til next week!

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                More like ‘Shweekly Blockness with Plohn Mik-goo-la’! Am I right? Am I right!? Whatever, I don’t have to explain myself to you. What do you even do anyway? I don’t see you writing for a multi-billion dollar blog/Youtube entertainment empire, so don’t even think about criticizing me. You don’t know what it’s like…to be the bad man, behind blue eyes. It’s way harder than being the good guy in front of green eyes. Coming up with witting openers is becoming harder and harder each week, so you’re going to have to tough out a few more bad jokes before inspiration strikes again. ANYWAY I’ve made enough of an ass out of myself for one opening paragraph, let’s get to shlocking.
Whoa! They got David Bowie to do the soundtrack!?
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                I think I only played one thing this week with any sort of seriousness, and was Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD. Oddworld is a series of games that take place on this weird, fantasy/alien planet that’s inhabited by goofy yet somehow very real looking creatures. The idea behind Oddworld is that it’s a planet that emulates the problems of our own. All the wild life on Oddworld is being cut down, there’s slavery, there’s several mega-corps running the world, extinction is prominent, all that fun stuff. It’s a very interesting concept and it’s kind of hard to grasp if you don’t have any preexisting knowledge of the series. I recommend watching the opening cinematic of the first game, Abe’s Oddysee. It will give you a good idea of what these games are all about. I’ll post a link here.
Family reunion at the McGee household
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                So Oddworld started on the PS1 with Abe’s Oddysee and it followed this slave dude named Abe as he tries to bring down the meat processing plant that enslaved him and his people. They later made another game for the Xbox entitled Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee in which the player controls Abe and this new guy Munch as they try to take down more industries. Notice a pattern? There was supposed to be five of these games in what was known as the Oddworld quintology. Each game featured a new protagonist teaming up with the protagonists of the previous games and doing something to make the world a better place. Stranger’s Wrath was not one of these games. Stranger’s Wrath was a side story that takes place in a pseudo western part of Oddworld that had nothing to do with the quintology. The gameplay wasn’t even kept the same. While the other games were platformers with some action/puzzle elements, Stranger’s Wrath was a first/third person shooter with stealth elements. It’s quite the transition.
He's not platforming anymore! Get 'em!
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                After Stranger’s Wrath was released the developer for these games, known as Oddworld Inhabitants, went under and stopped making games. However, a couple years ago a new studio gained the rights to the franchise and started working on the franchise again. This studio was Just Add Water, and their first order of business was to rerelease all of the previously made games onto the PC via steam in a package known as ‘the Oddboxx’. Being an ultra-fan of these games, I bought the Oddboxx when it first came out and I played through all of the games. About a year ago Just Add Water created an HD version of Stranger’s Wrath and put it on sale on the PS3 but it wasn’t until a few days ago that the HD version of the game made it to steam. Because I bought the Oddboxx I was able to snag the HD version of Stranger’s Wrath for free, so I’ve been playing that all weekend.

                Ok, that was an extraordinarily long intro; now let’s get into the actual game. Like I said, Stranger’s Wrath is split between first person shooting and third person platforming. What’s nice is that you can switch between these two play styles at will, so when you come to a series of jumps you have to make, go third person; but when there’s a whole bunch of dudes you’ve got to take down, go first person. The plot for the game is that the protagonist (aptly known as Stranger) needs money for an operation, so he takes up bounty hunting as a way to get the 20,000 moolah he needs. This factors into the gameplay fairly significantly. With every enemy in the game you have the option to capture them alive or to kill them and take them dead. At the end of each mission you turn in all of the dudes you’ve captured and you’re awarded a certain amount of money. Live dudes yield more cash than dead ones, so it’s in the player’s best interest to capture dudes alive.
Suck honey bee Bitch!
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                Stranger likes to use a crossbow to fire critters at dudes. Different critters have different uses and effects. There’s the Chippunk which will sh*t talk enemies into coming over to where ever it was fired, and there’s also the Zapfly which, when fully charged, will stun an enemy for a little while. There’s 9 (I think) different ammo types, and they all work differently in their own way. The idea is to use the different ammo types to set up traps so you can capture enemies one at a time; however, I’ve often found that running in a room full of enemies without a real strategy works just as well. I’m not even being funny when I say that either. The AI is not the greatest in the world, so I can usually get away with running in, capturing one dude and running back out until the bad guys stop looking for me. It’s not ideal, but it works.

                Now, I’ve played the normal version of Stranger’s Wrath and the graphics on that version did not age well. Not that the game looked bad, it just looked like an original Xbox game. The HD version is way, way better in the graphics department. This isn’t some half assed up-res of the game; it’s a full blown remake just about. Characters have new models, there’s now dynamic lighting, and the whole game looks on par with low budget 3D games. There are still some flat textures and some wonky animation, but even so the whole remake looks utterly fantastic.
You can see the fear in my eyes as it's being reflected off of his eyes.
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                Well, that’s about all I have to say this week. You should probably go out and play Stranger’s Wrath, it’s pretty good. I also played some more technic pack Minecraft this weekend, but because of some computer problems I lost my old save game, so I’ve just been working my way back up to where I was in a new world. When I have something new to say about that I’ll make a post about it but for right now I’m going to bid y’all a good morrow for this has been your Weekly Shlockness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee Tuesday Edition: More Like Sonic PeeD!

      I know I say this a lot, but this week was extremely busy. If you’re a follower of our YouTube bejangle then you’ll notice that uploads have been somewhat sparse. Well, I handle all that stuff and I’ve been busy…no, really. My work’s been hectic trying to get this shipment out on time so I’ve been working more than I usually do…a lot more. I’ve logged over 60 hours since Wednesday, so I don’t wanna hear any of your sass! Needless to say, I haven’t really had time to play games this week. I know I say that a lot, but this time it’s actually true (yes, I know I say that a lot too). I’m just now getting home from work after working 14 hours and I literally don’t know what I’m gonna talk about. It’s times like these that I tend to fall back on Sonic, ‘cause he’s pretty quick and easy(-going) like me. So for the sake of shut the hell up, I played Sonic CD this week, because the lazy comments I can muster in my over-tired state are about all this game really deserves.
You'd like me to press start, wouldn't you?!
      Sonic CD was a Sonic game released on the Sega CD, a system that sold pretty poorly or moderately for all I know. The system wasn't that good, but one gem that people can’t shut up about is Sonic CD. Now, I’m not gonna break new ground here by saying that I love me some Sonic the Hedgehog; he’s a pretty cool guy. He fights Eggman and doesn’t afraid of anything. And, being a Sonic fan, naturally I have my opinions on the best Sonic games and love to debate pros and cons of the different games. Sonic 3 & Knuckles vs. Sonic 2 is the most common debate that I’ve seen/been a part of. It’s usually a short one too because Sonic 3 & Knuckles is clearly the better game and I may go into the “why?” specifics some other time. But there’s always that group of people who want to throw Sonic CD into the mix and, for a long time, their presence and insistence convinced me that, at least, Sonic CD belong in the argument even though it wasn't going to win. I hadn’t played it (because Sega CD sucks) so I didn’t know anything more than people liked it enough to say it was better than Sonic 3 & Knuckles. That all changed when Sonic CD got released on XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade). My eyes were finally opened and I was changed that day…I’d like to say for the better.
      After just now, no-foolin’, playing this game, I’ve finally reached that coveted state of being known as “an authority.” Of course, there are different levels of authority, but to those of you who haven’t played this game, I’m the authority; respect it! As an authority, I’m allowed to say that I have no idea why this game gets so much praise. Maybe it’s because I’m not wearing nostalgia ray-bans or I wasn't so enthralled as a child by what I’d never have that I believed the game was super cool because some kid said so. I will give the game credit where it’s due, though. The game did well enough for me to have some things to talk about. I like the original concept of the game. Time travel is pretty hot right now; I’d sell! SELL (I bought Wall Street Joke stock…it’s down 37 points since the beginning of this sentence). It’s certainly a nice change of pace to see the Chaos Emeralds not be the go-to solution to every prob– whelp, I fell asleep…and every true Shlockhead knows that this awesome occurrence warrants the first of the multiannual Tuesday Editions of MMwMM! *Hooray*
Ah, crap! Out of gas...TAILS! Get the Chaos Emeralds!
      Now what was I saying? Oh right, Chaos Emeralds. There aren’t any in the game…technically. You collect “Time Stones” or some sh*t, which are stupid “other planet” versions of Chaos Emeralds. Another thing that Sonic CD did really well is having multiple ways of getting the best ending. To achieve this you had to “make a good future” by the 3rd act in every zone. I didn’t do this on my playthrough because I couldn’t care less about this game's varied endings. In fact, I take it as an insult that they expect me to play the game again. But, in case you’re curious, the easiest way to do this is to get the 7 Time Stones, which automatically makes a good future for the rest of the game. I’m pretty sure the other way is to travel to different points in time and destroy specific objects; there’s a badnik generator in the past and a hologram of Metal Sonic curb stompin’ a bunny in the future. You do these things and by the 3rd Act or “Act with da Boss” the landscape’ll be all nice and flourishing and if you don’t the landscape is desolate and mechanical. It's a pretty sweet touch. Too bad the rest of the game didn't mirror this type of creative thinking. Also, this game introduced Metal Sonic and he’s a pretty cool antagonist…but not cool enough to excuse the rest of this game.
Yeah, sure...
      That’s basically the gist of the good in this game. The bad comes from the most important part of any game: gameplay. Contrary to popular believe, Sonic games aren’t all about speed. A lot of it is speed, but if it was all speed every level would be a straight line. At its core, Sonic is a platforming game that challenges the player’s reaction skills and timing in order to complete levels as quickly as possible. You can take different paths to reach the same goal, some being faster than others, but it’s up to you to decide. You control the way you experience the game. Sonic CD seems to go out of its way to keep you from playing the game. Need to build up speed to travel through time? Don’t worry about strategically building up your momentum, just walk into this spring and “bloing!” there you go. Are you trying to enjoy that fantastic CD-quality music, but all this game playing gets in the way? Just hop into our specially built tube and spring contraption, put that controller down, and listen all your worries away while we whisk you to the end of the Act. Added bonus too, if you wanted to get those things that you need to truly beat the game, you just gotta do a little backtracking, but that’s ok because no other Sonic game requires this to be done. “What about the bosses, Mike? There’s no way they can take control away from you at those points,” your naïve mind might be asking/saying. Well, you’d be right, but the bosses are so insultingly easy that I wish they would so I didn’t have to waste my time. I honestly think the first boss can’t even kill you…buse gam evah!!
Oh man...bumpers. Quite the genius, Eggman
      I’m conclusions, I feel cheated out of my money after playing Sonic CD. Considering that I’m saying this about a Sonic game…you should take that to heart. The only time you should play this over any other Sonic is if the only other Sonic games are Sonic 3D Blast or like Sonic 2.5: Sonic Literally Just Sits There, but that second one could go either way really. Well that’s it for this, the first ever Mike’s Mondays with Mike McGee Tuesday Edition. This ain’t late and neither am I! See Ya!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                Hello everybody! I’d like to start of this Weekly Shlockness by wishing everyone a merry Rosh Hashanah. May it be the zaniest Jewish New Year ever! Now, hold on to your party hats and crazy straws because I’ve got a bomb shell to drop. IT AIN’T EVEN ROSH HASHANAH! I was just testing you, to make sure you’re up to date on your obscure holidays. If you knew right away that I was bullsh*tting then I award you with fifty Shlockness Achievement Points (SAPs). The rest of you should spend more time looking at your calendars; or, maybe I should spend less time looking at my calendar. Either way, I needed something to open this blog post with and this bogus pop quiz seemed to fit the bill fairly nicely. Now, let’s get started with your Weekly Shlockness!
Rosh Hashanah is actually the Jewish Holiday in which people slay dragons and drink their blood through their own horns
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                As I promised last week, I totally got my copy of Silent Hill 3 from Amazon on Friday and I’ve been playing it all weekend. I feel like I talk a lot about silent hill. That’s probably because I’ve mentioned one of the games on this blog almost every week since the beginning, so I’ll keep my analysis of Silent Hill 3 short. It’s a lot like Silent Hill 2. Nuff said. The only thing that’s crazy/weird about it is that it’s a straight up continuation of the Silent Hill 1 story. I can’t really say how without spoiling how Silent Hill 1 ends so I’m going to go ahead and do that. Ahem…SPOILERS AHEAD!
Teletubbies don't got nothin' on this sh*t
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So, Silent Hill ends with the main character, Harry Mason, stopping the birth of the cult god of Silent Hill (via a final boss battle). This god was summoned by sacrificing a little cult girl named Alessa, who turned out to be an alternate version of Harry’s adopted daughter Cheryl, for whom he’s been looking for throughout the entire game. Make sense? Good. When the cult god was killed it spawned a reincarnation of Alessa in the form of a baby girl. Harry takes hold of this baby and bats outta Silent Hill with her. It’s probably worth noting that this is only one of the possible endings to that game, which means that only one of the endings is cannon (a first and last in the series). In Silent Hill 3 you play as that baby girl all grown up, named Heather Mason, and the story revolves around the cult trying to capture Heather so they can use her as another sacrifice to give birth to their cult god again. Alright, END OF SPOILERS!
Now sure if Silent Hill 3 or Rated M for Mature
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The game plays, looks, and feels almost exactly like Silent Hill 2 which is probably due to the fact that they came out a year apart from each other. I can only assume they use the same engine (don’t you dare quote me on that). The formula is the same, just a few of the variables are different which, if I’m totally honest, is alright by me. I loved Silent Hill 2, so giving me more of that with just a few different puzzles, enemies, characters, and locations is totally cool with me and, I’m sure, a whole sh*t load of other Silent Hill fans. Now, if only Book of Memories would read this blog post, maybe I’d be more excited to check that game out. Am I right? Am I right!?
Way more metaphysical than the name would imply
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Earlier in the week I started feeling a bit like a worthless sack of crap because I looked at my collection and I realized that there are still games that I’ve started months ago that I haven’t finished. So, I decided to buckle down and get through one in particular which I really enjoyed playing when I first got it. That game is Driver: San Francisco. You play as John Tanner, the main character from an eighties buddy cop drama (not really) and his quest to thwart the terrorist threats of arch enemy Jericho. But here’s the catch: Tanner is knocked into a comma after a near fatal car accident and is thrusted into a dream version of San Francisco that only exists in his mind (totally not a spoiler). Within this dream world, Tanner is able to possess people as they drive around the city and use their cars to stop criminal activity, mainly by crashing into things.
Probably the second longest Dodge Charger commercial I've ever played
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I’m discovering a deep seeded love growing for open world driving games. I’m a very impatient person when it comes to driving, and I always catch myself going twenty over the limit at any given time; so naturally a video game that encourages that kind of behavior is right up my alley. What’s even better than the speedy freedom is the fact that utter recklessness is encouraged. Several of the missions ask the player to stop a runaway criminal by any means necessary. This usually involves possessing a car traveling in the opposite direction of the runaway car and steering it into the speeding criminal. Who gives a f*ck if your car gets wrecked because hell, it wasn’t your car to begin with. You then have to zoom out and possess another in order to repeat this process over and over again until the mission is succeeded. There are other things to do like racing and time trials and things of that nature; however, crook stopping is at the core of this game.

The controls feel tight, the graphics are sharp, and the frame rate is silky smooth. I had a blast with this game and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good driving game now and again or if your big into eighties buddy cop dramas. With that in mind I’m going to slag outta here. I’ve got some laundry in the over and I think it’s about to blow. See y’all next time on Weekly Shlockness.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Shlocky Smash Bros.

      Well, it’s Labor Day and you know what that means: I’m required by law to put as little effort into this as possible. Luckily, I won’t have to adjust my writing style too much, if at all. My Labor Day is going to be spent doing mostly Shlockness related activities. I have a lot of editing to get through, but I did actually play some games during the week so I don’t have to scramble, which is always nice. I kinda ran out of steam on this paragraph so I’m going to skip right to the games.

Fox used BIFF! It's effective in its own way.
      Super Smash Bros. is a classic. The graphics are very nostalgic and the gameplay is just loads of fun. The music, sound effects, visual effects, and atmosphere are just awesome. It’s arguably the best multiplayer game on the N64 and since I’ve never played Golden Eye, I’m allowed to say that it’s the best one on the N64. I’ve been playing a lot of SSB lately, but mostly the later installments, Melee and a mod for Brawl called Project M. Both of these games are head and shoulders above the original in terms of features and moves and graphics. I do find, however, that when I play the more recent games that it feels way more competitive and intense, which is fun in its own way, but you’ll find a more relaxed and carefree type of fun in the original game. I mean I played with items on! You’d never do that with the newer games. And I’m not saying that you can’t play the original competitively because you can; I’ve seen it done. I don’t understand why one would want to play it extremely competitively when the other games are more fun for that sort of thing.
"La, la, la, I can't hear you!" - Famous Last Words
      If you read the above paragraph and got completely lost, I’m sorry in a way that should be taken as a double meaning to be both sincere and sarcastic. Super Smash Bros. is a fighting game that features Nintendo characters, which I will list now in sequential order starting from top left and also stating the franchise they’re from all from memory: Luigi (Mario), Mario (Mario), Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong), Link (The Legend of Zelda), Samus (Metroid), Captain Falcon (F-Zero), Ness (EarthBound), Yoshi (Mario/Yoshi), Kirby (Kirby), Fox (Star Fox), Pikachu (Pokémon), and Jigglypuff (Pokémon). This game can support up to 4 players at one time, each of the players selecting one of the characters to compete as. The goal is to knock your opponent off the battle arena; the player dies if they are travel (intentionally or otherwise) to far up, down, or to either side of the battle arena. The player can perform different attacks by pressing any combination of the A or B buttons with a direction on the control stick (including neutral position). Getting hit means that your damage percent increasing, which translates to flying farther after getting hit and thusly, being easier to kill. The two modes available are Time and Stock. The goal in Time is to get the most kills in the allotted time with each kill you get yield a point and losing a point when you get killed. Stock gives each player a certain amount of lives or “stock” and the goal is to be the last one standing. A player could win Stock mode without having the most kills. For a summary of this whole paragraph refer to this VIDEO.
Boom, I was right!
      Phew, that was almost work. The next game that I want to talk about is very similar. In fact, it practically shares the same name: Super Smash Flash 2. The game has been in development for over 4 years now and I’ve been tagging along since the beginning. This guy Cleod9 over at is trying to convert the Super Smash experience into a flash game. It’s coming along very nicely at this point. The latest version available is v0.8b, which you can check out HERE!! I’m having a lot of fun with this game and it’s good to know that a lot of the problems it has (like the AI, literally just standing still at some points) will be fixed when the game is finally done. I can’t really give my opinion on it beyond that because the game’s not finished and that wouldn’t be fair. I do know that, by its completion, the game will have a decent amount of additional characters, a full story mode complete with voice acting (I’d try out if I wasn’t so busy…and had a “why not?” type of attitude), and online capability, which has been said to be a “good possibility by final release.” And if you dare doubt my support of this game then listen to this! Apparently, it’s been catching the eye of some of the competitive players in the smash community and THIS and THAT are some examples of “competitive” play.
H-hey, you guys? You ok? Hello?
      This was a smashing week if I do say so myself. Like John said in his post, we do have a new series planned, which I’ll keep under wraps to build up the hype machine so the disappointment that’s sure to come will be that much more substantial. I’ve been doing a lot of editing with that so that hopefully it can be release in tandem with our next Let’s Play, which is to be randomly selected from a list that we’re encouraging viewers to add to. Let us know if you’ve got a suggestion. Until next week, this has been an MMwMM Labor Day special, I’m Mike sayin’ “Stay Shlocky!”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                Oh man! It was a game playin’ kinda week, I’ll tell you what. Not only were Mike and I were able to finish recording our Sly Cooper escapades (which are being edited upon as we speak) but I also got to watch my partner in slime stumble and guffaw his way through a sizable chunk of our next Youtube series. I’m not sure if it’s a secret so I’m keeping my fat ass shut for the time being. Beyond that though, I was able to finish a couple more games in my ever growing backlog. Remember that Silent Hill game I was playing? What about that little indie game that’s kinda like Silent Hill? No? Well, let me take a sip from my analytical punch bowl and I’ll tell you all about it.
This is what the game looks like if your graphics card is good enough. But you wouldn't know anything about that would you?
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                Earlier in the week I finished up Lone Survivor. You remember this game; I mentioned it like a month ago, it’s the 2D pixelated survival horror game that I got in the humble bundle. If you don’t recall, feel free to read through every single Weekly Shlockness up until this point. I’m sure you’ll find it eventually and it’s totally worth it to read all of my funny picture captions, I’m not just saying that. But yea, I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this game, it’s that cool. As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on the Silent Hill Wiki (trust me, this isn’t a nonsequiter) because I love looking at all of the weird symbolism behind things and why the town manifests the way it does. For instance, did you know that Pyramid head supposedly represents *SILENT HILL 2 SPOILERS BIG TIME* James’ guilt for killing his wife as well as his own sexual frustration (mannequin rape scene explained). There seems to be a lot of weird esoteric meaning behind Lone Survivor as well. Why does ‘The Man Who Wears a Box on His Head’ wear a box on his head? I have no idea! And I’ve been trying to look at forums/web pages to find an answer to this unanswered question but there’s nothing. What was the deal with the pale faced guy? Who was Chie? Is there any benefit to playing your Gamejoy? I love asking these questions, but what I love even more than that is reading all the crackpot theories and assumptions that people post online; but sadly, it looks like no one is going to indulge me, which is a shame.
The cat actually represents disdain for over pixelated indie games
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                I do recall saying in my last post about this game that there are a lot of gameplay elements that aren't very apparent as to what their purpose is in the overall game. However, after my play through this week I have been able to piece together a lot of the goings on under the hood. Take the food mechanic for instance. I found out that food will heal you and the level of enjoyment gotten from a particular food item results in more health being restored. I’m still not sure what happens when you starve completely, but I assume that you start to take damage and eventually die. There is also a neat pill mechanic that I really had no idea existed. If you go into your bathroom within the game you can find an endless supply of different colored pills. The red ones will perk up your character so he doesn’t get tired (I still don’t know how being tired affects your character) but the blue and green pills will take you to crazy dream lands where you meet the crazy dream people. The green pill lets you talk to the man with the box on his head (as I mentioned before) and he’ll ask you some very philosophical questions that apparently have right and wrong answers. Either way, he’ll give you some food if you need it which is good. The blue pill does basically the same things except you get to go see this normal looking dude in an armchair and he give you ammo if you’re low.
The controls weren't very responsive
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                There are multiple endings to this game (I got the red ending) and I’m really not sure what the criteria for achieving these endings are. When you beat the game, you’re treated to a ten page list of all the things you’ve done in the game. How many pills you’ve popped, how many bad guys you’ve killed, how many times you talked to your plush kitty cat. It’s really interesting to read how I ‘slept without being tired’ 8 times in my play through, even though it all seems pretty pointless. There is also a crazy Silent Hill esque twist towards the end that I totally saw coming. It really isn’t a surprise at all but it’s still vague enough that internet crackpots from all over could still interpret all sorts of nonsense from it. Too bad I wouldn’t know anything about that.

                All in all, I adored this game. It’s so wonderfully atmospheric, so wonderfully psychodellic, so wonderfully…Silent Hill like. If you’re into survival horrors/Silent Hill like I am, I would highly recommend that you pick this up.
Don't let that rack mislead you, her face is pretty bad. Trust me.
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                This game on the other hand, I can’t speak so kindly of. Now, in my last article, I say something along the lines of how Homecoming is a natural evolution for the Silent Hill franchise; however, after finishing the game, I was able to see scar tissue that’s been left from its western development. Parts of the game cease to feel like a Silent Hill game. Some of the cutscenes are needlessly gory, there’s a cheap romance, and even a black guy dies for Christ sake. There is also too big of an emphasis on the combat which can be described as clunky at best (but I talked about that last week). These are staples of western horror which is fine if you’re making a western horror game; this however is a Silent Hill game. There was very little psychological horror here and overall the game just wasn’t as thought provoking as the previous entries in the series. Don’t get me wrong, the game is perfectly ok. Within a bubble this game is a very mediocre survival horror with some neat story elements; however, if you insist on comparing this game to something like Silent Hill 2, then you’ll find that Homecoming is a vastly weaker game.
Don't let that face fool you, her rack is pretty awesome.
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                Another thing that this game did horribly was the ending. The actual ending movie itself was alright, but the criteria for getting the different endings are blatantly obvious. There are three points in which you’ll be prompted to make some sort of decision and it is through these prompts that the ending is determined. There’s not even any gray middle ground to the decisions, it’s always triangle for the good path, square for the bad path. Come on game, at least make it a little ambiguous. I got a bad ending in Silent Hill 2 by looking at a knife in my inventory too much. Why couldn’t it have been more like that?

                There is good news though, I just ordered Silent Hill 3 from Amazon and it’s on its way right now. In just a few short days I’ll be able to crack open into what has been called the third greatest Silent Hill game, then I’ll be able to change the name of my blog post to Weekly Silent Hill. Until then, I’ve been John Mikula and this has been your Weekly Shlockness.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Columbo Noire

      You know how some of the stuff your parents are into rubs off onto your interest list like a good simile rubs off my brain area onto my computer’s letter boxes and forms sentence? Well for me, that was an ol’ buddy cop TV show called Columbo, which I still enjoy watching to this day. He was a very quirky type of detective for the LAPD and he’d always solve the crime. In true buddy cop avant-garde fashion, he rarely worked with a buddy, ('cept for that one time that William Shatner guest starred). Just imagine Peter Faulk as a detective and that’s literally the show. I always wanted to be Columbo, ‘cause he was such a cool cat. Luckily my pals at Rockstar heard my dumb hopes and dreams and immediately began making L.A. Noire, of which I have played 24 hours and will be the only game I cover in this week’s MMwMM. For the none of you who care about my content quantity, take it up with Mr. John “MONDAY AIN”T NO WEEKEND, GET OFF MY DAY!” Mikula. So let’s get into it or, in my time-appropriate lingo, “Let’s jimmy this swanky gam!”
I want to BE this!
      As I said, L.A. Noire is the spiritual sequel to Columbo. You play as Cole Phelps “war hero” and a surprisingly poor swimmer (omg, too clever!). You’s a cop, but eventually you become a detective ‘cause you’re not a dipshit and actually use your brain to solve cases. The unique thing about this game is the way that they realistically render facial features and expressions and such. They look prooty good, I must say. And it’s a good thing too, because it’d be pretty hard to tell if Mr. Hopgood is telling me the truth or not if they weren’t. (Psst, he’s not…use the chloral hydrate as evidence). Sometimes the story is told in a way that you [basically] know who is the criminal, but you have to find the evidence to convict. Columbo episodes were set up the same way. You saw who, how, and why the bad guy 'did it' and then the mystery came from how Columbo was gonna piece it together. So I like when that happens but I believe I already mentioned that I like that Columbo progrum. Yep, yes I did, “Well for me, that was an ol’ buddy cop TV show called Columbo, which I still enjoy watching to this day” (McGee 1). I’m having a time with it, a good one I’d even venture to say. I’m designating the next paragraph as the bitching paragraph; so don’t let it confuse you into thinking that I don’t like this game. Also, don’t get your hopes up. It’s not bitchin’ like it’s a real sweet-ass paragraph. I’m gonna complain and whine about stupid stuff…like a bitch.
It was literally as simple as that.

      Ok, so “bitching” may have been too strong of a description. Think of this as a terrible stand-up comedy routine. Ready? Go. ‘Ok, Mike here’s your big chance. Don’t blow it. Remember: Start weak so you have nowhere to go but up.’ So, the AI drivers in LA Noire are some of the most braindead piece of data I’ve ever had the misfortune to interact with. When you have your siren on, the drivers are usually pretty good about getting out of your way. Sometimes, though, you’ll run into (mmmliterally) the guy who just makes the last-second decision to pull out into traffic right as your passing by. You get docked, of course, which can affect your case rating at the end. I once had $13k in vehicle damages and dems 1948ish dollars. Granted, that was a special circumstance…but it still happened. So there are these side missions or “street crimes” which are basically just one-off crimes that can end it a shoot-out, car/foot chase, or…that’s really all I’ve encountered. They usually like to appear on the opposite side of the map so I usually don’t spend the extra 5-10-15 mins driving to ‘em. So what’s messed up is that, even though you’re a police officer, you’re basically killing any criminal that you come across. There’s really no way to keep these guys alive once they pull a gun on you. And they ALWAYS pull a gun...or commit suicide. Shooting ‘em in the leg is the same as shooting them in the head. The worst part is that there’s always a cutscene of the coroner loading a body into his vehicle and Phelps is always there with a look of self-disgust on his face, which is enhanced by the super facial rendering in the game. It hard when a game seemingly punishes you like that, but that’s the “win” screen of these street crimes. Simply baffling. And now for something completely phoned-in.
"Nice job handling this jaywalker, Phelps" - Guy who checks for semen
      Some of the interview questions are asked in a way that it’s hard to tell what evidence that you’re supposed to use to back up your accusation or even what the heck I'm asking about in the first place (i.e. the "title" of the question in the notebook ain't what you're really gettin' at, capisce?) Quick example: I was supposed to connect this guy to a robbery that he committed with a bunch of other people. He said that he had no idea what I was talking about so I was gonna “make” him on it (that’s how they talked, shut it!). But apparently evidence that connected him and his buddies to the robbery wasn’t good enough evidence. I shouldn’t know that the guy’s name being written in some sniper’s book was the better answer. Don't worry, though, I'm pretty pro at it. Some of ‘em take a little thought, and if you get stumped, using intuition points will make it easier to choose between Truth (Obvious), Doubt (They’re lying but you got no prove), and Lie (Bedda ha’ dat evidance!). It also narrows the choices of evidence to choose from if you use your intuition point with ‘Lie.’ When you look at it in hindsight, it makes a heck of a lot more sense.
"You guys sell Corn Flakes?" "Uh...n-no we don't sell that here."
      I think I had another joke to stretch this out but, unfortunately, it’s hard to remember all my jokes. I made myself laugh so hard that I got amnesia…it’s a curse, sometimes. Actually it’s always a curse; I can’t really think of a time when amnesia would not be considered a bad thing. What I never forget, though, is that these weekly posts help me to grow as an individual; learn new tricks, if you will. What could I have possibly learned from this masterfully written article that, at its worse, rocked your brain’s critical thinking skills like a frickin’ hurricane? Well, the most important thing to take away is that I need to spread my game-playing time over several games so that it’s not as obvious when I run out of things to talk about after the second paragraph. I’m still optimistic though, ‘cause I don’t write WSwJM…cuz it sa-suks &nd eye h8ate8 it!!11!eleven!! Remember: Koala bears spend as much as 20 hours a day sleeping. Oh, and Stay Shlocky!

L.A. Noire Final Score: A solid Cole Phelps out of Peter Faulk