Night of the Emus

This was one of those love/hate games back in the day. Everyone wanted it and everyone wanted to play it, but no one I knew could ever beat the damn thing. It was a brutally hard game in general, but the extremely limited number of health, lives, and continues made it near-impossible. Once one of your turtles dies, that’s it, they’re gone until you lose them all and use up one of your two whole continues. It was a pretty fun game though, with super catchy music and some interesting enemy design. Worth revisiting now that you can just use save states instead of losing and restarting the game over and over until you want to smash your head through the TV like the old days.

Why bother playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 on NES, which is just an inferior port of the arcade game, when you can just play the arcade game itself? This was one of the best beat-em-ups in arcades at the time and it’s still fun to play after all these years.

This one came out so late in the life of the NES that I, and probably everyone else too, never got around to trying this one. I can see why it didn’t get much attention. It’s really just a bad knockoff of the arcade port, yet with worse looking graphics somehow. Again, you only get a small handful of lives and continues, and this being a beat-em-up like the previous one, save states aren’t much help in avoiding damage. Maybe I’ll look up some cheat codes and try again someday, but there wasn’t really anything particularly exciting about it to make me want to bother returning. Eh, we’ll see.

Time for a break from those turtles. I recently heard this called a 16-bit Dark Souls and it looked pretty good so I figured I’d give it a shot. Yeah, it’s a tough one alright. Enemies aren’t particularly smart and don’t have much in the way of health, but they tend to literally appear out of thin air in groups and come rushing at you before you have time to react. The levels become pretty maze-like and are filled with secrets and traps. It was pretty ahead of its time in this way, for a platformer. There are some pretty rough edges though. Weird control issues with turning, ducking, and anything involving ladders. You can gather gems to use to buy items at shops, including better weapons, but most of the time I bought weapons I just ended up finding the same weapon for free not long after anyway so buying anything other than health and lives seemed like kind of a waste. It gives you a password each time you finish a “level”, each of which is actually made up of 3 pretty long “worlds” and a boss fight, but ain’t nobody got time for that. It ended up being a lot longer than I thought and I had to finish it up the next day, so I guess that’s it for this time!

Now Reading: The Astounding Wolf-Man

This was a fun, but short-lived sort-of-spinoff to Kirkman’s Invincible. I guess it doesn’t really start out as one, technically, but after a while it turns out to be in the same universe and ends up being pretty directly connected to other characters from Invincible. I really liked the idea of a werewolf as a superhero. Of course there have been characters like Werewolf by Night who have been around for decades already, but despite living in a superhero universe, they’ve never actually been a superhero role, fighting crime and supervillains and such. Wolf-Man looks and feels much like a supernatural version of Invincible, with a lot of drama and colorful villains and the same kind of very graphic, yet simultaneously cartoonish violence. It’s not exactly what I’d call an essential read, but it’s pretty fun if you’re into this kind of thing. I would have gladly kept reading it if it had lasted longer than 25 issues. Oh welllllllll.

Watchin’ Stuff

Despite the title giving me a grammatical itch, this was actually a pretty good movie. It’s sold as a near-future murder mystery involving memory recording tech that’s slightly reminiscent of Strange Days, but the interesting thing was that the murder mystery isn’t the real mystery. No, the real enigma here are the cryptic motivations of Dinklage‘s character, who is a professional model maker who just kind of appears and starts investigating this crime for vague reasons that sound suspiciously like a pack of lies. What is he really getting involved in this case for? What is it he’s really after? His character is very compelling and the performances from the various characters he questions in the course of the investigation are pretty good too. All-in-all it’s a pretty solid light-sci-fi drama.

I really should have known better (or just paid more attention at least) than to see a blurb like that and think “OH GOOD, FROM THE GUY WHO MADE YOU’RE NEXT? OH, I LOVE ADAM WINGARD, I BETTER CHECK THIS OUT!”, because nope, he had nothing to do with this movie. No, this is referring to the guy who WROTE You’re Next, and actually upon looking into it even further, that guy didn’t direct this either. This was actually directed by the writer’s brother, who has nothing but cinematography credits to his name. Urgh. Well, I guess that explains why this was filmed so well, but that’s the only nice thing to say about it. This movie is 78 minutes long and over 60 of those minutes are made up entirely of empty build-up to a few minutes of jumbled, forgettable “scary” scenes in the end. Waste of time.

Another knockoff of The Strangers, apparently. I didn’t like that movie and I don’t like this one much better. Mysterious masked killers who like to alternate between posing menacingly in the dark and arbitrarily torturing and killing anyone in their way. Bad guys attack family in cabin in the woods, bad guys kill everyone for reasons, the end. It’s just not my thing, these anarchic “realistic” slashers who have no motivation at all. Also found it strange that this movie is set in the early 80’s, which you only know because it tells you so at the beginning, and you see a framed picture of Ronald Reagan on a fireplace mantle and an old-timey TV for a few seconds in the beginning, but other than these two things, you would have no idea that this was happening in the 80’s because those are literally the only references to the time period. Nothing about this feels like the 80’s in any way and I’m guessing that they only slapped that on there to create an excuse for no one to have phones, which they could have used to end this whole stupid story immediately.

Argh. It’s another critic-beloved non-horror horror movie! What is with all the praise for these kinds of movies these days, where they take a drama movie, paste it into a horror setting, but then go out of their way to avoid any actual horror content (despite the fact that they heavily market it as a straight out horror movie)? “Oh, but you see, Richenbaum, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONSTERS, IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE, WHO ARE THE REAL MONSTERS!”. Give me a break. We’ve all seen that one a hundred times before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case there was very little dialogue or characterization going on, mostly just a lot of random dream sequences and slow, ponderous moments where I guess we’re supposed to be in dread of the thing that we’re told comes at night, but never actually seems to come. I didn’t care about any of the characters or anything that was going on. My wife was sitting there yelling at the characters for how stupid they were. Eventually we just turned it off and moved on.

Boy, this is not our lucky night. This is another one that by all rights should have been at least somewhat entertaining, but just couldn’t keep my interest. This movie is an action comedy, but supposedly it started out as a serious drama and was changed later to become more of a comedy buddy-“cop” film, and it really shows. Neither the drama or the action or the comedy are particularly good. How the hell do you have Ryan Reynolds and Samuel Jackson teamed up in a movie like this and have the comedy be so very weak? They obviously both have the personality for it, but the script just isn’t that good. There are a few mild chuckles in there, but more often it was just tame eye-rolling stuff, and some occasional cringey stuff like the running joke of “oh man, Salma Hayek‘s character sure yells and swears a lot!”. It all felt strangely like a mediocre 90’s action movie. What the fuck was with the music in this too? You’d be watching some big action chase scene where shit’s exploding left and right and a dozen people are being graphically murdered and in the background is some crap that sounds like it’s trying to be a mix of an old Guy Ritchie movie and Austin Powers or something, just really cheesy, generic, and upbeat music that didn’t match what was happening on screen at all. Finally just tuned out about 3/4 of the way in and just turned it off, not really caring what happened in the end. Oh well. Better luck next week, I hope.

Night of the Emus

Monster Party a game about a powerful alien/monster who comes to Earth looking for help saving his planet, and so naturally out of everyone he could pick he chooses some little kid with a baseball bat. It’s a side-scrolling action game where you mostly fight as dumb kid with bat, but also sometimes as powerful flying and shooting gargoyle. Honestly, the gameplay is pretty bland, but what made this game stand out was always the absolutely insane monster designs. You might find yourself fighting a green minotaur that shoots cows at you, or a giant fried shrimp, or an invisible mummy whose legs are asleep? I don’t know. They’re all incredibly bizarre looking and say really strange things, which is really all this game has going for it. The level design becomes offensively bad in the later levels with stuff like one of those “maze of doorways” type levels where everything looks the same and comets are constantly flying out of the sky to deal you nearly unavoidable damage or the penultimate level which is a long vertical series of rooms that has 3 bosses to find in it, but apparently has a rule that if you kill 2 of them you get the key to the exit, but if you kill 3 you lose the key and are now stuck and have to start the level over again, none of which the game bothers to tell you about. Annoying. It’s still worth a look though just to see the crazy, crazy sights.

This was based on a TV show, I think. Never saw the show and don’t care about roller-sports any more than I do about any other sport, but I had this game as a kid anyway, for some reason. It was a Konami game and it just looked cool I guess. It’s a weird mix of rolling platforming and a beat-em up. Like Skate or Die meets Double Dragon or something. There are some really nasty jumping sections in this game, made harder than they had to be by the weird movement and turning issues you have due to wearing roller skates, which is just the kind of thing you want to be wearing when you’re exploring junkyards, broken down post-apocalyptic highways, the amazon jungle, and fucking cliffs on a mountain. No idea how I was able to beat this without cheating as a kid. Lots of practice I guess. Anyway, it’s still a decent game for what it is. Konami sure knew how to make em back in the day. Most of the time.

All that skating around gave me the nostalgias for this one, but it doesn’t hold up too well at all. Really unpleasant controls and an almost non-existent single player experience don’t help it hold up well at all. I forgot that this game was only really good for playing with other people in competition. It’s pretty worthless as a solo experience unless you really want to just play the same 4 short mini-games over and over again to keep beating your own high score.

Speaking of games made up entirely of mini-games, there was also Rescue: The Embassy Mission, which is slightly more fun to play alone than Skate or Die, but still too basic and short to really be worth mentioning. You do little mini-missions where you sneak, snipe, rappel, and infiltrate, and…that’s it. You can choose different difficulty levels, but it’s just the same 4 things every time, which only take you maybe 20 minutes to do. Not worth bothering with, really.

Nostalgia strikes again. Used to have this one as a kid too, because what 80’s kid wasn’t excited by the idea of robot dinosaurs punching the shit out of each other in space? Going back to it again though, it’s actually a pretty shitty game. Combat is super basic and easy. The same few enemies and bosses are just color-swapped and re-used constantly. Every area uses the same 2 songs over and over again for each dino part and on foot part. It’s so shoddy that I got bored and gave up halfway through.

I’m not going to try to replay all these old Sonic games at once, that’d take too long, so I’ll just squeeze them in one at a time. It’s amazing how clunky this felt after just playing Sonic Mania. It’s not as bad as going back and trying to play the original Super Mario Bros. again, but the lack of accuracy in the controls is very noticeable. I kept wishing I had the spin dash too, but I forgot that it didn’t exist yet in this one. While it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s still a decently fun game with some great iconic level design and music.

How to pick up chicks in Quake 2

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

Stay a while and listen while I break from my usual M.O. of reviewing hoards of games to recount an offbeat tale of railguns and romance.

It was some time ago, so far back that I can’t quite recall the exact year, but I can narrow it down to near the end of the previous century. I was wasting time on mIRC, which is technically a program designed for chatting, but in reality is a filthy cesspool of illicit activity and depravity. It must have seemed so idyllic to all us poor, angry youths with emotional issues and flexible morals, but that’s a tale for another time. The point is that I was speaking to an associate from an industrial music room and in the throes of our collective boredom we decided to try our hands at an online deathmatch game of Quake 2.

quake2chick and I don’t mean these…

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Now Reading: Deadpool (1999-present)

This will probably be considered blasphemy to most Deadpool fans, but I really don’t like Joe Kelly‘s famous Deadpool run. Ironically, I always found his Deadpool to be too juvenile. This may sound like a weird complaint to have about a character known for his juvenile humor, but there are different degrees of immaturity. I don’t know, I just find Kelly‘s humor too grade school playground level to enjoy, which is even weirder because I really like his serious works like his run on JLA and Amazing Spider-Man. Aaaaanyway…

Deadpool doesn’t really start as far as I’m concerned until after Kelly, and even then it’s a big of a mixed bag at first. Priest‘s run is decent, but it’s far from his best work. Palmiotti‘s run was readable, but not particularly memorable. Tieri has one pretty good arc, followed by one pretty bad arc. Simone’s run is easily the best of the bunch, but even that has a rough patch when it gets interrupted by multiple guest writers in the middle. This era of Deadpool isn’t the greatest, but the good parts are quite good and there’s some semi-important history to be found here, if you’re interested.

Deadpool & Cable was a much more solid series by the often underrated Fabian Nicieza. While there’s plenty of oddball comedy going on, there’s also a lot of serious and surprisingly complex stuff going on here too. Nicieza really did an amazing job maintaining the consistency of this series too, considering the many interruptions by events and writers of other X-books. He even had to deal with Marvel deciding to give Rob Liefeld an X-Force mini-series during the first year of this series, where good old Rob actually ended up killing Cable in the end, because I guess no one bothered to tell him that he was starring in an ongoing book at the time. Nicieza recovered like a true professional and worked around this, even working the mess he had been left into the story, in a way that felt so natural that it felt like it had been planned all along. Unfortunately, the book continued to be interrupted by events and Cable getting put in an X-Men team by another writer, and eventually Cable was suddenly removed from the book entirely for use in a big X-Men event where he ended up being taken out of play, so the long-running story that Nicieza had been building on for years was suddenly flushed down the toilet with no resolution. Oh well. It was still a good series anyway.

Next came Daniel Way‘s run. Way seems to be a pretty divisive writer (where has he disappeared to these days anyway?), but I’ve enjoyed most of his work, and while his Deadpool ends up being a little more uneven than some of his other works, I still find it mostly enjoyable. It was strange how this volume shifted from slapstick comedy to a long, ongoing series of suicide attempts, but it was certainly different.

Victor Gischler‘s run on the short-lived spinoff title Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth was pretty enjoyable. Good humor, a lot of action, and a visit to the Marvel Zombies universe made it a pretty memorable story. Too bad the same can’t be said for the follow-up, that godawful Deadpool Corps business with Liefeld. Best to not even speak of that.

Cullen Bunn‘s (and occasionally someone else’s) various Deadpool mini-series’ (starting with Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe) are pretty unusual. There’s a lot of shenanigans in alternate dimensions where various alternate Deadpools kill the Marvel universe, kill famous literary characters, team up with dozens of strange alternate Deadpools to fight more strange Deadpools in a multiversal civil war, fight zombies, become a zombie, inject himself into the original Secret Wars, and so on. Sometimes they’re oddly bleak and everyone dies horribly and sometimes they’re just wacky comedic adventures that take nothing seriously, but for the most part they’re some excellent little stories. The tradition is still continuing today with the latest mini, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again. 

And that brings us to the present day with the still-ongoing run of Gerry Duggan (and also formerly Brian Posehn). The first volume of the Duggan/Posehn era has a bit of a rocky start with a nicely drawn, but overly long arc about fighting zombie presidents, but it really takes off after that and has been continuing to run strongly ever since. Duggan‘s been on the book for close to 100 issues now, making his the longest run, and in my opinion, it’s also the best run Deadpool has ever had. While Deadpool is still a wacky jokester at heart, Duggan has brought a great new depth to the character and dropped him in many very interesting new situations of both the comedic and deadly serious kinds. His writing continues to surprise me after almost 5 years and I would even go so far as to say that his run is one of the best books Marvel has going today (and I know that the competition for that status isn’t what it used to be, but I still think it’s true).

In a few months from now Deadpool is scheduled to be relaunched yet again as The Despicable Deadpool, but luckily Duggan is still on board, so I can’t wait to see where he takes things next.

Review: Sonic Mania

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

3098974-sonicmania00.pngIf you’re anything like me and haven’t touched a Sonic game since the Sega Genesis days, then Sonic Mania and its return to the good old days of simple, but effective side-scrolling platforming probably sounded pretty good to you too. I’ve never really played any of the later 3D Sonic games, so I don’t really know if they’re as bad as everyone says and can’t compare this to them, but I know I like good old Sonic games, and that this sure feels like one of those.

21054970_10154710006596366_9014264898305197465_o Pay attention, this is literally all the story you’re going to get right here.

Sonic Mania is mostly made up of a selection of “best of” classic levels, which are not only remastered for HD, but have also been greatly expanded and improved upon. Each level is now a massive multi-pathed labyrinth (even more so than some of them already were), yet they’re…

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Watchin’ Stuff

This is hands-down one of the most ridiculous and unrealistic police action movies ever made, and that’s saying a lot by 80’s movie standards. This is both its greatest weakness and its greatest strength. It’s one of those movies where it’s just so stupid and unbelievable that you don’t know how anyone agreed to it, yet somehow the creators managed to get a relatively large budget and two major action stars involved and it ends up being enjoyable just for the sheer mindless spectacle of it all.

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This was a new one to me. An early Robert Zemeckis film starring a young Kurt Russell in a story that is, again, so absolutely ridiculous and unbelievable that it shouldn’t work, but it somehow does. It’s a pretty decent comedy and is noticeably more vulgar than Zemeckis‘ later, more well-known films, which was a nice surprise for me.

So everyone’s been talking about War of the Planet Apes lately and how great it is (and my wife is suddenly very interested in it for some reason, despite never having seen any of the previous new movies), so we thought we had better catch up on the last few. I never really cared much for the original movies (never actually bothered watching any after the first one) and didn’t like the Tim Burton reboot at all so I was quite surprised to see that this was amazingly good for a movie about talking monkeys.

The sequel (sequel of a prequel is what? pre-sequel? I dunno) was excellent too. I really never expected this from these movies. None of the trailers for any of these new ones ever really caught my attention, but they really are some well-written and well-directed films. Now I wish I’d tried them earlier so we could have gone and seen the newest one in theaters (I know, technically it’s still there but it’s too late for GTX and I’m so spoiled now that it’s GTX or nothing!).

This was fun. A nice, natural-feeling crossover with a ton of excellent action scenes, though I was slightly sad that very few of the piles of ninjas they fought actually dressed like ninjas. Are ninjas not cool anymore? Who doesn’t like classically dressed ninjas?? Anyway, most of the characters even got to do a little evolving here, which was nice. Not Iron Fist though, no, they seem really determined to have him continue to be the idiot of the group for some reason. I mean I like seeing him in action and all, and I seem to be in the minority that actually liked his show (though I liked it more for the Meachum family than for him), but man, this version of Daniel Rand is just so painfully unintelligent and easily manipulated. Anyway…good show overall though!

Thought we would give this a try, being such fans of the old series. Eh. It was ok, but not so good that I’d want to follow it regularly. I understand the need for certain aspects of it to be modernized, and that’s fine (though I don’t like the new digital-looking animation nearly as much as the old hand-drawn stuff), but I think the real problem was that this new version is primarily a comedy and the adventure aspect just felt like an afterthought. As goofy as the original series was, it was always more about the epic adventures than the laughs. #NOTMYDUCKTALES!

Review: Prey (2017)

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

Prey_ps4_frontcover-04_1465777150The latest offering from Arkane Studios brings us yet another spiritual successor to System Shock and Bioshock, this time falling under the previously established brand of Prey, for what seems to be no other reason than for Bethesda to renew the rights to a series that was never all that popular to begin with. Despite the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the previous Prey though, it manages to more than live up to the reputation of the name (I guess? I liked the old Prey, but I was always under the impression that it wasn’t actually very well received at all), and I would even say that it surpasses its predecessor in many ways.

They are certainly two very different games. Where the original more closely resembled a 90’s FPS, with a heavy reliance on over-the-top action and very graphic violence (not that there’s…

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