Monday, October 30, 2006

Marvel Ultimate Alliance

I've had a few days to spend with Marvel Ultimate Alliance and I'm prepared to share my impressions with you. How lucky you must feel!

Basically, if you played X-Men Legends or X-Men Legends 2 and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this game as it's basically the same thing, only in 3-d and with more heroes. That means that it's still as fun to unleash your superpowers as it was in those games, and it's still as annoying when your teammates box you in behind a pillar because they refuse to get out of your way. Reed Richards may be a supergenius, but he's not so good with the personal space.

There's a pretty good roster of heroes to start with, allowing you to make smaller sized versions of the Avengers, the New Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. For the record, that last one is full sized. Finding new and interesting team combos is part of the fun as you get bonuses for having say, all brawlers, or all women, or all people who can fly. You can also make your own team, once you get to a certain point, and as long as you keep with that team, you earn reputation points which allow your team to perform better. The problem with this system is that not all heroes are available from the start, so if you're someone like me who wants to make a team with Dr. Strange, Blade and Ghost Rider, you'll have to wait until you unlock them to make your Team Supreme thereby missing out on earning reputation points while you wait. You could make a team and then just swap out members when they become available but then you lose reputation points. Apparently no one in the Marvel universe likes quitters. Sure, I could use a cheat code to unlock them all and then make my team, but it'd be odd to have Ghost Rider on my team when I do whatever it is I have to do to rescue Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider, meet Ghost Rider. That would be awkward.

Each hero has 4 different outfits, which, in some cases, extends the number of heroes available. Not much, mind you, as Beta Ray Bill is Thor, just with orange skin and a vaguely horse skull like head but if you're an Omega Flight freak like some people I know, you'll be happy for the extra outfits. Along with the different outfits, you can also purchase points to make your spandex of choice super buff, so that not only will you be making a statement that Wolverine's brown and orange outfit was the best, but you'll be sentencing him to an underpowered demise should he choose to take it off. Take that overexposed mutie!

Combat is pretty fun and fast paced. Just when you think you've obtained a set of powers that make the game too easy, you start a new level where you're strategy doesn't work quite as well. Thankfully you level up quite quickly, so new, stronger powers aren't too far off at any given point. There appears to be some Xtreme powers available, just as in X-Men Legends 1 and 2, however I can't figure out how to actually unlock them and use them. Perhaps I need to drink more Mountain Dew. It seems like a a good place to start.

I haven't played any multiplayer however it seems untouched from the X-Men Legends 2 days, complete with the inability to just pick a map, instead forcing you to load up a save game and make everyone play from it. It's a little annoying but the addition of things like competitive coop which allows you to steal kills, energy and health orbs from others makes up for the inconvenience. At least I would think it does.

The cutscenes are a mixed bag. The CGI movies that start off the game and the different acts are amazing and will make any fan of Captain American long for a fully rendered Cap movie. The movies in between levels on the other hand, are done with the in-game engine, which means every emotion has to be displayed with excessive hand gestures, due to the fact that the character models don't have changeable facial expressions. This is made even more annoying by the fact that the game isn't smart enough to know what heroes you're using and swap them into the cutscenes. Instead you have a cutscene with Wolverine, Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America on the jet to the next mission, but when you get there, they've been magically transformed into the Fantastic Four. Not a big deal, but what fun would it be if all I did was say how great the game is?

Along with the story there are various comic book missions for heroes in the game, heroes not in the game but part of the Marvel Universe and villains you fight during the story missions. Playing as heroes in the game allows you to unlock more skins and generally make your heroes even more heroic. Playing as other non-unlockable heroes, or as villains lets your 360 transform into an Easy Bake oven and make you cookies. Actually, I have no idea what it does as I haven't played any of them yet, but you have to admit that's a pretty damn cool idea.

So far I'm having a great time playing the game and have had my ass handed to me a number of times by various supervillains, so it's definitely not a cake walk. If you're into Marvel superheroes and enjoy a game where you can mash buttons and have it magically transformed into every power you ever wished you had, then you won't be disappointed. Now let's hope that DC wises up and hires Raven to do a DC version. It certainly can't be worse than Justice League Heroes, a game so bad, it made Batman boring.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

No Formal Craft Training

Yeah, that's right. I'm a 3-D cat making machine. Those other Pre-K parents want none of this.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not Gonna Do It

Sorry kids, no post today. Nothing's wrong, I'm just not in a posting place at the moment.

Be sure to return on Monday for my take on Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the 360. It'll be a hoot!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

People are idiots.

This is the conclusion I have come to recently, as a result of a brouhaha in our neighborhood over political signs. I had originally planned on posting about how, as an adoptive parent of two children, this whole Madonna adoption situation bugs me, but then I realized that I didn't care enough to find out all of the details of the story. I know that this is the internet, and it helps your ranting if you know next to nothing about the topic at hand, but that's not how we roll here at Chez SubJ. Bottom line, a kid who, by all accounts, wouldn't have lived to see his teenage years in his home country, has been given the opportunity to live a "normal" life. In the end, it's hard to be upset about that.

We live in a neighborhood that has, like most neighborhoods, a Homeowners Association. By and large, HOA's bug me, as I don't like other people telling me what I can and can't do with my home, especially considering that I keep most people in relatively low regard. I do, however, recognize them as a necessary evil though, as I'd rather not have my neighbor cut down all of their trees, or paint their house lime green. Our HOA is pretty low key, and for the most part doesn't cause any problems.

Now that it's election time, and we're in the midst of forming a city, campaign signs abound. Some of these signs have found their way into the neighborhood. Not a big deal, or so you would think.

A couple of weeks ago, someone emails a message to the HOA's email list that they had gotten a call about their campaign signs being in violation of the HOA's strict signage rules (I had no idea we had signage rules) but could they keep them up because the sign was for their teenage kid's friends's dad or something and said teenage kid was volunteering for the person running for office. I thought this was an odd request, given that, by asking this, they'd effectively be teaching their kids that it's ok to break the rules, as long as you're doing it in the service of public office. Come to think about it, that's probably not off the mark.

This email then prompted a bunch of responses from people who said that you're allowed to have political signs in your front lawns regardless of HOA rules (not in Georgia, you're not) and others saying that the signs weren't that bad and could they keep them and still others saying that they removed their signs but they want to put them back, so if people are allowed to, please let them know, thanks! There was a common notion that somehow their first amendment rights were being trampled by not being allowed to show support for the candidate for county commissioner, district 4, a notion that irritates me to no end. Upon purchasing a house in our neighorhood, we all entered into an agreement with the HOA that we would follow the covenants of the HOA, or risk action being taken against us. If you want to have a sign, put up your goddamn sign, just don't be surprised if you get fined. Similarly, if you took a job at McDonalds and asked everyone if they wanted any fucking fries with their fucking soda, thank you and have a fucking nice day, you can't say that your first amendment rights have been trampled if you get fired for using foul language. You're free to say whatever you want, you just have to be prepared to pay the penalty. Last I checked, the Bill of Rights does not guarantee a repurcussion free existence.

So these emails go back and forth, until such time where this one dude just unloads on everyone. He's all going off on why can't people be good neighbors and this is ridiculous and he had to be told about people's problems with his signs from his mother!!!!!! That last part I didn't understand, why his mother would be part of the HOA mailing list, but he wasn't. I mean, even if she lived with him, it's still kind of strange. So he basically calls everyone assholes and then vanishes, never to return to the debate again.

Then our fearless HOA leader gets on there, apologizes to everyone, makes some speech about being good neighbors and yay for folks who want to be politically involved and God Bless America and oh, by the way, everyone is free to determine if they want to follow the covenants or not.

Wait. What now?

I read the email a couple of times, as did Linda and we both came away with the same impression, that the president of the HOA basically told us it's ok to say fuck the covenants. Now, for political signage, I could care less what rules you want to follow, but if we go back to our previous lime green example, I'd appreciate it if people follow the goddamned rules. I searched the email for further context thinking that perhaps she meant that people were free to not follow the rules, as long as they didn't mind being fined, or having legal action taken against them, but that sentiment wasn't there. Perhaps she felt it was implied. I mean, technically yes, it's understood that we're all free to go buck wild and do whatever the hell we want at any point, however we still usually tell people not to set things on fire, or kick puppies, or wear white pants after Labor Day. Certainly when the topic of armed robbery comes up with my kids I'm not going to tell them that they're free to steal anything at gunpoint, only to then clarifiy the situation for them once they're in jail. That might be considered bad parenting.

Well, once that got sent, then everyone who had posted about taking signs down before were all asking if they could put the signs back up. They also posted about walking in the morning. They're going to meet by the stop sign at 5:45 AM if you're interested, but bring long sleeves because it's going to be nippy! On the topic of the stop sign, I find it odd that everyone is all up in arms about whether or not they can have political signs in their yards, yet almost everyone in the development runs both of the stop signs we have. Support for their candidate of choice must be more important than not mowing down my kid. Thanks for that.

But I digress. Now, there are more signs in the neighborhood than ever before. I think people are making up candidates just to piss other people off. There's also a request for a signage amendment to be brought up at the next board meeting so folks can vote on it. I usually avoid these meetings like the plague, but I'm tempted to go and be on the anti-sign side, if only to piss people off. I'm funny that way. Saturday we have our annual Halloween parade for the kids and chili cookoff (which I won last year, btw). It should be interesting. I'm hoping that the dude who was all pissed off shows up and starts going to town on all of those restrictive anti-sign motherfrakkers. I may have to mill about the crowd and stir things up. Nothing helps usher in fall like watching suburbanites fight amongst the bratwurst.

In closing, I will leave you with one of the finest bits of lyricism on the topic of signs, by the illustrious Five Man Electrical Band.

And the sign said everybody welcome, come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a penny to pay,
so I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I'm alive and doing fine

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign

Monday, October 23, 2006


Well, we're at the beginning of week two of our illness and boy, does it suck. I thought that I'd be over this cold by now, but the cold seems to have other ideas. Waking up every morning and not feeling better is starting to get tiresome. I can't imagine what it must be like to be chronically ill, where a "good" day is just one where you don't feel like complete shit. I also can't imagine what it must be like to have a difficult pregancy, where you're sick all the time, and then, when it's finally over, you have a newborn to take care of. That would push me over the goddamn edge.

I can tell you that not all nasal decongestants are the same. Some provide sweet, sweet relief and let you go about your day. Others make you feel like someone has hit you in the face with a cinder block. This is the new wrinkle of my cold, where my sinuses revolt and fill with death. I'm not coughing anymore, but there are times, at random mind you, when I swallow and a searing pain emanates from my gullet, as if shards of glass smuggled themselves into my Diet Dr. Pepper.

Finally, I have become very conscious of my nose hairs. It is not a condition I wish to prolong.

The title of today's post is in reference to Toys R' Us's annual buy two games, get one free sale. Yes, I know I'm saving money, and yes, Marvel Ultimate Alliance comes out on Woden's Day, however I found it nigh impossible to resist the ability to pick up not one, not two, but three Playstation 2 Greatest Hits games for 40 of your American dollars. For the record, I picked up Ratchet and Clank 2 and 3 as well as Kingdom Hearts. As anyone with young children can tell you, Disney is all part of the child rearing bargain, so I might as well embrace those animated sons of bitches, and fill my gaming with them as well. In my son's world, both Batman and Spider-Man are in the Lion King movie, so I should show him this game and really fuck with his head.

On a similar note. If you can watch the last Curious George movie and not think that monkey is the cutest goddamn thing ever committed to celluloid, it's quite possible you died and no one told you.

Getting back to the sale, it's early in the week, so I was able to see a good collection of games, however as the week progresses, you can be assured that the quality level will drop dramatically. I'm tempted to go back and pick up Shadow of the Colossus as well as the Jak and Dexter games, but I should probably show some restraint. Otherwise I'll start picking up 40 dollar games as well as 20 dollar games and the value proposition will plummet. 3 games for 80 bucks doesn't have the same savetastic ring as 3 for 40. If you wanted, I guess you could use it to pick up 2 360 games and then get one free, however getting 3 games for $120 bucks is hardly something to brag about.

Now that new games loom on the horizon, my evening movie watching will go on hold. After I wrapped up Battlestar Galactica, I started watching movies to pass the time from the childrens' bedtime until I joined the missus for the evening's tv festivities. I watched Constantine (one of my favorite movies), the Wild Bunch, in all of it's seminal western glory, A Nightmare on Elm Street, which Bones's wife should totally let him get, and American Psycho. An odd movie that last one. Serial killers have never been so funny. If Batman Begins did nothing more than open my eyes to the superb acting of a one Christian Bale, I would consider it a rousing success. I look forward to seeing The Prestige on DVD sometime next spring. Batman and Wolverine in the same film? I may just weep with enjoyment.

Finally, returning to Battlestar Galactica, I have to agree with Mr. Moore that if BSG does not win the Emmy for best visual effects for Exodus Part 2, the Emmy academy, or whoever they are, need to be soundly thrashed. That vision of Galactica plummeting through the New Caprican atmosphere as it spewed forth a torrent of flaming Vipers was a piece of digital wizardry unmatched in television today. If you missed it, or don't watch the show, then a small part of your soul died Friday night. To you, it probably felt like a touch of indigestion. For treatment, I suggest watching the episode when it eventually comes out on DVD. Either that or some flat ginger ale. Your choice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

One Month To Go

Well, here we are, one month from the PS3 launch and the Wii launch. Can you feel the excitement? Its palpability is palpable.

Sony held a "gamer's day" to show off the PS3 yesterday, which was ironic given that no gamers outside of the press were allowed to actually touch the damn thing. I must say, I have conflicted emotions about this whole PS3 launch. On the one hand, competition is a beautiful thing in any arena, so a vibrant Sony product with lots o' launch games will make Microsoft step their shit up and gaming goodness will befall us all. Wheeee, rhyming. On the other hand, Sony has been pretty serious dickwads about this whole launch and I'd kind of like to see them fail just so that they'd have to face the realization that people, in fact, won't just buy anything Sony puts out because Sony put it out. On a third hand, enough people will just buy anything Sony puts out because Sony put it out, so the odds of that second hand scenario taking place are pretty low.

The fact is, Sony bugs me about as much as Microsoft bugged me when they came out with the Xbox, so I'm sure that with time, I'd come around to the PS3. I'm sure that most of the people who work for Sony are nice people, and they probably cringe every time Phil Harrison opens his piehole, just like the rest of us do, so it's silly to hate them just because the executives in charge of gaming are clueless lunkheads. It's also important to remember that it's a video game console, so really, investing any serious amount of emotion one way or another is pretty silly. I'm sure that by the time the PS3 is $129, I'll pick it up, and have just as many old PS3 titles to enjoy as I do now with the PS2 and then boy howdy, won't the joke be on Sony? Ha-ha. Hee-hee. Ho-ho.

With the Wii, I'm excited, but feeling a little, what's the word? Concerned. Not sure why. I've read some hands-on accounts lately, by non gaming press people of the Wii and it's launch games and the verdict was that games made for the motion sensing were awesome, others, not so much. This would include, sadly, Zelda. Now, given that this is the first time Zelda has ever been a launch title, and people have been slavering for the game ever since they saw a realistic Link demo on the 'Cube like a hojillion years ago, odds are, Nintendo has this shit wrapped up. However, Zelda was originally supposed to be a 'Cube title, so you wouldn't be completely off base to be concerned that perhaps adding motion sensitivity to sell Wii's isn't exactly an organic game design moment, if that makes sense.

It's also cause for concern that the gaming press hasn't been given final Wii hardware, or Wii games to start reviewing. With about 20+ launch games, that's a whoooooole lot of games to review in a month's time, especially one as huge as Zelda. There's also not a tremendous amount of Zelda hands on information in the gaming press, which makes me a cautious. I mean, this is Zelda. The gaming press should be all over that shit, getting us into a Hyrulean frenzy.

Bah! I'm sure it's just that I really want this thing in my house, so I'm filling the time with needless worry. I tend to do that at times.

I am filling up the time until Marvel Ultimate Alliance by watching movies. Tonight I started watching the Infinifilm version of "A Nightmare on Elm Street". It is an amazingly well done release of the movie, and the sound mix is particularly fantastic. I had forgotten how disturbing some of the imagery in this movie is. Tina's arm flopping out of the body bag as she's dragged down the school hallway always got to me as a kid. I like the fact that the "kids" in the movie look like normal teenagers, including a young Johnny Depp. Were this movie made now, Freddy would be 100% CGI and the teens would be played by slutted out CW tartlets. I bought "Feast" of the third Project Greenlight season today and look forward to watching Henry Rollins as a motivational speaker. The gore also holds special allure. Between this, "Slither" next week and soon "The Descent", it's a good couple of months for horror aficianados.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Deja Vu

Once again, illness, foul, foul illness waylaid me on Monday, rendering me powerless to communicate effectively. We were all sick, every blasted one of us. The wife and I had colds from hell, and the children had the remnants of said colds, however, in my son's case, with a new, exciting wrinkle.

As adults, we take a lot for granted in terms of sensations our bodies experience. Sunday night was the first time, at least that's our supposition, that my son had ever had a sore throat of any seriousness, and it was, in a word, unpleasant. Usually when you get a sore throat, it's bothersome, sometimes even slightly painful. You may wake up in the morning and wince. Perhaps coughing brings you flashes of discomfort, but unless you have strep throat, or something painfully lodged in your larynx, it's usually not all that bad. Not so for my son. Apparantly the apocalpypse was taking place in his throat, thereby rending his vocal cords asunder. Between his plaintive wailings, and my daughter's usual nighttime shenanigans, my wife and I were up 8 times. Yes, that's right, 8 times. By the next morning, he was fine, albeit tired and on a hair trigger, but his throat issues seemed to have dissappeared, leading me to believe that it was more surprise that his throat could hurt in the first place than actual searing pain that caused the issues.

On the other hand, my wife and are legitimately sick, with foul colds drummed up from the pits of hell. I knew I was getting sick when I started remembering my dreams and they were completely freaky. I usually don't remember my dreams, unless I'm sick, or getting sick, so Saturday night, when I dreamt of smearing peach yogurt on my face as a means of preparation for shaving, I should have known that a bad moon was on the rise. Sunday night, when I managed to snatch an hour or so of sleep, I dreamt that I had a group fo 12 Japanese men, all identical, that I had to lead to another group of identical 12 Japanese men. For the record, both groups were different from one another. I know. It's all very odd.

My cold seems to be on it's way out, a change in my condition punctuated by a mass exodus of nasal discharge from my person. When I have a cold, my thing is coughing. My wife's is nose blowing. Between the two of us, conversation is nigh impossible. As my cold progresses, my body seems to make large amounts of fluid which it holds on to for some unknown reason. Once my body gets the upper hand over the virus, it decides to get rid of this fluid, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. As a result, I actually sound, and look, worse, yet feel much better.

I would not fault you if, at this point in the post, you desperately wished I would go back to topics on the order of how paper works.

I am doing my best to keep my head down and not buy new games, but it is difficult. Okami sings to me its siren song of gaming magnificence. Club House games seems to be taking the edge off, however with us on the precipice of an avalanche of game releases, it's hard to not want to buy something out of sheer anticipation. I am confident that I will prevail though. My will is strong.

I am watching the classic western, "The Wild Bunch" and am somewhat put off by seeing Ernest Borgnine in a younger form. I guess it makes sense that he didn't spring from the womb the spry 65 year old I remember from Magnum PI and Matt Houston episodes, but it isn't any less disconcerting. The titular Bunch has just stolen some guns from the Army. I have a feeling things are about to get messy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Golden Ticket


The Wii preorder quest was a rousing success, but only because of the high number of EB/Gamestops near my work. I headed to my regular store at about 9:30, thinking that the odds of there being a line were pretty slim. I mean, everyone knew that Nintendo had about a hojillion of these things just waiting to be sold on launch day, right? Yeah, not so much. I was told that the people in the line represented the number of preorder slots available which meant I was essentially, SOL. Thankfully, the store's manager had told all the extra folks, and by extension, everyone in line, that two other stores by us had more units. I decided for the mall store as it was closer to my work (this was during working hours) and I thought have more units, being a mall store and all. I got in VanStar One, hoofed it with a quickness to the mall and headed inside. This line was much longer, but I noticed that the store manager was handing out stickers from a roll and he had a few stickers left.

I got in line and got my sticker, unsure if this meant I'd actually be getting a Wii at launch. Those 360 wounds still haven't healed. I asked the manager if he knew how many he'd be getting in and he said no, but it didn't seem like a real "no" more like a cover your ass "no". I said "You don't know how many you're getting" and he held up the last two stickers and said "All I know is that I've got two left." That was good enough for me and the waiting began. Unfortunately, they only had one clerk to service 30 people, so it took some time, but at that point, I was so happy, I didn't care. I had some good conversations with people in line, and curiously enough, no one spoke of selling their Wii's, or their preorder tickets for that matter. It was nice to see people actually excited for a console, rather than for the insanely large profit said console represents.

Through various trade-in shenanigans, I have managed to pay off part of Super Monkey Ball, half of the Wii, Zelda in its entirety and Marvel Ultimate Alliance (for the 360) in its entirety. On that last title, I'm still figuring out which team I'll go with. Certainly Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange belong there. When I was a wee lad, I wanted to be Doctor Strange with a vengeance. Oh sure, most kids probably wanted to be Superman, what with all of the flying and the invulnerability, however I longed to harnass the mystical powers of the Eye of Agamotto and serve this realm as its Sorceror Supreme I will admit, the leggings are offputting, however I was ok with that. I have very shapely legs.

Ghost Rider, on the other hand, isn't a title I read very often as a boy, however what red blooded lad wouldn't want to be the Spirit of Vengeance? I mean seriously, hid head is on fire and he can ride his motorcycle up buildings. If he could make donuts spontaneously appear, he'd be damn well perfect. I like the combination of him and Strange, for the obvious mystical parallels, however the other playable characters don't offer similar solutions. I could go with the Silver Surfer for a Defenders vibe, but I never really got into that character. The surfboard seems silly. More so than leggings if that's possible. Blade would add a supernatural element and Luke Cage is just a badass, so maybe they'll round out the team. I'd add Thor, but this seems to be the Ultimates version of Thor where nobody believes he's the God of Thunder. I like my Thor old school, where he whacked that fucking hammer down and there weren't any more questions. Don't worry, I still have time to think about it. Feel free to carry on about your day.

Now that I have a Wii on preorder, the desire to purchase even more games is strong. Call of Duty 3, Red Steel, Raving Rabbids all call to me with their siren songs of new control schemes. I hadn't planned on getting Call of Duty 3, but after reading a preview of how much fun it is to play shooters on the Wii, I'm finding it hard to resist. I'm sure I'll get it eventually, but only after playing the holy hell out of Zelda. This is an odd situation, having too many games of interest at a Nintendo launch. Usually the lack of titles is so strong, that you can barely justify purchasing the console, instead looking forward a few months until, no doubt, more titles will make your new purchase slightly less silly. Now, all of the launch titles could end up sucking out, but that seems statistically unlikely, especially given that there's a Zelda title at launch. I guess only time will tell. And what a short amount of time it is. 5 weeks by my count, and what a painful 5 weeks it will be. I think we've discussed in the past how I don't do well with waiting. This shouldn't be any different. Hopefully I can keep my head down, keep on playing Guitar Hero and Clubhouse Games and get through it.

Speaking of Clubhouse Games, it's the shizzle. I said I'd speak about it today, and there, I just did. Only the best for my readers, only the best.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hell on Rungs

Greetings friends. I must apologize for my absence on Monday. My daughter was sick over the weekend and spent most of the time coughing on your's truly and tainting me with her foul magiks. As a result, I was sick on Monday. Not horribly sick, mind you, just sick enough to not want to be at work, which ended up being a good thing as Abby was still sick and I could help out at home with her. Anyways, I'm back, and seemingly healthy, until the next virus that is.

You may have heard visciously untrue rumors about me today. Rumors that I went into a game store and purchased Club House Games for the DS. I am here to tell you that they are completely untrue. Yes, the person who purchased that game looked like me and sounded like me. Yes, that person paid with a card tied to an account that had been opened with not only an exact match of my social security card, but an exact match of my demographic information. Yes, the person who bought that game drove a minivan matching the color, make, model, trim level and license plate of my own, but I can assure you, it wasn't me.

Come here, I have something to tell you.



It was totally me.

I know, I know, I'm a weak man. But there are 42 games in this 30 buck package. 42 games! That comes out to 71 cents a game. 71 cents! I can't get a Snickers bar from the vending maching for 71 cents! Come on, it has Spit. Spit! It also has checkers, chinese checkers, chess and bowling. BOOOOOOWWWWLLIIIINNNGGGG!!!! Say what you will about me, I don't care. I'll be too busy playing spades and poker and backgammon. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! I shall regale you tales of club house gamery on Friday. Mark your calendars.

Speaking of games, Linda and I decided to buy Chutes and Ladders for Ben for his 4th birthday a few weeks ago. The box said it was a "classic children's first game" and was for ages 3+. Lies, lies and more lies. It may be old, but I'm not sure I would call it classic. And it might say it's for ages 3+. but I'll be damned if my kid could follow the complex rules set forth in this magnum opus of leisure activities.

Here's something I never knew, and maybe it's just because it's been some time since I played, but Chutes and Ladders is a thinly disguised morality play. The children start at the bottom, in a hellish pit of despair. As they move upwards, no doubt towards the right hand of their kind and loving G-O-D, they come across opportunities for activities. Choices, if you will. A good choice, such as helping a stray puppy find something to eat, allows you to climb a ladder, thereby getting closer to your eventual goal of ascension. A bad choice, like breaking dishware, causes you to slide down a chute into the darkest pits of Hades.

What the game designers failed to understand is that ladders aren't fun, slides are, so all of these life lessons were completely lost on my son, as he thought the goal was to slide down the slides, not climb up the ladder. I can't blame him. Short of an emergency deplaning, I can't think of any sliding situation that would be unfun, but I can think of many ladder based situations that aren't even remotely fun. Cleaning gutters, clearing cobwebs, caulking, installing ceiling fans, all are ladder based activities that I have participated in, and in none of these cases did I get to do this because I helped an old lady across the street.

Not only was the ladder/slide dichotomy lost on Ben, but he seemed incapable of understanding how to count off the blocks to move his cardboard based avatar. He would spin and then stare at me and say "where's one?" I'd show him that one was the block next to the one he's in and help him count from there. Roughly twenty spins later, and twenty questions later, I was ready to find whoever designed this game and Chute them. Ha! Get it? Sometimes he wouldn't ask me where one was, instead choosing to pick random boxes all over the board and move thusly. Truly his is a revolutionary style of gameplay.

It doesn't help that the last row of blcocks in this game is literally plagued with chutes so long, that the player is deposited into the realm of negative numbers. Try explaining to a 4 year old the concept of the left side of the number line while at the same time explaining that you don't want to go down the chutes, because going down the chutes means you have to keep playing this godforsaken game. It is no fun. No fun at all. We had thought about getting Candyland, because what kid doesn't like candy, but between the games redesign into some sort of Burtonian nightmare, and the fact that it requires cards to play, we felt it wasn't the best choice for our household. We've lost so many cards from various matching games in this house, that we ended up combining all of the remaining cards, and now the only way to win is to match a Triceratops with Spider-Man.

My son's daycare teacher has told us that Ben is exceptionally smart, as he's the only child who can tell her what month it is and other calendar based questions. Personally, I think she should play a board game with him before she starts getting him ready for Harvard. I can only assume that the environment at school is better suited to stimulate his young mind, as when we ask him what month it is, he responds with either "purple" or "eeeee!!!!' or "because, because, because I love him." Oooookay. Next time, instead of a board game, we can just buy him a dayplanner.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hard Choices

With this holiday season's glut of gaming goodness, we have come to the time where we need to make hard choices about where to spend our hard earned cash. I assume you earn your cash, it's possible you steal it or inherited it. I really have no idea.

Even if we weren't on the precipice of not one, but two console launches, there would be so many titles coming out in the fall months to render your wallet near weightless. I say two console launches, but truth be told, I have no fucking idea what to call the PS3 launch. I mean, yes, technically, on the 17th of November, the PS3 will be available for purchase, provided you can find a store or person that has one to actually sell you. Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Circuit City and EB/Gamestop account for roughly 10,000 stores in the US which means a grand total of 4, yes that's correct, 4 PS3's per store at launch. 4, as in the number of fingers on your hand after trying to trim your thumbnail with a table saw. The thought that you could be the baddest motherfucker on the planet, someone who is willing to do the hard wait in line time and have your intentions thwarted by a group of people small enough to fit in a Civic hatchback leaves me feeling like this PS3 launch is just some silly PR stunt so that Sony can say they launched in November, for all that fucking matters.

I am curious to know if there is someone out there who actually thinks they'll get a PS3 at launch. I mean, I don't know anyone who actually wants one, much less is foolish enough to think they'll actually get one. I don't doubt that there are people out there planning to get in line a good week or so prior to launch day to ensure they get ushered into this brave new world of next generation tomfoolery, but I'll be damned if I know any of 'em. Personally, I couldn't tell you one game launching with the PS3, so even if I had no plans for the week leading up to the 17th, I'm not sure what I'd play on the blasted thing once I got it home. I dunno, maybe watch the Fifth Element on Blu-ray? Fuck if I know. I seem to remember the warrior cry of Riiiidge Raaaaacer let loose during E3, so I can assume racing on ridges, or possibly Ruffles, will be available.

We have already spoken of the Wii and my unbridled enthusiasm for it. It too represents a significant outlay of cash, of which we have also already spoken. Every week, Friday to be specific, I call my local Gamestop to inquire as to the status of preorders. I already know the answer, as I'm not so foolish as to believe that news of Gamestop taking preorders will first come to me from my local store, rather than the raging fires of the Intraweeb. I feel foolish calling like this, not because I already know the answer and am desperately clinging to hope, but because in my mind, they know it's me. They're sitting, timing their day by my call and then, after hanging up, they laugh and laugh and laugh, possibly taking a Wii preorder from some other customer at the same time. Truth be told, they have no idea who I am, despite that store being the only store I buy from, and many purchases at that. This is the strange, narcissistic world I live in.

When I called today, they told me they'd know about preorders in about a week and a half. Take it for what it's worth. I give it more creedence than usual, as that would be about a month out from launch and that has a level of symmetry I can latch on and cling to for dear life.

We have spoken of the gaming moritorium, however I am asking for a reprieve so that I may purchase Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the 360. I know that I had spoken before about buying this for the Wii, and it pains me to not have this be the means with which I support the new console, however this game is setting my gaming cabal afire with comic book geekery. For Christ's sake, we are discussing how much we would pay to purchase the Great Lakes Avengers. For the record, I have called dibs on Monkey Joe. The promise of online coop and not just coop, but competetive coop, by which I can let Bones pummel the Mandarin's henchmen to near death with Captain America, only to have me and Ghost Rider come in at the last moment and, with a flick of my hellish chains, steal his kills, is too much to resist. I have instead, decided to purchase the next instance of Splinter Cell for the Wii, rather than the 360 as I am quite possibly the worst online Splinter Cell player in the history of digital entertainment. Besides, Ubisoft is supporting the Wii with a fervor I am unaccustomed to seeing for Nintendo products, so it only makes sense that I return the favor. I played the first Splinter Cell on the 'Cube and found it neck snappingly delightful.

Between these games, Zelda, Guitar Hero 2, the next Super Monkey Ball outing, possibly Rayman: Raving Rabbids, possibly Call of Duty 3 and possibly Gears of War, we're talking a momentous amount of cash. So much, that I may have to actually depend on family members to provide me with these games as holiday offerings. This scares me, as traditionally, my mother-in-law does all of her shopping at garage sales and I fear what she would return with were I to send her out to find monkey balls.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It Burns!

Recently, today actually, someone in my cabal of fellow Xbox gamers mentioned that some member of his family was in the market for a new A/V receiver. As I am drawn to the A/V desires of others like a moth to the flame, I couldn't help but offer my assistance in researching possible options. Some would call me nosy, others would call me helpful. This is something I do. I enjoy researching A/V stuff, so when I see someone in need, I swoop down and offer to Google things for them. Not sure what about their lives is so compelling that they themselves can't Google things, but obviously they have more going on than I do. I am ok with this.

His list of features is as follows:
  • THX certification
  • HDMI switching
  • auto setup with microphone
  • $1000 ceiling
  • ability to have HDMI audio out to speakers and TV at the same time
Not really sure why that last one is important, but it sounds like something a wife would ask for, so it becomes more necessary than the other parts. I haven't found anything yet, at least not with all of those features but I remain undaunted. This is the part I enjoy the most of the hunt, the comparing and contrasting of the various units, further whittling down the choices until finally the best choice stands alone, gleaming in the sun. I know it's strange, but it's either this or pornography and frankly, I have a better chance of getting with a Yamaha RX-V2600 than I do a Playboy playmate, so forgive me if I hedge my bets towards the hardware.

What this does though, is make me want all new A/V equipment. When I see the joys of HDMI switching, I want it, I crave it despite the fact that in my basement I have a grand total of 1 item that can output an HDMI signal and said item, when hooked up to my projector via HDMI, doesn't look any better than via component video. I want 7.1 processing, even though there aren't any 7.1 dvd's out there, and my receiver is smart enough to take 5.1 and make it 7.1. I want THX certification even though I have no idea what that is, nor what that will give me other than the approving gaze of a one Mr. George Lucas. I want 1080p upconversion even though I don't have any displays in my house capable of such a glorious picture, nor would I of the altered flaps notice any difference between that and 1080i. I want these things because they're out there, I'm reading about them and I can get them in a receiver that's the same price as the one I bought a year ago.

Bah! No sense pining over things I can't have. I guess I can calibrate my tv in the meantime to help take the edge off of things and I'll always have my Radio Shack sound meter for those cold, cold nights. 80 dB never felt so good.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Copemeister

As my recent posts show, I spent Saturday night at the Citizen Cope show. Despite the fact that I spent 4 hours at the blasted place, it was an awesome show.

For those of you unclear with the modern concert going experience, allow me to illuminate the goings-ons. First you go online and buy tickets, complete with massive processing fee and shipping fee and other related bullshit fees that make a 20 buck ticket cost somewhere near 4.7 billion dollars. Then, the tickets come and you see printed right on it, "doors open at 8" which is code for "show starts sometime mid-23rd century."

But, being the good little concert goer you are, you get there for close to 8 because even though you know with every fiber of your being that the show won't start anywhere close to 8 PM, you're a hopeful sort. You get there and see that there's parking right under the theatre, wahey, but it's more than double what you usually pay when you park downtown, boo-hoo. Unfortunately, you don't know the area very well and even though your super cool van can get you home from even the deepest reaches of the oceans, you fear getting lost in a hellish nightmare of one-way streets and panhandling hobos. You pay the 15 bucks and head up to wait in line.

This being an all ages show, you're surrounded by teenagers which do nothing but make you think ahead to when your kids are teenagers and you have to sit your daughter down and tell her that only when the blackist, hottest pits of hades are touched with the icy finger of winter will you let her venture out into the world dressed like a whoring slut monkey. As you look around at everyone who apparantly walked out of either a J Crew or Hollister catalog, you look down at your own Nintendo t-shirt and Old Navy cargo shorts and feel as if perhaps there was something else printed on the ticket in regards to a dress code and you just missed it. You think back to when you were younger and single and used to go to rock shows and how it never occurred to you that perhaps you should dress nicely because you might meet someone there. Then you remember that you used to go to rock shows with Pete Childs and he used to make you smuggle a microphone in your pants so that he could illegally tape the Robert Plant show.

Eventually you make it inside, check out the merch table with it's substandard selection of t-shirts and then find your seat. The concert hall was very nice and small so there really weren't any bad seats. Plus there was ample floor space for those that wanted to rock out on the floor, thereby enabling those of us who were tired from day 2 of their son's birthday weekend to sit and be mellow. Usually I dance at shows, but not that night. I was tired, and I wanted to just sit. Thankfully, for the most part I could, except for the times where all of the teenage girls in front of me kept getting up to go to the floor and then coming back and then going and then coming back and then texting their friends on the floor so that they could find them when they went and on and on and on.

At 9:30, Alice Smith took the stage with Cope's band. She's a very good soul singer. Great pipes, nice stage presence, good songs, the whole nine yards. The only annoying thing was that they did this echo, reverb thingy on her voice when she held notes at the end of her songs. I would have preferred she just sang, but that's just me. If you see thet she's coming to your town, perhaps in a headlining for Cope capacity, and you like funky soul music and great vocals, I highly recommend seeing her. Her album dropped at the beginning of September, so perhaps some Googling might be in order.

Finally, at around 10:30, Cope took the stage. Most of the stuff he played was from his last album, not his new one, which I thought was kind of strange. He did play "Brother Lee" from the new joint, which is one of my favorite Cope songs evar and did a fucking awesome job on it as well. His band was really talented with not just one, but two guys on keyboards. When they played "Son's Gonna Rise", to much crowd excitement by the way, they traded in the guitar solor for some pretty badass organ/keyboard work giving the song a whole different sound but not reducing the intensity one bit. It was really quite impressive.

Once the show was over, I left so that I could watch the encores from the stairwell, thereby allowing me easy access to the parking garage. The garage's layout was such that I knew that waiting until the show was completely over would result in me being trapped there for all eternity so I decided to trade a little of my rock soul in for a quick departure. I watched pretty much all of the encore, until the usher told me I couldn't stand in the stairwell anymore. I took that as a sign that the show was about to end and hightailed it on out of there. In truth, by that time, I had heard all the songs I wanted to, including "Picasso's Theme", "Penitentiary" and "D'Artagnan's Theme" so I was satisfied. Plus, at this point it was after midnight and I had been there for 4 hours. I was tired and had a 30 minute drive ahead of me, so I bid Cope, the theatre and the pimped out teenyboppers adieu.

Despite all of my complaining, I had a great time and heard some really good music, so it was all worth it. I would definitely go back to see a show there as it's a nice theatre and all of the seats are great. Maybe I'll even dance next time. To answer Andy's question, yes I was photo blogging from my fancy doodad wotsit directly from the show, and yes, it was dope. That's me, dope at Cope. Heh-heh-heh.