December 2008 Archives

The Nintendo Power Awards predictions roll on, ignorant of holidays and better ways to spend our time. Even Tony thinks Sonic Unleashed will win Best Wii Graphics, and he actually owns it, so you should totally pay attention to my prognosticating prowess.

Best Shooter/Action Game Bangai-O Spirits (DS), Blast Works (Wii), Call of Duty (Wii), Mega Man 9 (WiiWare), Metal Slug 7 (DS), Ninja Gaiden (DS)

MY PICK: What a fucked up category. Shmups, retro stuff, an FPS, and whatever the heck you want to call Ninja Gaiden. Seriously, why is Mega Man not nominated in the platforming category? It's, like, a platformer. This one is a mess, just seeing the words "Blast Works" puts me in a mood, so I'll go with Ninja Gaiden because I played the demo.

VOTERS PICK: This is the one Mega Man 9 gets. In fact, that's probably why it's in this category instead of with the platformers where it belongs, and where it would be beaten by at least two other games. Realistically, most Nintendo fans did not play any of the other games on this list... but they did play Mega Man 9. I smell collusion.

Best Sports Game Madden 09 All-Play (Wii), Mario Super Sluggers (Wii), New International Track & Field (DS), Sega Superstar Tennis (Wii), Tiger Woods 09 All-Play (Wii), We Love Golf (Wii)

MY PICK: Mario. Although Track & Field does have Pyramid Heads in it.

VOTERS PICK: Mario. I don't think the All-Play games have a chance in hell because Wii owners just do not buy "real" sports game in large numbers.

Best Racing Game Ferrari Challenge (Wii), GRID (DS), Mario Kart (Wii), Sonic Riders (Wii)

MY PICK: Kart.

VOTERS PICK: Kart.

WORLD PICK: Kart.

UNIVERSE PICK: Kart.

TIME/SPACE CONTINUUM PICK: Kart.

This might as well be the "Best Mario Kart Game" category.

Best Platformer Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant (Wii), de Blob (Wii), Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS), Mushroom Men: Spore Wars (Wii), Sonic Unleashed (Wii), Wario Land (Wii)

MY PICK: Wario. It really is a slick piece of work.

VOTERS PICK: Ugh. Probably Sonic Unleashed, I guess. Even a Sonic game deserves it more than the borked jumping controls in de Blob.

Best Puzzle Game Boom Blox (Wii), Dr Mario Online RX (WiiWare), Professor Layton (DS), Tetris Party (WiiWare), World of Goo (WiiWare)

MY PICK: You know, this is the first time that Boom Blox has come up? Huh. Still, I can't support it because it has the worst menus in the history of interactive media. Seriously, I made shit in HyperCard that was better than that. Until I buy World of Goo, I'll vote for Professor Layton again. I think that guy needs some love. I want him in the next Smash.

VOTERS PICK: Tough call. My gut feeling is that the voters will choose Tetris or Boom Blox, and the editors will us this as an opportunity to push World of Goo.

Best Alternative Game Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii), Trauma Center 2 (DS), Wii Fit (Wii)

MY PICK: Only three games? WTF. The sports category is fluffed up beyond all recognition, like three-week-old roadkill, but NP can only muster up a trio of "Alternative" games? How about Sam & Max Season 1? My Pokemon Ranch? Endless Ocean? Goddamn Ninjatown?

Anyway, I'm going with Animal Crossing.

VOTERS PICK: Also Animal Crossing. I know Wii Fit is the media darling, but I also know that nobody plays it for more than a week because it is dead boring. If NP was polling parents at the mall, Wii Fit might have a chance. But they're polling gamers and fanboys.

Best New Character Apollo Justice, Blob, Neku, Layton, Shade, Travis Touchdown

MY PICK: Oooooo. Professor Layton or Travis Touchdown? I mean, let's rule out Shade because nobody likes or needs new Sonic supporting cast members. Neku... if I know my Square Enix, Neku is an unlikable cypher with no real personality except to aggressively move the plot along. Like Kermit the Frog with a mad-on. Blob? Too blatantly merchandisable, like he's expected to become the world's new favorite video game character on pure strength of design alone. And Apollo Justice, I just can't get behind that guy. I know the Ace Attorney series is about a hundred years old in Japan, but here in the States it feels like we bailed on Phoenix Wright way too soon.

I really like both Layton and Travis for entirely different reasons. Travis is super cool, but I would hang with Layton.

Fine, Travis.

VOTERS PICK: Ugh, wouldn't it be terrible if Whoever-Shade-Is from Sonic Chronicles won? That's kinda who will though.

Best Multiplayer FFCC: Ring of Fates (DS), Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii), Mario Kart (Wii), Rock Band 2 (Wii), Smash Brawl (Wii), Tetris Party (WiiWare)

MY PICK: Brawl. Although I enjoy the forced listing of World Tour since they included Rock Band.

VOTERS PICK: Brawl. And again, Kart as a close number two. I mean, those are core Nintendo games that are pretty much entirely multiplayer anyway, so they're a shoe-in to run away with this one.

Best Story/Writing Chrono Trigger (DS), Dragon Quest IV (DS), No More Heroes (Wii), Professor Layton (DS), Robocalypse (DS), World Ends (DS)

MY PICK: Is it incredibly sad that only one Wii game makes this list of nominations? de Blob? Sam & Max? LEGO Batman? Even Endless Ocean kinda had a story to it. And wait a minute, what about goddamn Subspace Emissary mode in Smash Brawl? Bullshit to this category as another excuse to flog DS RPGs.

No More Heroes FTW. Although Professor Layton was really cool, M-rated games on Wii need far more fan support than brain teaser games on the DS.

VOTERS PICK: Do you think voters will be sick of voting for their niche-favorite DS RPG by this point? Chrono or DQIV will get it and I don't even care which. Fine, Chrono, but only because Tony keeps going on and on about it.

Unless the vast Robocalypse voting bloc finally organizes and gets some major grassroots efforts in. EYEROLL.

Best Online Functionality Animal Crossing (Wii), Bomberblast Blast (WiiWare), Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii), Madden 09 (Wii), Mario Kart (Wii), Rock Band 2 (Wii)

MY PICK: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Where's Brawl? You're going to tell me that almost being able to download new songs in RB2 or GHWT outranks Super Fucking Smash Bros Goddamn Brawl?

Although even in an imaginary universe where the Nintendo Power Awards are based on merit and I have to choose between Brawl and Kart, I have to back Kart. In my experience, it has been far more lag-free and they're still putting out weird little secret tourneys whereas they stopped handing out free Smash movies/pics some time ago (Spectator Mode still kicks ass though!)

VOTERS PICK: Kart.

Best Fighting Game Bleach: Dark Souls (DS), Castlevania Judgment (Wii), Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 (Wii), Brawl (Wii), King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga (Wii), WWE Smackdown 2009 (Wii)

MY PICK: Brawl.

VOTERS PICK: Brawl.

So we'll see you in a few months after NP is done tabulating all the dumbass Sonic votes!

Clark's Christmas 2008

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We had five consecutive days of opening presents this year, starting light on Christmas Eve Eve and [un]wrapping things up Saturday night at Rhonda's parents' place. Although Clark still is not at the Make A List Myself stage of Christmas familiarity, he is definitely prepared to be needling you every three minutes at every location "Are we opening the presents now?"

Great pose... and for books, no less!

A singin' dancin' Spidey unsuccesfully blends with my grandmother's Santa collection.

My grandmother has the best decor. THE EYES.

This was when he turned around and saw the presents under our tree on Christmas morning.

This is one of those shots where twenty years from now I'll enjoy examining the photo to see what movies we had on the shelf.

The Speed Racer helmet was a big deal. It's a little large for him, but he was asking for it for months.

Yes, we had one of those TV Yule Logs on. This was on HD and it did not look it.

Watching the original Speed Racer cartoon... we bought him the boxed set. "We." Not Santa.

There really was an unsettling amount of car-related gifts this year, even from people who were unaware of the whole Speed Racer thing.

Putting together a LEGO set... Batman + Batcycle and Harley's Hammer Truck.

Buried under presents at Aunt Marci and Uncle Kevin's place.

Things We Learned This Week

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Deadlands board game! Deadlands board game!

Earlier this month, Twilight Creations announced that they're making a Deadlands board game, due sometime in '09. (Hopefully demo-able at Origins, please?) This is a great fit, as Twilight's top product is the perennially popular Zombies!!! board game... so the Weird West is right in their wheelhouse. Plus, Twilight co-founder Kerry Breitenstein is one of the original Doomtown champs, with her own character card(s) and everything.

Is it too much to hope that they could find a way to tie their board game in with the Doomtown cast and setting?

 


This was Get Caught Up With Pixar Week.

We watched Incredibles and Cars on ABC Family (in HD, which was sweet), and received Wall-e on blu-ray as an awesome Christmas gift. Of course, I'm no Pixar superfan, but they do make very watchable movies.

Incredibles annoys me for the same reason that Heroes annoys me: it takes long established comic super hero elements, waters them down for the mass market, and then gets full credit for being innovative and clever. Imagine if Arena League Football was more popular in America than the NFL. That's what seeing this faux-comics stuff is like for me. The retired heroes, the McCarthy-style government crackdown, the hero costumer, the metatextual analysis of capes and villain monologuing... I've seen it all before.

Cars loses points for veering too far into that cloying Boy, Rural America Sure Is Better Than Them City Folks nonsense. It's not. And you knew right off that Lightning McQueen was going to magically stop being a jerk by movie's end. But it wins points for being consistently interesting to look at (I like the silly car windshield eyeballs; and you can thank several old Disney cartoons for inventing that), as the animators found method after method to present a world that makes logical sense. For once, Pixar managed to do an entire universe of characters, instead of relying on showing how Character Subset B gets along in the face of Character Subset A (which is usually humans). Although they fell to type anyway by making the subsets divide into city/country classes.

Wall-e was really, really nice. I liked the slightly darker theme (although really, they barely got into the notion of Earth being covered in trash... the characters talked around it more than they talked about it.) The robots were all great and I laughed at every Mac joke. However, I thought using real actors was unnecessary and distracting. And the ending seriously could have used some more explanation, other than "Oh yeah, he's okay now."

 


Old LEGO habits die hard.

It's been a long time since I put together a LEGO set, but Clark got a LEGO Batman set for Christmas so I had to get back in the game. Funny how the old dysfunctions are still in place... after I dump the baggies and start fishing for pieces, I am always convinced that I'm missing a piece. And I never am.

I am also morally against the cheap practice of putting stickers on LEGO bricks. If they want designs on these pieces, they can damn well silkscreen the plastic back at the factory.

 


Video Games Live can't tell video games fiction from video games reality.

We're blowing through our Pepsi reward points because they're scuttling the entire project at the end of the year... mostly on MP3 downloads from Amazon.com. I picked up the entirety of Video Games Live, the famed orchestra tour of video game soundtracks. Some of my favorites are in evidence - Kingdom Hearts, God of War, Tetris - and a couple that I've never heard of but I'll give them a pass, like Advent Rising and Halo. But Tron? Who the fuck included Tron on the playlist? Hey, why not Last Starfighter, that was about video games too.

 


Speed Racer for Wii is about what you'd expect.

Obviously a rushed, slapdash title. The game reuses character artwork like it's going out of style, and - and this should be a cardinal sin for any and all racing games - it only has five tracks. There's an attempt to duplicate the crazy attack-racing style of the movie, but it's only an attempt.

 


For the true confession file.

Whatever we were watching had a dozen commercials for the DVD release of Mamma Mia, and I remarked to Rhonda that I would probably watch that movie solely on the basis of being an Abba fan. I said something akin to "Because I like Abba songs." Clark quickly jumped in "I like applesauce too."

Rhonda is way ahead of me in Animal Crossing. She just got her second story and I still have 100,000 bells or so left on the house upgrade before that. At this rate, she is going to get the gold statue. I wonder if it will have the Mii face? I bet not...

Rhonda also happened upon Wisp one night, which only happened once or twice to us back on the GameCube. Wisp has undergone a genie makeover. I like how you now have to meet him in your attic to collect on his boon.

I thought I was on to something here. The strategy guide mentions that Chip will give out a silver fishing trophy if you show him a particular fish (this is separate from the gold trophy you get for beating a bunch of cheating AI characters to win the tournament). So when I noticed the picture on his cart of him and a koi, I had Rhonda give him a koi she had caught previously. No dice. Chip ate the koi. Just another example of how the strategy guide is complete vague bullshit.

Meanwhile, I'm cozying up to Sable.

The snowman scripts contain some of the best dialogue in the game.

Saw Pascal again. This time while holding the proper damn scallop. Got a Sea View wall.

I like the new bit where stupid villagers drop their house key in the river.

Jingle is back, and he is far trickier than in '02. These days, you'll find him either wandering outside OR inside somebody's darkened house. I think this is the only time that you can enter a house with the lights turned off (because the animal owner is out walking around). This is something else that the guide does not explicitly discuss, and although Jingle himself offers a clue that he will be "inside," that still leaves you with a dozen houses to check... and if you want to find him again, it's another dull search of houses and the entire exterior town.

He'll give you a present right away, but if you want more you have to come up with different combinations of shirts AND accessories. You can no longer fool him by simply changing your shirt. Luckily, he does not recall specific elements... you can get him by putting together different combos of the same gear. And the Mii Mask is completely invisible to Jingle, by the way.

I'm sure this will be valuable information for you in December of 2009.

The Week in Links

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Animal Crossing City Folk : Coelacanth (YouTube via Cartoon Brew)
Somebody who is not us catching a coelacanth and repeatedly mispronouncing it.

We cannot catch one of these jerks. Every time we see the huge shadow, we flub the catch. We're convinced something's up, but I can't find any evidence that catching a coelacanth in City Folk is any different than catching them in the other two games.

Wonderful? Sorry, George, It's a Pitiful, Dreadful Life (NYTimes via Mark Evanier)
Great essay about everything that is wrong with one of my favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life.

Anatomy of a Scandal, a digression (Suicide Food)
A clever exposition of what happens when meat-eaters get pissed off at Suicide Food.

YUP, SOMEONE'S BEEN SCREWING WITH WIKIPEDIA AGAIN (Peter David)
Peter David preserves for posterity a hilarious Wiki entry for a rumored Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel.

EA Says Happy Holidays With Boom Blox Cheat Codes (Kotaku)
Cheat codes for Boom Blox? I guess now that I'm done being angry at the game, it's safe to use these.

Advice to PS3 Fans from a Nintendo Fanboy (Nintendo World Report)
Interesting "You can do it" series about the PS3 from a Nintendo fan's perspective.

Disney jumps ship on next "Narnia" (Yahoo News UK)
I don't care how good of friends those guys were. I'm a Tolkien loyalist and I say "Ha, Ha."

Judge Rules for 20th Century Fox in Watchmen case (Superhero Hype)
Shock of judge's decision ran along my arm. Potential for movie delay spattered on chest, like hot faucet. It was WB who said "Movie" then, muffled under legal distribution rights. It was WB who closed his eyes. It was 20th Century Fox who opened them again.

Scawy Bunny Wabbit (Brand New)
A logo design horror story. Hilarious. This site also deservedly skewered the ghastly WGN America logo.

Lennon in TV ad 28 years after his death (Yahoo News UK)
Oh, but it's for that near-failure One Laptop Per Child campaign. Yech.

I almost wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Even Animal Crossing and My Pokemon Ranch put out better files than this. But for whatever reason, when you export an in-game photo to the PS3 hard drive, you get these little 320x180 tinies. Odd. So don't expect the usual click-to-embiggen functionality here.

lbp-stretches.jpg This is one of my favorites. I just happened to catch Clark in mid-yawn animation. That's his usual costume... the blue denim skin, blue crash helmet and red cape. You can't see the black boots he likes.

lbp-ico2.jpg Somebody made a hellaciously great Ico level, where you have to drag Yorda through a concentrated synopsis of the entire game. It's pretty amazing.

Rhonda has a usual outfit as well, the blue pigtails and fairy wings ensemble. Me, I'm usually wearing the last thing I paid for.

lbp-icomelon.jpg Watermelons! So good.

lbp-posnowman.jpg That's P.O. Snowman, the guide for my first published level, "Defeat the Ice Beast!" He's a hoot.

lbp-balloon.jpg Here's the whole family again, posing in that cool balloon vehicle from story mode.

lbp-minotaur.jpg Part of the God of War Minotaur costume, with a bow tie and a trenchcoat.

lbp-package.jpg Clark also likes the blue LocoRoco costume, but we has to keep the core blue denim skin. The actual Loco skin has pink clown lips, which he does not prefer.

And that's me in the gift wrap.

lbp-zangiefballoon.jpg Angry Zangief and his pink duck balloon!

lbp-room.jpg From a level where you pose for pictures, somebody's idea of a cool entertainment center. Note the red-ringed 360.

lbp-radish.jpg Part of a series of nice Spirited Away levels, here's that fat radish guy who takes up the entire elevator. How come something like this doesn't get moderated out? Not that I want it to; it just proves that Media Molecule is only responding to complaints, not YouTube-style automatic content filters.

lbp-sadskelly.jpg An early pic of me, in the zombie costume.

lbp-wrestler.jpg One of my favorite pre-built challenge levels, the one where you have to drag a huge, farty wrestler to the finish line.

It's back to Wordpress to vote in this year's Nintendo Power Awards! This will be much more interesting than last year when Mario Galaxy ground-pounded all comers for a heap of wins. The field is open this year!

Overall Game of the Year Now that WiiWare has happened, Nintendo is packed with three solid platforms. Finally, no more GBA charity cases! I don't know if they've ever revealed just how a game gets on the nomination list for Overall GOTY. Whatever the criteria, Rock Band 2 is in, while Guitar Hero World Tour is not. Now, the huge list:

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii), Bully: Championship Edition (Wii), Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS), Chrono Trigger (DS), Final Fantasy IV (DS), FFCC: My Life as a King (WiiWare), Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS), LostWinds (WiiWare), Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mega Man 9 (WiiWare), No More Heroes (Wii), Professor Layton (DS), Rock Band 2 (Wii), Strong Bad (WiiWare), Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii), Tetris Party (WiiWare), The World Ends With You (DS), World of Goo (WiiWare)

MY PICK: Brawl. It came out early in the year, which will work against it. Plus it has the stink of gimpy online play associated with it. But you cannot and will not beat the depth, the fun, and the fan service of Super Smash Bros Brawl.

VOTERS PICK: Also Brawl. Kart will be a close second. I just don't see anything on that list that has the longstanding support or even the enduring gameplay of Brawl. If Kart had been a better total package (more tracks, adjusted items, adjusted AI, retain 2-man karts), it could have unseated the giant.

Wii / DS / WiiWare Game of the Year See that list above? Now you have to pick the best for each platform.

MY PICK (Wii): Brawl. Seems redundant to go through this, as it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the lead platform will win Overall. Can you imagine a year in which voters support a handheld game for Overall rather than the home console? I can't.

MY PICK (DS): Layton. Great imaginative title, with a unique art style and fiendish puzzles. I'm still one puzzle away from having solved every one in the game. But where the hell is Ninjatown?

MY PICK (WiiWare): World of Goo. Although I'm guessing as I've never played it. I have every intention to, though, and I feel it will be better than Tetris Party. Tetris Party has a Balance Board mode, which grants negative points.

VOTERS PICK: For Wii, it's Brawl. I'd love it if they picked No More Heroes though. For DS, I'm going to say Final Fantasy IV, but it's a tough call with the potential for a lot of dedicated fan communities to show up and storm the vote. For WiiWare, I'm betting on Strong Bad. Mega Man 9 is a possible, but that game is way too polarizing. Ain't nobody don't like Strong Bad.

Best Wii Graphics Castlevania Judgment, Okami, Sonic Unleashed, Super Smash Bros Brawl, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Wario Land: Shake It

MY PICK: Hey, wait a minute! Why is Okami not on the Best Wii Game list? I'm going to support Wario in this one, just because that game goes way out on a limb with hand-drawn 2D animation, and everything else on that list (with the notable exception of Okami) is just regular modern 3D.

VOTERS PICK: If Brawl gets it, it will be undeserved, because Brawl really doesn't do very much over the GameCube's Melee. Castlevania Judgment and Tomb Raider have no chance. Nobody has ever talked about Wario Land ever. Which leaves Sonic and Okami. The Okami Curse will scuttle the game's chances, so Sonic wins. Hey, that 11 minute Sonic cartoon on the Nintendo Channel looks pretty nice.

Best DS Graphics Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Dragon Quest IV, Final Fantasy IV, GRID, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, The World Ends With You

MY PICK: World Ends With You. We need more oddball titles like that one. I would prefer Professor Layton in this category, but he's not invited.

VOTERS PICK: Again, the DS library is filled with niche favorites that will galvanize the voting population. I give this one to Castlevania.

Best Original Score Chrono Trigger (DS), Final Fantasy IV (DS), Chocobo's Dungeon (Wii), No More Heroes (Wii), Smash Brawl (Wii), World Ends With You (DS)

MY PICK: Brawl. Come on. I love No More Heroes but I can't recall a single musical riff from that one.

VOTERS PICK: From what I gather, World Ends has a very nice soundtrack, and there's plenty of nostalgia value with FFIV and Chrono Trigger. But I still bet on Brawl to take it.

Best Sound/Voice Acting Bully (Wii), Call of Duty: World at War (Wii), No More Heroes (Wii), Professor Layton (DS), Strong Bad (WiiWare), Trauma Center 2 (DS)

MY PICK: I quite enjoyed the voice work in Layton, but I'm the only one... and it still doesn't compare to what's going on in No More Heroes. Travis Touchdown for the... touchdown.

VOTERS PICK: Strong Bad again. There's nothing else on the list that sold.

Best Music/Rhythm Game DDR Hottest Party 2 (Wii), Guitar Hero On Tour (DS), Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii), Rock Band 2 (Wii), Samba de Amigo (Wii), Wii Music (Wii)

MY PICK: Rock Band 2. Adoy.

VOTERS PICK: Samba should get it by rights, I think, given that the Wii editions of RB and GH really don't compare to the PS3/360 versions. But Samba's not going to win. It's going to go to Guitar Hero World Tour. You can thank the huge undeserved popularity of last year's Guitar Hero III for that one. "Well, we already have one guitar," said a million Wii-owning parents this Christmas.

Best Adventure Game Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (DS), Bully (Wii), Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS), No More Heroes (Wii), Okami (Wii), Strong Bad (WiiWare)

MY PICK: Hurm, No More Heroes or Okami? I'm voting for No More Heroes simply because the game leverages the Remote better; Okami was designed for the PS2, end of story. Doesn't really matter because neither will win.

VOTERS PICK: Strong Bad. I'm seeing a full Strong Bad sweep in effect, because Homestar Runner is right smack dab in Nintendo's marketbase of disaffected nerdy teens who like ironic humor but aren't allowed near Adult Swim because of the swears.

Best RPG Game Chrono Trigger (DS), Dragon Quest IV (DS), Final Fantasy IV (DS), Sonic Chronicles (DS), Tales of Symphonia (Wii), World Ends With You (DS)

MY PICK: Jesus, did anything else come out on DS this year? I guess World Ends again.

VOTERS PICK: If Final Fantasy IV takes Best DS, it stands to reason it will take this category.

That's it for part one. There's 22 categories in this year's awards, so if you're clever you'll see that I stopped at number 11.

khan.jpgIt's time again for my podcast commentary track. #62 is now in your iTunes. Stephen, he of a long podcast absence, made a triumphant return. Apparently he was doing some sort of schooling, a concept of which I have only the vaguest of memories. And most of those are of Magic: The Gathering anyway.

The core topic was game companies being little shits and releasing garbage that they know works like ass but they have to hit the holiday release schedule and they can patch it after the fact later right? Well, that's my take on it.

One pro podcasting tool we're looking at enacting is using video. Not for a fullblown video podcast, but just to see each other and help to better manage the crosstalk. Unfortunately, Skype doesn't all video conferencing, and neither does gMail. Does iChat allow video conferencing with regular AIM users these days? I was pretty sure that it didn't at one time, but that was many years ago. I think the main benefit of using video is that we can snap silly screenshots to accompany the podcast newspost page... but I suppose there's nothing stopping us from doing that now, is there?

One of our community questions was to name our least favorite gaming genre. I quipped - and I would definitely classify this as a quip - that we can just all say "sports" and move on.

I offer up some good Wii snark, mainly at Wii Music's expense. It's a good joke. There's also a bit where I question what's going on in a recent sales flyer I saw that shows a 360 bundle - with 2 free games, a PS3 bundle - with 1 free game, and a Wii... with a five game demo disk. Ouch!

Spoonerism alert: I refer to Steam as Storm.

I also go for the Full Wrongy by saying that the entire Metal Gear Solid LittleBigPlanet pack will sell for $6. At the time I didn't know that there's two downloads, priced at $6 each. Still totally looking forward to it. Clark is jazzed about the paint guns.

I admit that it took me several years to get the "Miles Prower" joke.

We had some fun going through the Most Popular PSN Downloads chart. Pain tops the list, but that's probably due to some of the newer bundles coming with a free Pain voucher. Coming in at number two is High Velocity Bowling, which either was also free, or this list is complete crap.

And we end on the currently-famous list of naughty words that Disney would rather not appear in games. The usual suspects are on there, including incorrect spellings, but then there's words like "underwear." At that point the podcast descends into chaos.

Can you believe that this week's title is a Star Trek ref? It's like 1989 all over again.

Things We Learned This Week

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This is either really cool or really worrisome.

Clark went to a friend's birthday party on Saturday. It was a pool party at the Y, so a parent was expected to go along for each invited child. Rhonda was the chosen parent and as we were explaining this to Clark, that Daddy would stay home, he said "So it's two-player, not three-player?"

 


Tis the season for amazing LittleBigPlanet DLC.

That Metal Gear Solid pack gets better and better every time somebody brings it up. $12 gets you five costumes and stickers. New music elements. Six exclusive pro-designed levels telling a Metal Gear story in the LittleBigPlanet universe. And the Paintinator, a new tool that gives sackpeople paint guns, plus the ability to give creatures a life meter for epic traditional boss fights. Oh, and there's trophies!

I am dying over this trailer:

 


Defeat the Ice Beast is live and IP-free.

I finally published a LittleBigPlanet level, Defeat the Ice Beast. It started out as me putting stuff in that I knew Clark would like - snowmobile race on ice, scary skeletons, swinging items - and the level storyline just kind of grew out of that. I'm going to do a YouTube commentary track for it at some point, because, like Twin Peaks, it is filled with secrets.

And holy shit, have you seen that Dead Space homage level? It begins with a spaceship crashing, elevators drop out from under you, very nice lighting and storytelling moments. My jaw was on the floor the entire time. Somebody did some seriously nice LBP design on that one. It's marred only by the incorrect supposition that "all right" is one word. Egregiously marred.

 


King of the Hill on Adult Swim next year.

When King of the Hill premiered, I was against it, but after absorbing so many episodes of it via my occupation, I've become a fan. It really does have plenty of funny moments and it seems like a nice border show for Adult Swim. Like, it's adult enough that it can lead off the block out of Naruto, but it's not so adult that you'd want it around midnight when they start showing the really edgy stuff.

 


2009 is the 25th anniversary of the Ninja Turtles.

I think the first issue of TMNT that I picked up off the rack was #5 or #6, so I can't say I've been there since the beginning, but I'm damn close.

 


Josh bought Okami for Wii.

Let's get proud, Tony, because Josh bought Okami for Wii this week. And all by himself too! He was looking for something new to play, having destroyed No More Heroes recently, and while browsing he recalled something about the game being stone cold awesome. Great move, dude.

The Week in Links

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ST:XI-The animated episode :) (YouTube via Cartoon Brew)
Nice! Somebody took the audio from the new Star Trek movie trailer and edited it to the old Star Trek cartoon. I think I'd watch this.

Apealing or Unappealing? (John K.)
Earlier in the week, John K. posted a random collection of cartoon artwork and invited readers to discuss which were good and which sucked. If you read John K.'s stuff, it's pretty easy to figure out which ones who likes/dislikes and then sycophant it up in comments. Surprise: he doesn't like Ben 10.

Takahashi resumes career goal of screwing with us (Aeropause)
Yeah, I wrote this. But I wanted to again point to the questionable TGS 08 trailer for Keita Takahashi's Noby Noby Boy. For the enjoyment.

NITE OWL NEEDS FOOD BADLY! (Dave Ex Machina via Mike Sterling)
More fun at the expense of the upcoming Watchmen video game.

Dark Knight's Chris Nolan Event Shows BD-Live Is Not Quite Ready (Gizmodo)
Live text chat! Simultaneous viewing with friends far away! Downloadable trivia games! All this BD-Live stuff sounds like it was dreamed up by people who never actually use these features, for people who never actually use these features.

The LittleBigPlanet shopping cart.

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I just did a check of what LittleBigPlanet stuff I've downloaded, and the total cost of what I haven't purchased is $4. It's like, geez, why am I afraid to spend the extra two bucks?

I have all the free costumes, natch. Even the murdered turkey mask, to which I ought to be morally opposed. I picked up the Street Fighter costume pack right away. The Chun Li suit is adorable and the muscle chest you get for Zangief is hilarious. And I don't even like Street Fighter!

Tonight I bought the Festive pack and the LocoRoco pack. The Festive pack is the first time they've offered stuff besides costumes (if you don't count the free pre-order Kratos pack, which I have), which is really what the game's all about. And it's comparatively cheap at only $3. You get a bunch of stickers, a couple decorations, a nice sleigh object, and two costume elements.

And you can bet I'll get the Metal Gear Solid 4 pack as soon as it arrives, which purportedly comes with four costumes and some MGS-related stickers.

So what didn't I get? The MotorStorm costume and the Resistance monster costume, which clock in at a beefy $2 each. I guess I'm morally opposed to spending that much for costumes based on franchises that I care about even less than I do for Street Fighter.

One nagging question: every single one of these has been a download around 1066k. Whether you're getting one costume or five. Or two plus new material, decorations and stickers. Is that simply the smallest memory unit the PS3 OS can calculate, or is there genuine fishiness going on here. You used to read about this a lot in reference to 360 DLC, where the download was an insignificant size because you weren't really downloading anything; you were downloading a key to unlock content that was already hidden on the disk. I would be sad if LittleBigPlanet was on that road, but it does seem unlikely that third party property (like Street Fighter) would have been secretly stashed on the retail disk after all this time.

Although Sony could be sneaking it into those little LBP updates that crop up every now and then. I should remember to bring this up on the podcast, see what those lads think.

I was thinking about what other costumes and building packs I'd like to see show up for LittleBigPlanet. Of course I'd leap at items based on my personal favorites. Kingdom Hearts, Fatal Frame, Katamari... duh. But what I'm anticipating is new tools. I mean, all this costume and sticker junk is just for starters. They have to have plans for stuff way beyond these surface accoutrements. Even beyond the level backgrounds that you just know are on the way.

The popit has so much empty space for tools and gadgets. How about a fan that adds directed wind blasts to your level? Adjust the strength from gentle, flag-waving breeze all the way to a gust that's man enough to toss a sackboy around. How about a teleporter object? Weather controls? The ability to change the level's overall lighting, so you could make a level with day/night cycles?

A year from now, I think we will be sitting on an entirely different LittleBigPlanet.

You can all find Aeropodcast #61 now available. The good news is that Paul stopped by to join me and Haygood. I don't know how you feel about it, but I prefer a three-voice show. It's the Perfect Podcast Number. The show's title refers to the less-than-stellar debut of GTAIV on PC (hint: buy a console!), but our main topic was none other than Wii Music. The feel-good not-hit stocking stuffer of the year.

I think I've been consistent on this one... it's the Wii jump-the-shark moment. Nintendo's exclusive lineup for the last half of 2008 has been lame. By all accounts, Wii Music is more of a tool than a "game," and that's fine, but don't expect me to get all excited about it. $15 on downloadable World of Goo is a better buy, and we still have no answers about when that play-WiiWare-off-SD patch is showing up. Nintendo rolled over this holiday. Feel free to make as many Wii ___ titles as you like, N; some will be great, some will not. But don't rely on that and the third parties to move things along. Unbelievably, there are still precious few third parties bringing good games to the Wii. Devs are still cranking out expensive losers like poor Mirror's Edge over on the PS3/360 side. And the few third party bright spots - like de Blob or Sam & Max or Sonic Unleashed - arrive with critical failures.

I will say that I was interested to read two articles by authors who found good ways to explain why they personally like Wii Music... but it's not enough to make me swallow $50 on it. A cheaper price and some good ol' fashioned Smash Bros-style fan service would have gone a long way towards making Wii Music palatable.

Nintendo should have had something else up their sleeve for this holiday. Some kind of core franchise or new IP should have arrived. Hell, we all probably would have accepted the Pikmin re-issue. If only Animal Crossing: City Folk wasn't so very damn identical to the two other AC games.

But this also should have been the season for a PS3 price drop, and that didn't happen either. I guess the Sony credit card offer comes close, bringing a $150 refund along with it... but I'm not sure opening a credit card is sufficient counterweight to shit-cheap 360s.

I get a GREAT Home joke in right at the start of the podcast. It's pretty subtle though, especially if you've never been in Home, so here's a pic to help explain it.

We talk a little about LittleBigPlanet's incredible two-part Santa DLC... although this week they're releasing a super-cheap pack of Christmas elements, so maybe that makes up for it. It's $3 for two costume parts, a new building texture, some decorations, and a bunch of stickers. That's pretty hot.

That's covered in the news section, but we kinda blasted through news ('cast getting looong) so I don't really recall much else from that bit.

Community was cool, with somebody emailing in about getting a new Mac laptop for Christmas, and another person randomly asking how we got started "writing" for the games industry, which, as Haygood says, is a very generous description!

Things We Learned This Week

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Bought Dark Knight.

Wow, was that like a billion times better than Iron Man or what? Iron Man was an embarrassing 80s action TV show compared to that. The only question I have is what happens in the next Batman movie, since the only survivor... died.

And in very good news, unlike Speed Racer, the "Digital Copy" that you get with The Dark Knight actually works in iTunes on a Mac.

 


Did Cartoon Network censor Brave and the Bold?

We watched the Red Tornado episode of Batman: Brave and the Bold on Friday night, and I was sort of taken aback by the surprise heart-wrenching rendition of Batman's famous origin. Not what I expected out of a light Christmas episode, although it was very, very poignant.

We happened to catch the Saturday morning rerun (geez, they DO rerun it!) and noticed that the entire portion with the Crime Alley origin was missing. They re-ran the segment before, and then suddenly cut into the show after the origin bit was over to get the show back on time. Given the way shows are broadcast these days (all digitally, I presume), it seems like a really strange coincidence that the dramatic, serious origin would go AWOL like that... but if somebody really did complain about it, you'd think CN would just pull the entire show rather than clumsily hack it up like that.

 


de Blob: This year's Zack & Wiki.

Did three levels of de Blob this week, with the hilarious result of each level taking at least an hour to play. Who approves this crap? De Blob is great concept and beautiful art direction saddled under a gameplay system that is determined to kill you with a ten ton weight.

And also, the jumping sucks. Outright sucks. Bad waggle combined with bad sticky collision detection.

 


Final Crisis #5, annotations required.

I've never read a book that made annotations a requirement in the way that Final Crisis is going. It makes me wish DC would doulbe the page count so they can tell the story with more explanation. Crisis on Infinite Earths took an entire twelve months to unroll, but alas, today's comic audience just can't support a maxiseries.

Oh, and what is up with the DC fan community getting all bent out of shape about A) Desaad-possessed Mary Marvel sitting on Captain Marvel in a probably-sexual pose, and B) Libra's veiled promise to Luthor about getting "the first crack at Supergirl." Desaad is a creep and Libra is a dick, right?

 


Free Comic Book Day brings on the Blackest Night.

One of DC's offerings for Free Comic Book Day 2009 is Blackest Night #0, which will recap the last few years of Green Lantern books in preparation for the big summer GLC event.

 


Reason number 800 to get an iPhone.

Namco just released an official Katamari game for it!

Will it suck? Does it matter?

 


More Pirates rarity craziness.

OK, this is probably one of the last times I bring this up since WizKids is defunct. I bought the last two Savage Shores boxed sets this weekend... yes, yes, I had to have all six and I'm a sucker. On the previous four sets, I managed to get the same rare run all four times (which sucked) but the super-rare pack twice (which did not suck). This time I got different rares (yay!) and in fact one of the Savage Shores boxes was almost entirely rares. For real. Like, seven rares and two uncommons. What is going on here?

 


Upgraded Movable Type to 4.23.

And I did it late at night when I wasn't thinking straight, because I do so like to threaten the entire existence of my website like that. Happily, this upgrade went smoothly.

UPDATE: Actually, it's not. Commenting is busted again, and my main .cgi throws a 500 Internet Server Error. But yet I can still get into the system to post new entries. I don't get it.

The latest from Animal Crossing... problems with Pascal, making song requests with K.K., and what Gracie thinks of Miis.

OK, you know how Pascal wants scallops? White scallops don't count. Crap in a hat. Here's Pascal floating downstream after not wanting my white scallop and not giving me any cool pirate furniture.

I think Bunnie may be my new favorite.

We have the Nook-n-Go, but I don't expect it to stick around very long. It sucks because the Nook-n-Go is the only store with decent hours, open until 1am.

Hey, you can preview the paper style before you buy it? Cool. I don't recall that being in previous ACs.

Great shot of K.K. Slider. He's still our Saturday Night Thing, but his "cool cat" jazz talk is far more obnoxious than ever before. The localization team really cranked the cliche on this guy and it stinks.

Also, you can totally request songs, just as ever. I don't know who started the rumor that you can't.

Brewster: debatable hygiene since 2005.

Gracie's comment about makeup is directly referring to Clark's Mii mask. I can't tell if Gracie is being sarcastic about it, or if she's cool with it. She's not always around in her store, and I'm fine with that after all the times she made me wash her car for crap.

And hey, interest! I'm sure that will encourage time travellers everywhere to screw up their game for big bell payouts.

The Week in Links

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C.I.L.F. (Cartoons I'd Like to F***) (YouTube)
Oh no, the language shall not be safe for work.

Ex-Team Ninja and Brawl Staff Working On TMNT Fighter For Wii (Kotaku)
OK, let's not get too excited because odds are that this game will end up sucking. This report comes from a vague Nintendo Power preview after all. But a four-player fighting game for the Wii with the Ninja Turtles and online play that's better-than-Brawl (which to me means: voice chat, no lag and live friend list... and seriously, you have to go a LONG way to be better than offline Brawl) could be stellar. Fingers crossed that they don't dope it up with all of the many stupid add-ons to the TMNT universe. Start with that latest CG movie and build from there, please.

FINAL CRISIS FLASHBACK: MR. TERRIFIC (Comic Book Resources)
Nice overview of both Mr. Terrifics... although nobody seems to get the whole atheist angle. Mr. T has figured out that there's nothing particularly praise-worthy about "God" in the DCU. It's not that he denies the existence of the Hand-of-God Spectre, for example; it's that in a world with superheroes and magic and time travel and a boundless universe of alien races, it's just that the Spectre doesn't work for who he says he works for. Or at the least, "God" is simply another powerful supernatural entity like the hundreds faced by the JSA/JLA on a regular basis. And worse, this "God" doesn't even have the sense to show up.

The Missing Last Page (Postmodern Barney)
Dorian Wright with a lovely bit of snark about the end of Marvel's Secret Invasion.

1950s pin-up queen Bettie Page dies (Yahoo News)
Hands up, who assumed Bettie Page has passed away years ago? Nice obituary; even credits comic/movie The Rocketeer for playing a role in her resurgence.

Sonic The Hedgehog Game Design Process Revealed (Minus World)
From October, but boy did it make me laugh. The answer to the headline is Sega's Destroy Sonic Super Wheel.

Lunch Bag Art and Annathered's Bento Factory (via Kotaku)
Between the incredible daily art of Lunch Bag Art and Annathered's awesome bento box dioramas, I'm starting to feel pretty crappy about what we do for Clark's lunch.

PixelJunk MonsterMovies

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This whole record-your-plays thing in PixelJunk Monsters is great. Since the trophy update, I've been picking through the Trophy Challenges with moderate success.

This one is me screwing up like an idiot. You're supposed to build every possible tower, which means spending your eggs on new tech rather than upgrades. Not a problem. You get the trophy at the moment you build that last tower type... but the game will take the trophy away should you tear a vital tower down. That's what happens here. And I annotated it in the grand Web 2.0 style.

Emsmartened, I did manage to finish that level. There's two parts to this success story... I included this half mainly because my laser towers are ripping up those damn fliers, first the batties then the hated fatties. And I love the sound of those guys popping in death. Because I really hate them.

And here's part two to that. Trophy acquired! I think it's sort of useful to other players to see how the levels ends more than anything else, because then you can see just how a winning player approached the tower choices and layout.

Here's the first Scrooge challenge, where you have to finish with over 10,000 in saved gold. Easy. Obviously the thing to do is buy all of the interest upgrades as fast as you can.

I know these ice levels look like crap. There's a neat sleety snow effect going on that looks cool in real life but plays hell with the lousy YouTube video compression.

Anyway, this is the challenge where you're told NOT to build a fire tower. Naturally, there's a few waves where the flames would be really helpful. But still, not a difficult trophy grab at all. This is just the boss wave.

This one is killing me. You're supposed to finish with at least 25 saved gems. I've played it a dozen times and I can't get more than 23. Follow the math here... there's ten waves of baddies. On the first five you get 2 gems per wave (10), then on the next four you get 3 gems each (12). And there's always one gem hiding in a random tree, and there's no gems at all on the final wave, the boss wave. So 23. WTF? I'm missing something really stupid, I'm sure.

This is a cute idea. You have to let 100 coins fall into the water. There's no coin counter, so you just have to guess at it. Keep tearing down and rebuilding the towers by the sea and you'll eventually get it.

This is the second trailer for Batman: Arkham Asylum, coming to PS3 and 360 next year. The first mainly showed off game environments, with a couple crouching Batman shots for flavor. It looks really, really nice. But Batman games have a way of sucking, so here's hoping this game pulls a Resident Evil 4 and redeems the franchise.

Note the road sign. "Hitchhikers may be escaping patients." That is classic Gotham public works right there.

As cool as that shot is, I hate seeing Batman just hangin' out, talking to cops and stuff. Batman should be dropping Joker into Dr. Arkham's office through a skylight, then disappearing into the night before anybody even sees him.

Joker knocks out a guard. Why did they unfetter him?

Joker escapes captivity while Batman watches through a window, immediately regretting not turning the clown over to the Spectre.

As nice as it is to have "safe" Batman material, like the Brave and the Bold cartoon or the DC Super Friends toys, it's just as nice to also have the dark, spidery, scary interpretations.

Who the hell is that? Doomsday?

So, so nice. Please let this game not suck.

OK, very sweet render of Killer Croc, but why is he ending this trailer? And why can't game developers find anything for their big monster characters to do except scream at the camera?

Logo not yet created.

Here's your pre-release commentary track on Aeropodcast #60.

Joe Haygood and I talked about the used game market and how it is inspiring game developers to come up with tricky ways to make sure that the only people who play their games are people who paid for a new copy.

Predictably, I am all for this. The only good thing I've heard about used games is that it lets more people play more things, rather than pushing people away with high price point... but games prices always come down anyway as games get older (except first-party Nintendo games, guh), used game sales do very little for the creators, and anybody I ever met who lived off used games wasn't really contributing to the gaming economy anyway.

Naturally, the true concern is the slippery slope. If I personally buy a brand new $60 game and then get told that I later have to pay another $10 to get the ending, that will not be cool. Somewhere, assclowns like Bobby "Let's Make More Crap Guitar Hero Games" Kotick are chewing on plans like this right now. And that will just make me doubly mad at all the skinflints who prop up the used games industry. Haygood asserts that better publishers will make the game 100% accessible to those who have bought the game new (based on a unique code in the box), and this kind of pay-for-ending jiggerypokery will be reserved for those who get the game used and therefore have no code to "unlock" the ending. ...Or whatever content they choose to lock: ending, in-game items, extra levels, director cuts, etc. Go for it, I say. We're already halfway there with preorder bonuses anyway.

By the way, did you all see Haygood's Investigative Report on GameStops across the west coast neglecting to take the activation codes out of the boxes on the shelves? Classic stuff.

I'll buy something used if it's a rare item, which is effectively flea market tactics. And I have on the odd occasion sold stuff back to GameStop for store credit just because it was easier than fretting with eBay. But if the used market vanished overnight, I would not even notice.

We also talk about the most expensive games we've ever bought. Unfortunately, Haygood never picked up Steel Battalion. I went with Rock Band, but I'm not sure that should count. You'll love my true-to-form number two choice.

In the news for this week, I again admit that I have no care for the Prince of Persia series. Just never got to it. Nothing personal.

I complain about the LittleBigPlanet Sackboy plushies looking crappy.

A new Ready 2 Rumble game is coming to Wii, and I suggest that they should hurry the hell up before Punch-Out Wii comes out. Punch-Out > Ready 2 Rumble.

And at the end I explain what happened with the N-word showing up in Animal Crossing: Wild World because I have the distinct impression that very few people on Aeropause play Animal Crossing.

Things We Learned This Week

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Wii Speak happened; nobody noticed.

As near as I can tell, Nintendo released the Wii Speak Channel download to complete silence on Saturday. I didn't see anything on Kotaku or Joystiq, Nintendo World Report didn't Report it until Sunday. And the Aeropause coverage came from yours truly.

The gaming enthusiast media reports on the stupidest shit in the name of pageviews. I'm a little surprised to see this go completely ignored.

 


Batman will be fine.

Just so you know, if you think DC is genuinely and forever going to kill Bruce Wayne, you are completely stupid.

I bring this up because mainstream media sources are already jumping on this story, like somebody really died.

 


Eye of Judgment has the worst music ever.

It's so terrible. I had forgotten how bad it was, and then I fired EoJ back up this week to chase down some Trophies. Although the game does not support custom soundtracks (WTF), you can crank the music all the way down. Atrocious.

 


Wario was in my Gold Box.

I tracked the Amazon.com Gold Box deals last Thursday, because it was Wii game day. Have you seen this? It's intensely stupid. They throw up one deal every hour or so, but offer up clues so you can guess what the next deal will be. Like "No need to worry about avalanches" meant that We Ski was the next bargain. Hoo boy.

"Mario prefers it stirred, not shaken" referred to Warioland: Shake It, and that's the one I pounced on. $35, which wasn't as good as I had hoped. I missed Trauma Center 2 selling at $10! And even though I opted for Super Saver shipping, I had Warioland in two days. Whoo! Turns out, it's a really good game too.

In the end, I think I just wanted to participate in one of those crazy Gold Box deals.

 


Free stuff on PSN.

Free LittleBigPlanet costume, which is now to be expected. And another free song for Rock Band, which is always welcome. They're up to five of those now, I think.

But the big free news is a free "episode" of Qore. So I got that. And, aside from enjoying some nice HD footage, it's junk. Not worth paying for at all. There's a grand total of three stories, most of which unpleasantly remind me of all those poor video game TV shows that G4 used to run... IE, some doofy reporter stands three feet away from some doofy developer, tossing out softball questions like "So, tell us about the graphics" and ending with a cheesy "And you can check out Game X when it EXPLODES on your PS3 early next year!"

If there was some serious work into Qore, some nonstandard broadcasting, maybe I'd consider paying for it. But this dreck should be free, perhaps looping in the corner of the Store. Hey Sony, have you heard of a little thing called The Nintendo Channel...

 


So that's where Grandpa is!

One of the ongoing threads in season one of Ben 10: Alien Force is the whereabouts of Grandpa. Well, in this week's new episode, the gang finally finds him... and it was a cool reveal. Some other danglers from previous episodes showed up too, which was slick.

And why does Cartoon Network offer no promotion of Batman: The Brave and the Bold? They don't even repeat it. Meanwhile, that crappy Star Wars show gets commercials every five minutes.

 


When did Caillou switch to Flash?

We're watching Caillou on Sprout, so we're probably way behind, but lately they've been running what I assume are newish episodes, and they are all done in Flash. And really bad Flash to boot.

 


Um, check the sorting department.

I was all excited to net the Pirates Savage Shores super-rare booster last week... and then I did it again. Out of four Savage Shores boxes, I've gotten the super-rare set twice. Am I incredibly lucky, or is everything a dirty lie?

I also have to note that all four boxes have yielded the same rares. A Wraith crew member and some golden dragon. I'm really tired of finding those guys in the box.

 


Wii partied like it was early 2008.

We did a little Kart and Smash Bros this weekend, because I wanted to see the current Kart tournament and I do keep getting Smash pics and levels from friends here and there.

But it underlined for me just how more awesome Nintendo was eight months ago. The first party lineup since the summer - Wii Fit, Animal Crossing and Wii Music - just does not measure up. In all fairness, few release schedules could compare to the double-threat of Smash/Kart, but rehashing AC and living off Wii ___ doesn't cut it.

The problem is especially apparent after playing Smash again. That is such a huge game, a gamer's game, a casual game, a nostalgia trip, deep with unlockables... and now we're supposed to get excited about an almost completely fan-service-free Wii Music?

The Week in Links

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Lakitu Out-takes from There Will Be Brawl (YouTube)
I think I linked to There Will Be Brawl.com a while ago, but I just got around to watching the bonus materials for episode one... some bits with the Lakitu news anchor. This is the funniest one, the faked outtakes.

EA Announce Dungeon Keeper MMO (Kotaku)
Sounds like a fantastic idea... turn a beloved and forgotten and unique (at the time) PC franchise into an MMO. I'm not down for the MMO part, but more Dungeon Keeper has to be good, right? Now what if I told you this game is only for China? Weird.

Otacon/Lolicon (AltJapan via Kotaku)
A little introspection on the strange relationship between Otacon and Sunny... as a kind of otaku male fantasy fulfillment. It's a good real-world assessment of why it's in there, but I don't think the gameworld is trying to make the case that Otacon <3 Sunny in an inappropriate way. Of course part of why we're talking about this is because Otacon has made questionable sexual choices in the past... but I think his guardianship of Sunny is largely to make up for his severed relationship with his younger sister Emma. I mean, the dude gets Naomi. Naomi.

Swedish researchers create body-swap illusion (Yahoo News)
Yes, you can make somebody think they're in somebody else's body with some simple camera trickery and some low-fi snuggling. But, "The illusion only goes so far. The researchers said they could not fool their volunteers into thinking they were a box, for example."

How Disney is fixing "American Dog" (Jim Hill Media)
An old link, but relevant if you've seen Disney's Bolt. It's Jim Hill from February 2007 discussing how American Dog (awful title) was on its way to becoming Bolt.

FusionFall (Cartoon Network)
I'm kinda fascinated by the way this MMO tries to visually connect multiple Cartoon Network properties by morphing all the characters into a single anime-styled feel. Check out the new looks for Buttercup, Dexter and Numba 5 in particular.. and the photo gallery is full of cool surprise character appearances. Ben 10 and Samurai Jack are already mostly anime. I need to register and check this game out.

Retail stores face scanning revolution (Lost Remote)
Apparently there are iPhone apps that scan barcodes and then perform pricechecks for you, and this has made some retailers nervous. Hilariously, some may be considering in-store policies to scramble all cell phone signals. Good luck with that.

Japanese-American Animation Artists of the Golden Age (Cartoon Brew)
Cool article about some unsung talents from the glory days of animation. I especially like the anecdote at the end with Unca Walt inspiring a Japanese-American artist to be stalwart in her heritage, a brave thing in the WWII era.

My favorite GTA3 bit.

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I always think about this gag and want to immediately hear it again, but I never seem to have my iPod handy. So I'm embedding it here.

This is my favorite Grand Theft Auto 3 moment. It's two minutes from Chatterbox FM, when the activist calls in to invite Lazlow to a Liberty City rally. There's so many good lines in here. Text follows.

Lazlow: "Let's go over here to line 4, hello caller, what's your name?"

Jeff: "Jeff from Rockford."

Lazlow: "Hello Jeff, what's up?"

Jeff: "I want to tell you and your listeners about a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a difference. There's a rally tomorrow evening at the park. Starting at 7. Although we'll be painting banners and singing songs and all day and all night to prepare for it. Then, when tens-of- thousands have gathered in the park, we're gonna march onto Town Hall. Lazlow, the people have spoken! And they have said 'no, not in my town!' So folks, if you're listening, and want to make a difference, get yourself down to the park, and prepare to bring democracy back to the people."

Lazlow: "So... what's this rally about, Jeff?"

Jeff: "It's about people standing up and being counted. It's about the future. It's about telling those morons in the suits 'no thanks! Not in my town! Not while I have a breath in my body and hope in my soul! I will not, I cannot let this pass!'"

Lazlow: "Let what pass?"

Jeff: "It's about grabbing the town by the balls and saying 'listen son, either put-up, or shut up! No more Mr. Nice-guy. No more easy solutions for difficult problems!' It's about what it means to be an American. It's about giving something back."

Lazlow: "Giving what back, Jeff?"

Jeff: "Hope! Dreams! Belief!"

Lazlow: "Belief in what, I mean, look Jeff, I... I admire your passion, really I do, but... what will people be marching for? Wh... what's your rally about!?"

Jeff: "It's about justice, Mr. Low! A chance to shine and make a difference! About thousands of people walking side-by-side as brother marchers. Only one thing on their minds - the chance to make a difference! Bring your friends! Nothing shows a man how much you mean to him more than the chance to walk together for justice! Bring your kids! They can paint signs, and we'll even have a face-painter, and a vegan barbeque. Bring your parents, dude, even the elderly care about tomorrow!"

Lazlow: "I understand that, it sounds like a great rally, but w..we're not a political station and you haven't really told us why people should do this...what is it about?!?"

Jeff: "Look... look, do you wanna help or not??"

Lazlow: "I don't know what I'm helping!"

Jeff: "You're helping America! What kind of patriot are you? It's a rally!!"

Lazlow: "You don't know what it's for, do you!?!"

Jeff: "It's for hope. Please come, everybody! It'll be real good!"

Lazlow: "All right, you fight the power, brother!"

Felix Faust's number riddle

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This is from the current issue of DC Super Friends (#9, Jan 2009)... it's page filler but something about it is so stupid/cute that I had to share it. I don't always pick up DC Super Friends because the art is hit or miss, but Clark wanted this issue because the cover is about Superman's birthday. I think that makes this the only DC publication to acknowledge that Superman's 70th birthday (from first publication) was this year.

This page has a great cartoony version of Felix Faust, and I like seeing a character with a demonic backstory doing a cheap number trick in a kids book.

That's the great Ty Templeton doing the art, although his style seems pretty deeply buried in the on-model designs of this sub-franchise. As much as I liked the Batman/Superman/Justice League Animated Universe style, it's nice to see DC branching out into other looks for their all-ages stuff. When does that awesome-looking DCU Elementary series start? Let's look at that one again.

WTF VGXPO?

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Um, but it was pretty lame.

Check out these excerpts from a press release about the recent Video Games Expo:

Philadelphia, PA - (November 25, 2008) - NBC Local Media and Lunar Tide Communications, Inc. announced today that the 2008 America's Video Game Expo more then tripled its' attendance versus 2007, with 24,674 people attending over a three day period. This is largest turnout, to date, for any video game-based event east of the Rockies.

The three-day turnout has put VGXPO on the game industry map, and made it one of the largest video game fan gatherings ever. The high attendee turnout suggests that Philadelphia, and its surrounding region, are a hot bed for gamers and strong market for exhibitors to showcase their latest products.*

Wow, really? I mean, we noticed it was busy... but we couldn't figure out why.

Holy crap, imagine what it was like last year, with only 2,500 people a day! No wonder the GameStop booth kept running out of freebies!

I guess there were exhibitors there. Not game exhibitors, but exhibitors. If you wanted to learn about Panasonic HD sets, they were there. Or if you wanted some literature about DeVry. But game developers? Not so much.

"VGXPO far exceeded my expectations with regards to the total number and profile of the attendees," said George Woo, Events Marketing Manager of Intel Corporation. "I am very happy to bring the Intel Extreme Masters to this event to allow attendees to watch Americas top e-Sport teams compete for prize money and qualification to the Global Finals in March '09 and the opportunity to play the latest game titles running on lntel latest gaming processor based PC's."

Oh, fuck PCs.

"VGXPO's an amazing success story," said Amber Dalton, founder of the all-girls game competition team, PMS Clan. "There is so much to be said for what VGXPO has become for the video game industry...the core gamers, plus the casual games audience, were here to play all the top games. Certainly, VGXPO 2009 can't be missed by any company that markets games."

We say PMS Clan doing a stage show, but barely felt the need to comment on it. It seemed largely an excuse for the 99.99% male audience to stare at some woman. And for a select few to be degraded, because she was doing a well-practiced Simon Says bit.

I guess this is good news, because now maybe some actual game companies will consider attending next year's show. Unfortunately, it will probably only be Microsoft. :(

*Philadelphia is, not Philadelphia are.

Incidentally, that Wilford "Diabeetus" Brimley picture came from me googling "You Win," during a stab to find some hilariously ironic internet picture to pair with this entry.

I guess I really enjoyed it. And given that Uncharted is a linear, hold-your-hand kind of game, doing a five hour jag with it on the very first boot-up is a compliment.

I know this game is a year old now, but it's new to me so I'm going to talk about it. Couple really nice things to mention.

The game is super-smart about checkpoints. Only in a few areas did I feel it was setting me back just a little too far after dying. Most times the auto-checkpoint was literally only a few feet behind me.

There's a concerted effort to avoid HUD clutter, thanks to the "life meter" manifesting as a black-and-white screen filter. As you take damage, things start going noir, which is pretty cool. And to heal back up, you just need to go hide for a bit. No herbs or medipacks.

For most of the game, it feels like a real world adventure. Like, this could actually happen. In other worlds, you aren't jumped by mythical eight foot spiders as soon as you set foot in the abandoned Aztec temple. And even though Uncharted takes place in a jungle, there are no long lost dinosaurs.

ALTHOUGH: notice I said "most" of the game. There is a stupid twist near the end that introduces a fantastical element, and I will never forgive the game for doing that. I was really digging the Discovery Channel show vibe up until that point. So guess what this means for Uncharted 2: eight foot spiders and long lost dinosaurs.

A reasonably non-predictable plot. Yeah, I called some of the bits early on: Friend Dies. Then Friend Is Not Dead. Girl Loses Precious Item. But the game does manage to avoid the other genre tropes I was expecting. For example, Not-Dead Friend Betrays You, Girl Finds Lost Precious Item, and Bad Guy Becomes All-Powerful Mummy Monster For Boss Fight Purposes Only. Nice work, guys.

Some of the best facial animation ever. Whoa. There are moments where the actual face animation is so good, that the overbaked script can drop a line or two because the expressions say it all. Like, lead character Drake does the "don't look at me" face in response to a question from one of the other characters. In a lesser-directed game, the character would squinch his mouth and say "Don't look at me!" Happily, all cutscenes can be replayed later.

And you'll never believe this... but you can also re-play specific chapters of the game. Hey Grand Theft Auto, take a note.

There's also a wealth of bonus material. Making-of videos, production art, silly junk, etc. I love that stuff. Makes a game classy.

For me, the worst bit was the relentless linear path. It just gets stupid. Hey, how can I get inside this ancient mossy gray castle? I know, I'll use the only white bricks as a ladder. Everything in the Uncharted world, from underground temples to flooded city streets, exists only to provide a logical line for Drake to follow. It's the most convenient catacomb system the Aztecs ever designed.

Oh, and Sir Francis Drake's corpse has really great hair for being dead for four hundred years.

I was a big Tomb Raider fan back in the PS1 days, and obviously Uncharted is the modern, non-sucky version. (Although I hear Lara has been getting back into form lately.) So it was cool to have that experience again, even if you feel like you're being led around by the nose the entire time. It's short enough that I wouldn't mind doing it again. Or even watching a pal play through it on some future weekend gaming visit.

Uncharted: $30 at Target, red-tagged on one of their random electronics endcaps. Right alongside EA's Facebreaker, which I believe is already down to under $15. Duh-whoops.

Things We Learned This Week

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Street Fighter Sackboys coming.

I don't even really care for Street Fighter and I want these LittleBigPlanet costumes. Sony may finally be learning to leverage nostalgia in the way that has paid off for Nintendo for years.

By the way, wouldn't it be fun if there was some way to reset the collectible bubbles in the LBP story levels? It's just far cooler to collect actual things while playing, and that thrill is gone after the first time through. Especially sucks when you're introducing new people to the game well after you've already grabbed everything. Then you're stuck with lame score bubbles. Crap, I'd pay for a download that inserted NEW stickers/items back inside all of the story bubbles I've already done.

 


Uncharted: finished in four days.

Four days sounds lousy, but I put in some intense play periods on that one. The first time I booted it up I played for five hours straight. It's been a while since I've done a Tomb Raider-style game, and I found I have sort of missed that.

 


Ninja Warrior Thanksgiving marathon!

Thanksgiving has become just another day where you choose which ridiculous TV marathon you want on for the day. We went with Ninja Warrior on G4. Clark has been watching it after daycare, so it was nice to catch an entire block of them. It's so nice that G4 takes Ninja Warrior seriously, rather than turning into another impenetrable Japanese import dubbed for laughs. We're always looking for good Asian role models on TV, and Ninja Warrior is a great choice... packed with both dedicated, humble athletes and silly, bizarre goofballs (yay, Mr. Octopus!) It's a reminder that other cultures are just as diverse and "real" as our own.

In related ninja news, Ninjatown for DS is damn good.

 


Pirates super-rares!

Even though the game is effectively dead in the water, I'm slowly picking up all of the six Savage Shores boxed sets for Pirates of the Cursed Seas. When collectible games die like this, if you liked the game at all it's generally a good thing to buy big on the waning sets. Two reasons: first, the last releases usually have far lower print runs than the sets from back when the game was popular. So if you want to sell or trade, you'll be king of the hill. And secondly, the cards from farewell sets tend to spike in power and craziness because the company is desperate to attract the eye of both new buyers and lapsed fans. I wouldn't have been surprised to see airplanes suddenly appear in the Pirates universe.

Anyway, the last Savage Shores set that I bought had a special note inside... the box contained the super-rare pack, which is four special cards bundled together in one super-rare booster. Very cool.

 


When was this announced?

As I was habitually comparing my trophy list to others on my PS3 friends list, I noticed two games suddenly appearing with trophy support: PixelJunk Monsters and Eye of Judgment. I can't believe I missed those announcements. Now I can't believe I need to make time to play two more games.

 


So is it cheap to consider holding this for a birthday present?

My parents arrived at our post-Thanksgiving event with a surprise... my mom dug out five boxes of LEGO junk from when I was a kid. And I don't mean little boxes. I mean boxes that when you hold them you can't see over the top. We stashed them in the basement because I need to go through it all... I'm talking original LEGO boxes and everything. Blacktron, original Castle, Fabuland, probably nearly everything LEGO released during the '80s.

Clark is still a little too young to adequately manipulate proper LEGO bricks, but he will be on it fast. He's getting a LEGO Batman set for Christmas; we'll see how that goes and then decide when to spring the Mother Lode of Old LEGO Product on him.

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