Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Game Review: FEZ

Wrong FEZ.

Still wrong FEZ. But it is funny.

OH HELL NO! Wrong FEZ!!!

THIS is more like it!

 There hasn't been a game that has come out, for me, in the past few game console generations that has captured in spirit and feeling my earliest adventures on my NES. One of whimsy, full of color, simple and elegant. One that as you peel back the many layers is also a deep and somewhat dark experience. One that makes you actually have to take notes, yes take notes as on paper. Yes writing real notes, jotting down clues to what is happening, breaking the secret coded languages through out the game to discover what this new and exciting world our hero Gomez is bending reality in.

This is FEZ by Polytron Corporation and it is my hands down prime nominee for 2012 Game of the Year. Bold statement for sure but I mean it. I haven't played anything this satisfying in decades. I could literally feel myself back in 1987 with my NES playing Super Mario Bros for the first time. It was awkward and challenging but became infinitely rewarding as I passed each challenge. And when some of the secrets began to unlock for me each felt like a genuine accomplishment.

Now I have completed this game fully. I've unlocked all achievements and found all the secrets. I will also say on record that I looked up advice for five of the puzzles because they were so difficult that it appears only the developers knew their purpose (Black Monolith anyone?). That was five puzzles out of what felt like hundreds and I earned every puzzle I solved too. This game does a wonderful job of presenting its challenges in such a way that it doesn't feel that the game is smarter than the player but that each is a mystery that begs for you to dig deeper, search harder for the illusive answers.

The sound design, level design, aesthetic look of the world, everything is flawless. Gomez can't die, he just respawns immediately. Day and night cycle through the world changing puzzles and encounters constantly. You find artifacts and treasure maps that keep pushing you forward in your effort to rebuild this shattered golden cube that opened your eyes at the beginning and showed you the 2D world was really in three dimensions.....thanks to your little red FEZ on top of Gomez's head.

For fans of puzzlers, light platforming, old school gaming sensibilities....for fans of depth and fun I just cannot recommend FEZ enough. If you have access to Xbox Live Arcade pick it up as it will enthral you like no other game I have played so far.

FEZ.....this is art in game form.

And don't forget to talk to Owls.

LEGOS: Even MORE Series 7

This past holiday weekend while out with my wife she decided to treat me to three more packs of Series 7 Mini Figures. Lady luck must have been on my side as two of the three were totally new for me.

Rocker Girl

Evil Knight

Now the Rocker Girl just screams 80's glam rock but more in a Jem and the Holograms kind of way. Big Jersey-esque Aqua Net laden pink hair style compete with pink lightning bolt make-up design under the one eye. Got to love those 80's huh?

Now the Evil Knight is also pretty damn cool. Black armor piece to overlay the Lego body, a nicely moulded helmet and he has red eyes! All the more to make him EVIL! But it wasn't until I saw a throw away comment on Reddit of all places that made me say 'Bullshit!' followed by ' can't be....' and finally a giddy realization that YES it was.

You see the throw away comment was that the Evil Knight was a tribute to John Cleese's The Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". Bullshit you say? Check out the logo on the Evil Knight's shield and the one on The Black Knight himself.

Nice looking Boar there.....wait.....
Just a flesh that a boar?!?!
 The tusk might be longer and its mouth is open.....but....its....the...boar........I.....see.....the.....resemblance...

Damn right Thorny!

For legal reasons I surmise Lego can't do a REAL figure but I consider this a loving tribute from someone at Lego who designed this with a wink and nod to a classic comedic character from the masters of the absurd.
So those two new figures and the addition of a duplicate Viking Woman makes that Lego voyage a win win for me.

As always: LEGOS!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Battleship




Exactly what I wanted for a popcorn movie. I knew this was a potential Razzie nominee the moment they announced this movie was being considered. A movie based off a board game. So my expectations were on the low end of the spectrum for this with the following exceptions: I want lots of explosions and special effects, I want plot holes big enough to drive a aircraft carrier through, I want the cast to believe this is the best movie ever made (this year), I want to be entertained. I got all of those and more. Its a bad movie but an enjoyable one for me.

The highlight of the movie for me was towards the end where they launch the USS Missouri (which was decommissioned as a museum) for a final battle with aid from the remaining original crew. Watching those old salt sea dogs kick serious ass and seeing those huge guns discharge into an alien sea craft had me smiling from ear to ear.

Michael Bay would be proud to call this his movie. And if you just want a big, loud and dumb flick for a summer time can do much worse than seeing Battleship. Jess and I were both entertained.

Also there is a scene with Scottish boys after the credits. Yes....there are sheep present too.

Quick Movie Review: Dark Shadows

This movie was a mixed bag. It was mediocre yet what it DID do wasn't terrible. It was laugh out loud funny at points and suspenseful at others but it couldn't make up it mind if it was a comedy or horror. It was smart and witty at points yet became bland and dull in equal parts.

All that said I still felt that it faithfully and truthfully recreated the feel of the original television series. For all its faults as a movie this was Dark Shadows.

I feel this movie will become a cult classic in the future. It will be the perfect movie to show on Valentines Day to be followed up with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are many who don't like this movie, called it a hot mess or other words I don't want to print but with my conflicted view of this movie I sure won't forget it. For good or ill it sticks with you.

And Chloe Moretz is the cutest werewolf you will see this year bar none.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

LEGOS! More Series 7 Minifigs!

So a few more figures from series seven have been added to my collection recently. Lets have a look shall we....

Computer Programmer

Galaxy Patrol

Tennis Ace

Viking Woman

No complaints about this batch of figures. I actually liked all the sculpts and paint jobs quite a bit. The Computer Programmer comes with a 'C:\' coffee mug and a laptop that actually opens up and has a screen and keyboard. Also where the 'brand name' is there is the LEGO imprint.

The Galaxy Patrol figure is just big and beefy and his head is two sided: one side is just the face and the other is the face with an orange looking tint over it to look like a visor in the helmet. Cool move Lego.

The Tennis Ace is...well....a tennis player. Looks good but its not very exciting to me. The Viking Woman is just fun as it could be both a Nordic princess or an opera singer. Seriously. She also has a two sided head and one side looks like she is singing (see the picture).

As always: LEGOS!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LEGOS! Monster Fighters edition!

What makes this so special to me is this post isn't about my Legos, this is my wife's set! Yes, you heard me. She bought and assembled this all on her own. And she loved every second of it too!

....its working.......its working.......

Glow in the Dark Mummy on his chariot of destruction!

Female hunter on her gyro copter to chase down beasties!

The sets are quite cool looking with my favorite being the ghost train! If you want to know more about this rather cool set check out the official website for more info!


LEGOS! Lord of the Rings edition!

The Lord of the Rings Legos have started to arrive and the first set is out now at select retailers. I found The Mines of Moria at Toys R Us. So far I haven't seen them at Target of KMart. I don't shop at Wally World for personal reasons (read: they are EVIL!).



Boromir and Pippin!


Mines of Moria!
Troll with Orc! Good lord that Troll is BIG!

Pippin with the well that started off the battle.....stupid Hobbit!

Needless to say I am loving this series of Lego figures. They are capturing some good moments from the movies and I can't wait till I get my mitts on the others. I also need more room in my house to put these sets out for display. Perhaps I'll sell off some of my gaming books? I could use all that shelf space.

And another interesting thing, on the instruction booklets it lists Lego sets based on The Hobbit movie coming out this winter (set comes out same time too...who knew?) AND the mad geniuses at Travellers Tales (who make the "Lego" video games) are making a Lego Lord of the Rings game finally! This was an advertisement on the back of the box for this set! I expect an announcement at E3 in June and the game should be out by the fall '12.

Again I am happy. Also I want to note my birthday is in June and would be more than happy to accept gifts of more Lego LotR sets from my readers. (shameless plug)


LEGOS! Mini Figure Series 7 is here!

I dedicate this post to Jugular Josh for being a pain in the ass and 'encouraging' me to get off my butt and post this!

So Mini Fig Series 7 has hit most retailers early May and this past weekend was my first time I actually found any on shelves. Apparently there isn't anywhere in my immediate area that is selling them so I had to drive almost an hour away to find some. Lucky for me we were heading out that way anyways as I was taking my wife shopping that day.

So what did I get my grubby hands on?


Dark Mistress,,,,,er,,,,,,Bride!

Bunny Suit Guy!

"Ocean King"  Its Poseidon folks!

Oh look its Lil' Red...."Grandma Visitor"

So far so good with the looks of the mini figs. I do have a few gripes about the ones I got though. First with the Ocean King is the black base they give him. Its the standard minifig base however the fish tail needs a base with two rows of four on it to support him. His bottom is a 2x2 versus the standard lego feet. This would also work better for figures like The Bride, Lady Liberty, etc which has larger bases. His is just a bit unwieldy and he wanted to come off the base with frequency.

Speaking of The Bride.....putting her veil on was a exercise in futility for a good 10 minutes. Its the standard lego cloth used for capes and whatnot (only softer) but you fasten this to the hair via her tiara....which has a tiny peg and the fabric keeps coming off and doesn't want to stay. I'd take pictures showing this but if I take that apart again I might just divorce her as it would be easier than putting that friggin' veil back on!

I do like the looks of Grandma Visitor and Bagpiper. Bagpiper has a 'cloth' kilt and has painted on underwear so that means he's not Scottish...he's just a bag piping enthusiast. The Bunny Suit Guy is just funny and continues the 'man in suit' figures which I just love.

So far so good with only a few gripes. Next time I'm near a Toys R Us I'll grab a few more to see what new ones I get. Until then...


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kickstarter Shenanigans: Paizo Edition

It is common practice for companies of any kind to eventually take advantage of their customers in a rather grotesque fashion. Right now all of America and all over the world are experiencing a sheer raping of one's wallet with the price of gasoline. And it sucks worse for countries that sell it per liter than per gallon. Its price gouging and nothing more.

So enter The Pathfinder Online Kickstarter. Not only is this just price gouging on an epic level but it is just an abhorrent rip off that for some unknown reason people the Paizo fans are crowing that this is a fantastic idea. And I got to say, in my humble opinion, these people are being conned.

For the most part I have enjoyed the hell out of Kickstarted projects. Double Fine Studios and their legendary funding for the upcoming game is an amazing success story. I love seeing the old Sierra Online alum also getting funding to produce an actual new game or two. We *need* more story driven adventure games. Heck even Steve Jackson Games (fnord) has gotten on board with producing the most extreme and bad ass version of OGRE EVER MADE! And due to so much funding they are going to redo Car Wars as well. All these things are excellent uses for Kickstarter and its fan based fund raising abilities.

Paizo has decided to butter up the fan base to Kickstart a non-playable tech demo (to the general public or the majority of Kickstarter investors) to show off to potential major financial investors.

That's what I said!!!

Please let that sink in just for a moment.

Not strong enough....

A tech demo to display to potential investors. Not funding towards the ACTUAL GAME. Just the tech demo. Yeah its a playable tech demo only if you shell out an ass load of money but the majority of investors of this kickstarter don't get to actually play it. They get a 'an exclusive long video of the final Technology Demo'. Everyone that shells over $5 or more gets this. Starting at $15 you get a PDF of a 64 page book of Thornkeep, an area that is in the currently non existent MMO. The PDF's of their regular 64 page soft covers run $13.99 so not so bad. How about a print version of Thornkeep? If pricing is usual it should run around $20-25 bucks as they are usually $19.99.

How about $50 dollars? Does that sound reasonable? No? I didn't think so either. And you still don't get to try out the demo either. That doesn't happen until you hit the $1000 wallet raping donation level. So far I just see Paizo willfully fucking their own customers and the rabid fans are lubing up for them AND taking them out to dinner afterwards. This thing is already achieved its full $50,000 funding after 24 hours and it still has 29 days remaining. For a tech demo.

There was a point, back in the day, that when a company wanted to make money on a product they spent their own money on it. Kickstarter has changed that where now a company can claim that
"Your support of the Technology Demo will help us raise awareness of ________ and will show potential investors what the game is really about.  Funding this demo will also signal to potential partners that _______ has an audience that's large enough and dedicated enough to allow the long-term success of the MMO. Nothing speaks louder than a ton of people putting up money to show their support of a new concept—that’s the genius element of Kickstarter!"  All I did was remove Pathfinder Online and left blank spaces so you can cut and paste this into any fund raiser for any bullshit tech demo that shows fans want this. Lulz. The best thing is that this is no guarantee the game will even come to fruition but the company doesn't care cause it wasn't their money they lost on the tech demo that didn't garner enough attention.....IT WAS YOURS! Lulz again.

STILL not strong enough....

***Rabid Wild Paizo Fan appears***

"But Phil it isn't Paizo that is doing this. Its Goblinworks Inc that is doing it. Paizo isn't involved. UR retarted. lulz."

Oh really???

"Nihimon wrote:
It's Goblinworks, not Paizo.
If you want to argue semantics, it's Paizo, not Goblinworks:
Amazon Payments wrote:
Greetings from Amazon Payments,
We have received your May 10, 2012 authorization to let Paizo Publishing, LLC, Kickstarter charge you."

This is part of an argument that is in the comments on the Paizo website under the post about the kickstarter today. The person in reply showing that this is a Paizo thing was also stating his abject displeasure in other posts at having to spend $50 for a book that is applicable for the table top game and more than likely won't be readily available to the general least not for some time if not at all. This sentiment was echoed a scant few times but mostly it was just people exclaiming how great this is or this is what fan support is supposed to mean or some other nonsense.

Almost there....

I would support a kickstarter if it actually supplied a real product that I will be able to use. I am referring to the main purpose of the kickstarter not the bonus stuff given away for people who pledge a fuck ton of money. This isn't a real product. This is vaporware if it doesn't get support and funding from financial investors. A Paizo forum poster snarkily asked if Paizo should take away revenue from the table top line to fund this instead of asking the fans for help. HELL YES THEY SHOULD HAVE! Their table top line has hit the bloat limit now and, to be frankly honest, the overall quality of their product (look and layout of books not withstanding) such as the writing and editing hasn't improved since they started. Its meh on a good day and horrific on its worst. If they took a break from constantly pumping out more and more crap for just a season they would have ample capital available to spend on this demo themselves and not on more books of rather unneeded fluff. Hit the fans up to fund the actual project instead. Then it wouldn't seem like a rip off.

I also want to add that I *AM* a fan of Paizo and their work for generally better or worse. I adopted the PFRPG as my rule set after 3.0/3.5 D&D died the way of the Dodo. Heck it improved those rules 1000% and it is a blast to play. If you read this blog you will see game posts of three different adventure path games being run. I run two of them. I enjoy the stuff, warts and all, but as of lately I've been feeling the bloat of over saturation. Now I get to see that the company that is all about the fans has finally shown its true colors and has taken the turn that ruined WotC......No they were not bought by Hasbro.....they have stopped having any shred of respect for their fans and have become ALL business now. This kickstarter is all the proof you need.

Mosaic of the Picard Facepalm made of pictures of people facepalming. THAT is strong enough!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

A man can dream can't he?

I got to be very honest here....the thought of doing an Avengers movie let alone a Joss Whedon helmed one scared the piss out of me. While I don't just outright hate the man I do not mindlessly fall in love with every property he touches either. I like some things he has done, Firefly for example, but not because it was genius or life altering or some other over enthusiastic uber fanboy response. I generally like things that are fun.

Fun, however, is purely subjective to the person going through an experience. I know people who think drinking until blackout drunk on the weekend is 'fun'. I'd call that alcoholism but that is just my opinion. So with that extreme example I want to point out that a person's form of fun varies for the individual.

Interestingly enough I've seen some film reviews that gave this movie a fair review saying it was good but not 'the BEST SUPARHEROEZ MOOVEE EVARR!!!'. And then those same reviewers were flogged about the head and shoulders by rabid packs of bullying fanboys/girls who believe that if their opinion isn't yours then you are wrong.

I say all that in preparation of being flogged. And when the hell did the geeks become the bullies???

The Avengers is by all accounts what should could have been the pinnacle of the super hero genre films. A grand sweeping epic that puts a large group of defined heroes up against unbelievable odds only to have them triumph in the end through sheer guile, determination, creativity and brute strength. What I felt we got was a rather vanilla superhero movie that doesn't take anything to 'the next level' or improves on the genre. That is actually ok by my book because what this movie does is it entertained me for the 2+ hours I sat in the theater and I got my monies worth out of it. Basically I had a fun time.

Cause 'The Avengers' movie is very similar to a bag of Cheetos.


Full of cheesy goodness, loaded with empty calories but worth the price on the bag and you like eating them. In the interest of fairness let's go over the parts that left me cold and then move on to what I enjoyed.
I will post spoilers ahead. Consider yourself warned. 

The Bad

This movie is boring as hell for a good chunk of it. While littered with some funny one liners here and there for a superhero movie, especially a super team movie, there wasn't a hell of a lot of action in this flick (until the last 30 minutes or so). Basically what I'm saying that this movie is kind of bloated with some excessive dialogue that would have been better if the director/writer (you Joss....I'm talking to you...) would have shown it rather than tell. Movie is a visual media and when it comes to comic book flicks I want more action.

I also found Cobie Smulders to be out of place in the movie as Maria Hill.

I mean she looks the part and quite frankly I thought she would do very well with the role. However she seems like a fish out of water for almost every scene she was in. Hill keeps flip flopping between a doe eyed/confused rookie and a badass SHIELD super spy (and heir to Nick Fury's job BTW). I don't know if Cobie was just overwhelmed by the sheer potential scope of this movie or it was weak writing and directing. Maria Hill was a lost character and she shouldn't have ever been.

I also felt there was just a tad bit too much comedy in this movie. I felt it the sheer amount of it was to make sure this movie would appeal to audiences of all ages/gender and thus make it more financially safe for the movie studio to green light. This irritated me a bit because I felt this helped strip out what could have been a more action packed romp. And those movies are sometimes dubbed 'guy movies' and thus don't appeal to a larger demographic most of the time. So yeah I said it....The Avengers felt too 'safe' for me and the excess comedy really made that shine. However that is not the most irritating thing I found in this movie. No...this runs deeper.

THIS! This was the most irritating part of this entire movie. The death of Agent Phil Coulson. Sure people will argue that his death was needed to rally the team in the third act to fight Loki and his intergalactic army. Others will say with hope that it was probably a Life Decoy (robot that looks & acts like person to take his place in dangerous situations). No this was a case of not just BAD writing but a deeper problem which has become a Joss Whedon trope. Joss has an almost sadistic need to needlessly kill a loved character for NO DAMN GOOD REASON. People have noticed but say this makes the man unpredictable? I don't think so....

This is rule #1 Fanboys and Fangirls. Remember this.

The part that floored me about that entire scene and its aftermath is that with Coulson's unwarranted death Joss managed to nerf Nick Fury's character even more so. Tony Stark's mantra since Iron Man 2 has been 'DO NOT TRUST NICK FURY'. So it is not out of the scope of Fury's character (being that he is a SPY, INFORMATION AND RESOURCE MONGER as well as A NOTORIOUS PRICK WHO WILL SAY OR DO ANYTHING TO GET THE JOB DONE) to LIE to the team that their friend and ally perished by Loki's hand all the while Coulson is alive in critical condition. It is still the emotional push they needed but it also keeps Fury's character intact as a master of misinformation and manipulation. Yes that made me angry, how can you tell? Again....thanks for doing what you've always done there Joss! Way to break the mould buddy!

The Good

I felt the principal cast hit their beats very well. All were represented well for the core cast (Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor) and neither of them out shined overwhelmed the rest of the cast. And I'm glad this happened because this is something I willingly admit that Joss Whedon is great at: building a cast of unique main characters and not letting one outdo the others. His groups of protagonists usually shine and with the cast he had to work with they positively glowed. And with the completely bombastic Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) in the cast they could have all been overshadowed by the charisma in his small toe but Joss managed to balance that well.

Don't worry Tony. Iron Man 3 is coming up soon and you don't have to share again.

I also liked how colorful this movie was. It was big and bright and vibrant for a majority of the flick and felt like some of the older four color comics from back in the day. Except Captain America's costume. It looked too smurfy blue. This movie wasn't visually muted like some films that shoot constantly with a colored filter over the lens. Its a nice change to the norm.

And the action in the third act of the movie? Well that was freaking great and there should have been MORE of that in the flick. I would have paid to watch 2 1/2 hours of just that much action. The thing that sealed that action sequence for me was that The Avengers started to act more like The Avengers. This was the payoff and it worked well for me.

Oh and did I mention that Hawkeye is in the movie? No? Well he is and Jeremy Renner is great has Clint. I am an unabashed Hawkeye fan and he made me proud.

So to sum up I liked the movie but I didn't love it. It is a flawed movie, technically it was a cluster fuck at points, but somehow managed to work in the end. So I recommend it. Go see it. Take a date to it. Heck if you have kids that have watched Iron Man or Thor or Captain America....take them too! They will REALLY love it! So go have some fun with another Marvel movie. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but it doesn't flatten the tire either.