Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Video Review: Wendy's Grill Skill

Recently -by which I mean at least 3 years ago- someone leaked a Wendy's training video called Grill Skill to the internet. I worked at Wendy's myself several years ago and I don't remember watching this training video, but then again it was a long time ago. One way or another, I just couldn't let it go without getting made fun of.

Warning: This is going to be long.

Video Links: Part 1 and Part 2.

The video starts with Wendy's founder Dave Thomas standing in a freezer. If all you know about Dave comes from 90's era Wendy's commercials then brace yourself. Because even though this was filmed 13 years before he died they still managed to film it entirely with his reanimated corpse. He seems to be somewhere between bored as hell and suicidal for the entire video.

"Maybe if I stay in this freezer long enough I'll catch pneumonia. Then I won't have to do this stupid video anymore."

It's not polite to mock the dead so I won't go too much into his speech impediment here. Suffice to say that after two minutes of telling us how he has the fray-shest burgers in the bid-ness, he leaves us alone so he can have an old fay-shioned hamburger with mustard, pickle and onions.

We cut to a static shot of a keyhole accompanied by random bird sounds. This scene drags out almost long enough to make you reach for a razor before we finally meet employee Bill. Bill is an idiot.

Anyway, Bill is told to go speak to the manager, Mary, who wants him to learn how to work the grill. Before sitting him down with a training video (yes, the character watches a training video in this training video) she takes the time to remind him that Wendy's only uses 100% pure ground beef, because apparently no one ever explained to the actress that this was a training video and not a commercial.

Anyway, Bill puts the video into the television and this is where everything goes to Hell. The television promptly explodes in a cloud of smoke, which forms into a disembodied spectral head. Because we've already established that Wendy's training videos are made by necromancers this surprises nobody but Bill, not that you'd know he was surprised from the actor's performance. The head introduces itself as the Duke of the Grill (vassal of the Burger King, I'm sure) and drags Bill into the TV and no, I am not making any of this up. It really happens.

"I'm here for your soul. If you're working in food service you won't need it."

Bill finds himself in the home dimension of the Duke of the Grill, who happens to be a dorky black guy in gold-rimmed sunglasses. Sadly for the Duke, his world is nothing but a tiny cage floating in a black void filled with laser lights, his only furniture a single Wendy's grill, and his only food an endless supply of cheese, buns, and talking meat patties.

Maybe if you had some real furniture you wouldn't need to make your meat look pretty, Duke.

What happens next is one of the most painful moments ever recorded to video: a two minute rap about hamburgers. To be fair, the Duke isn't the worst rapper I've ever heard, though that's mostly because Bill tries to rap too. To be unfair, it doesn't matter how good he is, because either way he's still rapping about Wendy's hamburger patties. Snoop Dogg may have been able to name himself after a cartoon character without losing street cred, but even he would look like a jackass doing this rap.

Over the course of the longest two minutes of your life, the Duke explains the proper way to cook a Wendy's burger. The first thing you may notice is he's not wearing any sort of gloves. This is not a mistake. The grill worker doesn't wear gloves for safety reasons. If you accidentally touch the grill or get a grease splatter on your hands then latex gloves will melt and stick to you, turning what would be a mild first-degree burn into a hospital stay. As for cleanliness, well, they're supposed to wash their hands. Personally I always washed my hands before work, but to be totally honest I think I was the only one.

Anyway, on to the actual preparation First you lay it on the grill with the help of an arrow on a piece of paper, because meat has grain (just like wood) and if you lay it down improperly it will turn into deadly poison and murder your dog while it sleeps. Anyway, he then explains about the four corner press. This is where you crush the meat into the grill to spread it out and make it cook faster. As the name implies, you press the meat four times, and you do this twice for a grand total of eight smashes. Usually pressing meat out on a grill like that dries it out, but Wendy's burgers have so much fat in them that even after being smashed out eight times you still have to drain it off, as shown.

Finally the Duke finishes up his rap. Unfortunately, Bill then does the exact same rap again, only with infinity times less enthusiasm. After a gloriously failed attempt at a fist bump, the Duke goes into *shudder* a second verse, this time about how to add cheese to a burger. Defying all logic, this process somehow manages to be longer than one step.

He also mentions that you must never serve burnt, dry, broken, or incomplete patties because "quality is our recipe." But because they use a different recipe for chili, they are allowed to put the burnt, crappy meat into that. That may not sound very appetizing, but to be fair they do shove said meat into a drawer over the grill for several hours before someone finally comes to get it and stick it in the chili pot. Eat up, chili fans!

Finally we cut back to the real world, where Mary snaps Bill out of his smoke-inhalation-induced hallucination by screaming in his ear. As they leave, the camera hangs on the TV way too long in a segment that makes me think the thing is about to transform and eat everyone. Sadly, it doesn't.

Instead we get a montage of Mary teaching Bill the same thing he just learned on the video, then spending the rest of the day watching over his shoulder like a crazy person while taking notes. Clearly after watching the kid stare slack-jawed at a malfunctioning TV for what must have been hours she realized he couldn't be trusted to operate a spatula without close supervision.

Finally, we're back to Dave, who has just received his old fay-shioned hamburger from a girl wearing gigantic nerd glasses. Dave almost bites into his skimpy little burger before realizing what an awful idea that is and putting the horrible greaseball down. He then rephrases the opening speech, this time making sure to assure us that cooking a burger is a very difficult and extraordinary talent that takes lots of practice. You keep telling yourself that, Dave.

"You have to eat it, Dave. The cameras are on you. No, you can't go hang out in the freezer again instead."

We end on a two-minute music video for an awful song called Grill Skill, over which we see clips of hideous people cooking hideous burgers while simultaneously flexing their scrawny muscles, lip synching badly, and playing air guitar with their spatulas.

I actually feel a little bad about making fun of this video, because it's obvious that some poor, misguided person really tried his best on it. That person was the geek who played the Duke of the Grill. As for the other "actors," Bill and Mary's performances are almost good enough to be called phoned in, but the real shining star of half-assedness is Dave Thomas himself whose performance is somewhere between "smoke-signaled" and "100-character tweet without bothering to capitalize the 'I's."

As for the special effects editor (and never before or since has the word "special" been more appropriate), he seems to have tried his best given that a head of cabbage has more brain matter in it than his head.

That's really all there is to say about this video, but there is one last thing I want to leave you with...always remember: Wendy's 100% real ground beef is pattied into squares so the meat hangs off the edge of the bun.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Game Review: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Hey boys and girls, have you ever played a truly great game? I mean the kind of game that you could actually say, in perfect honesty, is one of the best games of all time? I have. It had an excellent story, a fun and functional combat system, and a fully open and immersive world that made me feel as if I was really a part of it.

I can still remember the first day I played it. I spent that entire day almost in a daze, completely captivated by the scope of the game. I can still recall the moment I realized that I didn't have to do some special quest or defeat an evil wizard before I could leave the first town. I could just go whenever I felt like it. I had total freedom, for the first time in any game I'd ever played. If there was a plate sitting on a table I could take it. If there was a man on a street corner, I could kill him. If there was a book on a shelf I could read it, and not just a one-sentence excerpt either but the entire thing. The game I'm referring to is, of course, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

Sadly, I can't quite say the same thing about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Allow me to explain why not. By this point you might have heard of a little controversy surrounding the children of Skyrim, or more specifically the fact that they can't be killed or even damaged in any way. Granted "I want to kill kids!" is a weak argument to make against the game, as Bethesda Softworks has so condescendingly pointed out time and again, but the thing is it's just the tip of the iceberg. A sizable percentage of NPCs in Skyrim are considered "essential" to the story and therefore invincible. Unlike Oblivion -the fourth game in the series for those who've been under a rock- this extends beyond just main quest NPCs, to basically every NPC who is involved in any quest at all, no matter how minor. It gets to the point that evil characters will find themselves having to save the game before attacking any NPC because of the relatively high chance that the NPC (or another nearby NPC) will be unkillable.

And that's pretty much The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in a nutshell. Skyrim is beautiful, expertly written and designed, and set in an interesting world with a rich history and culture. Every dungeon has been handcrafted, often with its own hook, story, and special reward. I could praise the game until I'm blue in the face, because it's easily one of the best games I've played in years.

But that's just the thing: that word, "game." Like most video games, it keeps reminding you that you're only playing a game. Every time you try to murder an annoying NPC only to have them jump back up from 0 HP and call the guards on you, every time you want to pick up an item off a table only to discover you can't because it's only decorative; every time, it just serves to remind you again that you're only playing a video game.

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

This was actually a fairly hard rating to give. Yes, the various questlines are much shorter in Skyrim then they were in the older games, but that seems like a hollow argument when you can beat Morrowind in less than 15 minutes without cheating. Also, yes, this game has more bugs in it than an anthill, but at worst that just puts it on par with basically every other game to come out in the last few years, and at least in Skyrim's case it can be justified thanks to the game's massive scale.

Judged all on its own, Skyrim deserves a rating of 5, but I just can't in good conscience give it one when I know that it could be so much better. Not every game has to measure up to the bar set by Morrowind. I wouldn't hold, say, Final Fantasy up to that standard, for example. The difference is that in this case the company that made the game is the same company that set that standard in the first place. We know what they can do. Yet, rather than expand, they choose instead to make each new game smaller and more limited than the last, with less content and less customization, and instead more arbitrary restrictions and more invisible walls.

And that's the story of how the best game of 2011 only earned a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holy Crap, Where Was I?!

For those of you who've been wondering where the Heck I've been for basically all of October and the first half of November, the simple answer is I've been trying to fix up the blog and make it nice. I've been working on new graphics, including a title picture and new rating images, with more in the works.

I've also gone back and added annotations to some of my older blog posts, so feel free to go back and read them again. I've added especially lengthy annotations to my reviews of Final Fantasy X-2 and Sonic Gems Collection.

I intend to restart the regular reviews ASAP, most likely tomorrow. In other news, I currently have Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on pre-order and intend to have a review up for that shortly after getting my hands on it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Not Okay...But It Does Get Better

Those of you who follow my blog may know I have a rule about keeping the blog non-political. You also know that rule gets broken more often than a humerus bone in a Seagal movie. At this point it's not so much a rule as it is...well, a lie. Well, I'm breaking it again.

There's yet another story in the news about a teenage suicide, and I want to put a stop to it. I know I'm not exactly a powerhouse celebrity whose words can reach the millions, but I'm going to post this here in the hopes that someone, somewhere, who needs to hear this message will see it. If you are being bullied and considering suicide, please listen to this. If you're not then feel free to ignore this post and come back next week for more philosophical rants thinly disguised as movie and video game reviews.

I want to tell you something real, kids, not what most adults will tell you. Most adults will tell you that everything's okay, that you just think you're in a bad spot. They're wrong. See, they haven't gone through it. Most people haven't and they never will. They don't know how bad it can be.

I do, because I've lived it too. I was bullied in high school by people who would punch and kick me in the head right in front of teachers who would watch it happen and say nothing. When I got home I had to look forward to three more hours of running from my brother who would beat me up for -depending on his mood that day- not standing up for myself at school, not playing video games with him when he demanded it, or sometimes just because he was bored.

I can remember nights when I would stay awake until 4 o'clock in the morning, just sitting in bed doing nothing, just to have a few more hours of not getting the shit kicked out of me. The punchline of it all was that every god damn adult I talked to accused me of lying to get attention. They all told me it was all okay. It wasn't okay. It wasn't even remotely okay.

So no, I'm not going to tell you that it's okay. What I am going to tell you, and please believe me when I say this, is it does get better. It really, really does. Now that I'm an adult, I'm finally the master of my own life; I can do what I want to do and it's great. My brother and I are actually friends now. I love my life. I've learned to live without fear, and to stand up for myself when I'm attacked instead of blaming myself like I used to.

I feel a lot of things when I look back on those times. I feel anger, sadness, shame, but mostly joy. Yes, joy, because I know I'll never have to endure that kind of torment again. When I think that I could have ended my life then, having known only misery and despair, and I think about the happiness I gained by sticking it's unimaginable to me that I ever could have even considered something like suicide.

If you're being bullied or you're in any other sort of rough situation and you're considering suicide, just remember, it may not be okay but it really does get better. I swear to you, before every power in the universe, that is the truth.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Video Game Review: Creeper World

Every real time strategy fan is familiar with the dream of an RTS game where you can "just build," either because they share the dream themselves or because they know someone who does. It's the player who builds turrets and power plants instead of infantry and tanks, the player who believes if you win a battle before you reach the highest tech tier available then you've failed. They're called turtles, and their goal in an RTS is not to defeat the enemy, but to create the perfect, self-sufficient base.

Sadly, there's not a lot of games available for turtles. Strategy games like Command & Conquer usually include base-busting superweapons that make turtling impractical, and tower defense games ramp up the difficulty so fast that before long even the most perfect base won't be able to hold off the enemy anymore.

Creeper World, which you can get for 10 dollars from indie developers KnuckleCracker, claims to finally give the turtles what they want: a strategy game where it's just you and your base against the creeper, a literal flood of destructive evil that can only be, at best, held at bay.

Does it live up to the claims? Not really. The creeper stops feeling like a threat after about the second level when you realize you can completely lock it down forever by putting a single blaster next to the spawn point. As for base building, the network system usually ends up creating a clunky mess, and the fact that there are only about 9 types of structures you can build ever means you won't have a lot to play around with.

Aside from the developers' obnoxious non-stop boasting (For example, the developers' real answer to the question, "What is Creeper World?" : "You ever play a game and then years later you talk about that game and how cool it was? [...] Well that's Creeper World.") there's nothing particularly wrong with this game, it's more that there's not anything particularly amazing about it either. I wouldn't spend 10 dollars on it myself, but I guess I can see how someone else might.

KR Rating: GOOD

No, what I really have a problem with is....the fans...

The fans rave about Creeper World!
The following are real comments posted about the level pack Creeper World: User Space.

Best game ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Best game I've ever played. Ever. 5/5

I bought starcraft because of the creep description, it was supposed to... well do what the creep does in THIS game! Slowly take over everything!!

Seeing comments like these is like hearing someone say that american is the best kind of cheese, or that they decided to try filet mignon because they heard it was similar to low grade hamburger meat soaked in ammonia. I'm not sure whether to call them stupid or just feel bad for them. Their taste in games is so primitive and backwards it still thinks the wheel is a fad.

That'ssss a very nice civilization you have there. It would be a ssshame if something happened to it.

Now that a lot of people have played Minecraft it's hard to hear the name "Creeper World" and not think of the green suicide bombers from MC. Apparently if your brain is made of cheddar it's equally hard not to bring up that coincidence in the comments. You literally can't go for more than 10 comments without someone bringing up Minecraft. This comment wins for mentioning the similarity in the most obtuse and roundabout way possible.

This is the BENCHMARK for a perfect strategy game. No planes, knights, killers etc. Everyone just needs to quickly and effectively to reach our goal. The upgrades are a great idea. Units, menu bar, the informations are extremely well thought out. !!! A STROKE OF GENIUS !!!

This guy almost started to make a legitimate point about simplicity and purity of strategy (or something) but quickly got distracted by his own stupidity. I'm not even sure what he's trying to get at here. How is a strategy game with knights worse than a strategy game with, say, marines? What the hell does he mean by "killers?" Did he forget that this game does actually have planes (well, aerial drones), or that upgrades have been a regular feature in RTS games for years? What does everyone need to quickly and effectively do? Move? Shoot? Molest a goat? What?

The comment has no answers for you. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, marinated with the unknown, baked in a puzzle for an hour at 450°, and then garnished with a conundrum.

Near the end you can see where the commenter's brain exploded and the shards of shrapnel from his skull managed to type out the rest of his post. Sadly, most of the pieces seem to have hit the exclamation key.

Friday, September 23, 2011

CERN to World: "We Broke Physics. Our Bad."

According to researchers at the CERN Institute in Geneva, the neutrino particle could be capable of moving faster than the speed of light, something that until now was widely considered impossible. How could this be? Let's start by examining the theory of relativity itself, shall we?

The theory starts out with something that's more or less inarguable: as you move faster, everything around you appears to move slower. If you're driving down the road and you pass someone walking on the sidewalk they appear to be standing still because their speed, relative to you, is so much slower.

Einstein, took this a step further. He decided that everything didn't simply look like it was moving slower, but that it actually was moving slower. That is to say, that as you move faster time slows down. He went on to theorize that you could place yourself into a sort of suspended animation by moving very fast, that if you were to travel near the speed of light years would pass for everyone else in what would be -to you- a matter of mere seconds. Furthermore, he declared that the speed of light was the ultimate limit, that at that speed time would stop completely. Therefore, he concluded, moving at or beyond the speed of light was physically impossible.

The problem with this theory, if you haven't figured it out yet, is that it's based entirely on ignorant conjecture. It follows a three-step process of idiocy to create something that's more akin to superstition than science.

1. Take a subjective observation. (We've never seen anything move faster than light.)
2. Declare that subjective observation to be an objective fact. (We've never seen anything move faster than light because nothing can move faster than light.)
3. Assign arbitrary magical properties to explain your new "fact." (Speed somehow controls time, and the speed of light is where time breaks, therefore nothing can move faster than light.)

And if we really want to be nitpicky...

4. Defend your "fact" by calling it "common knowledge" and accusing anyone who questions it of being stupid and arrogant. (Einstein said it was true and he's smarter than you, therefore it's true. Or are you claiming you're smarter than the greatest scientist who ever lived?)

Honestly, the only reason anyone took the theory of relativity seriously at all is because Einstein was the one who put it forth. If literally anyone else had suggested the theory of relativity it would've been laughed at, but Einstein gave us E=MC2 and so therefore -in the minds of the scientific community- nothing he said could ever be wrong.

Every genius is allowed at least one stupid idea, aren't they? Well, relativity is Einstein's one stupid idea. Personally I've been waiting for someone to disprove this ludicrous theory for years.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Movie Review: Dungeons and Dragons

This week's review is for 2000's Dungeons & Dragons, the labor of love of a then...well, really still pretty much unknown Courtney Solomon, driven only by his desire to make a movie about the famous role-playing game. Though a critical and financial failure (according to IMDb the movie lost 1.2 million dollars worldwide) I must admit that I actually enjoyed this movie, which is exactly why I decided to write this review slamming it.

Don't worry, it'll all make sense by the end.

Let's start with the actors. Even if you're capable of looking at Justin Whalin and not seeing Jimmy Olsen, who he played on the TV show Lois & Clark, he's still just a bit too irritating and childish to be heroic. Zoe McLellan creates a female lead so wooden they could have subbed her out for a cardboard cutout and no one would notice. The most enjoyable performance in the movie is Jeremy Irons as the villain, as he enacts his evil plot to chew up all scenery everywhere, which is sad because Jeremy Irons hated this movie and intentionally overacted as revenge against the director. To put it simply, when Marlon Wayans gives one of the best performances in your movie (and your movie isn't Requiem for a Dream) you have a problem.

Even worse than the acting, however, is the plot. This is due mostly to the deleted scenes, many of which are actually kind of important to the story and without them the already grandiose plot just becomes incomprehensible and ridiculous. Without them we don't know why the hero hates his dad, why he wants to find the magical McGuffin despite repeatedly stating he doesn't care, why it's so important that the villain be defeated, or any number of other important things. The editing is so bad that we don't even find out the name of one of the main characters (Elwood the dwarf) until we see it in the credits, because the scene where he introduces himself got cut.

As much as I did enjoy watching this movie, there is only one rating I can logically give it.

KR Rating: 2 BAD

The reason I decided to do this review is to prove a point. That being, that how good a movie is and how much you like that movie are entirely seperate concerns. The fact that you like a movie does not automatically make it good. Case in point: I like this movie, but it is, objectively, bad.

At the same time, liking a movie that is bad does not make you stupid, or show that you have poor taste. There's definitely something to enjoy here, as long as you're willing to put up with the movie's flaws. The movie had ambition, ambition that was mostly squandered granted, but ambition nonetheless.

Dungeons and Dragons set out to be great and ended up bad, but the fact that they tried gave the movie individuality and heart. Comparatively, the sequel, 2005's Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God set out to be "okay" and succeeded. The movie is objectively better as a movie, the plot makes more sense, the acting is better, but the movie has no soul. There's absolutely nothing differentiating it from any of the hundreds of other generic fantasy movies out there.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Television Review: Star Trek Enterprise

For those who've been living under a rock for the last ten years and don't know what Enterprise is, it might help if I start a few years before the show came out. In 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit the big screen to more or less mixed reviews. Despite complaints, the movie was a massive financial success, earning nearly a billion dollars worldwide. Prequels became the next big thing. By the time the craze finally ended it gave us a large number of -mostly awful- prequels, including the 2001 show Enterprise. Set a century before the events of the original series, Enterprise claims to tell the story of Captain John Archer, captain of the USS Enterprise NX-01, in the early years of space exploration.

Other reviewers have already said a lot about the lack of character development, or the way the show blatantly rips off stories and scenes from previous Trek series, or the silly and sometimes cartoonish plot points. Those are all valid criticisms, but personally I'm not going to be talking about them. I'm going to talk about something else, both for the sake of providing some actual fresh insight, and also because as bad as those things are I don't believe they're even cose to the worst aspects of this show.

No, the most irritating thing about the show in my opinion, and the reason I feel it would have been awful even if it was well written, is the extreme political bias. Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing necessarily wrong with being either liberal or conservative as long as you don't drift into fanaticism. Unfortunately, the writers for Enterprise seem to have left "fanatic" in the dust a long time ago as they sprinted straight for "retarded" at top speed.

Nowhere does this show more than in their portrayal of the military, specifically Starfleet. Yes, Enterprise is a military vessel, however peaceful their mission may be, yet the show's portrayal of military personnel is about as accurate as the average Appalachian redneck's idea of an african american.

This is a problem that could be easily remedied with research. Stargate SG-1 is a great example of TV getting the military right. Sure, it wasn't always perfectly accurate but they did a pretty good job specifically because they did research. Enterprise could have done the same, but that might have required talking to actual military personnel, and as near as I can tell from watching this show, the writers' idea of military personnel is a grunting neanderthal trying to think up excuses to kill brown people.

Faced with the problem of trying to make the target of their hatred the protagonists, they set out to design a "better," "smarter," and "more moral" version of the military for their show. What they ended up with was a league of incompetent poofs who ignore procedure, make stupid decisions that get innocents killed, and try to solve every problem with slapstick and passive-aggressive posturing.


As much as I try to keep the blog non-political, in this case it can't be helped. Despite what many internet denizens believe, ignorance is not the sole province of conservatives. The writers of Enterprise are about as ignorant as they come, and the show suffers a lot because of it. Their misguided attempt at writing a "better" military obliterated any shred of believability in the plot or likability in the characters. Yes, the show got better as it went, but it didn't matter. Even if the show had been well written from the beginning, the writers' political stupidity would have killed it anyway.

At multiple points while watching the show I tried to figure out how other Trek captains would have handled the situations Archer finds himself in, yet every time I tried I realized that no other Trek captain would have been in those situations to begin with. Picard would never have sent his crew to an uncharted planet without even so much as running a single scan to find out if it was safe. Archer did exactly that in season 1 episode 3: A Strange New World. Kirk would never have brought his pet to an alien planet knowing it would almost certainly offend the locals. Archer did that in season 2 episode 5: A Night In Sickbay.

In the real world the military would never take orders from a foreign power the way Starfleet kowtows to the Vulcans, they are not in the habit of sending either personnel or vehicles into combat zones unarmed, and believe it or not the military's policy toward stupid captains who get their subordinates killed is not "forgive and forget." Any captain like John Archer would be court-martialled less than a month into his command. It's as simple as that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie Review: Wild Wild West

In 1965 Robert Conrad and Ross Martin co-starred in a TV show called Wild Wild West. The show chronicled the adventures of James West and Artemus Gordon, two members of the secret service taking on villains in the old west using West's gunslinging and Gordon's steampunk-lite inventions. The major draw of the show was the incredible chemistry between the two stars, who created a screen partnership to rival Kirk and Spock, Luke and Bo Duke, and Ernie.

In 1999, Barry Sonnenfeld directed a film called Wild Wild West, a 170 million dollar action comedy about an Army Captain and a US Marshall who join forces to stop an evil genius who plans to conquer the United States with a giant mechanical spider. Though financially a success (the film earned back over 222 million dollars worldwide) the movie was considered to be a critical failure and has since become one of the most universally hated movies on the internet, wih 4.4 stars on IMDb and 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.

At the risk of having my internet writer license revoked I have to admit that I never really understood why this movie was so hated. Most of the hate seems nitpicky to me, as if the critics are desperate to agree with the hive mind, but can't actually come up with a justification for doing so, so they just bring up whatever bad things they can think of, no matter how minor.

The one real, major problem I can find with the movie is the two leads, Jim West and Artemus Gordon, as played by Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Don't get me wrong, the movie doesn't need to put the same emphasis on their relationship as the show did, nor would I expect it to. Smith and Kline don't have anywhere near the chemistry of Conrad and Martin. That's kind of the problem, though. Smith and Kline are like oil and water. These two would be unappealing in any movie. Watching them try to emulate one of the greatest relationships in television history is just painful.

To be fair to them, part of this is the fault of the script. The movie -perhaps unwisely- tries to evoke the old buddy cop trope of the two lawmen who start out as enemies before coming to respect one another. Sadly, it never quite seems to get around to the respecting each other part, settling instead on going from hatred to just not caring. It doesn't help that when they finally do get to their big bonding scene it's played entirely for laughs, and punctuated by the two of them being chased through a cornfield by flying saw blades.

KR Rating: 4 GOOD

So is the movie really as bad as everyone says? Not even close. Is it as good as the TV show? No, but to be fair it was never going to be. Haters are quick to say that you have to judge it in context, and they're right. In the context of a big budget action movie -which is what it is- it's actually pretty good. It was never intended to compete with the series, or to be high art. It succeeded at what it wanted to do and it brought something new to the genre, which is more than can be said for most other action comedies, including those that rated higher than it did. The only real problem with the movie is the utter lack of chemistry between the two leads.

If you haven't seen this movie then I suggest you check it out, even if just so you can judge it for yourself. True, fans of the series and those looking for high art won't find a lot to be interested in here, but if you're a fan of action comedies, a fan of steampunk, or better yet a fan of both then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by Wild Wild West.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Confession: I kind of can't stand DC Comics Confessions

Before I get into talking about this week's subject, I'd like to talk about a phenomenon I like to call the I Like Cheese Effect. I'm not talking about the fact that I like cheese, even though I do. No, I'm talking about the people who feel the need to post on Twitter, on a blog, on Facebook, or somewhere else, but they don't really have anything to say, so they just end up posting something like "I like cheese."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say you should never have an opinion, or that you should never post it for people you don't know to look at it. If I believed that I wouldn't have this blog. The thing is, there's a difference between making a point, telling a story, or offering insight, as opposed to just saying "I like cheese." If you want to tell me about the specific kinds of cheese you like, I'm all ears*. If you want to tell me a story about how you had some really good cheese when you were vacationing in Europe, go right ahead*. If you want to write me a 5 point thesis on why cheese is the best food ever, feel free*. But if all you have to say is "I like cheese," please kill yourself.

* Note: my interest in these topics will, of course, depend entirely on whether or not I know who you are. Do not send me e-mails talking about cheese if I don't know you or I will lay every curse I can on your hard drive.

DC Comics Confessions is basically an entire website of cheese-liking. Yes, true, there are a few actual points being made. Unfortunately, 99% of it is just page after page after page of meaningless statements like "I can't stand [Starfire]" and "I hate Nightwing's mullet." They're a bit like bumper stickers in a way. People who already agree with you will get a brief "somebody else feels how I feel" high, but aside from that there is no purpose or meaning to what you're saying. Even as conversation starters they fail, since all confessions are completely anonymous.

Of course, I'm sure someone could mention here that that's the entire point. It's not about making an argument, or starting a conversation, it's about confessions. That goes back to what I was saying to begin with, though: It's one thing to believe that, say, "the Superbuddies are the most awesome superhero team," and it's perfectly fine to want to tell people you believe that. But if you feel so strongly about it that people must know, yet so oppressed that you believe the only way to get your opinion heard is by anonymous confession, you really need to go outside.

Also, why do all of these things always say I kind of cant stand __? Can you stand it or not? The qualifying phrase is unnecessary and makes you look like a passive-aggressive pussy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

OWGH: Timesplitters Future Perfect

As my way of apologizing for missing or stretching my last several weekly updates, the three people who read this blog get an extra post this week. Because I'm lazy, though, it's another edition of the old website's greatest hits.

Originally, I was going to repost my first review ever, for Icewind Dale 2, but I unfortunately hit a snag when I realized that review sucked. Instead, you get a repost of my review for Timesplitters: Future Perfect.


Obviously there is something desperately wrong with me. I know this because I actually went out and bought this game, even after the maddening horror that was Timesplitters 2. I'm obviously either a masochist, dangerously stupid, or more likely both.

Or maybe I'm just morbidly curious. Who knows?

Fortunately, my fears were alleviated almost immediately. Future Perfect is an awesome game and definitely much better than its awful predecessor. How did this happen? Mostly, there's a new developer: EA Games. In fact, I have totally unreliable testimony from a halfwit who claims with no proof that he worked for TS2 developer Eidos saying that the reason Timesplitters 2 sucked so hard was because frankly Eidos just didn't give a damn about the franchise so didn't put any effort into it. It would certainly explain a lot, but then again I got that information from a GameFAQs user. To protect his identity, I have code-named him "Curve Ball."

Anyway, back to this particular game. EA Games decided to actually explain the plot for us, as well as, thankfully, letting us know just what the Hell was going on in the last game. In a change from TS2 you actually control Cortez through this game, rather than jumping into other people. This, of course, means we actually get to have cut scenes and interaction between characters. You even get to hang out with your future self on occasion. Don't worry, it'll all make sense when you play the game.

All things considered, my only real complaint is that they took out the Wild West and Cyber Punk eras from TS2.

Presentation: 5/5
The presentation is perfect. Graphics are great, sound is great. No real complaints here.

Gameplay: 4/5
The gameplay is also great. The game is a load of fun, with many unique and interesting weapons, challenging enemies, and decent A.I. Unfortunately, the gameplay only gets a four because Cortez still hasn't learned how to jump.

Multiplayer: 5/5
Honestly, the only way the multiplayer could get any better is if you could design your own maps and scenarios to play in using some kind of map editor. Oh wait, you can do that! Sweet!

KR Rating (from the FUTURE): 5 GREAT

Sadly, this was also to be the last Timesplitters game, one final hurrah to end the series. I guess it's just as well. Not every game needs to be a series. Future Perfect is, well, perfect all on its own. One could argue it doesn't even strictly need the first two games either. Really, it's not that I'd like to see another Timesplitters. I think this game wrapped up the story very nicely.

Rather, I'd like to see more games like Future Perfect. You know, a game with more than two hours of content, a game that has a serious story yet doesn't take itself too seriously, and where "weapon variety" doesn't mean "fifty assault rifles, six pistols, three shotguns, and a token rocket launcher just to shut you up."

If you're one of the many people who still have a Playstation 2 (or if you're one of the PS3 owners lucky enough to have a backward compatible system) Future Perfect is a must-have. It's a solid game and personally I believe it still stands up even when compared to modern shooters.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Real Storyboard for Mystery Science Theater 3000 (From Another Universe)

I, like a lot of people, love Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was 15 when it was cancelled in 1999, and while I didn't exactly cry, I was sad to see it go. At the same time, let's be fair. It's not like no one saw it coming. It's a show of 2 hour long episodes, each of which required long and expensive copyright negotiations just to be filmed. The fact that it lasted for 11 whole years is amazing in and of itself.

At the same time, I feel like the show is a product of its time. It was first created in 1988, but ran until 1999, so I feel it's really a product of the 90s. That's part of why I love it, I loved the 90s, but at the same time I recognize that society has changed a lot since then. Somewhere in the 2000s we dragged subtlety into the street and executed it, gangland style, while it begged for us to please, please don't do this, please I have kids!

The point is, whether you think we've lowered the bar, dumbed everything down, or just plain screwed everything right the Hell up, we can all agree that what we expect from our entertainment has definitely changed a lot since the 90s.

So, what would MST3K look like if it was made today, by the average television writer of today? You may remember some time ago, I was able to use an screaming rip in space and time to bring you a letter to Cave Story designer Daisuke Amaya from another universe. Well, that rift has since collapsed into a black hole that has swallowed most of Arkansas, but it also allowed me to find another artifact from the same universe. As near as I can tell, this is part of a storyboard for that universe's version of Mystery Science Theater 3000, created in the year 2011. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Top 5 List: 5 Awful Banner Ads

Here's an experiment you can try at home. Don't watch any TV for a year. You can watch shows online if you'd like, but don't watch on the television itself. At the end of the year go back and turn on your TV, then wait for the first commercial break. Count the number of seconds it takes before you want to punch someone.

Most commercials are so awful I'm honestly convinced it might all be a massive inside joke or experiment. It's like the somewhat well-known story of Motley Crue members Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx, who had a bet to see who could go the longest without showering and still sleep with groupies, except in this case advertisers are trying to see how terrible they can make their ads and still get corporations to pay for them. Even good products are getting terrible ads, as I've mentioned before.

As my way of launching my newest post tag I decided to sit down and find five truly abominable ads. Originally I was going to discuss television commercials here too, but I'm afraid I'm not ready for that kind of crazy yet, and this is coming from a person who read Time Cube from beginning to end and journaled my descent into the rabbit hole on this very blog. Besides, at this point banner ads are sort of my thing.

That said, here are five ads that force me to ask: "How in the Hell are you selling your product?"

5. 4 More Years?

This is a great example of what I was talking about. This ad for -a real news site with real journalists and real stories and everything- shows off all the wit and subtlety of a Mack truck combined with an absolute minimum of effort and a crop job that looks like it was done in 5 seconds on MS Paint. For Christ's sake, the name of the site they're advertising doesn't even appear on the damn ad!

Just to prove my point about how not hard this is, I decided to make my own ad for the same site making the same point as theirs, only in a more effective way. The following ad only took me seven minutes to make, and I'm not even a professional advertiser.

If I was a professional advertiser you can bet your ass this thing would be flashing like I had a blood vendetta against epileptics.

4. Milanoo Final Fantasy Cosplay Stuff

Here's a secret the ad agencies don't want you to know: advertising is actually really simple. Just show your product looking awesome, delicious, or convenient, then tell people how to get that awesome, delicious, convenient thing. If your product can't be made to look awesome, delicious, or convenient, then you lie.

Clearly, the advertisers for Milanoo were well aware of this simple idea. Who needs to lie when you're selling cosplay materials and outfits so amazing they will magically transform you into a CGI character cropped out of the game and crudely photoshopped onto a picture of a couch?

3. Alli Labs: Look 10 Years Younger in 10 Minutes

look 10 years younger in 10 minutes

Before we begin, it's important that you understand, I did not alter this ad in any way. I didn't crop out some crucial text that explains what's going on. This isn't the first frame of an animated ad. This is all there is to this ad. The only other context available is mouseover text which I've included here.

First of all, when trying to sell a rejuvenating lotion (I assume) it's important that you show a picture of someone attractive, someone your viewer would presumably want to look like. This woman looks so old I'm convinced the only thing your lotion would do is take her from "fossil" to "mummy." Combine that with a slogan that sounds like something you'd see in the subject line of a spam e-mail, and you have two great reasons not to click this ad.

Just for argument's sake, here's a more effective ad (not made by me) for a similar product, in this case apparently a magical spell that will turn you into a life-sucking demon.

Admittedly, she's pretty hot for being probably a witch.

2. Free Electronic Cigarette

For those not in the know, electronic cigarettes are battery powered smoke machines lauded for managing the Herculean task of being better for you than a tube full of tar-soaked carcinogens, a claim almost as obvious as it is completely untrue. But it takes more than bad spelling and a stupid product for an ad to be truly awful. Fortunately (ha) this ad quickly goes full retard.

It just raises so many questions. Why is the word "now" in quotes? Are they being sarcastic? Why are they talking about quitting smoking in the middle of a cigarette ad? Why did they include the year at the end of the ad? Are they expecting me to see this and say "okay, you say I can quit smoking with your e-cigarette, but what year, huh? Oh, I see! Sold!"

A trip to their website doesn't answer any of these questions. It does, however, assure me that Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and Paris Hilton all use e-cigarettes. Quite the argument there. How could I possibly disagree with the product choices of out-of-touch, eccentric douchebags?

1. Knight Productions...what even is this crap?

This is just bad. I mean, first of all, what is this even advertising? Some stupid angelfire site no one's ever heard of? And that artwork, what is that, a cave drawing by a blind weeaboo neanderthal who died of terminal lameness halfway through? The slogan is even worse. "Shameless self-promotion" stopped being a funny line in, oh wait, it was never funny.

I like the font, though. It looks like if SyFy stopped trying.

Apparently the moron who made this stupid crap eight years ago has some sort of blog now. Let's check that garbage out. ...oh.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie Review: Stan Helsing (Movie)

Chances are most people reading this have heard of writing/directing duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, commonly referred to as Seltzerberg. They're infamous for writing and directing lazy, low-budget, raunchy spoof films, usually named some variation of "___ Movie." Examples include Epic Movie, Scary Movie, and Disaster Movie.

I should mention, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer were not involved in the production of this movie at any point. Why do I bring them up then? Because I'm almost certain their work was used as a template for this movie. This movie falls victim to all of the same problems that plague Seltzerbergs' worst films. It's so bad that I actually had to go back and check to make sure the title wasn't "Helsing Movie." That's right, this movie is a low-budget ripoff of a Seltzerberg picture. Think about that for a while.

So who did make this movie? It would spoil the surprise if I told you now, so instead I'm going to make you wait until the end. No skipping ahead!

But first, because lists are easy and because I suck at segues, here are the top reasons Stan Helsing sucks.

4. Fweddy.
No, I didn't spell that wrong. Fweddy is what this movie calls their "parody" of A Nightmare on Elm Street villain Freddy Krueger. The reason I use the sarcastic quotes is because, honestly, I'm not convinced this qualifies as a parody at all.

Freddy Krueger is possibly one of the most unique slasher movie villains out there but -with the exception of the evil doll Chucky from Child's Play- is also quite possibly the easiest slasher movie villain to make fun of. The guy once killed a kid by trapping him in a video game. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge he ties up a naked gym coach and smacks him on the butt with a towel until he dies. For God's sake, Freddy Krueger is a pedophile with a face that looks like melted cheese. How much easier of a target for ridicule could you find?

So how do they parody him? By having him wear a clock necklace like Flava Flav. But wait, that's not all! He also does the famous Krueger pose, smirking with his bladed glove in front of his face, except wait! The thumb's "blade" is actually a toothbrush, and he brushes his teeth with it.

So yeah. That's your big Elm Street parody? Freddy Krueger brushing his teeth? That's almost as bad as Seltzerberg "parodying" Little Miss Sunshine by having one of the characters die while wearing a shirt bearing the movie's title.

3. Leslie Nielsen as Kay.
Leslie Nielsen hasn't been in anything good since the 90's, so it may come as a surprise to my younger readers when I say this: Leslie Nielsen is quite possibly the funniest actor in the history of comedy.

Nielsen has the ability to deliver ridiculously nonsensical dialog and subpar jokes with a completely straight face that makes them drop dead hilarious. The man might just be a real life alchemist; he takes awful puns that should go over like a lead balloon, and transmutes them into 24 karat comedy gold. Don't take my word for it, though: even Roger Ebert once referred to Nielsen as "the Lawrence Olivier of spoof movies."

With that in mind, what sort of madman casts Leslie Nielsen in his movie, then gives him absolutely nothing funny to say or do? Nielsen doesn't get any jokes in this movie, not even bad jokes. The closest he gets to doing anything funny is that his character is a woman. No, seriously, that's it. He has fake tits and a bad wig, and he calls the main characters "freaks." That's all he does.

This is the equivalent of drafting NFL all-star Peyton Manning for your football team, then making him the water boy.

2. The setup.
Up until now we've just looked at specific examples, but really the entire thing is just bad in general.

The title character and star of the movie is Stan Helsing, a weed-smoking slacker whose motto in life is "don't get involved." His plans to attend an awesome Halloween party with his friends are put on hold when he's ordered to make a delivery to his boss's mother's house. Unfortunately, the mother lives in Stormy Night Estates, a small town/gated community (the movie doesn't seem to be sure which) that's said to be haunted.

The first half of the movie follows Stan and his friends on their way to the gated community/town, as they are subjected to one horrifying incident after another, including a hitchhiker who turns out to be a psychotic serial killer, and a dog they run over whose vengeful owner brings him back as a vicious zombie.

To be honest, it's actually fairly effective. It's scary, and so over the top horrible as to be fairly funny too. The problem is that none of this setup pays off, ever. Once they arrive at Stormy Night Estates, all of the enemies they picked up on their way are anticlimactically dropped and replaced by lazy parodies of famous slasher film villains, thereby rendering everything we just watched completely pointless.

1. The payoff.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for an awful movie. I shouldn't need to give you this warning, as you could probably see all of these "plot twists" coming even if you never watched the movie.

As it turns out, Stan Helsing's real name is Stanley van Helsing, he's the descendant of famed monster hunter Abraham van Helsing, and at this point absolutely no one cares. Faced with his past he instantaneously discards the philosophy of non-involvement he's held for his entire life in order to save a gated communitown full of people he has no reason to care about from a group of parodies/ripoffs that don't even seem to be that much of a threat.

But first we're treated to an awful karaoke scene where the monsters fail to parody The Village People. Incidentally, how do you fail to parody The Village People? Anyway, after this scene accomplishes nothing but padding the movie's runtime Stan is forced to fight the villains for real. He remembers he has a scroll telling him how to win, but all the scroll says is "the monsters have weaknesses."

Somehow, this cryptic nonsense works and Stan magically guesses all of the monsters weaknesses on the first try. Freddy is dispatched when Stan removes his famous razor glove, revealing his hand sparkles like Edward Cullen in daylight. Pinhead is then destroyed by Stan pushing the pins on his head...into his head. That retardation out of the way, the writer apparently gives up on thinking up weaknesses and Stan takes out Jason and Michael Myer by...honestly, I'm not even sure. He just sort of fondles their masks for a second then pushes them both out the door.

Really, I can't even think up any jokes for this, that's how awful it is.

Stan Helsing is more than just bad, it's aggressively bad. The movie seems to delight in teasing you with actually decent jokes and scares, only to instantly squash them in the laziest way possible. This goes beyond simply not caring. I can't say I know what the director had in mind, so, I don't know for a fact that any of this was intentional. That said, if I can be real here for a second? If the writer/director is NOT a supervillain who plans to take revenge on the world by subjecting it to terrible movies, then he has a lot of explaining to do.

Back at the beginning I promised I'd tell you who made this movie once I got to the end of my review, so here it is. You ready?

Stan Helsing was written and directed by Bo Zenga, who also wrote and directed Soul Plane, a lazy, racist (to both whites and blacks), low-budget raunchfest, the plot of which can be basically summed up as "wacky black people are on a plane, the end."

All of a sudden, everything makes sense.

Annotation From The Future:

It always adds an extra layer of tragedy to a bad movie when you discover that it was the last movie of a great actor. For example, film buffs are always quick to mention how sad it was that Emmy award winner Raul Julia's last major movie role was in Street Fighter. While on some level I suppose it is sad that the guy who once played Othello ended his career in a crappy video game movie at least he was clearly having loads of fun with it and besides he was also in two Addams Family movies, so he was clearly not above taking on a comedic role.

What's truly unspeakably sad, however, is that this movie -Stan Helsing- was Leslie Nielsen's final role before dying of pneumonia. This is a tragedy exactly three times greater than Raul Julia's, and I have scientific proof to support that: IMDb has only attempted to revise history by sticking Raul Julia's name to one other project that happened after he died. Nielsen, on the other hand, has three. Q.E.D.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Video Game Review: Pokémon Black/White Version

The Pokémon franchise has gotten a bit of a bad reputation for its lack of innovation. I'd explain why, but if you're reading this you probably already know why, and besides this VGCats guest strip makes the point much better than I ever could.

Clearly, Nintendo and GameFreak heard all the complaints, which is why when they were working on Pokémon Black/White they made a point of letting everyone know that this game was finally going to give us that "something new" everyone had been asking for.

So, did they succeed? By way of answering that, allow me to present to you the top 3 problems with Pokémon Black/White version:

3. The new pokémon.
One of the big hype points for Black/White was that it would have all new pokémon. That is to say, the old pokémon will have to either be transferred over from old versions or caught in specific special areas. No more caverns full of zubats, no more caterpies hiding in every patch of grass. Unfortunately, Nintendo and GameFreak handily showed us that they were not capable of coming up with 150 more pokémon.

You can go through the list and point out where most of the new 'mons are obviously just old ones with new designs. Pidove is the same as Pidgey, Timburr and its evolutions are the same as Machop and its evolutions, and while it's true that we no longer have the caves full of Zubats and Geodudes all the other games had, that's only because they're now full of Woobats and Roggenrolas.

Speaking of, Roggenrola actually shows a fair amount of potential for uniqueness. It could be a rock type with a propensity for sound-based moves like the newly introduced Echoed Voice. Maybe its evolution could be called Roggstar. That'd be cool. Instead, they abandon the rock-and-roll pun after its first evolution when it becomes Boldore and proceeds to completely rip off the Geodude line. In fact, the only thing really differentiating the Roggenrola line from the Geodude line (aside from its appearance) is that Geodude has a larger move list. The two lines even evolve the same way. (Once at level 25, again when traded.)

The Roggenrola line doesn't even seem to know what it wants to be itself. Gigalith's (the final form) pokédex entry makes a big deal out of how it absorbs sunlight to fire powerful energy beams. That makes it sound like the pokémon's signature attack would be Solar Beam (which is a grass type move anyway, so why?) which is weird because Gigalith does not learn Solar Beam. It can learn it as a TM, sure, but so can almost every grass, fire, bug, and normal type in the series. They had here not one but two different possibilities to make this pokémon unique and they squandered both of them.

2. The philosophy.
When he was reviewing the movie I Am Sam, Roger Ebert said, "you can't have heroes and villains when the wrong side is making the best sense." That line sums up this game's big philosophical debate pretty handily.

The main villains of this game are Team Plasma, a group who believes that kidnapping sentient creatures, locking them in tiny balls, and only letting them out so they can participate in glorified cockfights might not be very nice. I know, shocking, right? Their point is obvious and hard to argue against, so naturally they never seem to be capable of making it in any real way. When asked to defend themselves, rather than point out the obvious, they usually change the subject and talk about their evil plans instead.

To be fair to Plasma, no one seems to be able to mount a decent argument in either direction. When asked to defend their own worldviews, the trainers' main argument is to whine "but we like training pokémon," in much the same way that a 19th century plantation owner might have said "but I like owning slaves." It's not only ludicrous but starts to get sad toward the end when you realize it's not the NPCs saying it but Nintendo and GameFreak desperately trying (and failing) to convince us that pokémon training isn't completely cruel

Here's the thing, though. These questions aren't that important. When I played HeartGold I understood the moral implications, but they never hindered my ability to enjoy the game. The difference here is that they brought it up. I can only assume they quickly realized they didn't have an answer to the argument, so they tried to avoid it. That begs the question, though, if you couldn't argue against it, then why bring it up?

1. Just, generally, everything.
I really hate to say this game is bad because it's obvious that they did try to give us some actual innovation in this game. Unfortunately, most of it's wasted on superficial things like camera angles and sprites that wiggle around in battle.

As for the new pokémon we were promised, let me go on record as saying that a few of them really are cool, like Pawniard, Hydreigon, and the water type starter. Sadly, most of them are either lame rehashings of older 'mons, or else just totally uninspired.

So as much as it pains me to give this game this rating, I'm afraid it's the only one I can honestly give.

KR Rating: BAD
If you want to play a Pokémon game, play HeartGold/SoulSilver instead. It's easily the best game in the franchise. As for Black/White, there's no reason to even bother.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Video Game Review: Monster Tale

Monster Tale is a new DS game released in March of this year. Created by new developers DreamRift and published by Majesco, Monster Tale is a game in two parts. The top screen of the DS is home to a Metroidvania-style platform adventure following Ellie, a young girl imbued with a magical armband and trapped in an alternate universe she's trying to find her way home from. The bottom screen is a pet-raising sim where Ellie's monster companion, Chomp, can use items to grow and evolve into new forms.

Monster Tale got fairly high ratings from most review sites, and it's not difficult to see why. It's a good game that works fairly well and shows some promise. If this is the sort of thing DreamRift delivers on their debut game, then I look forward to seeing what they can produce in the future. But does this game hold up on its own merits? Sadly, not entirely.

The adventure side of the game is short and aside from a few frustrating parts is never really a challenge. None of the abilities Ellie will recieve are very imaginative, every one of them (aside from the roll) is only a new type of armband shot or a new melee attack. The story shows the potential for being interesting but is desperately in need of a few more rewrites, and the characters are bland and one-dimensional.

The monster-raising sim on the bottom screen is remarkably shallow considering the amount of thought that seems to have been put into it. Items will drop from enemies and can be picked up and sent to the bottom screen. Your monster can use these items to gain experience and stats, and to evolve into new forms. If you give your monster items it likes it'll evolve faster, but that's about the extent of that.

None of the forms have a particularly interesting appearance either. Really, they're all just slight variations on the base form, adding claws, horns, wings, scales, etc. Each form has one usable power and one trait which, once mastered, can be used on other forms. None of the abilities or traits are particularly interesting either. As for your monster himself, he's slow to attack and never deals much damage. You'll probably use him for healing if you use him at all, but given how easy the game is don't expect to need health often.

KR Rating: GOOD
Overall, Monster Tale is a decent game that shows the potential for a great game. I'll certainly be watching DreamRift in the future, but sadly Monster Tale is not the contender I was promised. It's too short and too shallow. It borrows too heavily from games like Metroid and Castlevania, while not being much better.

If you want to play an imaginative platform adventure with interesting abilities, pick up Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the DS, Drill Dozer for the GBA, or Shaman King: Master of Spirits for the GBA. If you want a game that successfully combines pet-raising with action and adventure try the PS2's Castlevania: Harmony of Darkness, or better yet just play one of the Pokemon or Shin Megami Tensei games. As for Monster Tale? It's definitely worth a try, but don't expect anything ground-breaking.

Annotation From The Future:

When I said that I was expecting good things from DreamRift I wasn't lying. Monster Tale wasn't a great game, but it did show potential. If the game had been given more polish it could have been the classic that was promised to us.

Sadly, DreamRift hasn't delivered much on that promise of potential. They developed exactly one other game, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (which did receive good reviews at least), before disappearing. Fortunately, while DreamRift has been quiet they're not quite dead. The company began a new, unannounced and as yet unnamed, project in 2012. Going by statements made by the company's heads, this game might be Monster Tale 2. If it is then you can bet you'll be seeing a review of it here.

If not, well, DreamRift wouldn't be the first video game company to have "died before their time" as its epitaph.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Television Review: Deadliest Warrior

For the uninitiated, Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior is a series created by Max Geiger, based around a computer program by Slitherine Strategies. This program is capable of taking complex data and running a realistic battle simulation with it, which they then do 1,000 times. In theory this allows them to enter data about historical warriors and finally settle the age old question of who would win in a fight.

The competition angle is definitely not the show's strongest suit, but what is awesome about the show are the weapons and armor demonstrations. If the entire show was just them looking at history's greatest warriors and examining the tools of their trade in gory detail it would be completely awesome. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the show falls apart when it gets into the competition aspect. Here are the top 3 reasons I will probably not be tuning in when the show returns on July 20th of this year.

3. Why are vikings fighting samurai?
I'll go ahead and say it: the fact that they didn't put ninjas against pirates should be a crime. They made a show about which ancient warriors would win in battle, and didn't do the single most hotly debated matchup of all time? That's like doing a series about famous wars of the 20th century and skipping World War 2.

Now that that's out of the way, I still have to wonder about some of their picks. Knight vs. pirate? Maori warrior vs. Shaolin monk? I get that the idea was to be outlandish so as to take full advantage of the anachronism stew they created, but the result is ridiculously unbalanced. You can usually name the winner of these early episodes from the beginning, or at least the halfway mark, once you realize that no amount of steel armor can stop a cannon, or that the ninja has like two weapons with killing potential while the spartan is so heavily armed even his shield can kill you in one hit.

As mentioned, though, these are early episodes. The reason this is only number 3 is because this is really only a problem in the first season. There seems to have been an early desire to do "strength vs. speed" and "skill vs. ferocity" fights. By season 2 they started sticking to closer matchups. This kind of goes back to a bigger problem, though.

2. It's not a realistic battle simulation.
Don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that the computer program they use is anything less than amazing. It's deep and capable of taking so many factors into account. The problem isn't with the program, it's with the entire concept. The program can only simulate the physical attributes of the fighters: strength, speed, size, weapons, and armor, and that's really all you can expect it to do.

Thing is, there are so many more important factors to a battle than that. There's also skill, training, determination, and most important of all strategy. Yes, they run these simulations 1,000 times but it doesn't matter. It wouldn't matter if they ran them a billion times, they still can't factor in strategy. If you don't get why that's a problem, remember that in a purely physical matchup England would have demolished the Continental Army in the American Revolution, the Nazis would have crushed the French Resistance in a day, and the people of Afghanistan would have been easily conquered by the Soviet Union.

Not only would I say that strategy is the most important part of battle, I might even go so far as to say that proper strategy, along with the skill and determination to carry it out, is the only truly important part of battle. But hey, that can be forgiven. If DW's magic program could simulate strategy the ninjas would've just poisoned the Spartans in their sleep 1,000 times over, making for the most boring episode ever. The real issue is...

1. You're not a Spartan, okay?
Here's where the show gets stupid: the trash talking between the weapons experts they bring on the show. It's one thing when it's something like the Green Beret vs. Spetsnaz episode, where the weapons experts for each side are actualy former Green Beret and Spetsnaz commandoes, but then we get episodes like Apache vs. gladiator. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but they did not resurrect either an Apache warrior or a gladiator for this episode. The weapons experts have no stake in this fight and no reason to dislike each other, yet they're bordering on death threats.

I'm sure this was the idea of the producers. Experts who have appeared on the show have also implied that the producers pressured them to show off weapons that were cool as opposed to weapons that would have actually been used. (Case in point: the hookswords in the Shaolin monk episode which, while undeniably badass, are debatably not even actual ancient weapons and even if they were they were certainly not the mainstay weapon that episode implied.)

This is easily the biggest problem with the show: all the things they added in purely to boost the "cool" factor. I suppose it's to be expected, this is a Spike TV production after all, but it is really irritating to the point of being honestly painful to watch and it ruins the fun of watching the weapons demonstrations.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Toast To The Old Cowboys of the Net

In the 90's we had a second wild west: the internet. The internet was the new frontier. The trail had been blazed by the pioneers of the 80's, paving the way for an internet that was still wild and untamed yet worked well enough to be accessible. We flocked to this new wild west, some of us seeking a new start amidst the anonymity of the net, some seeking to have fun in a world of freedom.

That's the operative word for that time: freedom. Mainstream society was mostly ignoring the internet, so there wasn't any real strict system of governance in place, yet at the same time it wasn't total anarchy; you found out what was accepted by your community and you worked with it. There was a casual atmosphere, a lot of individuality, and a sense that people gave a shit.

Even our outcasts had a certain amount of charm to them. One of the outcasts we had back in my own old haunt was a guy named Dan Moore. Dan suffered from severe autism, so severe in fact it bordered on schizophrenia. He had no ability to differentiate fantasy from reality. All of his problems eventually lead to what almost become a civil war on the message board when he acted on one of his role-playing conflicts out of character and no one realized it wasn't real until it was too late.

While it doesn't feel right to call a genuinely mentally ill person an insulting term like "annoying" he was, at the least, very frustrating to deal with. And yet, I'd rather spend every day with him then the average denizen of TVTropes, 4Chan, Youtube, or really any place on the internet today.

Much like the old west, however, soon everyone started moving in. The common users just wanted to be a part of the "big new thing." Then there was the government, terrified by some of the bad things that happened on the net and determined to bring order to what they saw as a lawless land filled with bandits and psychopaths. Of course, there were also the corporations, determined to squeeze some money out of the internet. The small communities are now almost all gone, replaced by mega-sites and social networks like Youtube and Facebook. The individuality and casual atmosphere are both gone too, replaced by the drumbeat mantra of pseudo-civilized society: "Fit in. Follow. FIT IN."

Half of the internet became all Serious Business, strict rules, and prim and proper social conduct, walking the wire knowing one slip will have you ostracized as a "troll." The other half, either due to a misguided sense of "returning things to the way they were" or maybe just a good old fashioned lack of ethics, became the highwaymen of our new west, falling into memes and sadism.

Then there's the old cowboys of the net, like myself, who suddenly find there's no place for us anymore. Freedom, true freedom is a terrible, beautiful thing. It's a gift from God Himself, abjectly horrifying to those who've never known it, but to those of us who have seen it nothing else can ever hope to compare.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Television Review: Loonatics Unleashed

Chances are you've heard of Loonatics before, though that's probably thanks to the many caustic reviews and parody videos. The show was being mocked before it even came out, thanks to the early designs for the new characters. I wish I could say it didn't deserve it but, well, it did.

This episode brought to you by the letters L, S, and D!

The designs were mocked relentlessly, culminating in an internet petition demanding the designs either be changed or the show be cancelled. Proving once and for all that internet petitions do actually work but only in the most half-ass way possible, the designs were changed. Buzz Bunny became Ace Bunny, Loonatics became Loonatics Unleashed, and Roadrunner and Coyote's relationship became more homoerotic than a million Kirk/Spock slashfics put together.

Sorry, you'll have to look up those Roadrunner/Coyote pics on your own time.

You've probably heard of the concept of "AU" or alternate universe material. Basically the idea is that you take existing character or plot concepts and re-imagine them in a new genre or setting. Loonatics Unleashed isn't exactly an alternate universe, these characters are meant to be the far future descendants of the originals, but it's the same basic concept. Some people consider AU material to be source-destroying sacrilege, but not me. Maybe it's because I'm more of a creative person myself, but I always enjoyed exploring new concepts based on the same characters. So on paper this is exactly the kind of show I would like.

The problem is that even judged on its own merits, this show is objectively terrible. The characters are shallow and one-dimensional. The plot is boring with twists most people could see coming a mile away. The writing is genuinely awful and smacks of having been made up as they went along. The best example of this would be how the intro sequence calls the planet the Loonatics live on Acmetropolis, yet all of the characters refer to it as Earth for most of season 1.

Even worse than the writing, however, are the original characters. There's nothing wrong with AU material adding an original character or two to spice things up or fill a niche no source-character can fill. The problem is with the exception of the Loonatics themselves every character in the first season is an original creation. There's no far future Marvin the Martian, or high tech bounty hunter Elmer Fudd, at least not until season 2.

So let's talk about season 2, then! The show does get much, much better in the second season. That's when they added in re-imagined versions of the other Looney Tunes characters. They also seemed to spend more time on writing, actually adding some dimension to the characters. A few of the season 2 episodes could even be called good, including It Came From Outer Space, starring a revised Marvin the Martian, and Family Business, which finally gives Rev Runner and Tech E. Coyote personalities. The show is definitely at its best during episodes like this.

Unfortunately, there's just not enough of them. Most of the episodes still revolve around original characters, often even going so far as to make the revised characters play lackey to the newly created villains! To make things worse, while the writing does get better in season 2 it's still not what you would call good. There are gaping plot holes all through the thing, and nonsensical lines that were clearly put in just to lead into puns that are never funny enough to justify it.

In the end, though, the biggest problem Loonatics has is that combining superhero fight sequences and Looney Tunes sight gags creates a disconnect that makes it impossible to know when you're supposed to be taking things seriously. One episode repeatedly has two of the characters get crushed under falling rocks as a cheap sight gag, then halfway through it traps the same characters in an unstable cavern and suddenly expects us to consider falling rocks to be a legitimate threat. No. It doesn't work that way. If the writers had actually tried they could probably have found a way to reconcile these two conflicting styles, but they didn't. They just let it go and hoped we wouldn't notice.

KR Rating: BAD

Is Loonatics as bad as you heard? Yes. Hell yes. Indisputably, yes, it is every bit as bad as you heard. To be fair, the second season is a vast improvement over the unmitigated train wreck that was the first season, and even occasionally borders on good. But there's still just way too much lazy writing. Like most bad cartoons, Loonatics seems to operate on the assumption that kids are stupid so it doesn't matter if the show makes sense.

At the same time, there are worse cartoons out there, and worse Looney Tunes spinoffs at that. The only reason this show is still so reviled is because of those caustic reviews and parody videos I mentioned before. Loonatics Unleashed wasn't just a high profile failure, it was a high profile failure on the internet, which -if Lolcats and Struttin' Leo are any indication- never lets anything go ever.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Best 8 Indie Games Ever Made Anciliary: A Dwarf Fortress Review

Back near the beginning of 2010 I wrote a post for this blog about the 8 best indie games ever made. Aside from being my most popular post with a total of 1,974 page views as of this writing, it also got a number of comments demanding to know why Dwarf Fortress was not on the list and I had to admit that I hadn't played it.

It's not that I hadn't heard of Dwarf Fortress, I had. Rather, I was intentionally avoiding the game. All of the things I read about it made it sound like a complicated mess that was basically unplayable unless you were a Stephen Hawking level genius. Sort of like SimCity 3, which was so strict that if you built a fire station before your town was "ready" for it you would go bankrupt almost instantly. But I digress.

Eventually I did get around to downloading and playing Dwarf Fortress. After all the glowing reviews I was certain that once I was done I'd be able to sit down and write a new post singing the game's praises and lamenting that I'd not played it before.

Sadly, I just can't do that. It's not that the game is bad, and I am happy to say that my preconceptions were dead wrong, it's just...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

For anyone who might be reading this who doesn't know what Dwarf Fortress is, a good way to describe it is this: Dwarf Fortress is basically like Minecraft for people who think Minecraft is too shallow and limited. Dwarf Fortress is complicated in a good way. You'll probably need a guide to get started (Here ya go!) but once you get into it the game is intuitive, deep, and best of all works. (Seriously, fuck you, SimCity 3.)

The only real fault with the game itself is that it's in the "losing is fun" genre of games. As fans of the game will be happy to tell you, you'll never know what fun really is until you conquer the beasts of Hell itself and wrest it from their vile claws. (Granted, even if that's true it's still not losing that's fun, so much as winning over seemingly insurmountable odds.) The problem is, unlike with other LIF games like Spelunky, you're not just losing a few minutes but potentially days, weeks, or months of your life every time you lose.

As with Dungeon Crawl, however, I'm willing to give this one a pass on the grounds that you can always just back up your saves if you don't want to lose everything.

No, the reason I can't make that worshipful post is simply that this isn't the universally awesome ultimate game I was promised. Dwarf Fortress is just not for a lot of people and sadly I'm one of them. Those who follow my blog are well aware that I'm not a graphics whore, but even so ASCII graphics just never did it for me. (Though I will say this game makes possibly the best use of them that I've ever seen.) I've also never been a huge fan of simulation games. Mostly, though, I just don't have time for a game like this right now. Those of you who know me probably know why and those who don't know me have no reason to care, so I won't burden you with the details. Maybe in the future when my life is working properly I'll come back to this game, but not now.

KR Rating: GREAT

So, if I were to rewrite the Top 8 Indie Games today, would I include Dwarf Fortress? No contest, I absolutely would*. Hell, it might even take the number 1 spot! It's objectively good and easily the deepest game I've ever played. The only real problem is, despite the adulation of its fans, it's simply not universally enjoyable. Dwarf Fortress is the textbook definition of a niche game. If you're not into sim games, don't like ASCII graphics, or simply don't have time for a game that will devour hours and even weeks of your life with the very real risk of losing it all to one unlucky incident, then this game has nothing for you.

If you, are okay with those things or even suspect you might be okay with them, then I strongly recommend giving this game a shot. Go ahead and get it here.

*I would also include Tastes Like Spelunky (sorry, vanilla Spelunky) and Minecraft.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Not a Video Game Review: I Review a Review of Terraria

For those of you who don't know yet, a 2D Minecraft-style game called Terraria was released last Wednesday. If you're into that go get it, it's only 10 bucks. If you're not into that then go play Brink or something. Oh wait, that doesn't exist. Sorry.

Anyway, shortly after the game's release a group called The Best Gamers posted a video review of the first five minutes of the game. The makers of Terraria saw it and had Youtube take it down under the pretense of "copyright infringement." (Reviewing a video game is not copyright infringement, Youtube are just pussies.)

Before you ask, yes, the review is bullshit. There are more enemies in the game then slimes, the worlds are randomly generated so level design is not even a thing, and shut the Hell up already. But it doesn't even matter. All of that is something ten seconds of light googling would disprove. Don't try it, though. I'm pretty sure if you type "is there more than one enemy in Terraria?" into Google it calls you a dumbass and formats your hard drive. Google's a dick.

The question that crossed my mind is, are these people stupid and missing the point of the game, or are they trying to be ironic?

One of the things they bring up a lot in the review is level design. for those who haven't played Terraria, the second thing the game asks you to do after making your character is to make a world to explore. It then randomly generates a world, while telling you that it's randomly generating a world. There are no levels in Terraria. Honestly, the reviewer has to know this. Hell, he reviewed Minecraft and started out this review by saying Terraria is basically the same as Minecraft. He must be aware that sandbox games exist, yet he keeps bringing up level design, apparently under the pretense that Terraria is a 2D platformer and all 2D platformers have levels just like Mario.

He then forgets what NPCs are and rants about how an "enemy" (pretty clearly an NPC) is bugged and can't be hurt by his weapon. many video games have these people reviewed again?

So yeah, no one can be that stupid.

But there's more to it than that. The fact that they used editing software to dub in retarded sound effects purely to make the game look bad (Including the screamer moment at 5:20 in that video, which is not even remotely in the game. Probably should've warned you about that screamer earlier, by the way, but I'm an asshole.) tells me they knew exactly what they were doing. The constant, douchechill-inspiring repetition of "scrub" and "nerd," the fact that one of their biggest issues with the game is that it's in 2D, and the fact that they seem to review mostly indie games for the sole purpose of talking about how much they hate indie games, all tells me that they probably don't know what irony is and would call you a fag for thinking they did.

Surprisingly, the verdict isn't that they're just douchebags. The verdict is I don't care. A closer look at their site, including their forums and the people there, implies that they might be joking, but if they are then holy crap they suck at joking. On the other hand if they're trying to be serious then they suck at that too.

I love Stephen Colbert and his work, but god damn it all if he didn't open the floodgates for every moron who thinks he's funnier than he is to try and be an ironic character just like him. At least Colbert had the sense to parody a group that actually exists. Who are The Best Gamers parodying, if they are a parody? No one. The only people who act like that are fat slobs mic-spamming on XBox Live. They don't do anything, they don't matter, and spending time and money on making parodies of them has about as much point as spending money to produce parodies of your alcoholic neighbor Bob.

I think the worst thing about this review though isn't even the review itself, it's the response it got when it was taken off Youtube. Immediately legions of retards who'd never even heard of Terraria or The Best Gamers before flocked to the cause, posting 1-star reviews of Terraria all over the internet that just repeat the same points made in the video, thinking they were fighting for free speech.

Listen, guys. You're not championing the cause of a brave gamer who dared to call a shitty game shitty and was punished for it. You're championing the cause of a malicious douchebag who tried and failed to be ironic and got his review taken down because it was slander. So yeah, congrats on that. How does it feel to be a drain on society?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Video Game Review: Brink Doesn't Suck, There Is No Brink

As of right now Brink has a 6.0 on Gamespot, a 6 on IGN, and 2 out of 5 stars on GiantBomb. Personally, I think even that is too much. Not because I think it deserves a lower score, no. See, I don't believe it exists. I'm aware there is something out there that people are calling Brink, but as near as I can tell there isn't a single original concept in the damn thing. Here, let me show you.

Presentation: A Less Stylized Borderlands
Be honest. Raise your hands if, upon seeing the box art for Brink you didn't immediately think of Borderlands? Raise your other hand if you looked at the little icon they made for it and didn't think of this.

Now slap yourself in the face with any hands you may have up.

Just...look at a screenshot.

Gameplay: Team Fortress 2, Mostly
Oh hey, look! Brink has multiple classes each with their own unique abilities. Classes have actually been in quite a few first person shooters, but it's not entirely played out. There's plenty of room to get creative. Let's see what they have here. There's the Medic, who revives fallen comrades. There's the Operative who disguises himself as enemies and hacks computers. There's the Engineer who fixes stuff and places sentry turrets. Lastly, there's the Soldier who wears body armor and specializes in heavy weapons.

So yeah. To be fair, they don't steal everything from Team Fortress 2. They also seem to have taken their AI from Daikatana.

Story: Every Dystopian Future Story Ever
So there was a bad thing that happened and all the people moved to a self-sustaining "safe" city to survive. Said city quickly became an overpopulated, fascist nightmare. There is now a rebel movement that wants to overthrow the city's leaders or at the very least find somewhere else to live.

No, no, I'm not talking about Aeon Flux. Nor am I talking about Praetoria City from the new City of Heroes expansion. I mean, at least those two added awesomely implausible technology and superheroes, respectively.

Honestly, I can't even complain. I mean, if they stole everything else about their game, why would the story be even remotely original?

Screw the people who made this. It's official. There is no such game as Brink. Sure there's a box with a disc in it with a game on it, but said "game" doesn't have a single original concept anywhere in it, and honestly it's not even like they were trying. Therefore, I'm officially saying there is no game called Brink, only a poorly half-assed mashing together of other peoples' ideas.

You know, critics have sort of a code that they're supposed to follow, where no matter what you say about the product you have to be nice to the people who made it, but in this case I'm saying fuck that. I want the world to know that these assholes are completely creatively bankrupt. I want the entire world to stay away from...wait. Bethesda? And also Splash Damage? What the Hell happened, you guys?!