Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Marvel Trading Card Game review

My review for the Marvel Trading Card Game for the DS is up at GameShark. Just thought you'd like to know.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Weekly Standard

Once again, I have left you, dear reader, high and dry with nary an update on my life and its twists and turns. Oh how it must make you weep to see the same boring posts day after day as you excitedly refresh your browser. It makes me weep also.

I had planned on posting earlier in the week, but alas, things came up. Namely, the guy who was supposed to review "The Darkness" for GameShark was visited by the ruby tinged spectre, the Red Rings of Death, and no longer has a working 360. As I was about half way done with the game, I offered my services up, powered through it and wrote a review. It hasn't been posted yet, but I till tell you that I enjoyed it immensely. More on that later. Now, what does me writing a review have to do with not posting? I'll tell you.

I have a finite well of ink and wit (the wit well is much, much smaller than the inkwell) and if I use either up to write something, I have a hard time refilling it for something else. This is how I know that I couldn't ditch my day job and become a full time freelance writer who flits from project to project. I know that the best thing a writer can do is write, all forms included, as it helps hone's one's skills, but it doesn't make it any easier to actually do it. Also, from a practical standpoint, work has been busier and now that I'm reviewing games, oftentimes, my "free" time isn't free anymore. Oh sure, I'm playing games, but you'd be surprised how unappealing that notion becomes when you're slogging through your third Transformers game. Oh, almighty dollar, why must you tempt me so?

I also think that part of the problem is that I got married to the idea of this site being less of a blog and more of a column back when I first started it, and had dreams of becoming the next Dave Barry. Because of that, I don't feel like I can write things unless I have a full column structure in my head and that's becoming increasingly harder to do as I become older and more scatterbrained. If I can learn how to be funny in smaller chunks that are written more frequently, I think most of my problems will be solved. Oh sure, I can write the longer pieces when I need to, but smaller and more frequent may be the way to go. It's strange that I think I have to write a certain way because I feel that people don't want to come here and revel in the minutia of my life while I check my friends' sites every day for just that. I guess I expect my readers to be smarter than I am and want more out of their leisure time. Kidding!

I've been hanging out at the Blog for the Sports Gamer more often these days. I used to hang out there before the Great Football Ban was placed on our home like a death shroud, but recently came back as both Dan and Bill, two of the site's contributors, work for GameShark. They write more about non-sports gaming things than they used to, so despite my complete and total ignorance about most sports and sports games, I can usually find something of interest there. Plus, at times Bill will drop some knowledge about the inner workings of GameShark which I always find fascinating. It's also interesting from an anthropological perspective as I've always felt decidedly un-male due to my lack of interest in professional sports. Oh sure, I love football, but more so, I love the Redskins and they happen to be a football team. If I didn't have a team to route for, I wouldn't follow the sport, as witnessed by my ambivalence towards college football. Reading about their interest is vaguely interesting, that is until they start discussing which sliders need to be adjusted to get the various football video games to act appropriately and not like your cornerbacks are on 'ludes. 'Ludes man. Fucking 'ludes!

Back to The Darkness. I daresay that I loved this game. I won't talk about too much and instead will just point you to the review when it drops, but I will tell you that I was sad to see it end, partially because I wasn't going to be able to play it any more, but mostly because I really liked the character of Jackie Estacado and enjoyed spending time with him. Granted, I was him in the game, so that helped. I'm not sure if I would want to go out and grab a beer with him given that at any moment he might impale me and devour my heart. I've seen it happen.

I've obtained all but 6 of the achievements in the game, which is a pretty high success rate for my slacker ass. Unfortunately, the 100 wins in a MP match achievement was 22 wins away from my grasp when a nasty bug reared it's ugly head and reverted me back to 50 wins. If you play matches with automatic map rotation turned on, the game doesn't save the number of wins unless you enter into the single player mode and do something that saves your game. Bummer. Given that I obtained the wins in a less than sportsmanlike manner, it's hard to get too upset, however if I had been battling it out in public matches, I'd be pretty pissed. I guess this is what happens when you tack on multiplayer. Let this be a lesson to developers and gamers alike, sometimes a good single player mode is all you need!

Through various bouts of game trading I have managed to pay for Metroid Prime 3, Mass Effect, Mercenaries 2 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In any other year, you would count me as being done for the holiday season with all major releases covered however this season is an anomaly that will try man's soul and wallet and as such, I have barely made a dent in the onslaught. Note the lack of mention of Bioshock, Two Worlds, Stranglehold, Jericho, Halo 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Phoenix Wright 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. On the plus side, when I finished my bought and paid for games, there will be no shortage of excellent titles to move on to. On the negative side, there isn't enough time in the day to play all of these games. I can only hope that the Jan - Feb months prove to be their usual gaming wasteland, devoid of quality titles, as publishers and developers alike expect gamers to be fat and happy, sated from the feast of holiday releases placed before them. Only then will I be able to give all of these titles the love and care they deserve.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Random Bits

I'm not feeling the narrative today, so instead I'll just blather on about my pointless activities. Yay!

I haven't posted any more links to reviews because I haven't had any more reviews posted. Not for lack of trying, that's for sure. I've written two more reviews for GameShark since my Transformers movie review, they just haven't been posted yet. There's still a lot of info from E3 to get posted, which is somewhat time sensitive so it makes sense to post that stuff first. Of course, it's not my decision to make, so what makes sense doesn't matter much in this regard. I wrote 'em and I'll invoice for 'em. What the site does with them is up to them. I've got some pretty interesting games in the pipeline including, but not limited to Alien Syndrome and Boogie for the Wii. At any rate, once my stuff goes up, I'll post a link for all to read. I can give you a sneak peak and let you know that my streak of not liking a god damned thing has been maintained.

On that note, some of my coworkers think I'm being too harsh on these games, to which I respond thusly: whatevah! I'm trying to tell people if it's worth dropping their hard earned cash on a game. To do that, I have to point out the things that I think detract from a game's value, as well as add to it. It just so happens that the games I've reviewed so far had more things that took away from the value than added to it. I think I've explained things in such a way that any reasonably intelligent reader will be able to decide for themselves if the things I'm knocking the games for would be an issue for them. If I'm not, and the review is just a big "this game sucked but it's not clear why" statement, then I obviously have a problem and need to rethink how I do things. That being said, my short term reviewing schedule, including things that have yet to be posted and the next two games I'm doing (not the two I just mentioned) won't do much to change my coworkers' perceptions.

Harry Potter
Linda and I saw the latest movie yesterday and while we both enjoyed it, I think either of the previous two rank higher. I'm torn between my love of Cuaron's work on "Azkaban" and the sheer amount of mayhem in "Goblet of Fire". At any rate, fans of the movie series will find lots to enjoy in this one but upon the picture's end, will want to just jump ahead to the next movie.

Linda and I both have the book preordered for delivery on or before Saturday. I can only hope that my selective media blackout will help keep me from being spoiled. The big death at the end of the last book was ruined for me by some asshole morning disc jockey who has, thankfully, since been let go. Fuck you, Fred Toucher. Since I can't listen to terrestrial radio without blood streaming from my ears, I think I'll be safe from that. Now I just have to hope that the rest of the media world understands that not everyone has the ability to read a 800 page book in one night and keeps their collective pie hole shut for at least a week. I honestly have no idea how this one is going to end and I'd hate for it to be ruined by some dickheaded AP reporter who's dealing with a slow news day.

An odd topic, I realize, but just go with it. I started ordering flavored coffee from The Coffee Fool a few months ago and I thought I'd spread the word. Oddly enough, I found out about them from a targeted ad in my Gmail inbox. I usually don't touch those ads with a 10 foot pool, but this one, entitled "The 10 things coffee CEO's don't want you to know" intrigued me. What made me order was the sheer number of flavored offerings they have, most, if not all of which are available in decaf. Finding good, flavored decaf for my nighttime consumption has been a thorn in my side for years. A man can't live on hazelnut alone!

Anyways, the African Cinnamon is excellent (I'm enjoying a pot as I write this) as is the Chocolate Mint and the Banana Nut. I just got an order of the Chocolate Espresso in and it is slowly becoming my new favorite. The flavors meld together very well and it's the perfect brew to enjoy with that nightly dessert. Mmmmm, nightly dessert. No, I haven't lost any weight, but that's another story. Order processing is fast and I've always gotten my stuff within 2 - 3 days. You also get a discount as you order more and more stuff, and you can set up regular shipments if you find a flavor schedule that works for you. Give 'em a try and help to loosen the stranglehold that Millstone has on the coffee world.

The Darkness
I'm currently playing The Darkness for the 360 and this is one damn fine game. The voice acting is superb, which makes quite the difference. The Darkness powers are well done, and devouring hearts has never been so fun! Actually, I don't know if devouring hearts has ever been fun, so take that last comment with a grain of salt. Should you be in need of a good gaming experience for your 360 (or PS3 if you swing that way) I highly recommend it. It can be completed well in time for the upcoming deluge of titles too and the lack of a ranked match requirement for the multiplayer achievements makes it boost friendly, as my Gamer Tag would attest to. Anyone who has ever played mulitplayer anything with me knows that I couldn't get 50 flag captures in my wildest dreams. Ah boosting, is there nothing you can't do?

Paula Dean is My Hero
I long for the days when I'm old and retired and can spend the day out on my massive deck, the river gurgling in the background, grilling and cooking and making all manner of tasty delights while my husband does yard work. I'm prepared to marry a man to make this happen if I have to. I also appreciate Paula's love of butter, as I love it too! Longevity is overrated. I've got my life insurance policy. I say bring on the butter!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We're All Winners

Actually, we are all not winners. In fact, the only winner at our household continues to be my son. In the past few weeks, here are some things he has "won" at:

The Seat Belt Buckling Competetion
Now that he's older, he's old enough and big enough to buckle himself in with the seat belt. Granted we make sure he's buckled in before we put the car into motion as child services would frown on the 4 year old being the sole guardian of his auto safety, but he requires assistance less and less every day. Once he buckles himself in, he usually exclaims that he has won because he got buckled in before his sister. This would be the sister that is still in a car seat because she's the size of a pygmy mamorset (We watch a lot of Diego. Deal with it.) and can't buckle herself in. I've tried explaining to Ben that it's not really a contest if one of the people competing can't actually do the thing themselves, but he's usually too busy celebrating his victory.

Getting Dressed
My son is, quite possibly, the slowest person I've ever seen when it comes to putting on an article of clothing. Some kids slow things down when they're getting ready for bed, or getting ready to go to school, as a stall tactic, but my kid takes this to an entirely new level and would take 15 minutes to put on a sock even if he was getting ready to be given the keys to Ice Cream Land. The other night he was getting dressed while I was making his bed and I swear it took him 5 minutes just to lay the shirt on the floor correctly. It was painful to watch. Eventually I had had enough and helped get the dang thing situated so that he could put it on. 2 more assists later, he finally finished and exclaimed "I win!" I can only assume he meant that he won the award for Most People Dead of Natural Causes While I Put on My Pajamas.

Lego Racing
I've touched on the Lego Racing before, but it has achieved new heights since last we spoke. Linda and I will usually ask Ben what he did at school while we three eat dinner and Abby ignores her food. Every day it's the same answer, "played Lego racers." The other night, after getting this answer again, I asked him if he played Lego racers with his friends and he said no. "They all watch me play" he said. That didn't seem right to me, so I asked him again, and again he said that all of his friends watched him play and win Lego Racers. This seemed odd, as most 4 year olds don't care about much more than themselves, so I can't see a whole class of kids sitting back and watching one child race around. It also seemed odd because how can you win if you're the only one there? Further probing, later in the week by Linda, discovered that all of this Lego racing takes place on the computer, and the kids are on the computer one at a time, presumably while the other kids sit back and mope. The fact that Lego Racing exists, to him, only in a digital form still doesn't keep him from turning every single thing into a Lego Racer and wanting to race with it. I've heard of children who want to do nothing but sit slack-jawed in front of the television and I'd like to know how you go about getting one of those. I don't think I can handle any more racing and/or winning.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Template changes

Now that Blogger supports labels, I've started labeling my posts that point to my GameShark reviews with the "Review" label. There's also now a handy link on the right side that points to all the reviews. You can also follow this link.

Transformers Reduxe Reduxe

My official Transformers movie review is up at GameShark. Those of you who have read my review here, and then read my review there will realize that I'm calling myself a fanboy. To thine own self be true.

Personally, I think I'm a better game reviewer than I am a movie reviewer, but both are skills I want to grow, so I'm very thankful to the guys at GameShark for giving me this opportunity.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Transformers Reduxe

Now that I've had some more sleep, punctuated by my dog throwing up on the bed yet again, I can speak a little more eloquently on the Transformers movie. I won't though, instead choosing to say that this movie kicks a tremendous amount of ass. I'm fresh off the heels of yet another review for the fine folks at GameShark.com, so instead I'll opt for the format of hacks everywhere, the oh so popular Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good

The Effects - This movie has, hands down, the best special effects I've ever seen in a movie. If this movie doesn't win every Oscar for visual effects, then I'll be very surprised. It's not just the effects, it's how the effects integrated into real world results. Starscream transforming into robot form and sliding down the street caused real cars to be tossed about like Matchboxes. Shit exploded for reals, yo, and that, combined with the visuals, made you think that things were completely real.

The Transformations - For me, the reason we haven't been graced with a non-animated Transformers movie yet, is because the technology needed time to mature to where you could realistically show the transformations. That time is now. Yes, it did seem a little odd to have a Camaro, which is about 10 feet long, turn into a 20 foot tall robot, but the transformations were so well done, so mesmerizing that it just didn't matter. At one point, Barricade was running towards the camera, leapt forward, transformed in midair and hit the ground in vehicle form, hauling ass. At this point the crowd erupted in cheers. It's this kind of transformation combined with the real world objects that made the movie look so damn cool. About 2/3 of the way into it, every time I saw a vehicle, I thought it was going to transform and start tearing shit up.

The Funny - There are plenty of laugh out loud moments in this movie. The story isn't very strong (more on that later) so instead, the quieter moments are filled with humor, and some very good humor to boot. Shia LaBeouf handled the non-robotic lead very well and was very likable. The best lines went to Anthony Anderson who made me crack up every time he opened his mouth. Plus, he was a Redskins fan, so yay for that. Some of the humor was a bit much, but all in all, it was much funnier than I would have thought.

The Fights - Optimus Prime is a badass motherfucker. That dude can lay some shit down. The fight scenes in this movie, while being a bit frenetic at times, were absolutely amazing. If all you wanted was hot robot on robot action, then you'd be happy. The movie did some really cool things with using the transformations in combat, so it wasn't just fly/drive in as a vehicle, transform and beat each other up as robots.

The Autobots - The Autobots each had a very distinct personality and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, was wonderful. Hearing that familiar voice in this movie really helped make it special. The movie did a really good job of making you care about the Autobots, Bumblebee in particular, that when hard times befall them, and boy do hard times come a fallin', you feel for these guys. Maybe I'm just getting sentimental in my old age.

The Women - Megan Fox is a damn fine good looking woman.

The Soda Machine - You'll see.

The Bad

The Story - It's not that the story is bad, it's that there isn't much of one. Thankfully, you're not thinking about it while watching the movie, but once you leave the theater, you will start asking questions and probably won't be satisfied with the answers you come up with. I think the movie did a good job as a first movie, cause you know there will be more than this one, but for the second one, it's going to have to be a lot more than the two factions battling over the Allspark.

The Decepticons - Don't get me wrong, the Decepticons were cool as hell, there just wasn't any interaction between them other than a couple of lines between Megatron and Starscream. While the Autobots had personality, the Decepticons were basically just badass robots looking to bust shit up. The story didn't really lend itself to scenes with the Decepticons hanging out in their Hall of Injustice, but some sort of collaboration would have been nice. I also wanted to see more of Bonecrusher, but only because he's so huggable.

Frenzy - Yeah, he looked cool and was pretty important to the story, but I think a little Frenzy, in his movie incarnation, goes a long way and we got way more than a little. He reminded me of Stitch, from the "Lilo and Stitch" movies/tv show, which made me believe he was there for the kids, despite the fact that he was all to eager to kill folks. I don't know what it is about him that bugged me, but he did so there you go.

The Ugly

Rachel Taylor's nose stud - She's pretty hot, don't get me wrong, but I can't stand nose studs in anyone. All I can think of is snot related issues and it creeps me out.

John Turturro's underwear - If Aloha also means "good bye" then I welcome the sentiment.

As you can see, I had a hard time coming up with things that were really awful about the movie. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and am willing to let the not so good parts slide, because the good parts were just that good. Obviously, those not into the Transformers as much as I am, may have a hard time letting the same things slide, but I think they'd still have a good time, as long as they go into it expecting a big, loud action movie. There are worse ways to spend your time this summer than with a group of badass robots.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Just got out of the movie and all I can say is holy fucking shit. More later. I'm too tired from getting my ass rocked.