October 2010 Archives

The Week in Links

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The Cartoon Medley (YouTube)
Rhonda's new job is finding me videos to share. At first I thought this one was going to be another tiresome fell80ing of 1980s cartoons, but then the dude started dipping into shows both newer (Dexter's Lab) and older (Donald Duck).

Periodic Table of Pokemon (Somebody on tumblr)
I like how Pokemon has become a go-to refuge for hipster photoshoppery. I'm hoping it's a generational thing and it means we're all moving past the overdone Mario-based hipster photoshoppery.

Steve Jobs 'raged at Microsoft' over game studio sale (Develop)
We all suspected something like happened; Jobs doesn't like when his chosen products turn away from him. I remember watching the original Halo-on-Mac presentation back then.

Nielsen cops to iPad stat cock-up (The Register via Daring Fireball)
So that chum-worthy stat about a full third of all iPad owners never downloading a single app? An error. How's one-in-ten sound?

Rock Band 3 (Dubious Quality)
This guy is a major Harmonix fan, so I've been following his thoughts on RB3. My own first impressions are rather cool, since I do not care a whit about Pro mode.

Open Letter to People Who Make Games (The Escapist)
See, I found this kind of whiny, because I honestly have not experienced the issues he is complaining about. In 2010 I cannot recall a single game I purchased/played that could be labelled unplayable for technical reasons. I think he should name names.

Iwo Jima mementos bring closure to Japanese family (Yahoo News)
Wow. Great story. Underlines several weird facts about wars and the people who have to fight in them.

And I present it to you, the internet, entirely as a problem-solving exercise to get this new Batman thing off and running.

Your problem, Mr. Nolan, is that damn Heath Ledger went and died. If he was still around, as he should be, you'd no doubt already have a Joker sequel script in hand where he poisons the city reservoir or some such shit. Probably end up accidentally creating Killer Croc or Bane or some other b-grade villain that can be introduced, shoved through sets and then offed in the big finale where Bruce is flying some brand new dorky bat-vehicle and saving some brand new dorky bat-girlfriend.

Your solution is one of the grandest of Hollywood plotline traditions: the Old Switcheroo.

What if Gotham City still had latent Scarecrow gas in certain pockets, like, say, lingering in construction sites. That gas then affected the perceptions of every single person in the last half-hour of "The Dark Knight," including the audience. Because here's what actually happened:

Turns out, it was Joker that kidnapped Gordon's kid and had the big death scene. Meanwhile, it was Two-Face who planted the bombs on TWO ships and tried to make a big point about the dual nature of man, sometimes compassionate, sometimes a killer.

Duh! TWO SHIPS! That is some classic-ass Two-Face falling on you! Last week he tried to boost a pair of rare diamonds set into matching cufflinks from the Twin Doubles jewelry shop down on Second Street!

It was just that fear gas mixed it all up. With this resolution, we can get more Aaron Eckhardt as Two-Face in Batman Rises 3 or whatever it's called. And we can not worry about having to recast Heath Ledger's Joker, or make a new Joker, or splice in unused Ledger footage while trying to turn Joker into a Kingpin boss-in-the-shadows kind of dude with a new actor who looks enough like Heath Ledger to portray Joker in a darkened room. Which, from my experience, casts the net large enough to include every single Joker costume I'll be seeing a trick-or-treat night this year.

This is so fixed.

Here's something to be happy about concerning next year's LittleBigPlanet 2: the in-game screenshot tool has been upgraded from tiny, crappy pictures to larger, better-although-still-could-be-bigger pictures.

(And speaking of this, when was the last time any game used the PS3's XMB screenshot ability? Ghostbusters?)

Here's what we used to get out of LBP1:

That's from some user level that was an homage to Metroid. The size there is an appallingly useless 320 by 180. I think that's what my PC copy of Shadow Warrior ran at, back in 1998.

LBP2, however, exports shots to 640x360.

That's from one of the built-in levels (although the cat is my addition). I'm in the beta, you see.

Although the saving tool seems to have a blooming problem.

In the actual game, that area outside the pod is not all bloomed out like that.

The menu system is REALLY nicely streamlined, by the way. LBP has always had a weird UI problem in the hub menus, thanks to the strange planet-based menu metaphor. They cleaned it up right nice for the sequel.

To recap, here's Ben Grimm in LBP1:

And here he is in LBP2:

And there's $80 leaving my wallet for the Collector's Edition launch pack.

videogame-birthdaycard.jpg

I'm going to peg that as somewhere in the early to mid eighties. It's from my grandparents.

Kind of an odd control scheme for a coin-op, eh? There was certainly no arcade game out there at the time with anything even close to an interface like that. Although the onscreen graphics are in step, reminiscent of vector games like Asteroids and blocky pixel games like Space Invaders.

Dual wireless handheld controllers. Sort of looks like... the Wii!

I'll hold back on any kind of crack about the Wii's graphical capabilities.

I'm playing Costume Quest and I'm thinking, "Why do I find this so appealing?"

It's not precisely the gameplay, although that is fun. In four+ hours of play, I have yet to lose a battle against the goblins and crows and other monsters. This isn't exactly a kick-yer-ass RPG grind.

What makes it work is that the style pulls together a smartly-presented, internally-consistent happy little world. Art direction counts for quite a bit.

There's a very similar story told in Kirby's Epic Yarn.

This is another easy game that is getting rave reviews where everybody fawns over the look. If either Costume Quest or Epic Yarn instead fielded a drab, typical, uninspired style, they'd both be slammed for being lame, or casual-bait, or just plain boring. The art elevates.

Unlike EyePet.

Poor EyePet is just too corporate. He's the answer to the question posed by a roomful of executives afraid of applying a true style and instead just wanted "a cute stuffed animal." After playing the game enough times, you see even more of the problem... his reactions and emotions just are not varied enough. He pulls the same prefabricated cute expressions when presented with the same situation. He is cardboard.

Another style I've never bought into is the Donkey Kong Country revamp.

Which, more or less, became the Nintendo house style for Donkey Kong. Although here, I don't know if the problem is as much with the design as it is with the lack of character. The entire core Mario line suffers from this, actually. The designs used in every 3D Mario from N64 on up are just patently bland.

And yet, the Miis, four years on, still retain their goofy charm.

Simple, limited, yet still identifiable and silly. Unlike these guys:

The 360 avatars have that same plasticine problem that grenades EyePet. Too polished, too perfect. No personality.

Of course, things could always be worse:

The PlayStation Home avatars are so terrible, so depressing. You have to wonder who signed off on THAT as the look.

Both the PS3 and 360 avatars were designed with commerce in mind, making their existence little more than a revenue stream. You'd think one or the other would have tried to trump Nintendo's Miis by going off in a super-hip, design-focused house style. I'm thinking something along the lines of what you get in DJ Hero or Jet Grind Radio.

Nope, the 360 chose a gutless Mii copy job and the PS3 opted for Stepford rejects from Second Life.

The Week in Links

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Cat vs Printer - The Translation (YouTube)
An old one, re-audioed. Thanks to Rhonda for finding this. It's the Lexmark and EasyShare refs that get me.

Why Are These Pokemon Words Offensive? (Kotaku)
Interesting explanation of some of the words on the Pokemon Black/White banned list.

Homer Simpson is Catholic, Vatican paper declares (Yahoo News)
What a surprise. Religion seeking to make itself relevant to modern culture by ignoring facts, avoiding the source, and issuing bold, sound bite-worthy proclamations.

Investigate the Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright trailer (Joystiq)
Well I can't wait for the goddamn 3DS now.

Nintendo's Biggest Characters In Board Game Form (Kotaku)
Look at those Pokemon and Professor Layton board games! I have GOT to get to Japan.

Badass Marvel and Tron Crossover Illustrations (abduzeedo)
Yeah, I'm gonna redact the word "badass" from that. This is the worst kind of corporate shilling we could have expected from the Disney/Marvel deal. Well, not the worst.

It would be one thing if these were for a Marvel/Tron crossover book, but they're not. They're just crappy covers.

One Overshare-y Step for Man: Astronaut Checks Into Space on Foursquare (Valleywag)
That's one hell of a badge.

Apple snubs Adobe again with Flash-less MacBook Air (Yahoo News)
Here's a fun recipe for pageview success. Wrap your story around some meme-worthy faux issue with a very current hot bit of tech. IE, Apple. Give the trolls some good meat at the beginning, so they read the first few paragraphs that line up with their worldview about Apple being closed and expensive and hipster and toys. They'll jump to the comment box right away.

Then, at the very end, POINT OUT THAT IE ON WINDOWS DOESN'T SHIP WITH FLASH PLAYER PREINSTALLED EITHER.

EyePet, fishing and singing

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An odd quirk of the EyePet video recording system is that it does not record your in-house audio. So in this clip, you do not hear me singing the Katamari melody, but you do hear Tut giving his version.

This next one is sort of a visual glitch. Tut got himself stuck on top of the fishing net. It happened as I switched from the aquarium to the pond. Weird.

I just picked up the Trophy for 20 successful health reports. The only remaining Trophy is the one for finding all the prizes... which I should get with another six reports. And then, Platinum.

Which will likely be the last time I ever boot up EyePet.

kingdom-keepers.jpgOh, I enjoyed it. Stop.

Kingdom Keepers is a series of young adult novels involving a team of kids (13? in the first book) who get caught up in some kind of mystery involving a secret society, experimental technology, and quite possibly some magic. And it just happens to center around Disney World.

It is what it is. It's very much in the Hardy Boys / Three Investigators / Scooby-Doo / Harry Potter mold, where beautiful, super-competent kids manage to solve puzzles and fight crimes that baffle all the nearby adults. And, you know, Disney World.

The setup for the first novel is that five kids were chosen to be used as templates for the "Disney Host Initiative," hologrammatic walk-around characters that do Park tours and whatnot. The thing is, a few weeks after completing all the motion capture and dialogue for these characters, the kids start falling asleep and waking up inside the Magic Kingdom... in their hologram forms. Jinkies!

And, at night, the Park comes alive. Which is the part that hooks me.

What I like is that the kids are Disney World nuts (LIKE ALL ORLANDO LOCALS), and when they're confronted with a puzzle, they naturally all leap to some insane bit of Park trivia. Like, they're handed a clue about a sun... "Well, the largest sun in the Magic Kingdom is in the Americas scene of It's A Small World! LET'S GO!" Then they all jaunt to Fantasyland.

And that bit was awesome, by the way.

The first book came out in 2005, and it heavily references Virtual Magic Kingdom, an online service that closed in 2008. VMK opened in 2005, so for a 2005 novel to talk about the web-based MMO being "all the rage" shows some classic Disney chutzpah. I'll be interested to see if the successive novels continue to talk about VMK, or if it just vanishes from the kids' lives without a mention.

Couple of Disney nitpicks that caught me as I was reading. Most terribly, the book refers to Fantasmic! as Fantasmics. How could an error like that slip through! The book also seems to indicate that Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is only one night a year, but it really goes on for weeks and weeks. (Although maybe in 2005, this was not the case... but I kind of doubt it.)

Books 1 and 2 are in paperback; not sure about book 3. I'll be picking up 2 next time I'm near a bookstore.

There's also an obligatory website, which contains some YouTube videos that make the storyline all real and stuff. I wonder if this property hasn't escaped the realm of young adult novels simply because even Disney thinks it would be too commercial in TV or movie form... kind of like all those travel shows that just happen to focus on Disney stuff for an entire episode.

drbombay.jpg
When I say "Oh dear" in that slightly-off way, it's me doing a half-assed impression of Dr. Bombay from "Bewitched."

This is how you feed your EyePet:

It's boring. Not much actually happens, and you have to do it every time you play.

You can try tossing cookies into the air, for the 'Pet to catch, but that jerking motion is harder than you'd think. (Google: I have used the phrases "tossing cookies" and "jerking motion" in the same sentence. Please send pageviews. Thanks.)

But I did discover that if you feed the thing those special fruit cookies, it temporarily changes skin color. Weird.

Here's our EyePet after eating a bunch of (pink) strawberry cookies and going into a food coma.

eyepet-pic10.jpg

You get the fruit cookies by growing fruit plants in your garden. You harvest the fruit by knocking the miniature tree clear of food without killing the plant. Again, harder than you'd think.

By the way, here's what the in-game online profile looks like. For some reason, you can't screenshot this.

eyepet-pic11.jpg

Since that profile was updated, I'm about eight successful health reports away from a Platinum on this one.

The Week in Links

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Centipede vs. Snake (YouTube)
I'm in the mood for some nature videos, how about a small snake eating a giant centipede?

Data-Backed Shocker! Gay People Are Basically The Same As Everyone Else (Gizmodo)
A dating site crunched the numbers: Straight men really do like "Band of Brothers."

Wesley Crusher's Sweet-Ass Motherfucking Bouffant (Wil Wheaton)
"GET AN EYEFULL OF THIS."

America's True History of Religious Tolerance (Smithsonian via Pharyngula )
"The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring - and utterly at odds with the historical record."

in almost every picture #7 (Lens Culture)
From 1936 to 2009, pictures of a woman at a shooting gallery. Very cool.

Young Justice Will Kick Ass (IGN)
Just as the usually-silly Batman: The Brave and the Bold enters its final season, Cartoon Network will start weaning us onto the sounds-serious Young Justice. I just hope CN takes better care of this one.

How To Create a Real-Life Rabbit-Duck Illusion (Gizmodo)
What, no Rabbit Season / Duck Season joke?

Princess Leia did cocaine on 'Empire' set (Yahoo News)
On Hoth, naturally.

The 'Back to the Future' That Might Have Been (New York Times)
Some brief video clips with Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. Same supporting cast, same locations, same shots... just with a different Marty. Very weird.

Why I'm making my kids play games (Red King's Dream)
Complaining about "today's gamer" being unable/unwilling to play Ultima IV. As you would expect, I agree with the third comment, the one beginning with "I don't buy it."

A Comprehensive Glossary Of Gifs (Jezebel)
Finally, a place to find animated gifs of Paris Hilton doing the "Do not want."

The Controversial Saga Of The Zombie Massage Makers (Kotaku)
This is crazy. I didn't even know this Xbox Indie Games cesspool existed. Fascinating.

Clint Eastwood ponders mortality with 'Hereafter' (Yahoo News)

"I couldn't believe that God would be a great sadist in the sky, getting pleasure out of, `If you screw up, I'm going to bust you, boy,'" Eastwood said. "That's a way of keeping people in line, I guess."

He does find Buddhism attractive, "because they don't seem to be as mean-spirited, and their idea of God is sort of a heavyset guy who's got a smile on his face, and I thought, hey, that's nice," Eastwood said.

"I don't know what I think about it. I probably tend to think, you're here for the time you're here, and you should do the best you can for the time you're here, and appreciate it and move on. That's rather simplistic, but that's where I come out."

The Return of Blackhawk Wingsdays: Live! (Dr. K)
Chop-Chop, one of comicdom's embarrassing little racist stereotypes, meets some of his cousins in Blackhawk #55 (1952)... and they are NOT racist stereotypes (at least, mostly not). Weird stuff, but a good sign that things were changing in comics.

BTGO Meltdown

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superscribblenauts.jpgTonight I had a complete system failure at Toys R Us as I tried to put together a Buy Two Get One Free deal. Clark deserves big kudos for putting up with it. We were stuck in the R*Zone for well over half an hour. Maybe even two half-hours. I just couldn't decide, and every option spawned a new series of reasons as to why this was not The Perfect Deal.

I knew I wanted Super Scribblenauts, since they seem to have made one that doesn't suck. That game just came out; it's $30. That established $30 as the benchmark price. If I tried to combo that with some $60 games, I'd end up doing it wrong. The cheapest item in the trio is your free item, so it makes better shopping sense to get all three games at nearly the same cost. Dead Rising 2 would upset the mathematics in play.

Besides, I can always go back and try to put together a triplet in the $60 range.

Item #2 was - and I'm not especially proud of this - a Sony Move Navigation Controller. Or, Half-A-Damn-Dual-Shock for short. Accessories are allowable in this deal (but not gift cards, duh.) I guess I might consider thinking about perhaps getting Move Heroes, unless I hear it sucks. And you need the secondary controller for that one. Yes, you can hold the Dual Shock and be weird, but I'm not into this to do weird, half-assed-solution shit. So yay me, I own a Move Nav. (And, when your PSEye camera is pointed at the ground to faciliate EyePet, the Move Nav is a MUCH BETTER way to handle the XMB than the Move itself. Incidentally.)

But what for the third $30? See, I did not walk into the store with a solid plan, and that was the killer.

Maybe Borderlands. That's down to $30 on PS3 by now. But no, the Game of the Year edition is out for $60, and that includes a heap of DLC stuff that I bet I'd want. So I'd rather hang out and get the GOTY Borderlands when it starts seeing a discount. I've waited this long for the game, I can keep waiting.

Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest for PS3. $50. Too tall.

Trauma Team for Wii. Now down to $35 at TRU, but I bet it's about to get even cheaper.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold for DS. $30, but you just know that this one will be $20 or less inside of three months. Heck, two weeks ago it was part of a two-for-$40 deal at TRU. Also, I still have a live $5 coupon for it, and I'm not risking a coupon screwing up the deal. Odds are, they'll take the coupon and then make Batman the free game anyway. WASTING THE COUPON.

I thought about dumping the entire $30 plan and moving up to $60... then getting Dead Rising 2, maybe the new Castlevania? If TRU had GOTY Borderlands in stock, this could have happened, but they didn't... which would have put me at struggling to stitch up two games, not just one.

God of War Collection? Again, it's already dropped from $40 to $30. $20 is right around the corner. Plus, I don't even really like God of War.

Just Cause 2? Still hanging me out at $50. Did not see Yakuza 3.

Red Steel 2? The Motion Plus version is down to $35. The box without the +, $25. Still just sort of not interested in that one. I could do better.

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs? Not feeling like jumping into the Ranger series.

Dante's Inferno? Yeah, it might be $30, but it's also terrible.

Sidebar. You know what's weird? A couple of weeks ago, Toys R Us landed a new wave of ancient Mario DS games. Mario Hoops, Partners in Time and Super Princess Peach. All still $35, hilariously. Apparently they are now exclusive to TRU, and they were positioned as part of a Mario-centric sale. I never did get Partners in Time. By the time I had time for Time, it had vanished from retail. Now it is readily available, and I'm all meh about it.

Because Bowser's Inside Story, sort of a sequel, came out! There's another high-quality DS title I missed that became hard to find. But now - no doubt due to that Mario sale - it is back on the TRU racks. $35. Since we know this first-party product will never, ever go on sale, it became the top contender to finish off my BTGO deal. Sidebar worked in!

Now, I still floated around a bit. I swapped it for Trauma Team for a bit, to Clark's frustrated shock. He went back to playing Transformers on the DS demo kiosk and declared it a great game.

But it was $20 and therefore too low for my elaborate game of price chess.

So Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story it was. Two DS games and a tertiary PS3 controller. Done.

By this time, the clerk had vanished and we had to wait by the register for his return. I had to promise Clark some Taco Bell for this one. He likes the Cheese Roll-ups.

If you want a punchline to this story, it's this: I used $40 in TRU gift cards on the transaction.

baum-oz.jpgClark and I are two-thirds through the fourth Harry Potter book, so I guess I should post my long overdue thoughts on the last Oz books written by L. Frank Baum. And the first one by Ruth Plumly Thompson. The last time I did this in June.

The Magic of Oz (1919)

This one (#13) was published a month after Baum died, but they save the depressing news for book #14. There's a big switch early on: the random Munchkin boy that drives the adventure isn't Baum's usual cherub-cheeked naif who wanders Oz and musters a oddball party of new friends. Turns out, Kiki Aru is a complete pissant who picks up a magic spell of transformation and uses it to steal stuff. Then he falls in league with the damn Nome King, who is back to conquer the Oz people.

Bad guys being bad guys, neither trusts the other. Kiki's secret is the magic word "pyrzqxgl" and he doesn't want the Nome King hear it, so as to retain his own usefulness in the partnership. There's a scene where the Nome King tries to use the word but can't pronounce it right, so the spell doesn't work... and Clark thought that was hilarious.

The Wizard, naturally, finds out how to pronounce the word, and he turns both Kiki Aru and the Nome King into nuts. Oz justice, son. It gets worse, though. The Wizard eventually turns them back into their normal forms, but makes them both drink from the Water of Oblivion to wipe their memories. This is the Nome King's second lobozomy.

There's a sidestory where Cap'n Bill and Trot find themselves glued to a magic island where they hoped to pluck a magic flower for Ozma's birthday party. These chapters involve the Glass Cat being an ass again, although I could have sworn that somebody removed his haughty pink brains several books back to adjust his personality into something less dickish. There's your Oz message: all who ruin Ozma's perfect little utopia will be dealt with. I'm happy the Glass Cat found some way to return to his true self, even if it was just Baum being forgetful of his own continuity.

Glinda of Oz (1920)

A portion of the soul-crunching forward:

Mr. Baum did his best to answer all the letters from his small earth-friends before he had to leave them, but he couldn't answer quite all, for there were very many. In May, nineteen hundred nineteen, he went away to take his stories to the little child-souls who had lived here too long ago to read the Oz stories for themselves.

He was 62 years young. The cause of death was a stroke. According to his biography, among his last words were "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands," which, combined with that delicately-worded eulogy above makes me want to fucking cry every time I think about it.

Glinda of Oz is a weird sendoff, with Ozma and Dorothy traveling along to stop a war between the Skeezers and the Flatheads. They are captured when negotiations sour, and Glinda leads an army of the entire upper class Oz celebrity population to free them.

The Royal Book of Oz (1921)

Then things get weird.

Ruth Plumly Thompson was Baum's chosen successor. Her first Oz book took on a heretofore unneeded task: an origin for the Scarecrow. Turns out, that pole that he was hanging on when Dorothy first found him actually extends deep into the Earth, where it leads to a community of teeth-rattlingly awful Asian stereotypes.

Given the time this book was written, okay, I guess we're supposed to let it slide. I mean, Chinese had only been in America for a hundred years. I'm sure a lot of it is meant to be in kind homage to the Chinese, but it still falls quite short of acceptable by today's standards. Although the people that the Scarecrow finds are not Chinese - they're "Silver Islanders" - the book quite plainly labels them as an Asian analogue in dress, speech, looks and culture. The book describes them as looking like "Chinamen," which is weird in that the Oz books almost never use "real world" locations and descriptors outside of name-dropping Dorothy's old home in Kansas, America.

I had two problems while reading this one to Clark. One, the obvious issue with how the book talks about (and illustrates) Asian people. There is some ongoing dialogue about the Islanders' culture being weird and unsettling (there is a bit about them eating cats and Scarecrow is appalled... although Oz is mostly veg-friendly and Scarecrow doesn't eat anyway, so why the revulsion?), when compared to what Scarecrow knows of "normal" Oz. I don't want Clark picking up any century-old notions that foreign cultures are to be defined as weird and abnormal.

Also, given the exceptionally weird twist that the Scarecrow is the long-lost reincarnation of the Silver Islander's king - GUH-WHUH? - there's some talk about him finding his "true" family. So now we're into weird adoption language. Not that Clark picked up on any of this. I just need to watch out for this sort of thing.

Royal Book ends with Scarecrow abandoning the Silver Islanders and returning to his Oz family. There is a nice bit where Scarecrow installs the only likable Silver Islander as the new emperor, when it is clear that Scarecrow never plans to return. I'm astonished that there's no second twist to the tale. Yes, it's official: the Scarecrow is the former human king of a city of underground Asian people. Put that in your damn family tree book, Wogglebug.

Finished inFamous, to the good.

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I finished InFamous (inFamous? inFAMOUS?), but I don't know if I care enough to play it again and run it evil.

Check out this stupid visual glitch:

Assuming I beat the game, again, on hard, playing evil, that's another dozen of so guaranteed Trophies. Which then puts me about two away from another Platinum. I still need the "kill bad guys from a moving train" and "do all 21 stunts." I do not particularly enjoy the stunt concept, which seems to be "do five things at once and we'll call that a stunt."

Unexpectedly, I did manage to find all the Dead Drops and all 350 glowing blue shards. I didn't intend to find all 350, but once I got to 310 without really trying, it seemed worth it to go after the last batch.

I'm still supremely annoyed that any single grunt with a gun can kill you in two to five shot, whether you just started playing or you're in the final showdown with every electric superhero skill unlocked.

I also consider the magnetic jumping/climbing controls pretty damn hinky. There were far too many times when I tried jumping to some point and the game instead glued me two feet to the left. And there are certain structures that Cole simply can't climb, despite appearances to the contrary. Cole can climb anything, except when he can't.

And he has a stupid voice. I know the game has to account for the same audio whether you choose to turn Cole evil or good, but his grumpy growl just makes him sound like an idiot. I would have rather heard Nolan North's bewildered leading man voice for another game, than this pack-a-day Right Said Fred idiot. And Zeke. Don't get me started on Zeke.

So yeah, I don't think I'll bother with playthrough two. Unless maybe I hit a drought some months from now. It was fun and all, but I'm not going all Mary Sue fanfic on it.

InFamous 2 is marked for next year. I hope everybody enjoys when Sucker Punch introduces two awful new playable sidekick characters - one who is strong and one who is smart - to form a kind of Emo-Modern unshaven-white-guys Justice League. Then you play as Cole for only a third of the time.

'Cause I have. To a Gold Medal finish, no less.

eyepet-pic8.jpg

JESUS, IT'S A BAT.

Luckily, there's still plenty of junk to unlock, so there's that. Just found a venus fly trap plant to add to the garden, for example.

eyepet-pic9.jpg

There's some treadmill stuff.

eyepet-pic7.jpg

Some fishing stuff. The fish I need only appear on certain days, but on Thursday I caught the fish that plainly says it shows up on Wednesdays. And I never caught the Thursday fish despite sitting by the pond for an hour, so I don't think EyePet knows what day it is.

And a ton of Pet Health Report stuff. Which really sucks because you can get only one of them a day, and it's based on your passing the previous day's health scan. Not that it's hard to pass.

Here's what I'm finding weird about EyePet. It was released in Europe/Australia in 2009. Then Sony delayed it a year so they could add Move support. And nothing else.

For some franchises, an extra year is enough time to manufacture plenty of new features for an all-new sequel. Why didn't the year of Move time add more than, well, Move?

Like, being able to have my EyePet mix and mingle with other EyePets online? Facebook integration? Variants in facial features? The ability to play multiple kinds of games with one toy without having to navigate to the challenge menu? Seems like there's a lot of obvious enhancements that would have been set for the inevitable EyePet 2, that should have been put into this Move release.

A whole year has passed for EyePet fans in the UK... wouldn't more than Move controls have been major incentive to buy another edition?

The Week in Links

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POKEMON POWER (YouTube)
"While you may not take it quite seriously, I assure you that demons take it quite seriously."

Powerpig Gallery (Gizmodo)
Some nice LEGO art, beautifully photographed. Everybody is always impressed by this sort of thing, but I never see anybody talk about what it takes to keep these bricks clean and unmarred.

At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture (New York Times)
Oh dear.

Professor Layton And The... Unrelated Story? (GameSetWatch)
On the disconnect between the puzzles and the plot in the Layton series. I mean, yeah. I definitely play it for the characters and story.

The Four Stages of "Getting" Twitter (andfaraway)
Rhonda found this one... so, so dead-on.

The Gap's New Logo (Huffington Post)
There was a time when I thought this kind of business talk was mythical. Now I am not so naive.

I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe (Dubious Quality)
A longtime Rock Band/Harmonix fan says the plastic instrument genre is over.

He's right about the new appeal to the hardcore music crowd. Guitar Hero has long crowed about being all about MEGA-SHREDDING (well, once GH4 sucked), and where has that gotten them? Straight into a high school dropout's cliche music library and embarrassing art design. Rock Band's new Pro mode is unappealing to me. That piano is Rock Band's last chance to sell.

Jackalopes!

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The jackalope is coming to Red Dead Redemption, as part of next week's free Hunting & Trading DLC pack.

From the Wikipedia page: "The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes a pheasant's tail (and often hind legs). The word jackalope is a portmanteau of "jackrabbit" and "antalope", an archaic spelling of antelope."

"It is possible that the tales of jackalopes were inspired by sightings of rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus, which causes the growth of horn- and antler-like tumors in various places on the rabbit's head and body."

"Reportedly, jackalopes are extremely shy unless approached. Legend also has it that female jackalopes can be milked as they sleep belly up and that the milk can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It has also been said that the jackalope can convincingly imitate any sound, including the human voice. It uses this ability to elude pursuers, chiefly by using phrases such as 'There he goes! That way!'"

"It is said that a jackalope may be caught by putting a flask of whiskey out at night. The jackalope will drink its fill of whiskey and its intoxication will make it easier to hunt. In some parts of the United States it is said that jackalope meat has a taste similar to lobster. However, legend has it that they are dangerous if approached. It has also been said that jackalopes will only breed during electrical storms including hail, explaining its rarity."

"Jackalopes are legendary in the U.S. - attributed to by the New York Times in 1932 to Douglas Herrick (1920-2003) of Douglas, Wyoming, and thus the town was named the "Home of the Jackalope" by the state of Wyoming in 1985. The state of Wyoming trademarked the name in 1965. According to the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, a 1930s hunting trip for jackrabbits led to the idea of a Jackalope. Herrick and his brother had studied taxidermy by mail order as teenagers. When the brothers returned from a hunting trip, Herrick tossed a jackrabbit carcass into the taxidermy store, where it came to rest beside a pair of deer antlers. The accidental combination of animal forms sparked Douglas Herrick's idea for a jackalope."

"The first jackalope the brothers put together was sold for $10 to Roy Ball, who displayed it in Douglas' La Bonte Hotel. The mounted head was stolen in 1977. The Douglas Chamber of Commerce has issued thousands of Jackalope Hunting Licenses to tourists. The tags are good for hunting only during official Jackalope season, which occurs for only one day: June 31 (a nonexistent date as June has 30 days), from midnight to 2 AM. The hunter may not have an IQ greater than 72. In 2005, the House of the Wyoming state legislature passed a bill to declare the jackalope the "official mythological creature" of Wyoming, by a vote of 45-12 and referred it to the state Senate, where the bill was indefinitely postponed on March 2, 2005."

Other games that have included a jackalope in some form or another include "Sam and Max Hit the Road," "Rampage: Total Destruction," and "Mushroom Men." And, of course, the critter has cards devoted to him in both Magic: The Gathering and Deadlands: Doomtown.

Statues of the jackalope can be found (or COULD be found) at South of the Border, Wall Drug, and, naturally, Douglas, WY.

This is quite possibly the best news for jackalopes in some time.

layton-goggles.jpgBecause I do.

Stay away if you're still playing Laytons 2 and/or 3.

I really like this series. It's a great riposte to anybody who still screams about Nintendo not having any new IP as of late (The first installment, Curious Village, hit the US in 2008). Although those people probably don't tend to include the DS in their personal list of video game systems that matter, so it's likely to not be a fruitful debate anyway.

I finished Curious Village to 100%. Diabolical Box (#2) I have completed everything but the very last bonus puzzle, which is one of those crazy annoying sliding box dealies. I could look up the solution online, but never have. It took me months to get that far in Box.

Unwound Future - which just came out last month - was a different story for me. Finished it tonight. But I used a lot of internet assistance. There's a lot of trick questions in this one, where you can waste hours on the complete incorrect path. This series is getting mad difficult.

Japan has a fourth game, plus an animated film... with a 3DS game ready to roll. So we're way off of being contemporary with Professor Layton. The movie is getting a UK release, but there's been no word of shipping it over to America. You have to wonder why. If it's coming to England, that means it's going to have English voices, so that work has already been long finished. Why not a DVD Region 1 release as well? Jeez, I'd pay to import a region-free blu-ray of it. Does Nintendo support blu-ray versions of their movies, what with blu-ray being Sony's baby? Whatever happened to that Animal Crossing movie, by the way? Did that ever make it out of Japan?

Anyway, spoilers.

Diabolical Box's big twist was more or less that the entire cast was under the effect of hallucinogenic gas. So by now we should be no stranger to a giant weird left turn in Layton's third act. In Unwound Future, it's the idea that somebody could build a futuristic facsimile of London underground.

Like, tons of buildings. The river Thames. The subway. Hotels, casinos, restaurants. Populated with (presumably) kidnapped people, some of whom know about the ruse and some who think they too have been transported a decade away from home.

That's a pretty big nut to swallow. It's my only black mark against the game. It's not like the series doesn't go fantastical - we occasionally deal with talking animals, after all - but that's one crazy suspension of disbelief there. It's a little obnoxious since the Layton vibe tends to veer towards him finding logical and scientific solutions to the game's puzzles and mysteries. There's no way anybody could build several square miles of London in a massive underground cave.

Oh, one other black mark. Part of that reconstructed London includes a Chinatown, which contains, to my view, no Chinese. I'm going to take that as none of the above-ground Chinatown residents were stupid enough to get roped into this cave scheme.

But putting that aside, wow.

I'm a sucker for fictional universes that are solid enough to dish out serious backstory (IE, every season of Venture Bros since the first one), so meeting Hershel Layton's former girlfriend Claire was a tearjerker. She gave him the top hat! Before that, he wore one of those little British berets, like half the cast of "Last of the Summer Wine"!

And, and, and, on top of the memories and reunion and mistaken identities and lost love... the game drops a bombshell near the end when - out of nowhere - Luke announces that his family is moving out of England! Layton without Luke, Luke without Layton?!?! One of Unwound Future's epilogues suggests this is not the end of the duo... and that fourth Japanese Layton game is apparently a prequel anyway... but still, jeez. Would you expect this level of continuity and character from a damned brainteaser delivery system?

It is no wonder that Nintendo has more or less dumped the Brain Age franchise and sided with Professor Layton, at least in terms of creative accomplishment. A couple of years ago, Brain Age was the proverbial shiz-nit, a name brand and central star in Nintendo's new blue sky. But all of a sudden, they stopped leveraging it. Even with the first Brain Age still standing as one of the top-selling DS titles. No Brain Age for Wii. (Instead, they backed Big Brain Academy.) No future DS titles after 2007's Brain Age 2. (Aside from repackaging portions of both Age games as downloadable DSiWare titles.) Dr. Kawashima seems to have left the Nintendo nest entirely, having recently appeared behind an upcoming Microsoft Kinect brain game for Xbox 360.

Nintendo walked away from Brain Age and put full steam behind Level-5's brilliantly beautiful Professor Layton series. Unfortunately, Layton's sales do not measure up to Brain Age (Curious Village did about 5 million worldwide; the first Brain Age did 19 million) so you have to ask why they chose the arty, subtle and comparatively expensive-to-produce Professor. I'd like to think it's because it's just an obviously better, more fun, and completely interesting series that does quite a bit more with brain teasers than just some math puzzles on a black-and-white background.

Nintendo has done a fair bit to get pissed on in this generation, what with being blind to online features and promulgating a clearing house for crappy motion controls, but the existence of Professor Layton is the third time that pays for all.

My plan this week.

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video-games-waste.jpgI'm on vacation this week.

Unlike last time, where Clark and I did weird, fun stuff every day... Clark is in school. And Rhonda is at work. So it's just me. And the cats, but they're usually asleep. I do, however, have a plan.

I'm pretty much going to play a shit-ton of video games and review them.

I already posted one earlier today, Worms 2: Armageddon, downloadable for PS3. Three out of five, but I'm reviewing it on its own merits without comparing it to the litany of Worms games that came before. I gather a longtime Worms fan (does such a thing exist?) would find little new about this release.

Anyway, I want to put together a pile of other reviews for my usual employer. On the docket are Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Guilty Party, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, EyePet, Swords & Soldiers, and probably a few others. Three of those I can probably write right now, but the rest need some more playtime. These reviews will go live over the next few weeks, leading through the holiday shopping season. Some of these are my own purchases; others are games provided for review. I am currently quite lucky in that the games I have been getting for review are games I would probably want to play in the first place.

I also want to finish InFamous, which is really good in ways that Red Faction: Guerrilla and Metroid: Other M are not. While I finished Other M (dude: that game sucks), InFamous being good means I've been avoiding Red Faction's plaintive gaze.

Smart shoppers should start paying attention to retailer sales, like, yesterday. Last week Toys R Us had a crazy Mario-themed sale where you got a $25 gift card if you bought $100 worth of Mario Whatevers. And they had a two-for-$40 deal on select DS games. This week - and the last two weeks, actually - they have weird deals on PlayStation Move games. IE, the Hurry And Grab Cheap Market Share Before Kinect Comes Out sales. It was buy one, get one 40% off before... now it's spend $125, get a $25 gift card.

I would expect more deals all this month. TRU used to run a generic Buy Two Get One Free sale around this time of the year, but lately the pre-holiday shopping discounts have gone specific. Just let me know what deal is in place around the time Epic Mickey comes out.

On a related note, there was some hubbub about Rock Band 3 losing keyboard bundle rights on PS3. No idea what stupid legal hole that fell into, but it means you'll have to buy the game and the piano separately. The bundle will still exist for Wii and 360. Not that I don't like getting a deal, but the bundle saved an entire TEN DOLLARS. It's not like the bundle was offering a tremendous value. Bundles just often sound like they do. Amazon is offering $10 credit on the game itself... so I could conceivably buy through them and put the tenner towards the keyboard. Or not care that much since it's only ten bucks.

Clark takes on Starro

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We finished Batman: The Brave and the Bold for Wii earlier today. Clark was inspired to draw this:

clark-batglstarro.jpg

One of the game's final moments has Batman and Green Lantern shooting down Starro in a shmup-style level. So that's what he drew. He just mastered that five-pointed star technique earlier in the week.

The Week in Links

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We Live in a Dump - They Might Be Giants (YouTube)
Great new video from TMBG.

Rating the Justice League of Snack Cakes (Comics Alliance)
These cupcakes are prohibitively expensive.

Check Out the Upcoming Lord of the Rings Tower Defense iPhone Game (Gizmodo)
LOTR tower defense. Better not be elves at Helm's Deep.

At Least One Japanese Game Developer Is Doing Great (Kotaku)
The house that Layton built.

Design Diversions: Gamer Cancels Video Game; Interrupted By Story (GameSetWatch)
I just don't get people who want all cutscenes eradicated. I'm probably just sensitive because that line of thought is always followed by somebody stringing up Hideo Kojima.

Celebrity's cereal box lists sex line instead of charity (Yahoo News)
800 vs 888. Can be a big deal.

Could Harry Potter return? JK Rowling says maybe (Yahoo News)
Well duh. He could have adventures post-graduation, you know.

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