Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve just had a day that was stuffed to the brim with Shlockness. My partner in slime Mike came over to the house, we started a new Let’s play, we got another ‘how far can we get’ done and now at 12 o’clock midnight I’ve got to write this blog for you, our lovely and talented readers. Sure, it’s technically not Saturday anymore but I hope beyond hope that y’all can find it in your hearts to forgive me on account of I just spent ten hours before hand making content for you clowns! I’m sorry; I don’t mean to snap at you. I’ve just been having a rough time down at the office. I lost the Henderson account, someone stole the cookies out of my lunch, and I saw that saucy receptionist flirting with the vending machine guy. Let me make it up to you by telling y’all what I’ve been playing this week.
"In the circus, no one can hear you scream"
                To start off the week I finished up Silent Hill 2. My overall impressions are very good. I had a really fun time playing this game even though the ending I got was a real bummer. For those of you who’ve played the game I think you know which ending I got. But yeah, the things I said last week about the story not making a lick of sense were rectified towards the end of the game. Some things are revealed about the main character that makes his motivations a little bit clearer, and I felt a good sense of closure when I beat the last boss. Everything gets wrapped up nicely for James, yet not much is touched upon regarding the nature of Silent Hill itself and there was at least one character that I still have no clue as to what their deal was. This isn’t a bad thing in the slightest; a good horror experience needs a bit of mystery to really be effective I think. I should also probably mention that I put the action on easy mode, which I hear would otherwise be incredibly hard, wound up being stupidly easy. Hell, I bet even Mike could beat them. Well…never mind, that’s probably a dumb bet to make. But that’s not the point. The point is that I probably didn’t get the true survival horror experience that I ought to have. I was never really worried about ammo or my health, and any enemies were basically no trouble at all; but you know what, I don’t care. I had a great time just wandering around Silent Hill and seeing all the creepy things this foggy little resort town has to offer me, and I would highly recommend this game to a lot of people.
would you rather go back to clown town?
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                Now, I didn’t get around to playing any Resident Evil or Psychonauts this week because the rest of my week was consumed by Minecraft. This isn’t your ordinary Minecraft however. I’ve found the normal version of the game to be incredibly boring for quite some time now. I’ve been playing the technic pack which is a collection of mods that, when working together, expand the game to an insane degree. There are a ton of mods included in this pack but the three big are the build craft mod, the industrial craft mod, and the equivalent exchange mod. Build craft is all about automating the fundamental actions of Minecraft by constructing engines and machines to do all of the mining and transferring resources for you. Industrial craft then gives you a bunch of recipes to build machines that expand the functionality of your items as well as giving you a means to power your home with electricity. Equivalent exchange focuses on the principles of alchemy where you can use all sorts of wizardry to transmutate your items into other items. That’s just the cliff notes for these mods, when you actually crack them open and see all that they have to offer it is truly amazing; more so when you combines the mods functionality together. You can build a nuclear reactor that powers a quarry which will automatically dig out given area of blocks, then transfer those blocks over to a transmutation table that will turn all of the junk into diamonds while the useful ores get macerated into powder and then smelted into ingots. I can’t even think of all the possibilities that are made available to you when you hook up this mod, but I have seen some people on Youtube who have made some really impressive machines. The endgame for this mod gets insane. You will eventually have indestructible armor with magic rings that set all the land around you on fire. You can build nukes, jetpacks, automatic tunnel boring machines, tools made out of dark matter, and much more. I really love this mod. It makes Minecraft infinitely more interesting and if you’re someone like me who’s getting bored of Minecraft, give this mod a look at and be prepared to get sucked back in.
Damn thass allota wrenches!
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                I’ll do my best to describe my set up so far. Right now I have my laboratory as I’ve been calling it and there are two rooms in it so far. I have a room for storage with probably six double chests in it, and I have a room for my machines. On the roof of my house I’ve got a couple of wind mills that generate electricity into my battery box. From the battery box I run power to an extractor for which I’m perpetually funneling rubber wood into with the help of some redstone engines. Rubber is extracted from rubber wood which I then pump back into the storage room (you can use rubber to insulate copper wires, which is what I’m primarily using it for). I’ve then got power going to a macerator which is being fed various ores that I’ve found and turning them into powder. You get two powders for each ore and what you can do with that powder is smelt it back into an actual ingot. I’ve been doing my smelting with an electric furnace so I don’t waste coal. This whole set up means I get twice as many ingots for each ore that is fed to the machine. The ingots are then fed back to the storage room for later use and the best part about it is that I don’t have to lift a finger. Everything is automated so I can go mine some ores and then have them turn into useful ingots all while I’m working on other things. It is really a cool setup and the next step is to build a quarry so I don’t even have to mine anymore, I’ll just sit back and reap my rewards, oil baron style.

                My setup doesn’t even scratch the surface of all that is possible, and there is just too much to talk about when you’re talking about the technic pack. With that in mind I’m going to save any more writing on Minecraft for next week when I have a little more machinery under my belt. But yeah, I hope this was enough shlock to satisfy your monster sized appetites. I know MMwMM is coming up, so you’re going to need all of sustenance you can gather before then so you can survive against the harsh drought that occurs whenever Mike writes an article. Stay strong y’all, and we’ll get through this together.
Well ain't you special

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: I Wanna Be The Very Best

       Why is it that there is always a shipping delay on my pre-ordered games from Amazon? It’s frustrating, but not enough to break through my frustration threshold, which would force me to interact with an actual person when making my purchases. Nope, for now, I’ll keep grinning and bearing. What game was I shafted out of 2-3 business days of playtime? Why, Pokémon Conquest, of course! I didn’t play much else for the week, other than Kid Icarus: Uprising. But I’m not gonna talk about that here because I talked about it here. However, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a full review about this game or not. I happen to like what this game’s got cooking.  Regardless of what I say in this post, I may still write one. But I’ll probably be too lazy to do so. I happen to have a very packed summer, you know. I’ll give you my two cents after you, too, scent what this game is cookin’.

My vote's on the Jigglepuff
       This Pokémon installment is a little different than previous one’s because it happens to be a strategy game. Yeah, no, that didn’t help? Ok, picture Final Fantasy Tactics, but throw in some more pikachus (which I, surprisingly, haven’t seen a single one of after about 12 hours of gameplay) and you’re in the clear…or whatever. I’ve also heard it described as Dynasty Warrior meets Pokémon, but that might just be for the story. Speaking of which, you play as a warlord of a kingdom in the Ransei Region, which is home to about 0 new Pokémon. You’ve got this chick, Oichi talking to you about stuff when your kingdom gets invaded, I think. I don’t remember how the beginning goes, but basically there’s this legend that this super cool legendary Pokémon that created the Ransei Region show itself to the person that controls every kingdom in the region. There’s this evil dude that is trying to do that so that he can basically wreck everything. And you’re trying to stop him by…taking over all the kingdoms? So you’re not so much stopping him as you’re beating him to the punch. It’s around this time that you realize that you’re character only s’got one little buddy, an Eevee. But since you’re a warlord, master strategist, Oichi let’s you tell her how to move her Jigglepuff. 

Mmm, I'll see what I can do
       Let me explain some of the specifics of combat. The pokemon (assume that “é” is in this and all future uses of the word) only know one move, which is good because it doesn’t have PP attached to it but is also bad when the move it knows isn’t the type that you want it to be (like the first flying pokemon you get and need only knows quick attack…). There are also warrior powers that’ll buff you in some way. These can use once a battle per warrior you’re using. I guess the level (basically strength) of the pokemon is the “link” percentage between you and your pokemon. It goes up after every battle depending on how effective it did in the fight. You can link with wild pokemon during battle if one of your warriors is able to. Every warrior has a certain number of pokemon they can be linked with and it changes from warrior to warrior. You want to link with other pokemon because every warrior has a specific pokemon that they can 100% link with and it’s probably a big deal when that happens but I haven’t done that yet. 

Uh, friendship?
       But that link thing is a big deal. That’s how you evolve your pokemon and, in some case, how you evolve your warriors. Yeah, you read that right. PEOPLE EVOLVE IN THIS GAME. It really only the warlords that joined you from other kingdoms but it’s still awesome. This allows for faster movement of your pokemon, increases link capacity, can change the 100% pokemon to something better, and all that and all that. They get all that from, basically, just putting on fancier clothes. Awesome!
Mike evolved into Super Mike!
       If you beat another warrior’s pokemon with a super effective attack, he’ll ask to join your army. You can also gain more peeps by beating the pokemon in less than 4 turns and/or not taking any damage from that pokemon. Yeah, so you basically just go from place to place, capturing other kingdoms and getting people to join your army. I think it’s pretty fun. It’s different than the regular Pokémon formula, but it’s a creative twist on an old classic. The combat’s definitely a lot more strategic and you have to watch your unit placement on the overworld, lest you be invaded yourself. Hindsight says that this was a match made in Pokéheaven and should’ve been thought of earlier. The sad part about it though is that I know my good buddy, John, would like a game like this, but according to the back of the box, “Basic reading ability is needed to enjoy this game.” Sorry, man.

"STOP MOCKING ME!" -- John Mikula
This is already running kinda long, yet I still have so much to say. I get I have no choice. My two cents is that I have more to talk about. Whether or not I’m able to focus enough to write a full review is yet to be determined. I’ll try to play more games for next week.

Your pal,
Mike McGee 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                Alright y’all, sorry for the late upload but when you wake up at noon and work a nine hour shift there really isn’t a lot of opportunities to reflect on one’s busy week of playing games. This ones probably going to be pretty short because I'm writing it so late, but I'll try to be smarter about when I write these in the future. If you’re a loyal shlock-head and have been following my escapades for the past few weeks then you’ll know that I’ve been looking to play Silent Hill 2 for quite a while. Hell, I think even the very first Weekly Shlockness mentions how I’ve been looking for a way to play that game. Well my lovely and talented readers, thanks to a very awesome lady friend of mine who graciously relinquished her copy unto my slimy, claw-like grasp, I have finally been able to play Silent Hill 2. Not even the imminent disappointment of another MMwMM could sully my good mood this week, so without further ado (which is apparently the right way to type that phrase) let me tell you about Silent Hill 2.
You don't say
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                It’s pretty cool. There are a lot of similarities between this game and the first game which (believe it or not) kind of came as a surprise to me. I was half expecting something similar to the jump from Resident Evil 3 to 4, especially when the Silent Hill games aren’t exactly canonical. Don’t ask me why I thought this, I’m just really dumb. Anyway, I’m a little over six hours in and I’ve been doing a lot of the same things I did in Silent Hill 1. I’ve been sifting through the fog of the crappy little lake town, looking for ammo, running from monsters, occasionally visiting the hellish altered Silent Hill, and trying to tolerate the (supposedly) normal people walking around Silent Hill. Seriously, what the f*ck is up with Eddie?
hey pass the weed...and the pizza
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                What is probably the coolest addition to the formula is the infamous Pyramid Head who I think is one of the coolest video game villains probably of all time. The first time you see him he is behind a set of bars and is completely inaccessible to the player. Until you walk into a room he just stands there starring you down…and it’s pretty creepy. What’s even creepier is when you walk in on him, not once but twice, having his way with a mannequin. It’s pretty messed up. Now, Pyramid Head himself is in no way dynamic. He shows up at specific points and does specific things so he’s not like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3; but when he does show up it sudden and entirely unexpected. I was walking around the roof tops of the hospital and I made sure to survey the entire area before going to the next door to progress. It’s not until you’re just about to open that door when good ol’ Mr. Head shows up to throw you off the roof. Meanwhile I’m sitting there yelling at the T.V. “Where the sh*t did you come from!” When stuff like that happens it makes me feel like his triangle ass is everywhere just watching me. It’s pretty unsettling and I’ve been catching myself jumping at shadows because I think it’s Pyramid Head coming out to f*ck me.
"I only know two things, raping and stabbing. Take your pick"
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                Beyond all of that the scariest part of Silent Hill 2 (and this is true for Silent Hill 1 as well) is the sound track. I don’t know who they got to compose music for this game but they should be given at least three trophies for their work because the sound track is outstanding. Same thing goes for the Foley work as well. Occasionally the typical monsters in the game will get on their bellies and start sliding around, and when they do they make this horrible rusty metal scratchy sound that is truly maddening. It’s as if instead of chalk in school they had razor blades, and instead of a teacher it was Mike McGee reading the latest MMwMM (truly terrifying). Footsteps echo in just the right way, and all the doors are wonderfully creaky. Without these sound effects the world of Silent Hill wouldn’t feel nearly as vivid as it does.

                The story, yet again, doesn’t make any sense so far. You play as this guy James who went looking for his dead wife after he received a mysterious letter from her. Spooky, right? Things get derailed quickly as you meet up with some crazy hooker, a fat slob, and a bratty little girl. Now I don’t really know what’s going on and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get any clear answers any time soon; but I’m ok with that. The narrative is hazy and disjointed in a very Silent Hill fashion that makes it feel distinct form anything else. It is also part of why I like this game so much. So far I’m having a really wonderful experience with Silent Hill 2. It builds upon the previous game in a great way and would be a great addition to anyone’s collection.

                A lot of my week was Silent Hill, but I did manage to play a bit more of Resident Evil 4 and a bit more of Psychonauts. I’m happy to say that I’m still enjoying both games very much and if you want to know more about what I think of those games then you should check out last week’s Weekly Shlockness because there really isn’t much more for me to say about them (yet). With that in mind I've got to go to bed. I hope this column has proved to be somewhat readable in my exhausted state. The things I do for you Shlock-heads. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Impromptu Backlog Week

         I’m in kind of a pickle here, Shlockheads. I had a specific direction planned out for this MMwMM, but for one reason or another, there’s really no reason why it didn’t pan out (boredom mostly). I was left with almost no games to play this week (the long list of backlogged games I still need to get to doesn’t count). Then, I was struck by a stroke of unfathomable inspiration. I suddenly found myself playing games from a long list of backlogged games that I still need to get to. ‘Twas, truly, a miracle. All right, Impromptu Backlog Week is a go!

Contrary to Groan-inducing pun belief, this game is a little flat
        Ah, I have so many fond memories of Paper Mario. Even though I’ve played all of them, most of the memories are from the Gamecube title, Thousand Year Door (imagine a “Paper Mario” in front of that subtitle). These are very clever titles and they really run with the whole “paper thing,” in a good way. I’ve been playing Super Paper Mario, which is by no means a bad game, it’s just not as good as TYD (see further back in paragraph if confused by acronym). Let’s talk about some good things first. I really like the concept and execution, for the most part, of switching between 2D and 3D. It brings a lot of depth and challenge to some of the puzzles and it’s pretty cool to see how the environments change between the two perspectives. I think the combat compliments the design choices that were made. It’s comparable to an action RPG. It makes combat quicker, which I particularly like because, I feel like I have time to actually explore the environment and find secrets and stuff. The secondary abilities of the partner characters make sense and are effectively used during the game. And the writing keeps that dear ol’ Paper Mario humor that I’ve come to know and love. I have no specific examples because I didn’t write any down and I’m too lazy to do anything about it.

Google searched Super Paper Mario humor. Hey, that spanish subtitle kinda likes it
       “That’s sounds like a pretty good game,” you may be telling yourself. “Why’d dumpo say that he liked some other game bedda?” Well, lemme tell ya ‘bout it, stud. Aside from the story, which is pretty solid so far, the game doesn’t really do much to keep the same RPG feel that previous Paper Mario games had. First of all, the different areas where you get the stars or whatever are set up into levels or stages or however you call them. So the adventurous, exploratory, nature of the game is constantly being interrupted at the end of the stage. Especially when, a lot of the time, the next stage starts you off right where you left off, like literally EXACTLY where you ended the last stage. And I like the combat, I really do, but I feel like an asshole wagglin’ the Wiimote around trying to get those style poses after jumping on an enemy. So I don’t even try to do it half the time and half of the other half of time that I actually do try, it somehow, God knows SOMEHOW, it’s unable to register my incessant flailing. 

       Yes, this doesn’t seem like much (and that’s probably because it’s really not), but that’s why I said it’s just not as good or polished as TYD is. It’s not a bad game, like I said. In fact, I’d recommend this to fans of the series and even to fans of casual RPGs. I would, however, encourage people looking to try out a Paper Mario game to check out Thousand Year Door (fine I wrote it out, jeez).

Ain't I a stinker
      I know what John, and maybe even you, are thinking, “THE F*CK?!” (you know, 'cause John always censors that stuff). I started playing this way before John picked it up, so shut up! But he did a pretty good job covering it in his post so check that out. I just wanted to briefly talk about the Wii controls ‘cause that’s the version I have (*groan*). The motion controls are used quite effectively here. Aiming is thankfully precise and, thankfully, there isn't much in the waggle department, thankfully. I feel like I have more control over Leon and can sure as hell guarantee that I’ve wasted fewer bullets than Accusatory Mikula over there. That’s basically it for this game. Check out that other guy for a not-lazy-as-hell-and-cop-outesque take on the game.

Aw yeah! Xenoge- er, blade...Xenoblade, yeah!
       That short segment gives me room to talk about this guy. Xenoblade Chronicles isn’t much of a looker, graphically speaking, but it more than makes up for it. It’s a long game so haven’t even scratched the surface at about two and a half hours in, but so far the story is awesome. The opening showed these two colossal gods fighting and they end up killing each other at the same time. And that’s where all of the life in this universe lives now. Now dat’s pretty sweet. You’ll have to forgive me for not going into detail about the actual story, but I’d definitely start rambling and nobody wants that. It’s an action RPG, probably in more of a traditional sense than Super Paper Mario. You have to manage your position, attack choice, heeding the amount of agro your getting, and combo-ing off your allies’ attacks. It’s certainly intense. I winning?
       I also enjoyed some of the quirkier things in the game. For starters, the main guy’s name is Shulk. Shulk?! How goofy is that, right? On top of that Shulk, along with all of the voice acting, is British, which I had no problem with, but once my sister sat in and starting mocking all of the dialogue in a British accent, I started to hear how goofy it really sounded (still good though!) Another weird thing is when you start playing as the girl (yep, too lazy to look up the name. I think it’s like Flora or something) you’ll be running around and stuff. If you make her jump the voice clip they picked sounds like she’s getting punched in the gut. She’s like “HHGGUWH!” It’s friggin’ hilarious. If you like RPGs, then get this game. I’m not joking…I’m not even joking. Even the fact that it’s a Wii-only title shouldn’t deter you because this game supports the use of Classic Controller Pro. In fact, my copy even came with this accessory. There’s no excuse, seriously.

100% waggle free
      Well, Impromptu Backlog Week was a success in my opinion. You might be wondering about the intensity, or, more accurately, a lack there of, of my response to John’s insensitive response to my rare and untreatable sleepwalking condition: Sleep Corrupting. It is people like you, John, that are treating this disorder like a lame, unfunny, joke response to another person’s shameless defamation of character. Nobody’s gonna fund research to find a cure for something that nobody thinks is a real disease, especially if it’s not even funny joke, at least. I hope you’re proud of yourself. And to the Shlockheads at home, I hope you enjoyed this week’s MMwMM. Stay tuned during the week for some of our video-related content and come back next week for more of the same. BAI!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula: Ain’t no way I’m putting subtitles on this sh…Aww F*ck

Hello Shlock-heads. If y’all have been following this blog then you know I’ve been getting pretty deep into Hitman Blood Money. Well today when I went to load up my profile I was greeted with a big fat CORRUPTED SAVE FILE where my profile should be. Mike please! I know I made fun of your column, but I said I was sorry! Leave Agent 47 out of this! He’s never done nothing to nobody! Now I have to go back and start all over from the beginning which I absolutely hate. With that in mind, it will probably a week or two before I summon the patience to get through to where I was in Hitman in order to keep playing. In the meantime what else can I play? Diablo? Nah! Mass Effect 3? F*ck that. Oh I know! It’s perfect. I’ll just play a bit of…
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Yup, good ole Resident Evil 4. I bought this game a little while ago out of bitterness when I couldn’t find a copy of Silent Hill 2 anywhere. As of this article I’ve only played an hour and seven minutes of it and I’m already out of bullets, out of health sh*t, and having a great time. The controls are sh*t, but in a way it makes the game scarier. I was running around the first little village, not knowing what to do, and this guy with a chainsaw starts coming at from down this little path. So, I try to run back the way I came, but because the game uses tank controls I couldn’t just turn around go, I had to tuuuuurrrrrnnnn arrrooouuunnnd and go. Everything feels very slow and stiff, which I don’t actually think is a bad thing for a survival horror game. If you could just turn and get the f*ck out of there it wouldn’t be nearly as scary as when you have to stop, stand still, and tilt the analog stick left for a second before you can get the fuck out. Beyond that I don’t really have much to say yet, the game seems fun and I’d really like to play more.
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Because I thought my week wasn’t freaky enough I started playing Amnesia: The Dark Decent as part of the Humble Bundle. Now, I think this game is one of the smartest new horror games to be released in a while. It’s got great atmosphere, it’s got some cool mechanics, and, most importantly, it’s scary…or at least it would be if I was playing in the dark with some headphones on. Like most horror movies/games you’re environment matters when trying to figure the effectiveness of the horror elements, but I’ve seen gameplay of this online and I deemed the only way I could play this game was with the lights on in the middle of the day with my sh*tty laptop speakers. All of that kind of ruins the mood (like when you’re out with a smokin’ hot lady and she tells you she reads MMwMM) but then again that’s kind of my fault. The game blatantly tells you when you first start “Hey! You should prolly play dis sh*t with the lights off and with some headphones. Thaaaaaanks!” But even with all of my precautions the game still manages to be freaky as hell. There are creepy zombie dudes walking around, every things dark until you light up a few candles with tinder boxes (which are very sparse), and you occasionally go insane. An interesting mechanic in this game is your sanity meter. If you stand around in the dark or witness some creepy sh*t, your sanity meter goes down. When the meter gets low enough your screen goes all fuzzy and your movement is impaired. To counter this you have to have to stand in the light which means you have to use up one of your ever-so valuable tinderboxes. However, if the area is too bright monsters start to come (or so I’m led to believe, I’m too nervous to try it) and those guys are serious business because you don’t have any weapons and it doesn’t look like you’re going to get any weapons. I’m only a couple hours in so I haven’t seen too much of the game but I’m going to keep playing and see if it gets any spookier.
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My week wasn’t all zombies and piss stains, also started digging into Xbox classic Psychonauts via the Humble Bundle. Again (I know this is sounding redundant) I’ve only gotten a couple hours of playing this game in this week but from what I can tell this game is (unlike MMwMM) a charming and vibrant addition to gaming culture. The premise for this game is very interesting if not a little nonsensical (even by the games standards). The idea is that you’re a kid at some kind of summer camp where they train children to become some kind of psychic super soldiers known as Psychonauts (where have I heard that name before?) and the player is left to run and jump their way through the minds of the counselors/students of this camp in a 3d platforming fashion. What I don’t get is why are children being trained for warfare? Seems kind of dark for a Double Fine production buy hey, everyone’s got to mix it up a bit now and again. When I got to the actual game the thing that I noticed is that there is a ton of stuff you’ve got to keep track of. At any point in the game there are arrow heads you have to dig up, scavenger hunt items you’ve got to look out for, merit badges to collect, figments, cobwebs, psi cores, baggage tags to collect, all of which contribute to your camp rank. When you get this rank up to certain levels you can then get new psychic powers which seem to be the core of the experience. It’s nuts, I was forty-five minutes in and they’re still introducing things for me to collect. That may sound a bit crazy but when it’s all presented to you on screen it gets pretty manageable, so it doesn’t detract from the game.

The other thing I noticed while I was playing is that Nickelodeon hasn’t picked up this game and made it into a cartoon show which I found shocking because it looks right up their alley. The style looks like a mix of Jimmy Neutron and Rugrats with just a hint of insanity. The whole game is really fun to look at and the story bits you get are very well produced I feel. The voice acting is spot on and the personalities are unique and endearing. The whole presentation of this game just oozes charisma and I’m loving it even if the gameplay isn’t really revolutionary (not yet at least). So far everything gameplay wise seems a bit standard. You run, you jump, you throw stuff, and you do typical things of that nature. This isn’t a bad thing because those elements are executed rather competently but these Double Fine guys invented such a clever universe and I would have loved to see all the clever mechanics they could’ve come up with.

Well, that’s all I’ve got this week. We’ll see if Corrupty McGee over at MMwMM will keep his sticky fingers off of my save files this week. Keep your eyes peeled, he could be anywhere.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Maybe I'll Subtitle These

       I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with something consistent to open and close these weekly gems of mine. It seems as though John was having the same trouble. Unlike him, however, I’ll take the high road because that’s where the more talented people belong. That still leaves me intro-less. Um, hey! You guys see that E3 stuff? Prooty cool, right? Well, stay tuned for Shlock-clusive coverage of E3…in about 2-3 years if at all. This week's MMwMM is gonna be a little shorter than most (read “most” as “the last one”). I’ve been busy editing and getting ready for an extra special little some-some to celebrate our 100th video. Needful to say, I didn’t get to a lot of games, but enough of that, down to buisness (Strong Bad reference, give me and the auto correct on Word some credit).

Picture from photographic memory
       Yeah, you thought that E3 shtick was just random filler. Now, don’t you just feel silly? I played a little of the demo for Lego Batman 2: Then the Subtitle, for the 3DS. I’ve always loved the Lego series. It’s probably its simplicity and fun-loving nature that draws me to it. Regardless, Lego Batman 2 is one of 3 Lego titles coming in the near future along with Lego Lord of the Rings and Lego City Undercover, which is pretty sweet. The demo takes you through, what I presume to be, the first level and right off the bat you’ll notice something different: dialogue. It was surprising to hear at first but I think I like it. I don’t really have a reason; it just makes the game feel nicer. Whatever, moving on! So Bruce Wayne and Lex Luther are at a table waiting to hear who won the Man of the Year Award, which Bruce wins. Then a bunch of Batman’s villains show up and like steal a bunch of stuff and Lex is like “Hmm, I’m gonna team up or something.” Then Batman shows up with Robin and the gameplay begins. It plays like the previous installment except they added some nice polish to the fighting, like a Arkham Asylum/City style slow motion “killing blow” that’ll randomly happen sometimes. It makes you feel cooler and stuff so I like it. 

       Again like the first game, some of the puzzles require Batman to put on different suits, which allow him to complete different tasks like sneaking past security cameras and giving him x-ray vision to find hidden do-wrongers. But, playing through the level, you also see spots where other super heroes’ll come in handy. There’s some super strength spots and Green Lantern spots, which you obviously can’t do yet 'cause you're Batman. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll balance Batman’s suits with the powers of the other super heroes. So you beat all the villains down and the demo ends. If you’ve got a 3DS, check this out. And if not, you can wait for Lego City Undercover or more likely Lego Lord of the Rings. And if you haven’t played a Lego game before, now's the perfect time to start.

From Wikipedia, so it may not even be a picture of Punch-Out for all I know

            I also played some Punch-Out!!(NES) on the 3DS virtual console. I’m going a little retro if you don’t mind. Everything about this game is just swell. The music is catchy and fits the mood pretty well, the boxers are well designed and full of spunk, and the game itself makes a fun experience out of punching and dodging. For those of you who happen to be uninformed, Punch-Out!! lets you take control of Little Mac, an up and coming boxer with a dream of winning it all. You meet a lot of interesting and stereotypical boxers along the way, all with their own unique fighting patterns and shortcomings. If you are good enough, you’ll be able to go toe to toe with the man himself: Mike Tyson. But if you get the game nowadays, you’ll fight Mr. Dream instead. At least I think so; I’ve never gotten that far. I’ve only gotten to Mr. Sandman. I don’t know why I said "only" because he’s the penultimate (yeah, look it up!) opponent. There’s so much right with this game that I think you should at least try playing it by ANY means necessary. Just don’t get me involved in any court cases. There’s not much else I can say about it. It’s just something you’ve gotta experience for yourself. Now, courtesy of Youtuber, sk8dork, a long time apathist of the show, I'll leave you with the most inspirational thing since...uh, sliced bread I guess.

       Now that you’ve drunk the sweet nectar that is MMwMM, may your week being filled with you not dying. And, shh, don’t worry. We don’t have to tell John that you like my posts better than his. He deserves a little self-confidence, wherever he can get it. Stay tuned for more Shlocky goodness during the week. Byyyyyeeeee!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

Hello dear reader. Now, I know you’ve since repressed everything that happened before you read MMwMM (or as we call it: ‘The Event’) in order to keep your mind from splintering into tiny, unctuous fragments of what was once sanity. But for those of you who weren’t smart enough to hunker down in your six foot deep, lead covered safety cubes designed for whenever Mike publishes an article (your McGee zones); I had written last week about how I played Silent Hill for the Playstation and how much I enjoyed it. So, for this week I wanted to go out and get Silent Hill 2 because I hear that as good as the first one was the second is even better.  However, when I got to Gamestop and asked to dude at the counter if they had a copy they told me that that particular store didn’t sell PS2 games anymore. That’s bullshit, right? So I went to my (not so) local Disk Replay to see if they might have a copy and, after sifting through the piles of non-Silent Hill sh*t, they didn’t. So no Silent Hill 2 for me this week, but it did give me a chance to go through my backlog of un-played games that I own and crack into the Humble Bundle 5 (but more on that later).
Cover art for  Alice: Madness Returns published by Electronic Arts
                I spent the majority of my week playing through Alice: Madness Returns that I got for six bucks on steam. All in all, after the 12 hours it took me to beat the campaign, I liked it. You don’t see a lot of 3D platformers anymore (hell, even Nintendo has switched to 2.5D with Mario and Donkey Kong) and that’s a shame because I grew up with 3D platformers and I always thought they were good for a fun time. Alice manages to give the genre some merit in this generation. A lot of the game is what you would expect (running, jumping, etc.) but it does those things very well I thought. There’s a good arc to the jumps, you have a fair amount of control in midair, and the movement is tight and responsive. Traversing the world feels pretty good.

There is some collecting but it’s pretty dumb. Most games make it a challenge for the player to collect stuff. You’ll see a coin or some sh*t off in the distance and you have to do like, 3 mega jumps on moving platforms to get to it. In Alice what they’ll do is they’ll either hide their secrets (memories as it were) on the other side of little hidden keyholes that you merely walk through to get, or you’ll have to jump on invisible platforms to reach a secret way off in the distance, or you can find a flying pig snout and shoot pepper at it until it sneezes and reveals a secret. None of these methods are hard to perform and none of the secrets are hard to find so it never really feels worth the hassle to gather all the secrets.

What I thought really worked well was the combat system. As is typical with platformers, in between jumping there’ll be a few random dudes that you have to merely jump on or kick out of the way to progress. In Alice the combat encounters are much more engaging. You’re given four different weapons throughout the game and each one is useful for different types of enemies. One guy blocks your normal knife attacks so you have to break out your giant hammer to get through his block, and another guy is flying so you have to shoot him down. I found myself switching to different weapons multiple times in most of the fights to deal with all the enemies so I was engaged in that regard, but then I started having to consider the encounter and manage the scenario in different ways than simply killing all enemies on screen. I would think to myself “ok, I have to kill the flying guys first because they shoot mines on the ground and I need a lot of space to dodge this other guy’s attacks and I don’t want to be running into the mines. Then I have to take out these little guys so they don’t attack me while I’m locked on to this big guy.” Stuff like that made the combat encounters engaging and fun and I really appreciate how it was handled.

Beyond that there isn’t too much to say. The art/graphics are clean, stylized, and beautiful while the story bits are sparse, pandering, but still kind of fun in a whimsical sort of way. Now, I don’t know if this is just the PC version because I didn’t play the others, but I encountered quite a few bugs that were particularly annoying. For a while I would switch to my pepper grinder shooty gun and I wouldn’t be able to switch back to my knife until I exited out of my game and came back. Also there was many a time when I would be going for a really long jump and as I was trying to steer in midair the game would lock up for half a second and would throw off my momentum. I would completely miss the platform I was aiming for and fell to my doom. These glitches were irritating but I feel that the good things of this game outweigh the bad things and it’s probably worth a look at if you’re in to that sort of thing.

picture from:
While I was looking for Silent Hill 2 at Disk Replay I saw another PS2 game that I hear so much good stuff about but never had a chance to play. That game is Hitman: Blood Money. I’m four missions in and having a blast with it. If you haven’t played the setup is you’re some kind of amazing hit man for some kind of mystery corporation and for each scenario you’re given a target(s) in a big open space and you have to take them out in whatever way you can. I am just really amused at how many different ways there is to off your targets in any given scenario. I just got through with one level where you have to take down this guy who’s living in the suburbs under the witness relocation program. His house is guarded by FBI agents so you can’t just walk into his house, but he is setting up a birthday party for his youngest kid, thus giving you many ways in. You can dress up as a caterer and sneak in a gun inside a tray of food, you can knock out the clown and take his get up in order to sneak in, or I found that one of the neighbors has some tranquilizer darts in their garage, and another neighbor has a airsoft gun in a tree house overlooking your targets back yard. You can then tranquilize the guard dog and sneak in through the side, then once you’re in there’s whole other shitload of ways to actually kill the guy.


I went for the clown route (which I find is often the best route). I waited for the birthday clown to come out to his car and when he did I shot him full of poison, threw on the uniform, and stashed the body in the trunk of his own car. Then I went into the house I stepped over to the grill and rigged the f*cker to blow with some well-placed lighter fluid. A short while later the target’s wife started to light the grill and she was engulfed in a fire ball (No, I’m not a psychopath, she was carrying something on her that I needed to collect). Then, I found a spare FBI suit in the target’s sauna (yea, that f*cker has a sauna in his house!). When you wear the FBI suit, all the FBI guys think you’re one of them so you can just waltz right past all the security up to the target’s office and introduce him to Mr. Fiber Wire. A non-descript walk down the street later and you’re off scot free!

That’s only one of the god-knows-how-many different ways to complete that mission. The game doesn’t even tell you how to complete the mission, so you feel like a sadistic badass when you figure out that you can dress up as a clown and blow up the grill. As I’ve said, I’m only a few missions in so I don’t have too much more to say about the game at this point, but I will say that I’m having a wonderful time and Hitman: Absolution just became much more interesting.
picture from:
If you recall a whole 1234 words ago, I mentioned that I bought the Humble Bundle 5 and have been getting into that. If you don’t know the humble bundle is a charity drive that asks you to pay what you want for a set of indie games (this set offers eight amazing games. Here’s the link: You can divvy up you’re payment in any way you want between the game’s developers, the charity, or the humble bundle guys themselves. This is a really great offer and I would strongly encourage anyone who’s into games to check it out. One of the games you get with the bundle is a little time bending puzzler known as Braid (maybe you’ve heard of it). Throughout this game you platform your way through six worlds collecting puzzle pieces to complete that world’s main puzzle. Ironically getting to that puzzle piece is a puzzle onto itself. You’re given the ability to turn back time at will; so, let’s say you’ve just read MMwMM, you can rewind time to go back to the time before you’ve read the article in order to stop the bleeding. I’m three hours in and (with a few glances at a walkthrough) I’ve completed five worlds. It’s a pretty short game, but the puzzles are hard as sh*t, so if you aren’t a cheater like me it will probably take you a good bit longer to get through. The time stuff is cool to experiment with and makes for a pretty fun experience to watch yourself play an entire level in reverse. Braid is very smart, and I don’t really have anything bad to say about it. If you like puzzles and you like games, this is a nice little puzzle game.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Now, you’d better kiss your loved ones and climb into you’re McGee zones because MMwMM is coming in three more days. NO REGRETS! (Just kidding Mike, you know I loves ya.) 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee

          I'm glad I'm not burden with the explanation of these weekly (*cough*) posts. So without further adieu, raise your hand if you've been wondering what I'm been playing this week. Hmm, either you guys don't have hands, or you're just pullin' my leg. Well, if being a part of Shlockness Industries has taught me anything, it's that if people don't want you to do something, it's most likely because they feel like you're making everyone else doing similar things really jealous and they fear for your safety. Luckily for you guys, the Chief Shlock-xecutive Officer* (aka, Mr. CSO himself, John) has set a strict deadline. I'm lead to presume that this is a knee-breaker. Wow, I say “without further adieu” at the beginning of the paragraph...sorry about that.

picture from: internet (their official website)

            First up on our tour is a fascinating little gem entitled, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II. From the makers of blah blah blah Episode I, comes the second installment (you've just read a useless sentence). It's gonna be hard for me to take off my fan eyeballs for obvious reasons, but I'll try for the sake of “you, our lovely and talented reader” (now I owe John like 14 cents). I found this game to be a noticeable improvement over the first game. They've improved the physics to make it feel more like classic Sonic, while also adding some cool elements to make it seem distinct for the game that this game is, more or less, based around, Sonic 2. Tails is used as more of a puzzle-solving element as opposed to a “follow you for a few seconds before he dies or gets stuck...because he's dumb” element. From flying over obstacles, to swimming with Sonic, to a new combo-super-spinny spin dash, Tails' presence seems justified, which is a good thing. The bosses are also really awesome, especially the final boss. There's chaos emerald and red ring collect-'em-alls, you know the drill. It took me about 8 or so hours to get through and collect everything and another hour maybe to get through the special “lock-on technology” missions with Metal Sonic. These are accessed by owning both episode one and two and consist of playing through four acts from Episode I as Metal Sonic. This serves to explain what happened with Metal Sonic between Sonic CD and this game...he's get like mystical powers or something, I'm not too sure but I had fun with it. There's co-op locally and online, but I haven't tried that out because none of my friends have this game. Doesn't seem like it'll add too much though. The game's currently running (haha, unintentional pun) for about $15. If you haven't already picked this up, I recommend looking into it when the price drops a bit. Here's hoping for an Episode III. Whatever you say...
            Coincidentally, I played another episodic title this week, Telltale's “point-and-click” epic, Back to the Future. Telltale has done a good job entertaining me in the past, with SBCG4AP and Inspector Hector (both episodic) and they continue to do so here. I finished episode two this past week and have been thoroughly impressed up to this point. The voice cast is awesome mostly because of Christopher Llyod reprising his role as Doc Brown and A.J. LoCascio doing such a good Michael J. Fox impression that you probably wouldn't have known the difference if I hadn't told you just now. The story is engaging and well-written and the puzzles can be pretty challenging at times. But if you get stuck, you can receive hints. They'll usually provide 2 or 3 hints that increase in clarity with each subsequent hint before the straight up tell you what to do with the last “hint.” This does, in theory, give you the opportunity to breeze through the game in like 10 minutes. I said “in theory” because I'm unaware of any deterrents from doing this because I ain't no cheater! There's 5 episodes and, if my current rate continues (2 hours/episode), you'll be enjoying about 10 hours of Back to the Future good-feeling happenings. Look up how much they are, because I'm too lazy to do so. I highly recommend this one to fans, non fans, and jerks alike.

The Game
                  I'll wrap up this MM(w)MM with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I picked this up back in like December and just recently got to it. Based on that one Disney movie, the game follows the unnamed Prince of Persia adventure to restore time after getting hoodwinked into releasing the Sands of TIME oooOOooOOoo. All kidding aside, this game put a different spin on action-adventure. It focuses more on getting around than the actual combat. This helps serve two purposes, helps the game from growing stale and repetitive with challenging platforming puzzles and transforms the would-be redundant combat into a pretty awesome occurrence where you have to be strategic. Trust me, I have like 25 deaths worth of experience. The time elements work pretty well, and I think that's because you could go the whole game without using them. They don't feel gimmicky, they feel helpful. There are also some secrets here and there. I had no idea what these like secret fountains did for about half the game until I figured out that they increase your max health. It's a unique experience that I think you'd enjoy. 

Whelp, that's it. I've gotta figure out a better way to end these things...byyyyyeee!

*John is really co-CSO.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

Originally, when Mike and I first started this blog, we had intended to write full on reviews for the games we were playing alongside of our Let’s Plays and other video non-sense. Now, if you’re an avid Shlockhead and like to keep up with all of our Shlocky doings then you’ll know that reviews on this blog are few and far between. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t our fault, but game reviews take a lot of love to compose. Every sentence must flow into the next, a picture must be painted in the readers mind, and our points/criticisms must be dispersed with ever so much care and compassion that the reader is ladled into a hypnotic state and feels as if they are playing the game themselves. It’s an emotional hurricane writing video game reviews which is partly why we haven’t gotten around to writing as many as we’d like. The other reason is that we’re both busy as sh*t. In order to mitigate this, both Mike and I will each be writing a shorter column each week on the games we’ve been playing for that particular week. We’ll relay our thoughts/opinions about the game and (if you’re lucky) maybe a funny quip or two so you, our lovely and talented reader, can get a better grasp on what these two Youtube sensations think about games both new and old. So, without further introduction, here is your weekly Shlockness.

picture from:
                So, I’m a big Arkham city fan. I think that this whole Batman Arkham franchise is one of the smartest and most entertaining new franchises to hit this generation. With that said it should come as no surprise to you that I went ahead and got the new DLC pack Harley Quinn's Revenge. Basically Harley has gone a bit manic depressive since the end of the main game and is building some sort of super attack force to break out of Arkham City. At least, I think that’s what happens. They don’t really go into too much. All you need to know is Harley is nuts and has a bunch of guns, so she needs to be stopped.
                It’s then up to the player to stop her. You’ll go around the new building that this DLC pack makes available and take part in some rhythmic batman brawling with a few silent predator sequences thrown in to spice things up. You get to play as both Batman and Robin in this DLC which is pretty cool. Robin controls basically the same as Batman yet still manages to seem not as badass. You’ll do this for about an hour and a half maybe and then it’s over. Yea…it’s pretty short, but it’s fun regardless. If you liked Arkham City then you’ll have a fun time with this. The only problem is that this DLC pack costs ten bucks. When all was said and done I found ten dollars to be a little pricy for what you get out of this pack, especially since there isn’t really any big plot twist or story point revealed in the whole thing, which was kind of a letdown. I got this because I thought maybe it would act as a transition to the next Batman game, but that is not the case.
                When I was through with that (that very same night even) I started playing something I never thought I’d play; Silent Hill (the first one for PSX). Now, the reason I say I thought I’d never play this survival horror classic is because I’m kind of a pussy who gets scared really easily; however, I have a friend who raves about this franchise fairly often; and the way he described it sounded pretty cool to me. So, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go.

picture from:
                Turns out I had a really fun time with this game. It wasn’t really as scary as I thought it would be; instead, it was very atmospheric. There’s a lot of ominous music that plays and the art style is creepy but what really worked well was the feeling of isolation I got while playing. It’s an open world environment, so you’re left to just wander around Silent Hill, and the town is completely deserted (a few monsters and creepy townsfolk excluded). That, accompanied with the ever present fog of Silent Hill leaves you with a horrible, isolated feeling of dread that got me pretty tense basically the whole way through. The game could have easily been much scarier, but I appreciated that it wasn’t. There are so many spot where, had they placed some zombie monsters, I would have sh*t my pants. But they didn’t, and I am thankful for that. Also, there is a lovely radio on your character at all times, and the radio emits static if enemies are near; so if your radio is silent you can feel free to relax for a moment.
I beat the game on easy mode after a few days. At first I started playing on normal but I kept running out of health drinks and ammo and I thought to myself “if this game is scary AND frustrating I’m never going to get through it” so I nudged down the difficulty. Turns out easy mode is pretty damn easy. I always had plenty of ammo and the basic monsters do, like, no damage. Playing on easy was actually a pretty good decision because the combat system isn’t very good (the game employs tank controls, so it was pretty hard to position yourself for a good melee attack) however, with the easy mode edge, enemies went down much quicker/easier and the combat system didn’t feel like too much of a deterrent. As I said, I had a really good time with Silent Hill. If you haven’t played it, it’s worth picking up.
That’s it for my portion of weekly Shlockness. Check out this blog Monday (maybe) for all the crazy sh*t Mike’s been playing this past week.