Monday, July 30, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Going for Gold

       We, here at Shlockness Monster, hold the highest regard in national pride. That’s why, in honor of the ongoing Olympithlon Bowl, I’m gonna play some games that can loosely be traced back to those first Grecian fun times. I’m putting as minimal fluff into this as possible so that you can get back to cheering for the good guys to beat those yellow-bellied chumps for the gold (not meant to be racist, so don’t ban me! <-- topical). I’ma start things off with the highly appropriate, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Super Fallout 3 Edition)!!
Japan seems really over-represented at these Olympics
       So, in Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games: Super Fallout 3 Edition (for brevity’s sake, I’ll just call it Fallout 3 for the duration). You play as Mike, who was apparently born in the 101st fallout shelter or vault because of a nuclear bum. Mike’s dad, Liam Neeson, wants nothing more than for his son to be an Olympic gold medalist. Unfortunately, Mike’s specialness is in intelligence not strength. A devastated, but still proud, Liam Neeson leaves the vault, which was equivalent to crucifying Jesus in terms of time-out time given as punishment. His quest is to find a way to bring intelligence competitions to the Olympics. Some stuff happens and you leave as well in search of your dad. You basically have to help people out so that you can go find your dad or something, but everything’s all busted up because of the nuclear bum. The radiation is worse than the Beijing Olympics and you’ll easily rack up the radiation if you don’t watch what you eat and where you step.
And this is where you'll be working. You get used to the radiation after a while, don't worry.
       I haven’t gotten very far in the game, but from what I’ve seen so far, I can say that I appreciate them bringing up this issue about the Olympics not including events that test your mind as well as your strength. I would’ve also liked to see more of Mario and Sonic in the game, but like I said, I’m not that far into the game. The environments in the game do a lot to emulate the feeling of a boy on his way to the Olympics. The inward anxiousness and tension is reflected quite beautifully in the desolate landscapes and dilapidated cities. They even go so far as to make the player actively fight off bandits, vicious dogs, big bugs, mole rats, walking crab goons, and super mutants. All of which represent a different type of temptation a young athlete faces, the most notable being the representation of steroids through super mutants. If you’re not careful your hopes of making your dad proud and writing your name in the history books could end up six feet under.
Oh THERE he is!
       I know it’s a little early for me to be talking about replay value, but it’s some that I have to address. I would venture to say that the replay value of this game is extremely low based on extrapolating my current experiences. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the journey to the end of the game seems like it’s going to be a hell of a time. And I don’t want to seem elitist, but my experience is probably going to be better than most. I mean, the main characters name is Mike, just like mine. He has more intelligence than strength, just like me. And his dad is Liam Neeson…ok, so two out of three ain’t bad. So I’m not complaining about the première experience, but they could’ve expanded on the story a bit by telling it from different angles. Like maybe you could have a dude that was a favorite to win a medal, but has to overcome his addiction to some addictive substance in order to do so. Or maybe you could play as some jerk who hates the Olympics and does everything he can to get everyone to hate him. Those are just a few examples of things that could be possible with a little customization. Alas, you’ll only get to experience the incredible story of Mike the Thinklympian. Maybe they’ll experiment a bit in Mario and Sonic at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games: Fallout 4 Edition.
This is what a think of your stinky Olympics, BLEEHHH!
       That’s it for this week! Enjoy those Olympics and root for the good ol’ red, white, and blue. But only the RWB with the stars and stripes…and say USA on the uniforms. Go Team! Before I officially sign off, I’ll be serious for a sec and say that I’m really enjoying Fallout 3 and if you’re really in the dark about this game and were expecting to get the scoop on the game, MMwMM style, I have two words. First of all, shame on you as a gaming researcher to look on a blog for your first taste of a game. Secondly…you know, I had a ‘secondly’ but now I’m drawing a blank. Well, anyways, you should search it on the Googs and educate yourself. Remember what Mike always says, “You can’t go for gold if you suck.” See you next week!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                Hello Shlockheads! Welcome back to Weekly Shlockness because who needs those damn Olympics anyway? Why watch the greatest athletes in the world compete for national greatness when you can sit in front of a computer screen and read about how some pudgy white guy was playing video games all week. Now that last week’s DayZ-palooza-athon is over (at least on my end it is) we can get down to discussing some real games. Fans of DayZ can’t even get offended at that crack because it was pointed out to me that DayZ was not meant to be a real game, but more of an anti-game. The creator supposedly wanted this mod to be some sort of self-contained world with no real gameplay goals that people can simply exist within. If this isn’t true then you can blame my correspondent at Daniel Parker Industries because I’m certainly not going to look it up for myself. What do I look like, a legitimate writer? It would, however, explain why the game isn’t very much fun to play. Now that that’s out of the way lets dig into this juicy, delicious, Shlockness cobbler that we call a blog.
Ingredients: 1 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup of baking sh*t, 1 store bought cobbler
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                To kick off my week I started replaying God of War 2; because hey, why not? For all you Martians out there, God of War is a game that has the player take the role of the Spartan Kratos as he hacks and slashes his way through various Greek myths and legends. I’ve had a soft spot for the God of War franchise ever since I played a demo of the first game at a buddy’s house when I was but a wee lad. I fell in love that day, and when the full game was released I immediately went out and bought it with no hesitation or remorse. The first God of War is one of those rare games that when I beat I immediately turn around and start playing it again, that’s how much I loved that game. The first level when you’re traveling from boat to boat and killing hydras is one of my favorite video game levels from any game I’ve ever played. It’s dark, it’s stormy, and hydras are punching holes in your sh*tty wooden ships; but Kratos doesn’t care. Unlike his loser sailor buddies who promptly begin to freak out, Kratos gets pissed off and starts jumping around, kicking ass, slicing dudes in half, and stabbing hydras in the eyes, neck, and belly. There is just something so raw about it and it does a really good job at making me feel like a complete badass every time I play it.
"Kiss my Grits"
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                Now, that was God of War 1; I’m here to talk about God of War 2. In my mind a sequel should expand upon the ideas of the original game but still feel as if there is a connection between the two. God of War does this extremely well. The formula doesn’t change much but rather it gets expanded upon in all the right ways. The quick time events and the combat system remain virtually identical, but now you get new weapons/magic to use so you aren’t forced to press square, square, square, triangle over and over again. The world also retains the same aesthetic, but now you are introduced to many more characters, locations, and events. Everything feels very similar yet much improved since the last game. I’m going to make a bold statement and say the God of War 2 is a better game than God of War 1. However!!! I find myself having a better time with God of War 1 than God of War 2.
very bold indeed
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                This is entirely my fault though and it has to do with nostalgia. God of War 1 was my first experience with this franchise and it holds a very dear spot in my heart. When I was playing that game for the first time I didn’t know what to expect, everything was grandiose and new. The thrills were thrilling and the chills were oh so chilling. When I play that game I am reminded of these feelings and it makes me feel young again. Going into God of War 2, I kind of knew what was going to happen. The visceral nature and the sense of scale, these things were all old news to me by the time GoW2 rolled around. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy GoW2 because I very much did; it just doesn’t have that warm punch in the gut that comes with my memories from the first game. Playing this game nowadays is still a lot of fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played a God of War game before.

                Sure, hack and slash games are fun and all but it always seems to be a little too noisy for my sensitive ears. I’m going deaf playing these things! And they’re always filled with so many mountains. I mean, come on people. Are we as gamers so ineloquent that we can’t enjoy a nice, small increase in altitude without it being so freaking extreme? Luckily I was turned on to this game that I really enjoyed quite a bit that seems to address all my issues; it’s called Bayonetta.
There were many better pictures I could have used, but I didn't want to write "Picture from:"
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                JUST KIDDING! It’s Silent Hill 4: The Room. While it may not be as scary as the Murder Room, it’s still a pretty good game regardless. You play as Henry Whateverthefuckhislastnameis and you are stuck in your one bedroom apartment somewhere that isn’t Silent Hill. I don’t mean Henry is some sort of hoarder, or a shut in, or even one of those crazy dudes that hoard shut ins. Someone has physically sealed off every possible way out of your apartment with big chains and locks. Things look grim until you find a giant man-sized hole in the wall of your bathroom. Naturally you decide to climb on in and the survival horror action ensues.
"Look you're really sweet and everything but I'm just not into giant floating heads"
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                There are a couple of differences between this Silent Hill and the previous two that I’ve played (1 and 2 in case you were unaware). For one the world isn’t quite so open anymore. When you step into the hole you’re dropped into a small enclosed area that you can muck around in, be it a forest, a train station, or what have you. From there you proceed to beat up monsters, collect sh*t, wander around, and do other Silent Hill things. When you have done everything you can do in that area you are transferred to another area where you are expected to repeat the process again. It’s as if you played Silent Hill 1 but instead of walking around the town of Silent Hill between key areas you’re just teleported there. This is an interesting change because I always liked exploring the town to see all the creepy stuff that was there; however, the core gameplay mechanics are still present and they do manage to implement some interesting new things that I feel are a really cool supplement.
For a game titled "Silent Hill" there is a surprising lack of Silent Hill in it.
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                Remember that room I mentioned earlier? Well, you can go back to it. If you find one of the many special holes in the game you are teleported back to your locked up room. While you’re there you can do a lot of stupid sh*t like spy on the people in another building through the window, peer at your lady neighbor through a small whole in the wall, or look out your doors peep hole. Occasionally you get mysterious letters slipped under your door. So far it seems my favorite part of this game has been returning to the room because there’s always something new to behold. It gives me a chance to unwind, check for letters, see what’s going on outside my peephole, or maybe listen to the radio. The room is my creepy little escape where my health regenerates, I get a chance to save, store my items (we’ll talk about this in a minute), and nothing can harm me.

                The biggest problem I have with the game is its new inventory system. You can’t carry as much sh*t as you want like you could in Silent Hill 1 or 2; you only have about ten slots to store all the things you find in the world. This means that you have to store extra things in a beg chest in your room, which in turn means if you need something that you don’t have you’ll have to find a hole somewhere to go back to your room and get it. Also, items don’t stack, so if you want more than one health drink at a time you have to waste more slots carrying all that stuff around. This inventory renovation doesn’t add any real depth to the gameplay like the resident evil 4 inventory system; all it really does is make the game more frustrating.
"This is neither the biggest nor the dirtiest hole I've been in this night"
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I’m willing to forgive this grievance of mine because the core Silent Hill experience is still very strong in this iteration. The environments are still very scary, the Foley work still excellent, and I love going back to the room. I’ve always heard that the Silent Hill franchise has only gotten worse with age, but from what I’ve played so far I don’t think this is the case. I’ve been consistently entertained with this franchise and I’m always left wanting more. If Mike would take some notes on these games maybe he could get more than just his sister to read MMwMM. Ah well, to each his own I suppose, and on that note I’m going to wrap up with Weekly Shlockness. Maybe next week I’ll have a post up before midnight, but I highly doubt it. What do I look like, Superman?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Top ( ) Lessons Learned in DayZ

       As John clearly stated in his article, my week was mostly spent playing the exact same game as he did: DayZ. Contrary to my esteemed colleague’s belief though, I actually prefer tackling this second. In the real world, going second has a lot of perks. Let’s say you get arrested and you’re sitting in an interrogation room. The first cop has to come in and explain who he is, what he’s involved in, and why you’re connected to it. Then he’s gotta pee or something, the next guy, the second guy, doesn’t have to go through that and can immediately start grilling the guy if he wants. Historically speaking, going second was a means of survival. If the first guy died doing something, then you probably shouldn’t repeat the action. So, whether or not John wants to believe it, he’s done me a solid by explaining the concept and mechanics of the game. So, what am I gonna write about it? I basically admitted that John sufficiently covered it. I’ll write about the one thing John’ll never take away from me: personal experience. And, to make it easier for me to write, I’m introducing a new segment to MMwMM: Top ( ) Things I Write Before Stopping! I’m too much of an “in the moment” writer to know how many things are gonna be on my list until I’m done writing it, which could be at any point. And by that point, there’s no way I’m going back and changing it, are you kidding? So prepare your hand to meet up with your inevitably sinking head in the most glorious of facepalms, it’s the Top ( ) Lessons Learned in DayZ (in a carefully disregarded order)!
So, is DayZ like Day #26 or...
1.  It’s All About Luck

As John explained in his article, we have yet to find each other while playing together. Granted we’ve only tried twice and we didn’t know the area, but it’s still a fact. However, John and I had very different first experiences with the game. John was still downloading everything when I first logged in to meet up with the other two friends we were playing with. It was decided (probably with a coin flip) that I head to the right, following the coastline. I shrugged off the long run as something everybody’s gotta experience. None of the houses I past had loot and I soon attracted my own gaggle of zombie disciples, which made loot stopping impossible. About 20-30 minutes into my walk, John finally shows up and I’m like, “Prepare for the long haul, man.” But he’s all like, “Lol, nope! My fat's gravity pulled a weapon and supplies to me and our friends found me right quick.” It was a devastating blow to little DayZ Mike and he ended up dying of thirst to the merry rumpus of his friends havin’ a good time. 
"I can't carry anymore stuff, I'll just throw away this useless soda!" -Good Friends
It’s a tragic story, but it’s ripe with lessons. A lot of this game is chance, maybe you’ll spawn close to a big town and maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll find a helicopter crash and all it has is a Lee Einfield and some heat packs. Maybe you’ll get sniped two steps into your spawn. Sure you can figure out where you need to go, but you can’t predict what’s gonna happen along the way. So be prepared by…
huh, I thought for sure that you spawned with an bad.
      2.   Buddy Up, Babe

     I guess you could get away with not having a buddy, but there’s really no point to, especially when you have the option to play with someone you know. It took me about 4 hours of total gameplay, but I finally, finally, met up with my friend, Dan. Fans of the show might recognize him as the sponsor of the 20th part in the Shadow of the Shlocklossus series. The whole DayZ experience changes when you got a buddy. Not only in the obvious way of having some help shootin’ up zombies and having zombie bait when your friend runs out of ammo, but friends can give you blood transfusions. All you need is a blood bag and a buddy and you can instantly return to full health. It’s a lot easier getting blood from a buddy than it is to force it out of some dude at gunpoint. A buddy can make those long treks worth it and they don’t seem as long sometimes. If you’re gonna play, get yourself a buddy. Oh, and one more thing. If you ever find yourself in a house and you hear shooting outside and then footsteps in your house. The guy that you mow down probably is using this same buddy system…save yourself some embarrassment.

I'm not fallin' for that "AIDS" BS! GIMME YO BLUD!
      3.     Drugs Do Wonders for the Body

      Now that I had my buddy, it was time to explore the wild. Dan acted as the guide as we made our way wherever the hell he wanted to go. Shootin’ zombies and looting along the way. We found many a barn and many a ammo and supplies. We even lived off the land by killing un goat and cooking that meat right up; mmmm, Bear Grylls style. Eventually we stumbled our way to a military fort, with big stonewalls and a big guard tower. Naturally, a climb to the top of the tower was necessarily, but the stairway was narrow and in lack of guardrails. Needless to say, I fell…a long way…No, no, no-ing all the way. Upon impact, my legs shattered and my blood jumped to 9000 from the max 12000 and I was bleeding so that number was steadily dropping. I couldn’t move my character and there was a big hourglass on my screen rapidly emptying. I did the only thing a man can do in those situations: panic. I’m yelling in my mic for Dan to come save me as he carefully (of course) makes his way down. The hourglass had completely emptied by the time he got to me and I figured out that the hourglass indicates the time in which the player can’t do anything. So I got bandaged and received a transfusion, but my legs were still shattered so I was pretty much boned. Boned, that is, until I got my hands on some morphine! This miracle juice reset my bones and allowed me walk again! It didn’t cure my on the shakes, though. I had to take extra painkillers for those. It was like it never happened.
"Rev up those fryers...MY LEG!!"
        4.   Zombies are Scary, But Deys Dumb!

I forget were this happens chronologically, but there was a time when Dan and I had some zombies on our tail and no way to get rid of them. We found a barn and Dan went inside to find weapons or ammo or whatever the hell it was that we needed while I kept the zombies busy, which basically consisted of me running in a circle just outside the barn. The zombies couldn’t touch me. Dan found a few things and, as I listened to his findings, I fail to realize that I’ve caught up with the last zombie in the circle and he promptly breaks my leg (it happens way more than it should). I see that familiar hourglass but don’t see zombies attacking me so I assume that they think I’m dead. I let Dan know and he comes out of the barn to the sight of me on the ground getting eaten by zombies. The hourglass is emptying really slowly and I was going to bleed out before I could get them off of me. I accept the fact that I was gonna die, but Dan walks here up to where I’m at as notices that the zombies don’t give a crap about him. So the next step, logically, is to give me a blood transfusion and morphine. I outlast the zombie hourglass, get up, and run away. After I bandaged myself, it was like it never happened. So next time you’re getting eaten just have your buddy transfuse some blood to ya. No problem!

Makes a good DayZ Buddy, too
      5.     Don’t Do Anything You’ll Regret

     In Dan’s and my adventuring, we met up with our other friend, AJ (a closet Shlockness fan), and promptly saved him from his zombie discipleship and gave his annoyingly heavy panting character blood, food, and water. We would’ve found John next, but he wasn’t playing that day. Instead, we headed to a nearby barn to maybe find some weapons. Then he showed up. Some dude named User strolled in and claimed he had nothing and was looking for his friends and would appreciate and such. I was online when both John and Dan experienced death by another player, but I trusted that this guy had nothing so I wasn’t going to be hostile. We debated whether or not to kill the kid; I voted no but there really wouldn’t be much I could do if Dan or AJ decided otherwise. We ended up giving him a weapon (with no ammo, we’re not stupid) and helped him find his friends. The friends were being followed by a big pack of zombies and we ditched them without shooting a single bullet.
I brought you a present. I agro'd them myself!
They died about 5 minutes later and there is really no way of knowing if it was because of those zombies or not, but I definitely regret what I did. We definitely should’ve killed that guy and his friends and it’s this regret that helps me understand why John and Dan got killed. If I don’t know you in real life and you don’t do something to gain my trust before I see you, I’m shooting to kill. Just look at poor Alex. I shot him in the back of the head; poor sucker didn’t even have a pack on. But I don’t do anything I’ll regret.
      6.     You’ll Poop Your Pants…Hardcore!

     Soon after our escapades with the Regrettable Trio, we got as far as the nearest city before the server crashed. The next server was chosen. It was a good semi populated server but it wasn’t until I clicked join that I noticed that it was on hardcore difficulty. We had some pretty decent gear so we weren’t too worried. But it did, if you can believe that! I load up in the city and the first thing I hear is just a barrage of gunfire and then three people died. They didn’t really pull any punches; it was time to leave the city. Uh-oh, I can’t leave first person mode; uh-oh, I don’t have visible crosshairs; uh-oh, I can’t see the nametags of my buddies; and UH-OH, there’s a friggin’ SNIPER in the city with us. This was the most exhilarating and heart-pounding things I’ve experienced in the game so far. We couldn’t even run across the street without mentally preparing ourselves. We couldn’t care less about the zombies in the city and tended to flat out ignore them in our scurrying. We were scared to shoot the ones that started following us lest we alert unwanted attention.
I think we should be good in the middle of the street
For whatever reason, we decided to loot buildings before we left the city. So we stressfully move from building to building. All the while, we hear the echo of gunshots and see the names of the their victims. But nothing lasts forever and AJ was the first of our party to join the list of victims. Strangely enough, Dan and I were more scared at this point. Not long after, though, Dan was also shot down, leaving me to face the sniper’s accurate wrath. I started booking it, but was encouraged to stay put because Dan and AJ were coming back for their bodies. I found a house to hide in and was prompt shot at through the windows. I hid in a back room and we eventually switched servers. I was the only survivor and we clearly weren’t ready to be hardcore…someday though.
AJ, NOOO...why didn't you have handgun ammo??

Well that’s one, two, three…six things, and holy crap is this long! Well, this was all thanks to John. His post provided the shoulders on which my article stands. They’re not really giant’s shoulders, but he’s pretty tall. I think DayZ is a blast. The flaws are there, sure, but there are work arounds. It may not be your style though, I'd watch a stream of the game or something before you buy anything. Here’s the part where I tell you that, in fact, I lied before about this being the only game I played. I just have nothing new to write about Pokémon Conquest. Just that: after the main story you get like 30 some missions to complete as different warlords or their second-in-commands some of which is basically completing the campaign again, but as this specific warlord. I wonder what will happen if I beat all of them…? If you were paying attention I just lied to you again, but I know you love the way I lie (no Word I don’t want to use “lay!” You’re ruining my out of place clever reference to an Eminem song, quit butting in!). Until next week, I’m the Real Slim Shlocky.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                This is going to be an interesting week Shlockheads. Mike and I basically played the same thing, so there may be a bit of redundancy to be had. No matter! Given no material is when a great writer shines. A true blogger can take the ashes of un-inspiration (unspiration) and mold them into a, f*ck I don’t know, a swan or something, using only their spit, tears, and many other bodily fluids. I like to think that shlocknessmonster-reviews has become a haven for this kind of blogger despite the fact that it definitely hasn’t. I mean, MMwMM? What the f*ck is that sh*t? No matter yet again! For I, John Mikula son of Jhern Mikula of the Weekly Shlockness, have come to piss on those who may doubt me and bring y’all a brief summary of the games I’ve played for any particular week no matter how contrived, redundant, or jaunty.

                Alright, now that my obligatory first paragraph is over I can get to the games. I’ve been playing a lot of DayZ this week, or as some of you may know it as “the only reason I bought Arma 2”. While I can’t speak for the suck-levels of Arma 2 I can say that I definitely have some mixed feelings about DayZ. The premise for this mod is that you’re a survivor in a zombie apocalypse. I know some of you may be sold on the originality of this premise alone but hear me out because the game only gets crazier from here. The entire mod is online only and when you join a server and start playing the game, you are dropped into this absolutely massive open environment completely at random. The map is dotted with forests, mountains, towns, and zombies and you’re tasked with pure, basic survival.
Not to be confused with 'Daisy' the beloved sequel to 'Flower'
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                This is actually one of my problems with the game. Your character has meters for their blood, hunger, thirst, and warmth levels and your top priority is to make sure that none of those meters ever run out. It doesn’t really get more complex than that. You can go about and find food and water just lying around in the environment so you have to explore the zombie wastes if you want to live for any real amount of time; however, my problems lie in the fact that there’s no real progression. It’s not like “I’m going to go get some food and them I’m going to kill the zombie king”. It’s more like “I’m going to go get some food and then I’m going to go get some more food”. I never feel like I’m working towards anything, I’m just trying to get enough to survive. I suppose that you can make up your own endgame scenarios like building a car or killing other dudes on the server; but when all is said and done the game feels formless and shallow.
Hey man! With graphics like these who needs depth and complexity?
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                One goal that I’ve been trying to achieve ever since I started playing was to find Mike. Remember when I said you are dropped into this huge map randomly? That applies to everyone and there is no way to designate if you’re in a party or not so you and your buddies are dropped in miles away from each other. For any other game this wouldn’t be a problem, but DayZ has to go that extra step to make things way more complicated. You don’t start with any maps, compasses, or anything that could possibly give you any idea of where you are, which means finding people is bloody impossible. I’ve played with Mike on Skype for hours and I have yet to see him in game once. It’s always “I’m by the light house” followed by “which lighthouse there’s a f*cking thousand of these things”. It’s frustrating, very frustrating, but not quite as frustrating as the jerks that play this game (sorry if you’re not a jerk and still play this game).
"Don't take this personally, I just NEED your can of Chef Boyardee"
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                DayZ is supposed to be about realism, therefore you die after basically one shot hit you. When you die, that’s it, you have to start over. All of your items are left on your corpse so there is a cool survival incentive to go around and kill everyone you see in order to take their stuff; however, I find that people just like to be dicks. A buddy of mine was murdered in cold blood by a couple of dudes, seconds after they urged him that they wouldn’t cause him any harm. I myself was shot dead by a guy I was trying to protect from zombies. It’s such a pain in the ass when you’ve been playing for three hours, you’ve found a nice shotgun, food, and a bunch of ammo, only to have all of it taken away by some douche who was able to sneak up behind you and get a quick shot off.

                But what may be the most frustrating aspect of this game are all the glitches and bugs. Sometimes items will float in the air and you can’t grab them, zombies will walk through walls, your character will perpetually walk left, and you’ll be teleported to a specific spot over and over again after hours of traveling. This mod is extremely buggy and not in a funny way either. These glitches are extremely irritating. I know the game is in alpha still so I’m going to cut it some slack; but be warned, if you are trying to get into this game, look out for these bugs because they’re fierce and they’re hungry for blood.
Relax. It's all part of the game
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                Now, I’ve done a lot of bitching about DayZ, and it clearly does a lot of things that I can’t praise, but god damnit part of me still kind of likes this game. I really like the ideas and the spirit behind this game. A hyper realistic zombie survival game in a huge open world that you can do basically whatever you want in; that sounds really cool! I’ve taken to calling DayZ a ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ kind of game. Wouldn’t it be cool if you’re dropped into a zombie apocalypse with no tools of survival? Wouldn’t it be cool if you had to find food and water to survive? Wouldn’t it be cool if you had to use the stars to navigate and find your friends? While all of that sounds really cool, none of it works really well. The game certainly has its audience; however, I find that it’s tedious, boring, buggy, and not a whole lot of fun. My recommendation is to do a bit of research and know what you’re getting into before you shell out the thirty bucks for Arma 2 so you can play this mod. Be sure that you’ll be into this kind of experience lest you waste your precious, precious cash.
              I think that covers all of the bases for DayZ. My heart goes out to Mike who now has to write another post all about DayZ even though I think I’ve said everything that needs to be said. That’s the beauty of not being constrained to alliteration. If my name was Timmy and my column was called ‘Timmy’s Tuesdays’, I’d be screwed. But Mike’s a smart dude and I’m sure he’ll think of something to say; and who knows, maybe he liked the game more than I did and will have a few nice things to say. Beyond all of that I got a chance to play a little El Shaddai again, which is part of the reason this post is up so late. I don’t have much more to say about that game, it’s still very good and I hope to finish it one of these days. On that note I must say that it’s getting late and this Shlockness Monster needs his rest. G’night y’all!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Makin' Mom Proud

       After this week’s Weekly Shockness, I have six choice words for my associate: I’m glad you took my advice. I hope you liked those words, because I picked them out myself. Back when we decided to do these weekly blogs, I made a bet with myself that I would stay consistent on the weekly schedule longer than John. Avid followers of Shlockness know that this week marks my victory over myself in said bet. Now, not only have a bought myself a week of ridicule-free lateness that can be used anytime in the future, I scored $5. It was like stealing from people with intelligence less than or equal to that of an infant. Coincidentally, the reason John was late on his article was because he was literally doing what I just simile-ed about.
"Did he just insult his own intelligence?"
       Well, Thursday was Ol' Drunky's, a close friend of the show's, 21st birthday and, much to you doubters’ collective dismays, I’m gonna spin this into an awkward segue so just hold tight. I took an hour train ride to go eat some Irish food and watch her get “tipsy” as she calls it. Luckily, everybody in the group had something productive to do so I was able to prepare for this blog in lieu of pleasantries. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is definitely the black sheepquel of the series. There are a lot of interesting things about this game. It’s the only direct sequel if you don’t count the other one(s) and most of it feels completely different than it's spectacular predecessor. Since I don’t own this on the NES, I had to do some research to find out the story of the game. Much to my surprise, you find out why it’s called the Legend of Zelda in the first place. Here’s my quick overview of the story: 
"Hey there, Dreamboat..."

Link: “Yo, Impa! Check dis thing on my hand!”
Impa: “Nah, I got ya beat. Check out this sleepin’ babe.”
Link: “Whoa, who is that pretty mama?”
Impa: “Man, that’s Zelda!”
Link: “What?! That looks nothing like the one I saved.”
Impa: “Duh! This is the ORIGINAL Zelda…we made a legend about her *wink* but     srsly you gotta save her.”
Link: “Where’s the one I saved?”
Impa: ¯\(°_o)/¯
Link: “Fair enough. Now this ancient scroll that I can read says I gotta put 6 crystals in Easter Island Heads, so I’ma go do dat. See you in 12 years!”
-End Scene-
"...not you, Shipwreck!"
       The gameplay is very unique when it comes to other Zelda games. You fight enemies in side-scrolling environments, which are entered through the weird looking overworld. When you kill the enemies you see that little numbers float out of them and that’s probably the time that you realized that you’re getting experience. This is probably the reason that some people like to think of Zelda as an RPG. When you level up you can level up magic, attack, or health. Each one costs a different level of experience so, for example, say you don’t want to level up health after you get 50 experience points. You rather level up magic first for whatever reason and that costs 100 experience points. You can cancel out and then be halfway to 100 experience points, which you feel is better because you would’ve had to start from 0 if you got health. Personally, it’s just easier to just level up what they tell you to. It’s way easier to get track of and if you get a Game Over you lose the experience you gained. So it’s better to level up something when you can.
"What the hell! No Welcome Home Party?!"
       Speaking of magic, there’s magic in this game too. You get them from old dudes in every one of the towns you visit. I only have two spells so far: shield and jump. They add that extra layer of strategy to the game that is a staple of any Zelda game. If you’re perceptive you’ll think that I’ve only beaten two temples. Well, you’re wrong! You can get the spells before you complete the temples so I’ve only beaten one. This brings up the next thing I want to talk about: the difficulty. I’ll put this as easily as I can: this game is really hard. I had played this game before on an emulator and only got as far as Death Mountain. It seems darn near impossible at some points. It’s hard because of the limited movement provided in the side-scrolling segments. If you get caught in between enemies you’re gonna get hit…a lot. Even if you’re objective is running, you’re gonna get hit a lot. You can’t move in three dimensions like the first game. But there’s a jump button, which is particularly rare in a Zelda game. Most of the enemies take more than one hit and can hit you before you’re in range to hit them. Thankfully the control is responsive for movement and attacking because there is a lot of precision and timing needed to take down a lot of these varying enemies.
Thanks for warming me up Mr. Dragon. It's a bit nippy outside.
      I also managed to pay a visit to Prof. Fitz Quadwrangle this week, but not on that same train ride. I’ll be brief, since most of you have lost interest by now and either closed the window or are scrolling for the short paragraphs. I gained access to the Slow-mo dimension, which opened up a lot of interesting puzzles. However, this also slapped me with the challenging of overcoming the jumping on floating objects learning curve. least I'm not in school
       That frustrating learning curve came right on the first slow-mo puzzle, in which you must traverse six or seven launched objects over a death pit to get to the other side. For whatever reason, the nameless wonder has the acceleration of a drag racer and will overshoot the target object if you move and then jump. Naturally, I eased up a bit started undershooting it. Soon, I got the feel for the jumps and could make my way across like 3 of them before I messed up. Maybe I’m just really bad but I died like, no joke, 20-25 times. The only reason I didn’t rage quit was because of the entertaining phrases that are shown when you die.
There are better ones, I'm just too lazy to take my own pictures
After that puzzle room, though, I found the puzzles to be creative and reasonably challenging. It just baffles me as to why they put so many things to jump across, 3-4 would’ve been sufficient. It was easily the most frustrating part of the game so far. If I don’t experience any more of those frustrating situations, I’ll chalk it up to a lapse in skill.

       My mom read last weeks post and didn’t like how I swore so I tried to do better this week, because I love my mom! I’ll talk atcha next week, Shlockheads!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                It has come to my attention that some of you (mainly Mike….actually, only Mike) see my clever jabs at MMwMM as a ‘tired gimmick’ and feel that I should ‘mix it up’ a bit. I would love to abandon my integrity and write Weekly Shlockness with the same redundancy and contrived nature that Mike McGee does but I like to give my readers something though provoking and meaningful. Sorry Mike, but I’m afraid I can’t stoop to your level; however, I must borrow from the book of McGee and use one of Mike’s own tired gimmicks by prefacing this column by saying I haven’t had much time to play games this week. I played a little more Resident Evil 4, and I got around to trying two games that I’ve never talked about on this blog before. That’s what we in the biz call ‘whetting your appetites’.
S-T-A-L-E. If you're going to insult me at least do it correctly.
                I haven’t finished Resident Evil yet, but I am still managing to have a fun time with it and I’ve noticed a couple things about the nature of this game itself. Playing this next to Silent Hill has been an interesting juxtaposition because it demonstrates two schools of thought behind the survival horror genre. There’s the more controlled and atmospheric approach which usually tend to have more of a psychological horror effect, and then there’s the intense, split second approach which will usually have an emphasis on the action.
"I often stop to enjoy the quiet subtleties of the resident evil franchise"
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Silent Hill (and even Amnesia) utilizes the former of these two survival horror types. Every enemy you face in Silent Hill is treated with the same consideration you would give to every other enemy. Although they’re sparse and slow they’re still threatening and they take up quite a bit of ammo to defeat. I found myself asking “is it worth it” whenever I was faced with an enemy. The answer is often no, but I still wanted to kill every bad guy because if they did get their grubby hands on me then I’d be screwed. Ammo is important in a game like this because you’re always saving up for whatever is around the corner despite the fact that you need it now.

Resident Evil (at least Resident Evil 4) takes the more intensive route. I never feel afraid of using ammo in this game, but I do try and be efficient about it. If I see dudes coming, I’m going to blast them, but you have to blast them in the right spots to do the most damage (shoulders, ankles, wrists, all the usual spots). You do this not because you’re not afraid of using your ammo but because you’re afraid of running out of ammo. The scariest time I had this with game was when I sold my pistol for what I thought was a really good pistol. Turns out it was a magnum and it uses a completely different type of ammo. I was left running around this castle trying to figure out how to make my five shotgun shells last until I can find the merchant again or find a way to stuff my fifty handgun rounds into my magnum. There is also strength in numbers with a game like this. Twelve dudes to fight is a lot of dudes, and when they start flanking you and you get backed into a corner just trying to see past the waves of people coming to eat your skin it gets a bit a bit intense. Moments like that are why Resident Evil 4 is still a viable survival horror experience.
"I'll show you a viable survival horror experience! Gyahajghah!"
With all of that esoteric bullsh*t out of the way I can now tell you about some of the other games I’ve been playing this week. Even though I bought it many, many months ago I finally got around to playing The Binding of Isaac. In The Binding of Isaac the player takes to role of a small boy who gets locked in his basement by his psychotic Christian mother after the voice of god tells her to do so. At that point the game becomes a dungeon crawling rogue-like where you blast back deformed creatures with your tears. What’s interesting about The Binding of Isaac is that even though it’s a rogue-like at heart it still isn’t like anything I’ve seen before it. Granted I’m not that into rogue-likes, but I know that most of them are turn based, Isaac is not. I know most rogue-likes let you build your character RPG style before you enter the dungeon, Isaac does not. A lot of rogue-likes are stats based in their combat, Isaac isn’t. “So John, what is Isaac if it’s none of those things?” I hear you asking. Well my dear reader I’ll tell you what The Binding of Isaac is.
It's the most hear felt, feel good comedy of the summer
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The main components of this game play like a top down shooter. You enter a room and you use your mouse to aim tear blasts at your enemies until the room is cleared and you can progress. The rogue-like elements come into play from the randomly generated dungeons and the items you can find. There is also permadeath, so once you’re dead that’s it, you’re dead for good. At that point the dungeon resets, you lose all of your items and you must start all the way back from the beginning. I’ve mentioned the items a couple of times now because they really seem to be the heart of the game. By opening treasure chests or buying them from vendors, the items are what allow you to customize your character. They can change your attacks, movements speed, health, and secondary skills not always for the better. There’s at least a hundred items in the game and it’s fun to see what kind of crazy effects you’ll wind up with by the time you die. I don’t even mind that the game doesn’t let me customize my character from the beginning because my lives don’t usually last that long anyway and the randomness adds an exciting element to the mix. The shooting is pretty standard and can get challenging when the enemy count raises; but really, it’s not about the shooting, it’s about surviving the torrent of random bombs and piles of sh*t and all the other wacky, twisted things that happen in this game. I’ve had a lot of fun with The Binding of Isaac so far, and I’ll recommend it to you if you’re looking for a cheap, good time without all of the gonorrhea.
I can't make the same promise with this game
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The other game I’ve been playing this week is the original Twisted Metal. Now, I’ve had a long and dirty history with this franchise dating back to my very early years on this planet. Twisted Metal is one of my favorite franchises of all time and I’ve played each of the game to a great extent except for the granddaddy of them all, so I’m sure you can understand my excitement when I saw this gem sitting in the middle of a rack at my local Disk Replay. After playing for a good couple of hours I can safely say now that Twisted Metal is a franchise that has gotten better with age.

The single player and the multiplayer modes of any Twisted Metal game are often two completely different beasts, with this game being no exception. I played this game on the solo campaign and I did not have a good time. The vehicles do not handle nearly as well as they need to in order to be remotely accurate with the weapons you’re supplied with. Unlike the newer games, your car needs to be moving forward in order to rotate around, which means that if your opponent is off to your side you’ll have to rev your car forward a bit until you are able to turn to face them and by that time the other vehicle will have already sped off. It gets very frustrating. Even more frustrating are the weapons. The newer games put a good amount of homing capabilities on the basic weapons because it gets pretty hard to be accurate with a missile going eighty miles per hour. The weapons on this game have basically no homing to them at all. You have to be deadly accurate if you want to hit anything but that paired with the horrible controls for the cars and it becomes almost freaking impossible to win a match. It’s also worth mentioning that the graphics are so bad that it becomes a hindrance. If an item pick up or an enemy car is more than a few meters away they become nothing more than a handful of pixels on screen and it becomes really freaking hard to spot anything on the tiny, tiny maps.
Heath Ledger can kiss my ass. Sweet tooth is the only clown for me
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But then there’s multiplayer and the game starts to redeem itself a bit. In multiplayer all of those problems I mentioned earlier are still there, but your opponent isn’t the computer. In single player, your enemies don’t consider the over pixelization of the graphics or the ridiculous car handeling. They know how to play and stop at nothing to win. Whereas in multiplayer, your opponents have the same handicaps that you do, so the game becomes less of a challenge and more of a fun mess to slop around in. Hell, I had fun with a couple of buddies experimenting with some crazy meta rules like ‘who can go the longest without banging into a wall’ and ‘who can figure out what Hammerhead’s special does’. While the game has plenty of problems I still liked it. I got nostalgic chills when I saw that polka doted ice cream truck rolling down the street shooting missiles at stuff. Oh Twisted Metal! I can’t stay mad at you!

My name is John Mikula, and I thank you for reading Weekly Shlockness.
Need I say more?
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Monday, July 9, 2012

Mike's Mondays with Mike McGee: Quantity over Quality

       If there’s one thing I’m, then it’s a proponent of contractions. About a third of the way down of that list of things that I’m, it’s that I’m a man of my word. I spoke-talked an agreement with yous guys about the procurement of several hours of gentlemanly leisure in twixt I would ascertain a more solid understanding of said medium. I had a family reunion this weekend so I didn’t get to play an exorbitant amount of the previewed game from last week, but I did get to play a lot of other games. There’s a motif this week for you readers at home to look out for, and it’s quantity over quality. And speaking of suchly, I shall now state the title of said embodiment of my promise making: Quantum Conundrum!
You don't need eye protection eh, nameless nephew o' mine? Think AGAIN!
       In this adventure, you play as Little Forget-Me-Not-An-Impossibility as you are dropped off at you super sweet uncle’s house. I think he hates you being here but always shows you inventions he’s working on…he’s conflicted. This time, however, your uncle ain’t there ‘cause he’s working on some secret invention. But, like all things, something goes horribly wrong and your uncle finds himself in a strange place. Of course, you wouldn’t’ve a clue on these goings-on if the COM link didn’t still work. You’re perfectly fine, except the house lost power and you won’t be able to leave until you get it working again. So that’s your objective, not saving your uncle, not figuring out what went wrong, but leaving the house. I mean you just got there for science’s sake!
Oh you're in Limbo, k cool story. How to leave, plz?
       Your uncle begrudgingly let’s you use the very thing that sent him to his current predicament and not because he’s worried about your safety, but he just doesn’t want you touching his stuff. Turns out it’s a dimension switcher glove, whoa! Through some mumbo-jumbo that some design cleverly thought out for me to shit on with my thorough nonxplanation, you get access to heavy and fluffy dimensions when the batteries for those places are activated in range of the glove. The fluffy dimension makes things 10x lighters and the heavy makes things 10x heavier. The glove protects you from these changes so you always stay the same mass and stuff. 

       Thankfully for the player, the uncle–alright! I’ll look up the name already–Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, omigod! I forgot how awesome that was. Well, anyways, thankfully for the player, Quadwrangle (teehee) set up his house so that one has to solve puzzle room after puzzle room, ala Portal (probably because Kim Swift, the designer of this game, was lead designer on Portal), to get to the generators. You know, or else the game would be pretty boring. You can go back after completing a section and try to meet the time and shift goals by solving the puzzle with the least amount of dimensional shifts and quickest time possible. I haven’t gotten to the puzzles that involve the other two dimensions so look forward to more on this title. I haven’t even mentioned Ike yet…because I really don’t know what he’s there for yet. I also just realized that, unless you have steam, you haven’t even had a chance to play this game. I feel like I’m on one of dem fancy interweb review sitejiggers. Hot Dog!
I expect purpose! But you're soo cute, I guess I can make an exception
       I played more games with the family this week. One such title that I played was 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa for the Nintendo Wii (yep that's the title). As far as sports games go, this one is pretty simplistic. I mean if you don’t have a nunchuck in, the game will move your character for you! Can’t get much more simplistic than that. It’s a pretty fun party game, which is something I feel weird saying about a sports game, but if you meet someone who’s played this game, you’ll get the same reaction. There’s something satisfying about waggling to score goals and the waggling to hear that satisfying vuvuzela buzzing in victory. It’s really not complicated of a game to pick up and learn in like 10 mins and I’ll always pull this one out at parties for a good laugh.
Those silhouettes pop up outta nowhere. It's pretty hilarious
      This next game happens to be one of my sister, Catherine’s, favorites: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. This is a fun action hack and slashy adventure game that happens to involve a little bit of co-op. All your favorites are here, from Aragorn to Pippen and you fight your way through the story in three different tiers, The Path of the King, The Path of the Wizard and the Path of the Hobbit, like in the movie. The characters you play as level up and you can buy buffs and combo attacks with the experience points that you get. The game as an epic environment at times, especially during the big battle levels when there’s a lot of stuff going on in the background. The game is set up so that the more you attack the more you’re “skill circle” fills up. The more it fills up the more points you’ll get off of kills going from fair kills, to good, excellent, and perfect kills. There’re parry attacks that’ll get you to perfect mode automatically, which is perfect (tiddlyhee) for taking out huge hordes of enemies.
Pic of me and my sister actually playing...Gamespot bought the rights to the pic from us for $0.32
       The game’s camera can be wonky at times and the difficulty can get a little frustrating with the games apparent lack of checkpoints on some of the longer levels, which becomes particularly frustrating when co-op is factored in. I know she’s trying so I don’t get to upset with Cat, but have you ever heard of blocking?? The animations, cut scenes, music, and voiceovers are fantastic and fit the game’s epic feel very well. It’s a very well constructed game and always fun to play through with or without a friend or blockphobic sister.
Blocking's for Orcs!

       I’m ending it there and as I look back to proofread my work…er, no the opposite of that, as I trust my writing instincts to have gotten what I really meant to say written down, I’m thankful that I don’t have a painfully tired gimmick in my writing like Johnny boy down there’s got. I mean it was cute when you started insulting my work, but it’s starting to get a little stail. You’d best mix it up a bit to keep it fresh. If I purposely misspelled every word in this post, where would I be then? The way you handled it last week was a step in the right direction, but I fear that you lack the capacity to consistently keep it fresh. Think about it. See you next week, folks!