Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Personal note.

I remain utterly exhausted.  Switching from evening shifts to days always hits me like a freight train, and this week seems harder than usual - so I'm going to go lay down.

Today's PSN store update was kinda' meh - nothing to talk about there, unless you're really feeling burned that Rockstar decided to only put out three DLC packs for Max Payne 3 instead of five.  'Course, I'd feel pretty burned too if I purchased the "season pass" back at launch.

I continue to enjoy my time in Rage.  Occasionally my guilty conscience will insist I return to Kingdoms of Amalur because it's a game that released this year and therefor I should review it, and occasionally the tepid narrative makes me dream of Fallout: New Vegas, but the game's craftsmanship within its linear, corridor-shooter "dungeons" is just... well, "sublime" remains the best word to describe it.

It's chock-full of amazing little moments - amazing attention to important detail by its designers.  Audio design is exceedingly impressive when you're rocking surround sound, but it's most impressive facet remains the gameplay - where the blistering framerate, heavy, vicious weapons and clever, aggressive, mobile enemies come together like a soaring virtuoso of what an FPS should be.  What an FPS should feel like.

So yeah.  Still digging Rage.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Deadlight launch trailer.

Looks good!  But reviews have been very mixed for the title - it's hovering around 70% on Metacritic.  Still, I hold true to my promise to pick it up on Wednesday and furnish you with a review.

Speaking of zombie games, PlayStation Plus users are getting Telltale Games The Walking Dead episodes 1 and 2 for free on August 7th!  Sweet!  I always wanted to try 'em, but never enough to buy 'em.

That works out very nicely.

Also, I am terminally exhausted - so, g'night.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Games of August 2012.

July was a near-desolate wasteland, with only The Last Story and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance glimmering against a dark backdrop of nothingness.  August, thankfully, is a return to form, with a good half-dozen interesting titles due to appear.  I'll be picking up at least three of 'em - let's see what's coming down the pipe, shall we?

August 1st
Hype-O-Meter : High.

Microsoft's summer season of downloadables gets real with Tequila Works' Deadlight, a horror-themed action-puzzle platformer.  It looks a bit like a less-ambitious Shadow Complex - and that's actually pretty good company to keep. Leaked reviews have been generally positive, but have burned the game for its four-to-six-hour length.

August 7th
Persona 4 Arena
PS3, 360
Hype-O-Meter : Low.

Atlus teams up with (BlazBlue, Guilty Gear) developer Arc System Works to deliver a fighter teeming with characters from the landmark Persona 3 and Persona 4 RPGs. Knowing Arc System Works, this will be a perfectly well-made fighter, boasting the dev's trademark huge, gorgeous sprites - though one that will be well beyond my ability to master.

August 7th
Sound Shapes
PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter : Everyone's talking about it.

Really, the enthusiast press have been drooling over Sound Shapes since it debuted at last year's E3 - and I really don't know what they're excited about.  It seems to be a somewhat-procedurally-generated 2D platformer where the objects you use to negotiate the environment make sounds when you touch them.

I have no idea why that's so interesting, but I'll be keeping an eye out for a demo.

August 14th
Sleeping Dogs
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Keep an eye on it.

United Front Games have zero credit, with me. I didn't enjoy any time spent with Modnation Racers, but Sleeping Dogs looks like a genuinely endearing addition to the open-world genre.  I love the concept and I love the setting, but I can't see myself dropping sixty dollars on an untested developer with an untested franchise.  This will be a game to keep an eye on - to watch reviews and, perhaps, wait until it comes down in price a'la Kingdoms of Amalur.

August 14th
Darksiders II
PS3, 360, PC, WiiU
Hype-O-Meter : Day one.

Vigil Games have a ton of credit with me after 2010's Darksiders - a refreshing riff on the Zelda formula with a lot of M-for-mature action thrown in for good measure and the grand, jazzy art direction of Joe Mad.  I'm a bit concerned that Darksiders II may be concerning itself more with being a loot-heavy RPG than an action game - but Vigil have earned my allegiance, and I'll be giving them my cash on the 14th.

August 15th
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Hype-O-Meter : Day one.

XBox Live's Summer of Arcade concludes with Dust: An Elysian Tail.  The developer promises a sprawling Metroid-like action platformer - but all I care about is that it's an entirely 2D, hand-drawn, gorgeously-animated game.

'Cause that's enough, for a start.

August 19th
New Super Mario Bros 2
Hype-O-Meter : What else are you going to play on your 3DS?

I shall say no ill of a 2D Mario game, and let's face it - the 3DS is dying for games.

August 21st
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : These games have their market, but it ain't me.

Media were pretty sweet on High Moon Studios' War for Cybertron, and Fall promises more of the same - but polished up with a bigger budget and greater experience. Having never played the last game, I have no affection for its follow-up - but that trailer from the VGAs was pretty sweet.

August 28th
Journey Collector's Edition
Hype-O-Meter : I want someone to buy this for me, but I can't see me buying my own copy.

This thing comes with developer commentary for Journey, Flower and Flow, along with soundtracks for all three games.  That is awesome - and I want that - but I don't really want to buy three games I already own, for the same platform I already have them on, again.

Which, I'll admit, doesn't sound like me, but I can assure you it is.  I hope someone sees this and gets it as a gift for me - one I'd happily accept - but as Fall 2012 heats up, I can't afford to go blowing money on games I already have...

August 28th
Ratchet & Clank Trilogy
Hype-O-Meter : Damnit, I want this.

...unless it's a PS3 up-port of a beloved PS2 franchise. Along with Sly, the Ratchet & Clank games were the standard-bearers for platforming on the PlayStation 2.  With cheeky comedy, inspiring art direction, zany space-bob soundtracks and lots and lots of ridiculous weapons, I'm going to be hard-pressed to convince myself this isn't worth my money or more crucially, time.

August?  We think? 
Mark of the Ninja. 
Hype-O-Meter : Day one.

Klei Entertainment secured my undying allegiance with the sublime Shank 2, and now they seem to be leaping directly at my innermost desires with this lushly-animated, 2D stealth action game. It's exclusive to XBLA, and we don't have a release date nailed down - merely "summer 2012" - but that's enough to get my hopes up.  As soon as it drops - whenever that may be - Mark of the Ninja is a day-one purchase.

* * *

And that's August!  Certainly a welcome return after the endless emptiness of July, and containing some of my more anticipated games of the year.  We've got promising indies, we've got major action games, and  there are also two JRPGs coming out that, to be honest, I've heard nothing about - Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and Legasista. 

August'll be fun!

Game Diary.

I saw The Dark Knight Rises tonight with Kayla, and much as it may behoove me to do up a Movie post, I can't imagine saying anything about the movie you haven't already heard.

No, it's not as stunning as The Dark Knight.  Yes, Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is a lot of fun, Tom Hardy's Bane is nicely threatening and it is sometimes hard to understand what the Hell he's trying to say.  And I liked the ending, but was I the only one who thought "this is a lot like the ending of Prototype?"

No?  Okay, so maybe there is one thing I can say that you haven't already heard.

Let's talk games.

Unless I get colossally bored at some point in the future - some point at which I haven't played all the other games in my library which whisper for additional time - I can't see myself returning to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

It's... fine.  It's not bad.  It's okay - and it should be noted that that, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment.  Let us never forget how easy it is to make a terrible game and how much effort and insight it takes to curate one which is actually decent.  That being said, I feel the point and purpose of anything with a fantasy setting is to first and foremost absorb us in this wondrous world.

Did you know Arya is the most popular new baby name for girls in North America?  Thank you, Game of Thrones - that's powerful fantasy at work.

Did you know tons of folks started suffering impromptu depression after viewing James Cameron's Avatar? They couldn't take living in a world that wasn't as gorgeous and magical as Pandora.  That's powerful fantasy.

Gaming has its own gloriously effective fantasy settings.  Skyrim and Dark Souls are the first that jump to mind, but let us not ignore Dead Space or Mass Effect or Resonance of Fate or pretty much any RPG coming out of Japan.  

When there are worlds which are so much more engaging out there, why should I waste my time with one that's merely decent?

Kingdoms of Amalur does a lot right - there's no denying that - and I love the way the game saves.  When you save in Reckoning, you hop into a menu and tell it to save.  A little icon swirls - the same way a little icon swirls when any game auto-saves - but in Reckoning, you are free to go back to playing while it saves.

An awesome touch.  But I'm not sticking with a so-so game because its save mechanics are tidy.

On the 23rd I saw this trailer for Borderlands 2, which was enough to plant the seed of hope in me that Borderlands - which had languished in my library for months - could provide an inspiring diversion from Reckoning.

Similar to Reckoning, there's a lot to like about Borderlands - foremost of which is the game's concept.  It's an open(ish)-world first-person-shooter co-op grindfest loot-crazy RPG.

That is an awesome sentence - and I like to think the game really would be worth my time and attention, had I a reliable co-op partner to explore its wilds with.  That, I've no doubt, would completely change the experience this game provides or, perhaps more accurately, allow me access to the intended joys of the product.

Alas, I do not have such a partner, and I have to play the game we'll all be left with once Sony and Microsoft shut down their online services - and that game is seriously unbalanced.

One of Borderlands' main selling features is that it features a "bazillion" guns - which may be accurate.  Similar to the huge variety of loot with randomly-generated stats in any RPG, Borderlands is replete with cool, unique weapons and a buttload of randomly-generated firearms.  It is indeed a very addictive proposition - over that next rise, when you turn in your current quest, there's always hope that you will finally put your mitts on a weapon that's ideal for your playstyle.

It's an effective formula, but it's the game's level balancing that gives me pause.

As in most RPGs (that aren't Dark/Demon's Souls), by level five you will be able to defeat a level one anything by sneezing at it.  At level five, in Borderlands, if you attempt to battle a higher-level anything, you had better have an unlimited ammo supply.

In most any RPG, that would be fine.  That would be no problem.  You wander off, grind a few levels and come back.  You rely on exceptional strategy to see you through it or - as you can, here - you fight the fucker for ten minutes straight and finally bring him down when you just burned your last medkit.

None of those options, mind, are particularly fun.

It may be an RPG, but it's also a first-person shooter, and when I shoot someone in the head a hundred times, they need to die.  Anything less is profoundly dissatisfying.

This single-player problem is compounded by the huge variety in weapon quality.  As your weapons and the enemies in the game are always locked into their "level bias," the game is nearly always way-too-easy or just-one-side-of-frustrating-hard.  It very, very rarely walks a line of well-balanced challenge - and that's... not much fun.

You're either stomping the hell out of your foes or being stomped yourself.  Neither of which is very satisfying - and neither of which feel quite right.

So what do I want..?  I want something RPG-ey, with a bit of narrative.  I want some nice presentation.  I like the wasteland thing Borderlands has going, but I want a fun FPS, too - so that takes Fallout: New Vegas out of the running.

What to play... what to play... 

When Doom 3 dropped eight years ago the general consensus was positive, but there were many divisive perspectives on its overall quality. Many thought the game was too linear, too much a corridor shooter, and not enough in keeping with the strides other devs had made in the industry.

I disagreed - I loved Doom 3 from tip to tail - but found myself feeling less enthusiastic about Rage when it dropped last year.
"Rage is regularly beautiful and beautifully fun, but often feels strangely hollow."
-from the review-
I took major issue with the title's lackluster narrative, the tacked-on feel of the driving and the way id's Tech 5 - which permitted the game to run at a blistering 60fps - had a habit of constantly suffering texture pop.

Returning to it now, I have no idea what the Hell my problem was.

It's so ambitious - particularly for id.  It's like one of their designers played through the opening sequence of Doom 3 - right up to just before all Hell breaks loose - and said "wouldn't it be cool if you could go outside?", all the other devs looked at him like he was crazy, and then one with a similarly-insane look in his eye said "let's do it!"

Looking at it now, this game feels like the Uncharted 2 of first-person shooters.  Look at this screenshot.  The game actually looks like that on PS3.  It's true texture pop is omnipresent, but once they've all popped (and usually before), the game is absolutely stunning.  It looks like a breathing frame from a CGI film until you nudge the analog stick and watch it move.

The gameplay - as I explained too-briefly in the review - is nothing short of sublime.  This is precisely how a first person shooter should feel.  Your movements are liquid, but weighty.  There's a wonderful degree of feedback to every weapon, and the enemies' animations and artificial intelligence are...

It's a severely triple-A experience in terms of play, in terms of in-game presentation.

Even the NPCs are... luxuriously detailed.  Every time you speak with them, their animations are so expressive - the voice work so confident and charismatic.

Coffer here runs the general store in the settlement of Wellspring.  He speaks with a vaguely Asian accent, and the first time you walk through his door he cocks his head and bulges one round eye at you.  Impossible to accurately describe, it's this... minutae that so shows off id's craftsmanship.

I was wrong about Rage.  It's true that its auto-save system is ... that reminds me, I have to add a note to the Gravity Rush review that its autosave system is excellent... it's true that Rage's auto-save system is hugely inelegant.  It's true that Coffer speaking in any variety of accent in North America a few hundred years after the apocalypse is ridiculous, and it's true that texture pop is omnipresent.

I don't care.  Upon returning to Rage, I feel the same way I did when I returned to the first inFamous and discovered I had fallen in love.

Really, this whole experience has just reinforced the thought I've had recently - that a game review shouldn't be written until months after its release - months after its first impressions and the player's biases have had time to erode into understanding. 

I've no idea what happened in the past ten months to so reverse my perspective on Rage, but playing it now I... find I feel the same love for this that I felt for Doom 3 so many years ago.  For Doom before that.

id know their business - and I know what I'm playing until the first big August release comes out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A few interesting blips on the PSN store.

First up, Malicious is finally a thing that has happened. In North America.  It happened in Japan back in 2010 - why the localization took so long is beyond me - but going back and checking out a trailer gives one twinges of desire...

It's ten bucks, or eight if you're a Plus member.

Puddle is also a mere eight dollars - with or without a Plus membership - and for some reason I find it more intriguing than Malicious.  It could be the dazzling variety of environments and art styles, but I suspect it's merely because the thing is on the Vita.  If Malicious were on the Vita, there'd be no contest - I would buy it - but the fact that it's a PS3 title makes it less attractive.

Isn't that weird? Oh well - back to Borderlands.


Geek marriage proposals. Delightful.

Okami HD trailer showcases made-from-scratch cutscene.

Why are they showing what happens when you bloom the Ryoshima Coast Guardian Sapling?  Doesn't seem like much of a trailer, does it?

The wave of life you see sweeping over the land above (which Prince of Persia '08 attempted and failed to recreate) is not as it was in the original Okami.  If you've played the God of War Collection, you've seen what can happen when HD up-ports don't take the time to make sure everything is HD - you get a gorgeous, razor-sharp boss fight followed by a blurry, flat-looking cutscene in which Kratos delivers the ultimate gory blow.  Hardly ideal.

With Okami HD, Capcom and HexaDrive are remastering everything - even the sequence above, which was a pre-rendered cutscene in the original release that they had to recreate from scratch, with the game assets.  They're showing us the sapling bloom to let us know they're treating Okami right.

Now, if only it was getting a disc release.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Dead Space 3 screens got me wonderin'...

...why does Isaac need this heavy cold-weather suit?

He spent huge chunks of Dead Space and its sequel floating in empty space, which is supposedly like 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.  Is the ice planet of Dead Space 3 supposed to be colder than deep space?  If so, would a layer of padding seriously assist against a drop of 2.7 degrees?

Oh, Chance.  Way to ruin things.  Ruiner.

Darksiders II Death Comes for All trailer.

Ahhh, that's better. That hypes me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I tried it.

I've had Borderlands in my library for a year or so - I snapped it up when I saw it for twenty dollars, placed it in my library and promptly forgot about it until my brother asked to borrow it.  He informed me that it was a stupid, not-fun game which sucked.  

I put it back in the library, and promptly forgot about it again until last night.

Last night, I was resigned to returning to Kingdoms of Amalur for more uninspiring exploration.  Then I watched that Borderlands 2 trailer.

I wasn't able to put much more than an hour into it (when the heck to I get the first point to customize my character, by the way?), but the diagnoses here seems relatively simple.  It's a shooter that's not as immersive or rewarding as a dedicated shooter and an RPG that's not as interesting or engaging as a dedicated RPG.

It's a hybrid - which, as a concept, I wholly endorse - but I'll have to put more time into it to come to a comfortable understanding of its systems, and strengths.  Speaking of which, g'night!

This'll learn me to not pay attention to Gamespot.

They've had a couple of Darksiders II vids with footage I've never seen since like, the first week of June.  That's what happens when you release a piece of straight gameplay during E3!

Here's a bit of traversal and a miniboss fight - looks fine. But here is what really turns me on...

We've seen a bit of Death's traversal in trailers, here and there, but this vid (seemingly) shows it for what it is: it's the platforming mechanics of (the underrated) Prince of Persia 2008 reboot, in Darksiders!

The mechanics of the wall runs - even the way he'll ascend a narrow gap by wall-running up, jumping, then wall-running vertically again before he has to jump - are identical to Ubisoft's most recent (decent) crack at the Prince of Persia license.  Let us not utter the name of that abysmal 2010 game.

After all those vids of meh-to-just-okay boss fights, this, finally, hypes me again for Darksiders II.

I really need to stop watching these.

Have you seen this Borderlands 2 trailer?

...crap.  I do not want to want this game.


Monday, July 23, 2012

That's... a little better.

There's a pretty sweet sale going on on Amazon.com right now, if you're lookin' for cheap PS3 games.  They've got Final Fantasy XIII-2 for $14.99 - which I'm actually a little tempted by, at that price.  They've also got a nice clutch of PS3 titles for around $20, including the Team ICO Collection, Heavy Rain, the Sly Collection, both Ratchet & Clank Future games (which are awesome), Killzone 2, MotorStorm Apocalypse and Modnation Racers.

In other news, I still haven't given up on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which is in direct contrast to this year's trends.  I decided to almost totally abandon all side quests, and just follow the central quest line.  Thus far I've not encountered any opposition that would suggest I'm dabbling in levels beyond my mortal ken, and the story has become much more enjoyable.

Still... I find myself wondering... if I want to explore, why aren't I playing Skyrim or New Vegas?  If I want to get in awesome fights, why aren't I playing Mass Effect 3, Dead Island or Resonance of Fate?

I still don't know the answer to that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Black Dynamite!

Last October Adult Swim put out a little mini-episode of an animated Black Dynamite show they were working on.  I'd all but forgotten about it until Kotaku reminded me - and it's real!  It exists!

I am going to buy the crap out of this on bluray.

Also : man am I getting sick of Kingdoms of Amalur.  Just having gameplay that ain't-bad doesn't make a game fun.  It's just... boring.  For some reason I keep thinking of Rage, and of popping it in - perhaps just to remind myself of the sweet, sweet id shooting we'll get to revisit come October.

Another Darksiders II boss fight...

...from GameTrailers.

I was worried this one would put me back on the defensive about Darksiders II, but no - it feels more than a bit like the crystal spider miniboss from Darksiders - no problems, here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Game Diary - Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

There are simple pleasures to be found in Reckoning - quite similar to those found in any massively multiplayer online role playing game, just without the MMO part.  Exploring a grand, wide world?  Lovely.  Discovering new sights, new enemies?  Delicious.  Regularly leveling up and sampling at the trough of new abilities tastes sweet, like candy, but that doesn't stop Reckoning from feeling somewhat... lifeless.

This may, I fear, be due to the game's gestation.  The world feels like it should have... well, other people in it.   Other players going on about their business, that you may hinder or help.  Reckoning really feels like an MMO that just happens to be single-player.

It also does an impressive job of failing to engage the player in its world.  Few and far between are the memorable quest narratives, and even (especially) when the central quest line constantly hammers home that you have so much choice, how dangerous and consequential that is, and what a massive impact it has on the game world, it never really feels that way.

It's like the whole game is the ending of Dragon Age II, in which you're told in no uncertain terms that you have rocked the very foundation of this world to its core - but you never see how, and so you question if.

That said... there is pleasure, here - as there is pleasure in wandering off alone in World of Warcraft to grind some levels, or farm some items.  Reckoning does action pretty well - though not very well - but well enough that when a death squad of twenty Tuatha soldiers attack and you obliterate them with six quick spellcasts, you feel like a real badass.  

Reckoning is the first RPG in recent memory that I've played as a pure spellcaster - feeling a bit boxed in by the Finesse (rogue) build I used in the demo, I decided to experiment - and here, it works really well.  While your spells are all suitably good-looking and powerful, the sensation of using them in rapid concert feels less like casting in any other game, and a lot more like a very long-range melee system.  Crowd control, keeping enemies at range as you rain fire upon them, feels much more tactile here than it does in any other title in recent memory - and certainly more than in Skyrim

That said, this ain't no Skyrim.  It's funner to play, certainly.  Its load times are briefer and its bugs have yet to rear their heads, but a huge part of the reason we engage in fantasy titles is to be swept away to an enchanting otherworld. 

Reckoning has those moments - strolling through an enchanted forest is still pleasant, even though we've seen a hundred enchanted forests in our day - but one doesn't feel very attached to or inspired by its world, and the world itself is not particularly inspiring, when compared to Skyrim or Dragon Age

  I doubt I'll finish Reckoning - adding it to a growing pile of such titles this year.  It's gotten to the point that I'm giving real consideration to "reviews" of games I've been unable to finish, shining a light on what the games do well before explaining why I felt no great need to continue with them.  

I will say I'm very fond of the game's gimmicky "reckoning mode," in which you call upon your unique relationship with fate to obliterate an enemy or pack of enemies, to be rewarded with up to 100% additional experience points if you mash a button hard enough at the end.  In terms of flat gameplay, it's uninteresting, but as a little tool you're permitted to throw out in an RPG, it's huge. 

Imagine coming up against a boss in World of Warcraft or a huge pack of trolls in Skyrim and deciding, at the flip of a switch, to double the experience points you get off them?  


Friday, July 20, 2012

Four fresh South Park: The Stick of Truth screens.

Click to embiggen.

Frickin' awesome.

Today, Kayla and I went to the park, that I might teach her how to play chess.  She loved the idea when I proposed it, but seemed less enamored with it when we actually got down to the business of playing.

Still, an afternoon spent in the park on a warm day with your significant other is hardly a loss.

On the way home, I decided we should stop at Wal-Mart in the name of cheap ice cream sammiches, and about a half-mile from the store I spotted a Chapters (a big Canadian book store chain) and suggested we poke around.  There, I saw this.

This is the first volume of (what I think is) a three-volume set, covering the main Bane arc in Batman.  Specifically, Knightfall. 

Its release, no doubt, is tied to The Dark Knight Rises, which sees Bane finally graduating in film from Poison Ivy's silent henchman in that abysmal Batman & Robin to the full-fledged terror he represented in the books.  Specifically, this is the guy who kicked the holy hell out of Batman, broke his back and threw him from the rooftops of Gotham - putting him in a wheelchair and ending his reign as Batman.

Temporarily, of course.  Now, I'm no comic book nerd.  I'm a video game nerd, specifically - and sort of a film nerd, but not really.  No, the only comic book I've ever really been up on is Watchmen - but I know the Knightfall storyline.

It's pretty much the only comic book arc I'm actually familiar with (well, this and the first twenty issues of The Darkness I read one afternoon at a friend's house).

In the summer of 1993, I remember being in a convenience store and seeing the cover to the first Knightfall comic I picked up.  The art was... brutal, and iconic.  It was less about men than gods - symbols.

So I bought it.  I think my older brother also bought an issue or two, but between the two of us we probably had a dozen of the Knightfall arc.

I was able to read the story up to the point when Bane broke Bats, and then - for some reason - I guess I just wasn't able to buy them any more.  I picked up a few issues later, after Bruce had given the mantle of the Bat to Jean-Paul Valley.

Valley turned the Batsuit into a heavily-armored battle machine, defeated Bane and then went a little mad with power, running around killing criminals until Batman got his back back together and they threw down in a spectacular fight that spanned a few issues.

My point is, the Knightfall storyline is the only comic book Batman I ever cared about.  I love the Warner Bros. animated series, I loved Tim Burton's Batman movies, I'm very fond of Nolan's real-world take on the character, and I always thrill to Rocksteady's interpretation - but the truth is, Batman is a comic character, and Knightfall is the only comic story of his that made any impression on me, as a child.

And now, it's available to buy - all at once, for like thirty bucks.

I'm going to have to pick up Volume 2 tomorrow.  I think that covers a lot of the Jean-Paul part of things.

Damnit. James Gunn discusses sexism in Lollipop Chainsaw.

Last week Destructoid threw up an article pointing out that Nick - Juliet's boyfriend, who is reduced to a severed head of a fashion accessory in Lollipop Chainsaw - represents a male perspective suffering what women may be regularly subjected to; objectification.

I didn't have a problem with this - I came to precisely the same conclusion, noted it in the review, and said "well, he's right - it's a long article for a single point, but he's right."

I decided I would continue holding off on writing the Sexism and Lollipop Chainsaw article.  After all, I've already written one article about sexism regarding the game, pre-release, one review, one way-too-long in-depth look at the gameplay, one post dedicated to the game's music and one about cosplay-as-Juliet-as-Ash-from-Evil-Dead.

I've likely saturated this blog's market of interest in Lollipop Chainsaw, for the moment, so I figured I would leave my most ambitious article on the subject for a later date.

And then... this happened.  (Sigh.)

The above link is to a wonderful article over at Destructiod in which Gunn, his interest piqued from last week's article, settles down for an interview on the topic and explains his position... which turns out to be precisely my position, just worded a bit differently (aside from the tail end of it when he goes off on how much sexism permeates modern culture).

On the one hand, it's really nice to know I was right about LP, and what Gunn was doing with it.  On the other hand, goddamnit!  Now when (and now, if) I write that article, 50% of my points are going to look like I ripped them off from that interview!

Shit.  As a cherry on top, he even explains that Juliet and Nick's character designs were already finalized by Suda when he came on board - she was already a cheerleader, and Nick was already just a head - and Gunn had to write his story using these pre-created characters... which is exactly what I was going to posit happened...


Precious seconds of Tokitowa gameplay rest deep within this new trailer.

Specifically from 01:40 to 02:40 - you'll see Toki's run animation (which looks a bit weird) and the combat animation (which looks a bit stiff and... constrictive, for lack of a better word.

Still, it looks a lot better than that fully-animated RPG we never had.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Venture Bros. will be back!

...next year.

I was poking through io9's coverage of Comic Con when I came across this piece regarding the panel with (Venture Bros. creative team) Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer.  It's... pretty much as weird as everything else they do.
io9: I saw you at the deli by the Gawker office a few months back, but I didn't say hello because you were buying carrot cake. What is your favorite purchase from that deli? 
Doc Hammer: Black-and-whites. The Spring Street one? 
io9: Yeah, the Spring Street one. It was too early in the morning to bother you. 
Doc Hammer: If it's the morning, I'm buying a black-and-white cookie. I consider it the New York State cookie. Every time I buy it, I feel really patriotic. Like a state patriot! And they're always inedible, it's like white cake with too much frosting. But I think to myself, "I'm from New York! I eat this in the morning!" 
Jackson Publick: Really? This guy knew a secret about you. 
Doc Hammer: I also will get carrot cake... 
Jackson Publick: "...but only when I know I'm being watched. Then I get the healthy choice!" 
Doc Hammer: I sensed your presence. There was a disturbance in the Force. I sensed you looking at my desserts. 
io9: Well, Jackson once compared you to "a unicorn" in the wild, so... 
Doc Hammer: You didn't want to touch me and shatter the magical kingdom. The illusion would collapse if you fed me carrot cake and the shimmering things would fall apart and then a guy with a bucket on his head would show up and go [fantasy dwarf voice], "What did you do? You fed him! You've disrupted the magical order of things. We'll have to make him throw up!" [pause] Boy, did we derail everything. We're so sorry.

Which is... interesting - but the important part of the entire affair is that, in early 2013, Venture Bros. will return!  This show is, to me, right up there with Archer - it's an instant modern classic.

Now, it's true, the show didn't feel quite so fresh during its last season - but at least they didn't jump right back into it and churn out something they weren't happy with.  Hopefully, season five will retain all the abject insanity of 4 along with the easier-to-follow charm of the show's earlier offerings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

...and one for my homies.

There's a post I should've writ about two weeks ago - a post lamenting the closure of Radical Entertainment.  This follows suit with Activision's visionary corporate policy - which includes shitcanning the awesome BrĂ¼tal Legend and then trying to block its release, shutting down the folks who made Gun, shutting down the folks who made Blur and Project Gotham Racing, and shutting down the folks who made Hexen and Heretic.

This, Activision, is why we hate you.  'Cause it's like you can't appreciate any game that doesn't put up Call of Duty numbers.  Well, eff that noise.

It's worth noting that Radical was a B-studio.  It never put out really exceptional stuff - focusing mostly on licensed crap and sports titles - but they found their groove in 2005, two years after they released a tie-in game to Ang Lee's Hulk film.

That tie-in game sucked.  For some reason, though, they still had the license - and they decided to make a game based on Hulk's Ultimate Destruction universe.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction remains, to this day, one of the greatest superhero games of all time.  It was a far cry from the ultrapolish of Rocksteady's Batman titles, but Ultimate Destruction came closer than any other title to providing a genuine-feeling superhero simulator.

I still exalt at the thought of that game's critical mass moves - clapping my mighty Hulk hands together so hard they create a spherical shockwave that obliterates anything within 100 meters, slamming my fists into the ground and rupturing concrete across a city block.  Most of all, though, I remember the way-way-way-over-the-top action, the wonderfully deep movelist and the simple, tactile fluidity of its systems.

It was a wonderful game - and it's a shame that Radical never achieved such heights again.

Radical attempted - finally - to create and sell its own intellectual property with 2009's Prototype, leveraging the spectacular action they all but perfected with Ultimate Destruction.  Prototype was replete with flaws - not the least of which were iffy mission designs and a(n actually very interesting) sci-fi story told very badly - but it still managed to be a way-fun game, even as it pared back Hulk's gloriously deep, fluid action and focused on stranger superpowers.  It was, for better or worse, the closest we would come to Ultimate Destruction in high definition.

This year's Prototype 2 sealed the developer's fate, it would seem, with Activision citing the game's good-but-not-spectacular sales as reason for the studio's closure.  Prototype 2 - which was a huge leap in presentation over its predecessor - was as close to a triple-A game as the studio ever released, and they had hoped to create an ongoing online community for the title with its RadNet feature.  Similar to SSX or Lollipop Chainsaw's online functionality, RatNet was essentially a bunch of leaderboards for the game's challenge missions.

Unfortunately, they intentionally walled off 75% of RadNet's content at the game's launch - and six weeks after the entirely single-player game released, few remained online to compete with each other.  While the game dominated sales during its April release month, Activision said Prototype 2 had failed to "find a broad commercial audience," and on June 28th the publisher announced major layoffs at the oldest video game studio on Canada's west coast.

Radical Entertainment had produced over 40 games prior to Activision hooking their clawed, diamond dust-encrusted talons into it, via their 2008 merger with Vivendi.  The studio had been around and kicking for over fifteen years - and it took Activision a mere four to decide to shutter them.

Radical Entertainment still technically exists - a skeleton crew remain with the company, who will act as a "support team" to other Activision studios.  It was one of only two studios to survive Activision-Blizzard's takeover of Sierra On-Line - the publisher who produced and backed classic adventure franchises like King's Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, Leisure Suit Larry and Phantasmagoria back in the 90s.

Now, four years later, the only studio of artists to survive Activision's purchase is High Moon, who are still hard at work on the next Transformers game.

Some have said Radical's closure - following in the footsteps of the similarly-ambitious, similarly-doomed Pandemic Studios (The Saboteur) and Big Huge Games (Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning) - is signalling the death of the mid-quality console game.

A few of the games Radical produced in its 20 years of work.  They were the oldest Canadian studio in British Columbia, founded in 1991.

Go big, or go home.  At the very least, that's Activision's credo. 

Such mid-budget-but-nonetheless-inspired, creativity-driven titles are getting fewer and further between.  For every Lollipop Chainsaw and Alice: Madness Returns there are a half-dozen ultra-hyped triple-A games vying for our affections - and it's so difficult to get by, even legendary indie studio Double Fine has resorted to specializing in downloadable games and Kinect exclusives.

So this one's for me, and this one's for my homies.  Here's to you, Radical.

You named yourselves well.

This is the box art for Persona 4: Golden.

It's pretty... busy.  Still, it's Persona 4 - and that earns it a purchase.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


The post's title refers to the bluray release of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - which hooked its wagon to the HD-DVD at the dawn of the current gen, and never got a bluray release.  This was an affront to all that is good and holy, in my eyes, and I grudgingly picked up a DVD copy of it last year when it wasn't available on bluray.

Today, Kayla and I were wandering through Best Buy (she was looking for an E-reader, I was just looking), and there it was!  Nineteen bucks!  Why was it so cheap?  Because the bluray actually released last October but nobody told me about it - and I'd never seen it in stores until today.

I also picked up Kingdoms of Amalur, as it had come to the reasonable price of forty dollars following a spike in sales from the announcement that its developer had been shuttered.  Above, you'll see I picked up Ys: The Oath in Felghana - and I'm really not sure how I feel about it yet.

I was searching for an action-RPG on the PSP, and saw Ys:TOiF described as such.  I also saw Felghana repeatedly referenced in Vita-centric threads online, in answer to folks asking what PSP RPGs were worth picking up for the new portable.

So far it's... meh-ish.  That first boss was certainly a challenge/trial - but I guess... I dunno - I guess I was looking for something with a bit more whimsy.  I'll see if it calls me back for further exploration - but at the moment I'm not particularly thrilled by it.

I am thrilled, however, at the thought of watching Johnny Depp say "don't touch that squirrel's nuts!" in high def.