Saturday, December 31, 2011

Going Out With a Bang

Funny little sentence that one. Confortingly ambiguous. I wasn't refering to dying in a glorified and overly dramatic way (although similar thoughts pass through my mind at times), I was actually refering to the mere ending of the year. And what an ending this was. An ending of many things, things ending much more unexpectedly than a year.

I sit here, flooded with ideas but I find myself more concerned with catching my breath. Add a breakup to a cold and you get something really nasty, I kid you not. I shiver when I'm not cold and I sweat when I am. My kingdom for some anti-anxiety meds. But anyway.

Due to my newly discovered marital status, I'm waging I'll be pretty busy this next month what with the sobbing, uncontrolable drooling, outburst of manic histerical laughter and the running around trying to build a new life for myself. So, for once, I'll actually have a good excuse for being absent from here. Or I may just find the outlet soothing and start writing all the time.

Luckily for me I hear the gaming community is just ripe with sexy men who get paid tons of money. They better start lining up.

Happy New Year.
May 2012 spare the world so it might end a bit better than 2011.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Scottish Christmas Tradition

Let's get it out of the way. Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or whatever tickles your fancy.

I'm not a religious person and I'm not a fan of Christmas. I hate having to go Christmas shopping and I hate pretending to be happy to get things that I either don't want or need or like. In the rare occasions that a gift meets all those requirements I'm at a loss as to how I should express my gratitude and genuine happiness because my face is so set in cynical ways.

And yes, you could say I didn't have many good childhood memories of Christmas, although one year I could've sworn I saw Santa near my Christmas tree (even though we didn't have a chimney or even an open window). I would have to say that Christmas, for me, had a lot to do with cleaning and cooking, growing up. My mother wanted to make everything perfect so I could have those good memories but I guess that plan backfired. I hate cooking on Christmas. In fact, I'm more likely to cook Christmas treats in May than I am in December. And now that I acquired a large extended family, every other year I have to travel across the country to be with a lot of people I don't know, accepting gifts from people who wouldn't know the first thing about shopping for me, run around a strange land passing through three different households and having dinner twice and fending off advances from a 20ish year-old sexually frustrated cousin with Down syndrome. Fun times.

So let's talk of better things. Like the title. So.

Last year, around November or December, we were having our usual game night at our neighbors' when they brought out a souvenir his parents had brought from their trip to Scotland. For me, Scotland had never been more than the setting for Trainspotting and the birthplace of Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod.


I'm sure the reason they went to Scotland in the first place was to dispel these myths of Highlanders in tartan kilts and strange creatures in the depths of lakes. What they brought back, however, was a strange but endearing mix of the two. We fell in love with this cross of Scottish ingenuity and Chinese manufacture, as a few parts of "Scotland the Brave" sounded a bit off. But we soon realized it had much more potential. You see, as you keep pressing its cute little bagpipes, Nessie starts erring more and more notes.  It can get to a point where you forget how the original tune went and, seeing as we only pull out Nessie when we're anything but sober, your ability to breathe unhindered is severely limited. 

The other day I was walking home and I wondered "what was that adorable little thing that made us laugh so hard around Christmas time last year?" I soon recalled Nessie and made it a tribute so I would never forget again.

video

I'll be gone by the time this publishes but I'll be back by the 26th or 7th.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mini-WTT: Pet Peeves

Yes, I know, it's not even the weekend yet! It's just the end of the week. Well... I have another post lined up for the actual weekend. I've been busy and I'll be even more so. So if you desperately missed me or are just bored at work, I'll leave you some lines to entertain you for a few minutes.

You know what I hate? Not a whole lot, I'm a very mellow person. But there are a few things I really can't stand.

3. Michael Jackson

Not a new pet peeve by any stretch but it has certainly escalated since his death. Why can't he stay dead? I don't see anyone rushing to produce two or three more Amy Winehouse shows/CDs/Experiences now that she's dead. I had little patience for the man-like entertainer when he was alive and dangling babies out of balconies but he's become downright unbearable now that he's dead. If Supernatural has taught us anything is that "what's dead should stay dead"

2. American Localization/"The Office" Phenomenon

I have nothing against the United States as a whole. In fact, it might be a very nice place to live for all I know and I' m sure it's filled with delightful people and others not so delightful, much like any other charted place on this our blue Earth. But what I can't swallow is the torrent of Americanized TV shows I've come across in the past few years, most of them copied directly from the Brits, those funny buggers. The first time I ever experienced this was with a show called "Coupling". I was a follower of the show, if not a die-hard fan. Imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch another episode and discovered I was watching the first episode again but with a different cast with an American accent.  My mind couldn't process this aberration and the show was cancelled to the delight of all after just four episodes. I wasn't quite so lucky with the American version of "The Office". While I found the original version to be funny and sarcastic, most of the American version just comes on as a bit... sad.

On a related note, the complete opposite happened recently with the "reality" show "Wipeout" as in that it spawned in the US and birthed a myriad of international versions, including a British one. One of Fox's many channels here plays at least three versions of them each night and I was never sold on the American hosts. But that Richard Hammond, although not the funniest man to ever grace my screen, manages to make me chuckle more often than the other two's puns ever will. Plus, you don't get Americans calling themselves "Ginger Ninjas". Canadians, maybe.

1. Mario

I miss VGCats, don't you?
I cannot express in words how much I dislike this character. The overweight midget plumber with a mustache that would impede even the most voracious of animals to get any soup in. I hate him. I'm tired of him. Why would a child ever be fascinated by a plumber in overalls throwing fireballs at turtles is beyond me. They keep revamping it and remodeling it and putting him in new "exciting" scenarios. Why can't they just make another character for kids to look up to and play as? Every time I hear a "itsa me" I feel like snapping my index in someone's eye. I hate Mario and it should be impaled, burned at the stake while I dance naked around the fire in delirious ecstasy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Saints Row: The Second

While the rest of the world is busy with the polishing of their lightsabers or the rimming of their sky, I turned my attentions to an older but equally deserving title: Saints Row 2.

'But surely you must be aware that they released the third installment recently?' Ah, but I wasn't about to pay full price for a game I would most likely not enjoy.

Saints Row falls in a genre I like to call "thug-oriented sandbox" or "thugbox" for short. I was never a big fan. In fact, the last game of the kind I played was GTA3 so I was well behind the times. I'm as comfortable playing them as I am in sitting on a warm toilet seat. Still, I felt the need to drive around a bit and maybe buy some new clothes. Seeing as I can't actually drive and I have no budget for clothes this month, I struck a deal with Mike: he could have his SWTOR if I could have the same sum of money in Microsoft Points. Thus I acquired Saints Row 2.

I purchased it full aware that I was by no means the game's target audience. I value human life dearly since I grew up and realized my own mortality. So the prospect of going on killing sprees wasn't exactly the most appealing to me. The character customization and the city to explore were, all things I enjoyed in GTA3. That and the car radio.

I decided to plow through the game as non-nonchalantly as possible, doing as little bloodshed as possible. I absolutely abhor American gangsta culture so I was delighted when, in character creation, I was given a choice to go for a more... European approach to outlawing. Now, I was born in a world where every proper super villain/crime lord has a british accent, with Mojo Jojo being the obvious exception. More recently I fell head over heels in love with goody-two-shoes archetypes like Alistair in DA (thank you Mr. Valentine) and, to a lesser extent, Anders and Hawke himself in DA2. So off I went sporting what I heard called a "Cockney Accent". Has cock in it, will do. I was going to be stylish, I was going to be smooth, I would bring a taste of Old Country to those sunsabitches. And I would do it all in a snazzy suit. I made him ginger to boot. If you're going to be a prick, ginger pricks are sexiest, as a friend taught me not so many moons ago.

I have to say, I wasn't expecting much from the story at all, I just started going through it in the hopes of acquiring enough money to buy more expensive clothes. But, somehow, I got quite interested in it. At one point I stayed up until 6 in the morning just to take down those Sons of Samedi for good. I couldn't find the name of the guy that did my character's voice acting but I was pleasantly surprised. I remember thinking it could only get any better if it was Boots doing all the swearing. He has a knack for it.

One aspect I found completely hilarious is the way I started earning respect. How much respect you have dictates what missions you can embark on. More respect means more missions, more missions mean more story content and more respect earning opportunities. Your Style rating (the money you spend on your homes, your cars and your clothes) dictates how much bonus respect you gain by doing mundane things like nearly avoiding a traffic accident or shooting a rival hoodlum in the nuts.

Scene: Two ne'er-do-wells sitting on the curb, sharing a smoke. A faint sound creeps from around the corner, louder and louder, the sound of a roaring engine, an island voice asks if you can hear the thunder. The car turns sharply, leaving a trail of disembodied limbs and hot dog stands in its wake as it disappears as suddenly as it came, the islander advising a dash for cover.

'Did you just see that?'
'Yeah...'

A billow of smoke rises silently from his lips.

'That was one nice hat he had on...'
'Yeah...'

And so it was that I came to love the game, with all the running-over of animal mascots and indiscriminate RPG launching. Random NPC interaction lead to some golden comedy moments. Like that time when I was idled in an intersection, enjoying that hour's rendition of another 80s classic when I spotted an ambulance mowing down an old lady. She was having none of it, though and she pulled the EMT out and bashed him to death, leaving the ambulance to cause a massive traffic jam. Or when I decided to hijack one of my underlings cars but, instead of pushing out the driver like he'd insulted my father's virility, I sat in the drivers seat, with two of my three-man entourage taking the back, leaving the third on the sidewalk looking a bit miffed. He then took me for a little ride around town to the sound of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

I developed a deep bond with my character, the one that took me on all those late night drives in the rain against cheap Styrofoam traffic lights. I grinned contently when I caught him singing along to A-Ha's 'Take on Me' while driving a boat through the sewers. And not just for a while, no, he sang the whole damn thing, even the nut-crunching chorus, and he sang it as poorly as a gangster ever should.

I got so attached to him that I took 2 hours of my life to dig out my old camera and tape a little tribute to him, my first ever at that.

video

Now excuse me while I go stylishly off some more rival thugs.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

WTT: Most Memorable Anime, Pt2

    Ok, this is where the going gets tough. In all honestly, all of these have been at number 1 at some point in my life but I'm going to try really hard to prioritize them by all-time favorites. I hope you come to enjoy them as much as I do, one day.

    Here's where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the boys from the men, the one's who've seen GTO and the one's that had him as a teacher. Which would be nobody. But how cool would that be?

    Onizuka Eikichi, 22 years old, is the teacher we all wished we had when we were still at the age of having teachers. His policy was tough love, his enforcer, his foot. He followed no law but the law of the streets and taught through popular culture metaphors. Onizuka was a showcase of all that could go wrong in the upbringing of a man in late 1990s Japan and he came back to give the kids what he had never had: a teacher that gave a shit.

    The thing with anime is, it makes you love mediocre songs even if they're just that, mediocre. I for one became a L'Arc-en-Ciel fan after going through half the show.


    Ah, Monster. How many lesser men have thrown in the towel at the sight of thy first five episodes. Meaning, if you can get past those the show becomes really good. It's become a sort of milestone for failed jumpstarts. Like say, if a show is really bad in the first few weeks, I'll say it pulled a Monster.

    At first it's nothing but the story of a Japanese surgeon in Germany going through the motions of his daily life. It eventually spirals into a megaplot of serial-killing and cross-dressing. Yes, it's that good.

    The soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful and if you're looking for something more down to earth this is the anime for you. In fact, it's the most sober and serious one on this list and once you're hooked on it you'll be ever so thankful that it is so very, very long. Well, not all the time. Sometimes you'll just wonder "hey, wasn't there a guy called Tenma in this show?"

    3. Tengen Toppa Gurren Laggan

    I seriously considered putting this one higher up there just because I love it so much. HYPE TRAINS BE DAMNED, THIS SHOW IS AWESOME! It's fucking awesome. I daresay its Fawesome.


    From the same bunch that brought us the afore mentioned FLCL, comes this gem of a show about spirals. And if FLCL sports an unhealthy fascination with hands (it does, pay attention) this one is all about faces. Face robots and robots with two faces, faces, faces everywhere and the show is no worse for it.

    The soundtrack is decent but it only gets better after the opening. The words "Fight da Powah!" are forever ingrained in my skull due to the over-the-top ending. And if this show is anything it is over-the-top. It boasts all other mecha-anime's clichés and it yells at you to love it. It yells in your face so hard you have no choice but to wipe the spit from your mug and love it.

    It's exciting, it's fast-paced, it can be romantic and seeped in tragedy. I laughed till my cheeks hurt and I also wiped a small tear at the corner of my eye. But only because it was over and it was so GOOD.

    2. Now and Then, Here and There (Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku)

    Now and then, I've loved this show. This was the first time that I realised that most characters that share my name suffer a horrible lot in life. Truth be told, every character in this show suffers a horrible lot in life. That's just the way it is, somethings will never change.... Damn it, Bruce Hornsby!


    No opening because, honestly, it's crap and it adds nothing to the show. This piece, however, is one of my all time favorites and earned Taku Iwasaki a place in my heart forever.

    Shuu is a boy from the present that is sent to the future (ring any bells? Not yet? Ok.) After suffering yet another defeat in his "always picked last" existence he crosses paths with a young girl named LalaRu (still nothing?) She is then suddenly kidnapped by some foul people to do their foul bidding and Shu, armed with his trusty stick, journeys to a gruesome future to save her.

    If you read part 1 closely this might begin to sound a bit familiar. Rightly so because there are that many parallels between Now and Then and Conan. You may also begin to remember that I underestimated it's impact on me and I have since (in all but 10 minutes) re-evaluated it's ranking.

    I am not ashamed to say that my girly heart cried a few times watching this show. The soundtrack doesn't help as it is one of the best I've heard in any sort of entertainment medium (excluding books and perhaps theatre). If Monster is sober, this one is tear-jerking.

    1. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (Honnêamise no Tsubasa)

    One of the first, if not the actual first, full-length animes I ever watched. Needless to say, it struck a chord somewhere in me and I've always come back to it. Guess who's behind this masterpiece? Why GAINAX, of course. And haven't I mentioned them before? Maybe not by name but if we scrolled back I'm sure we'd bump into at least two more of their creations. Yes, it seems they were good at what they did even back in 1987.


    So when people say stuff about Miyazaki's work being the best in anime full-length I chuckle and add in a condescending tone "poor child, come closer. Sit in my lap so I can tell you a tale of self-discovery that will blow your socks off." Then I add how Miyazaki finds touch technology like the iPad to be disgusting in that it mimics masturbation. That should get my point across.

    Not only is the story of the movie quite good, following a man's journey from not being good enough to be a fighter pilot to being the first man to venture into space, but the soundtrack is amazingly good. If you've never heard of Ryuichi Sakamoto before now would be as good a time as any to give it a go. But maybe you watched Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence oblivious to what you were hearing. Just don't let it happen again.

    Anyways, the movie is good. It's so damn good that I don't want to spoil it by writing about it here. I'll say only this: the animation was seriously above the rest considering this dates back from the 80s. So go watch it if you never did. In fact, go watch it even if you did. Beats jerking off your iPad.

    And that's that. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I had searching for the videos.

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    WTT: Most Memorable Anime, Pt1

    Back, by popular demand, now in color! Its the all time favorite Weekend Top Ten, the most biased short list of whatever out here in this little corner of the interwebs.

    A small mention to a few that didn't make the list. Full Metal Alchemist: it isn't here because I abhor hypes and this little gem inspired one of the most despicable and monstrous hype trains I ever did see; Urostukidoji, Legend of the Overfiend: even though it was the anime that introduced tentacle porn not only to myself but to the world, there were just more important things to discuss here; Genshiken: a very good insight on the traumatized existences of otakus in Japan but, again, so many better things to write about; Gokusen: I will reference later when we get to about number... 4?

    Without further ado follows a list of what were and are the most memorable animes I ever had the pleasure of being exposed to.

    10. Dragon Ball

    Just as I remember it
    When I was but a wee lass, the tv was filled to the brim with anime I didn't know were so. Captain Tsubasa and his magical kicks that took 3+ episodes to reach the goal and miss, Cinderela with it's 100+ episodes to tell a tale I could blurt out in 3 minutes; there were animals and boys and girls and villains and magical balloon rides that filled my childhood hours of wonder and my under-developed brain with colors and a second foreign language. Times were good indeed. But the one that stuck with me as I climbed the social ladder through all those years of public (and private) education was Dragon Ball.

    It had all a young child needed to be exposed to. The underdog hero that got beat down by a clearly superior rival only to, by perseverance and hard work, come back meaner and stronger to ultimately become so powerful that he needed to die so that his awesomeness wouldn't destroy the universe. True story. As it were.

    The comical voice over changes that occurred around this neck of the woods only helped to cement this beauty as one of the most defining shows to ever grace Portuguese television.

    9. Kimi ni Todoke

    Being a girl I sometimes feel the need to bathe my brain in more romantic entertainment. That's where Kimi ni Todoke comes in the picture. It was my soap for a few months, taking the place of Charmed after I devoured those 8 seasons. It's a fair bet that you won't appreciate this anime much if you aren't of the fairer sex. A bit too many negatives in that sentence but it still holds. 

    KnT is the story of a scary looking girl's crush over the most popular guy in school. And that's it really, that's all there is to it. But it's good at what it tries to be and I'll just leave it at that and get on with it.

    8. Future Boy Conan (Mirai Shounen Conan)

    Now, I didn't much like this anime at first but Mike eventually bought the DVD box and I watched the whole thing only to find myself rooting for Conan after a while.

    Conan is a little boy who lives in the future. He is forever in pursuit of a little girl called Lana. She was kidnapped by some foul people for their foul biding. Through thick and thin and a variety of different ledges, Conan travels the sea in search of his friend accompanied always by a trusty stick.

    Another anime you'll be hearing about tomorrow had a great impact in making me appreciate Conan all the more.

    7. FLCL (FuriKuri)

    You've heard of this. In hipster circles its right up there with Lain and to the most laid-back anime watcher its as recognizable as, say, the word Gundam. And for good reason: it's good. I'm not gonna put it up there in the top five because, once again, I detest hypes and, although I had a hell of a time watching this when it was first "discovered" my brain always responds to a hype with a snotty "well, it can't be that good".

    The most memorable feature was and still is the soundtrack. This anime is solely responsible for introducing me to one of my favorite bands to this day even though, once again, I steer clear of the more popular songs by The Pillows.

    And, come on: who didn't want to be Mamimi when they were a stupid kid?

    6. Oruchuban Ebichu

    Ah, the most lovable rodent to ever grace my laptop screen. Ebichu is the kind of critter you can rely on to co-relate the words nut and squirrel to spell clitoris for a good chuckle.

    Although always terribly unsuccessful, Ebichu's only will is to improve the sex life of her Master and make her happy. She succeeds, however, in getting a good laugh from me at the sight of her splattered against a wall after interrupting a more torrid sexual encounter.
    Definitely not one to watch with the kids.

    That it for today! Hope you'll find it in your heart to give a few of these a try if you haven't already. Always a good alternative to going to the movies when all that's showing is penguin movies or things by Almodóvar.


    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Riping Off VG Soundtracks

    When I heard through the grapevine that they had used a piece from WAR's soundtrack in a promo for Fox's American Horror Story I felt in me the urge to expose a bit more of these blatant rip offs of game soundtracks. It happens quite frequently, people just don't notice because the target audiences for one medium and the other rarely meet. Except in me.

    Example: where does TLC and The Sims cross paths? Me. You can imagine my disbelief and outrage when I hear something from The Sims 2 buy mode as background music for TLC's "Outrageous Kid Parties" promo. Mike believed me then but failed to raise an eyebrow in concern. Well, that wouldn't be the end of my battle for awareness to this issue. There were other instances where I've caught familiar samples of soundtracks in channel promos but damned if I could ever find them online, obscure as they were.

    A few days after the TLC incident we were having dinner and on comes Solitary, a reality show in one of the multitude of Fox channels. This time I wasn't going to stay silent about it anymore. I absolutely loved this particular game and as soon as my brain unfroze and I realized what they had done I had to make it known. Mike didn't believe me on this one at first, seeing as he actually liked the show. But I showed him. And I'll show you.


    The madness spreads. Mike began by turning his nose but there's no mistaking those strings.

    Actually, I have mixed feelings about this, to be honest. Soundtracks are the unsung heroes of videogaming. I personally have spent way too many hours of my life burning images of menus on tv screens just because I liked the music as background for my daily chores. So, is it that wrong for other people to make use of someone's genius work and spread it further through another medium? Yes, it is, especially if credit isn't given to those who deserve it. But I like it that people who would otherwise never be exposed to them have and their lives are richer for it. In some miniscule way. Well, even if they don't know it, I do.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Impossible!


    The return of an old favorite. I have spent too many hours of my life playing, thinking and discussing this game. Parts of it have become folk legend like "Abundance" or "Marmite".

    I never finished it but I figured out some of the more obscure answers. A classic in its own right.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Mind Altered Roleplay

    If you've ever seen a month's-worth of blog hits, you'll understand my next statement.

    For all of you who actually Googled for "mind altered roleplay" or maybe just "mind altered" or possibly just "roleplay" I am sorry but this is probably not the site you're looking for. I have yet to include any kind of drug-addled shenanigans to my bedroom life. Nor have I ever purchased/worn burlap underwear. I apologize also to all those who came here looking for "proper suicide emo" and "scenes with mice digging holes." For the life of me I don't get it, but I will endeavor to include these topics in my subsequent musings.

    Ugh, I've been stuck on that last paragraph for hours now. You'll understand when I say I've eaten a very big sandwich all on my lonesome. And now I have a weird craving for The Money Pit. But I must endure for there will be a torrent of pictures and videos ahead that are sure to boggle the socks and blow the mind off all of you, my dear minions friends.

    Each Friday or Saturday night, like most of you I'm sure, my bored housewife existence turns to game night. We hook up with our neighbours (the better half of which I have known for some 10 years) and indulge in a requiem of depravity. Jk. The title might hint to that but, no. As many of us new-age geeks (uh, can I coin that one, I rather fancy it) we play boardgames or roleplay (the pen and paper version, geez). As do most of you. Surely.

    What confounds me is why we would ever consider in venturing on with these subjects after opening the second bottle of wine or on our way through our second sandwich. Let me explain.
    Setting (in cWoD's V:TM): after millennia of seamless integration in human society, man has seen one too many Twilight movies and is beginning to catch on. Hmm, that Madonna sure isn't getting any older. And didn't I just read in the paper that Nicholas Cage is actually part of the hosts of the undead?


    Insert a scrawny Polish vampire whose biggest dream is to quit all this Vampire nonsense all together, a scrawny little girl who's pretty unsure if being undead is what's happening right now and a scrawny rich opera singer who's pretty sure being a Vampire is what's happening and she's quite enjoying it.

    Obviously, as I am known to row against any plot, I immediately set myself out as defiant and constructed my penitent Vampire Alex. Because Vampires with common names is all the rage nowadays. Look at Vampire Bill or Vampire Eric. None of those french Anne-Rice-ish names. No. I have a vampire called Alex and by God he will find a cure this this nefarious ailment! Verily, thus and so!

    I started out as noble as could be but I got turned around somewhere and ended up performing blood transfusion between two ghoulified cows in a barn and smearing vampire remains on a deserted road in backwater Russia with a stake. I proceeded to then swallow the most critical peace of information we had, have a cat-fight with a human three times stronger than me during daytime and spent a good twenty minutes riding up and down in an elevator for no good reason in a luxury apartment building in NYC. These were the things I did voluntarily, using whatever wits I yet had.

    Unconsciously, however, our collective minds drifted in very similar if bizarre directions when analyzing what props we had encountered.

    Here is what remained after my attempt at salvaging three important parts of an important document. The first I swallowed, as alluded earlier, the second I triggered burnt but the third one isn't my fault. 
    After little under an hour (or maybe it was three) I managed to put the middle one back together. Now, it seems like a perfectly reasonable piece of roleplaying prop, doesn't it? Now let's check the back reversed against the light.


    A bit weird yes, but... wait. Wait, what's that there with the burnt patches and... and the outline, is that...

    is that... Mr. Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?


    Oh my God, now I can't unsee it! And is that... is that a giant missile on his head?


    No, now I'm just over-thinking it. But, although...


    There's a little duck flying up there! I can see it, it's like a Warner Bros. type thing!

    Needless to say that was the end of our adventures for the night. We probably retreated back to RockBand as we are known to do. If only the walls were thicker we'd have more fun with it. But, like many console accessories, RockBand's weren't thought for small apartments. They should though, I mean at least the 360 is clearly marketed for frat boys.

    Sometimes we play Scrabble. But that never ends well for me.

    And "glee" was not a valid word.

    I tell you: That Money Pit sure is a funny movie. Best Spielberg movie, hands down. What else can I be but what I am... Carpenter? Plumber? No bells?

    Philistines...

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    I Love Star Wars And It Should Die

    When I was but a babe in pigtails (wow, that came out wrong with some seriously gruesome mental pictures) I liked Star Wars. I liked it so much that I even got one of those Star Wars encyclopedias with all the characters and races and people and I was overjoyed.

    If there is one thing I've had enough these days is Star Wars. It's everywhere, they're constantly rubbing it in my face and it's close to making me start a mini-WTT for pet peeves. Hmmm....

    I like stuffed peppers. But if every day I had stuffed peppers for lunch and dinner pretty soon I wouldn't like stuffed peppers anymore. And if on top of that I was being bombarded with Stuffed Peppers: The MMO and Stuffed Peppers: The Prequel, It would pretty much turn me off stuffed peppers entirely. Hell, I'm getting nauseous just writing about it.

    I may have mentioned before but this is another prime example of why hype trains have ruined so many things for me. Not only does my mind get saturated with it but it actively tries to look for something wrong with a notion, be it a new anime (yeah, I just wrote my new WTT), a franchise, any kind of IP, really. When someone tries to oversell you something, there's probably a big BUT coming.

    I'm all for advertisement of a good product. I mean, there are few other ways of getting the public to know of its existence but it comes to a point when you do no more than annoy the very people whose attention you're trying to get and pretty soon they're willing to spend money on anything but what you're trying to shove down their throats. Because people don't like being told what to do, not on the few things they feel in control about. I wouldn't like someone telling me when I should go take a dump any more then I like being told 50 times a day that I should go check out yet another post mortem Michael Jackson show because this one is The Best Show in the World About Michael Jackson. Well I'm the best Me in Metown, doesn't mean all that now, does it?

    There are new things out there, new ideas that could be explored and promoted for a good penny. Imagination and good story-telling didn't end with George Lucas. There has got to be other fascinating worlds and universes brewing in someone's head just ripe for the exploiting and mass franchising that we don't have to keep recycling the same ideas over and over for 50 years. I dare call it an insult to the ingenuity of man.

    So there you have it: Star Wars has become a killer of ingenuity. If I never say anything else, I say now this. 

    Which is not to say I won't ever give SW:TOR a try. What am I, a homeless ranting on a street corner?

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    The Game

    You just lost it.

    Totally trollish of me, no?

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Kinect Me To Who's In Charge

    No, I'm not Skyrimming. Elder Scrolls can go clean my oven for all I care with all its... first-personish. Yes, that's my only gripe with it and its enough for me to never even want to touch it.

    Instead, let me tell you about my misadventures with Kinect.

    As most people in the modern world, I live in an apartment. Apartments have the idiosyncrasy of not being very spacious. Mine escapes not the norm (ugh, I've been playing way too much Tactics Ogre). Still, we heard that ME3 was taking advantage of Kinect's built-in voice recognition to issue commands to party members and go through dialog. "What fun", I replied and so I put my foot down and stated that by next year I was getting a Kinect. I ended getting one on my birthday, last September.

    Now, if you're anything like me you probably got excited when first word of the Wii came out. The prospect of physically interacting with your games beyond your thumbs and possibly chin (I get lazy sometimes) was wondrously innovative to my pseudo-laywoman's mind and we quickly jumped on the hype bandwagon. In fact, there's even a video of Mike in the line at Toys"R"Us at launch day after an incident at a different store involving a pre-order, a complaints book and the Police. What followed (not that particular launch day but in videogaming history) was a series of disappointing releases and half-hearted attempts by other companies to stake their claim in that same niche market. For a long time I was verily unimpressed.

    Like nothing had ever happened and like nothing had been learned, we were overjoyed, excited, psyched even, when news of this one project Natal reached our little corner of the world. Remarkably, this had very little to do with "Natal" being directly translated to "Christmas" and more with the fact that someone had picked up on the idea first proposed by the Wii and expanded on it to something that didn't require a hand-held accessory. We had had our share of holes in walls with the Wiimote. Nintendo had been stupid but Microsoft now had the possibility of picking up where they left off and actually put out title that post-12 years old players would actually want to play. And the technology in the info releases they were making seemed pretty groundbreaking and we felt like we were living in the future. We may not have flying cars but the survival and prosperity of the human race was assured if our gaming consoles could talk back to us. But we should've known. Peter Moulineaux has fooled and tricked us so many times before. Why, oh why didn't we see it?

    So, ok. The Kinect wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But it's not that bad either. Like, Yahtzee (at least I think it was him) said: no matter in how many different ways you can interact physically with a game if you don't have a corresponding physical feedback, what's the point? Still, the motion capture is pretty decent and it's terrible fun watching myself as a stick figure during the calibration process. It has its faults, though. The biggest one, and the one I blame for their failure to connect (HA, see what I did there?) with the far east market is the amount of space it requires to work properly.

    We set the thing up and my cat jumped at it when it started bobbing up and down, trying to determine where the floor was. It had to see the floor so we couldn't gain a few precious inches by moving it a bit further back, closer to the wall. When calibration time came we had to move the couch back until it touched the dining table. Then we had to push the dining table back and the couch with it. Then we decided to move the couch out of the frame entirely to the side and STILL had to play the "restricted" version of games and demos. The Kinect needs a LOT of space to see you. So, before I even consider if I want to play something with it I have to consider if I feel like rearranging furniture and if the downstairs neighbors would be cool with that at whatever hour it happens to be.

    But, you know, the motion sensor thing is neat, and cute but not at all the main reason I bought it. We proceeded to calibrate the thing's voice recognition and, at first, all was fine. We giggled like school girls when the screen filled with my achievements after we blurted out "Xbox, Achievements."

    But, after we connected to Xbox Live, the thing went deaf. No matter how much we hollered out for it using our many different accents and tones, it wouldn't respond. We discovered then that voice activation did not work in our native language. But that's ok because we're sufficiently proficient with English, in my humble opinion, to issue simple commands. Turns out it decided it wasn't available in our geographical area, regardless of our language skills. So we decided to switch our settings to the UK because it's still in the same time zone and we were fairly sure it would raise no issues with the English the English speak. But no, as soon as we connect to Xbox Live it realizes the trick we're pulling and wags its finger at us reprovingly.


    My only hope is that this issue exists only on the Xbox dashboard because if it persists in games... well... There goes my entire reason for wanting it, eh? Then I'll just be stuck with a pretty expensive, bobbing, dust magnet of a cyclops in front of my TV for no good reason.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    WTT: Most Memorable Internet Videos, Pt 2

    Dramatic conclusion arrives dramatically.


    5. MrWeebl; Dramatic Chipmunk


    Kind of a cheat this one but I couldn't honestly decide between them. They're both so revolutionary. One writes songs that stick with you through thick and thin and the other is... adorable. Both of them brilliant.

    4. Billy Mays - We Can Help


    I didn't know who Billy Mays was, to be perfectly honest. But now I'm sad he's gone. And this video is the sole culprit. A brilliant piece of work that I have hummed for days on end.

    3. Sparta


    It was a craze that went around for a long time and still one of my all time favorites. This video (which I am not sure is the original one or just one of the many, MANY versions that feature the song) compiles several other viral videos that didn't make this list.


    2. Buffalax


    A genius at work, Buffalax took it upon himself to subtitle precious gems from the far east (Eastern Europe included) in English so we could all understand the true miracle the human race truly is. Buffalax's work was of such genius he made the media but, unfortunately, copyright is a bitch and I've lost track of him. Some of his followers have reposted his videos out there so the magic can live on.

    1. Evan Mather


    When I was a little girl I saw this movie set in space. It featured little green men with walking sticks and white plastic ones that shot lasers from their guns. I liked it but wasn't all that impressed. A few years later, during my first browsings of this new thing called the internet, I discovered the works of one Mr. Evan Mather and that movie gained a whole new dimension for me. Forget SW:TOR, Evan Mather's work was the pinnacle for StarWars in my youth and everything else since has paled in comparison.

    That's it and that's all.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    WTT: Most Memorable Internet Videos, Pt 1

    Over the course of this my simple existence there have been  few things that brought a tear to my eye and a pain to my gut. From laughing so hard. Others were just cool. All of them, found on what we here affectionately call the "Interwebs". Or maybe it's just me. In  no way do I think these movies are intrinsically good or bad. They just became popular/viral for whatever reason and I happened to be caught in the blastwave. By which I mean they are featured here by their relevance in my life and not necessarily in the grand scheme of things.

    Notable Mentions: La Caida de Edgar, with its many, many remakes/remixes (not all of them good); Eh Marine, for the sheer amount of Portuguese remixes that surfaced. For the life of me I still don't get why; Failblog, for continuing to provide us with proof that there's always someone stupider and, finally, a warm recollection of the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei opening. Never saw the anime, but I played that game a whole lot .

    Without further ado:

    10. Galacticmammoth

    Featured not only because I myself was featured in two productions but because, truly, it's some of the most creative things I've ever seen done using a video game.

    9. Boot To The Head


    If I'm not horribly mistaken, this craze first started because of a sketch by The Frantics. The above is merely my favorite adaptation.

    8. Sittin On Tha Toilet


    Let's face it, we've all sung in the bathroom, be it in the shower or on the toilet. I, personally, have sung this little gem plenty on the toilet. And then laughed hysterically.


    7. The Strangerhood


    Years ago, when I was a young girl, I played The Sims. Shocking, yes? Especially if you ever read this blog before. This machinima was made by Rooster Teeth, the creators of the infamous RedvsBlue.

    6. SunnyD and Rum


    This is actually on my recurrent playlist whenever I go outside.


    I'm in a hurry though but see you tomorrow!

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    A Corpse and a PSP

    That's what my last weekend came down to. It's a good thing I'd written all that in advance because my father-in-law's aunt passed away sometime between Friday and Saturday.

    Now, I come from a very small family (count 2, including me) so I'd never dealt with death so hands-on. And I think I've watched way too many CSIs as I was under the impression it would take a while after she died before they put her in the ground. But they were having none of it and she was going down under on Sunday. And so it was that while I was taking a shower on Saturday I was informed that I would be making a round trip totaling around 450kms that same day (that's 280 miles give or take I think). Even though I'd never met the lady, you could say I was very upset that she died.

    Scary
    Then a more pressing concern hit me "what am I going to wear?" followed by a more urgent "does this mean I'm not finishing Star Ocean this weekend?" I had picked up The First Departure thinking of going through three of the installments of the series in one week but I am severely allergic to car rides. My stomach gets a bit upset and my sphincter tightens up whenever I travel at speeds exceeding 100kph (60 mph). When I was younger I'd refer to cars as big metallic beasts from hell, with their big eyes and fangs and smoldering behinds (read headlights, grill and tailpipes). Buses were something like overlords and trucks overfiends (yes, that's an Urotsukidoji reference). That fear hasn't subsided so it's safe to say it wasn't a pleasant ride that one, in the dark, on a highway. Anyways, this meant I wasn't going to be able to play at all over the ride there and back as I'd probably end up barfing inside their nicotine scarred Mercedes. We wouldn't want that.

    I girded my loins, put on a black skirt, proper shoes, counted my blessings that I'd shaved my legs the previous day and steeled my mind for the ordeal ahead. Something refreshed my sullen spirit though. When we stopped at a gas station we got to see one of those kids that runs around a lot have his debut head-first encounter with technology as he tackled an automatic door before it had a chance to open. Good times.

    We got there and before I knew it we were heading inside a fairly old church. Or chapel. I don't know these things. This place apparently dates back from 1565 but I was fairly not impressed as the temperature was a good ten degrees lower than in my beloved capital. On the drive there we'd learned that a friend of the deceased (which was close to turning 97) had also perished the same night (she was a week away from 100) so the church ended up hosting two bodies for two grieving families. I did my rounds, introducing myself, kissing a bunch of old ladies, feeling very much like the literal black sheep in the flock. At one point, trying to avoid melting my coat on a radiator I stood a bit too close to the casket and I felt the blood drain from my cheeks at the prospect of tipping it over and living the most embarrassing moment I would ever come to experience. It didn't happen though.

    So there we stood and sat and chatted with hard-of-hearing old folk for a while, looking a bit glum and smiling sympathetically, the corpse with its white shroud over its face, hands contorted holding a rosary, me feeling more uncomfortable by the minute save for the heat from the radiators.

    We finally departed from the religiously charged premises and had dinner and drove back. When I finally got in my own bed it was well past 1 AM but I still gave SO:TFD another go. I spent the following day in bed mentally recovering from my first brush with death and all the cold, gloominess and old-smell it entails. I ended up finishing the game and got started on The Second Evolution (which didn't turn out that well). But more on that some other time.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Weekend Top Ten: Memorable Videogames, Pt 2

    Oh my god it's the awesome conclusion of the awesomest thing ever to grace this blog!
    Except for me pining over WAR. That was pretty popular.
    Onward!

    5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

    Ah, everyone's favorite defense attorney. I love the fact that in Nick's world being a defense attorney automatically means you fight for justice, truth and the innocent. I mean, how far of a leap is that from every American tv show today? And the cases all involve murders. And the client is always innocent!

    Despite how bizarre the whole setting may be, Nick Wright has kept me up on many a night, eerie light shining through the sheets.

    I'm not clear on how I came across the first game but since I did I've been a die-hard-get-all fan of the series. Together with OTO, it obliterated the bottom screen of my NDS and restored my faith in Nintendo, short lived as it was.

    The biggest impact it had on me was that it brought back the girl gamer in me, with it's drama and nail-biting fade-outs. Soon after I went through all of them I came across Dragon Age and Mass Effect that kept that drama hungry flame burning.

    I've written about this more substantially here so let's move on.

    4. Front Mission 3


    I can't really recall when I first played Front Mission 3 but I'm guessing it was a while ago as the game came out in the turn of the millennium.  That's some 12 years ago. God, don't you just feel old sometimes?

    Getting back on track. I never was one for robots or tanks growing up which isn't surprising because I'm a girl. A moderately peaceful one at that. I was more into... dungeons? I must've picked the game up from one of my acquaintances' rooms be it boyfriend or no. Whatever it was it didn't take long for me to be completely hooked.

    The fighting part and strategy of it was appealing and there was a management of the vehicles themselves that I enjoyed. But the most engaging part of it for me had to do with the fake interweb they stuffed in there. It had multiple websites with plenty of pages and passwords, viruses and things to "download".

    It really showed that the developers had put a lot of time and effort to put out a game with an immersive world. It may not amount to much by today's standards but the game certainly earned a spot in my heart.  The graphics certainly don't seem to have aged well but back in the day, I played it so much I dreamed about it. Oh, shut up, it's happened to you too.


    3. The Sims 

    I hate loving The Sims. It's so mainstream. Hipsters look down on me and plebeian girls can relate because they've dabbled.

    Long story short, I once played SimCity 3000 A LOT. After that, instead of making the logical leap to SimCity 4, I instead opted for something where I had a more directed approach and were things could mate.

    I played the first and all the expansions and helped make EA the beast it is today. And then the second and most of the expansions and the beast got a bit more frightening. And then I borrowed the third and was pushing the beast's tentacles out my window. Along with sports franchises, The Sims must be one of the most successful EA ones. They sure did throw lots of star studded launch parties.


    I like to think I have since grown past my mania, even though I still pick them up from time to time for reminiscing purposes. And to continue my plan of spreading the "green skin" gene through an entire neighborhood. Muahaha. Also, I like how some critters go around the world pointing their life away or spend their days riding the refrigerator door like a weird bipedal horse.

    2. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning 


    Strictly speaking, not the very first MMORPG I've ever played but certainly the one I've invested the most time, money, sweat, laughter and tears in. It was also the game that got me into blogging. If that is a good or bad thing remains to be voted upon.

    I didn't get into it because I wanted to. No, as usual, Mike was angling to have someone to play with so he bought it for me. Obviously it backfired and he not only had to buy me a computer that would actually run the game but he also ended up paying for many of my subscriptions.

    Still, we had wonderful times playing it and made what I like to call friends. Together we came to love being on the top of the scenario scoreboards and to hate the likes of Crimson and Red Guard.

    But the game had its faults and you can't very well love a dead horse. Well, you can, but it's awkward. We lead it to water but we couldn't make it drink so now here we stand, our pockets picked by all the horseshoes we've invested on. Why oh why didn't you drink, WAR? Why?

    Anyways, I guess WAR became the standard of MMOs for me. I have a hard time feeling compelled to play anything with other people if I can't kill them in a fast-paced battle among 300 other players at one point. I guess time will tell. 

    1. Final Fantasy Tactics


    Easily one of the best games out there and certainly my all-time favorite turn-based strategy RPG. I first finished it on the PS and have since acquired two copies for the PSP.

    I've unlocked everything there is to unlock I think, and I've come up with exploits left and right without resorting to Gamefaqs.

    The story is quite good, the music is brilliant and the gameplay addictive. I play it once in a while to fill that "equip things" need I get.

    Although I adore the first FFT I could never respect the second installment of the series. Dreams and a picture book world just don't hold a candle to the continent at war that the first let me play in. I don't want to play with toddlers having dreams and "putting things to sleep" by stroking foes' heads long enough. Or am I thinking HKO?

    The game set the standard for entertainment and replayability value for games since and as such deserves more of an exaltation and a more thorough exploration but I'll leave that for another post. 
     

    Aaaaand that's that. I'm sure I forgot about something that should be up there. I'll probably wake up tomorrow screaming the name of some game that should be up here and then curse my addled brain.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Weekend Top Ten: Memorable Videogames, Pt 1

    As every countdown, this one will start high and work it's way down, lest it become some weird countup. Who ever heard of that, heh?

    But first I'd like to take a moment to mention a few games that, although epically spectacular did not make the cut.

    Constructor, for what it taught me about landlords; Masters of Orion 2, for teaching me about aliens and the importance of scientific investigation; Harvest Moon, for what I learned about growing crops, brushing cows and romancing farm girls; Shadow of Memories, for being the most elusive game in the history of the industry (maybe not really but I wants it!). Ok, enough with that.

    So, from least influential to most, here are the games that had most to do with my taste in games, my reluctance to pursue a career and the nimbleness of my thumbs.

    10. Command&Conquer: Red Alert


    Spewing out villagers, building huts, leveling civilizations on elephant back and cruising around on a sports car. Age of Empires had all of this to offer. And I sure did play a lot of that. But then I turned my attention to Red Alert.

    I still have a few loose pages of the manual in a drawer somewhere which is amazing considering I never read it and that I have misplaced the cd itself ages ago. Which is a damn shame because I really would like to give it another whirl. I remember having finished the allied campaign but have the recollection that the red part of the game, although more exciting, presented an added level of difficulty for me.

    The image of those charging Rottweilers and sparkly Tesla coils are still fresh in my mind though and after my recent dabbling in Starcraft the gash in my heart ripped by our separation stung and I scavenged for the game high and low. No luck.

    C&C:RA changed me to believe that communism isn't that bad. It's actually kind of fun! Wait a minute, what am I saying? I'm not American, I never had a problem with communists. They through some serious parties.

    9. Mass Effect 


    After KOTOR came Mass Effect and what a massive effect it had. Mostly it had people confused between "affect" and "effect" almost as much as "your" and "you're".

    The only reason why it's not higher up on my list is because it's too recent for me to know what I've learned from it or how it's changed me. One thing I can say though: I'm a FemShep groupie. MaleShep just seems a bit stiff at times. Oh, no she didn't...

    Bioware has most certainly catered to both male and female audiences with its recent releases. They're disguising dating games under a lot of firing and magic and things flying in space or riding on horseback. I'm loving it.

    The dating possibilities alone make the game lend itself to multiple playthroughs. Without even noticing it I had become quite adept at shooting things. Imagine my surprise, when all I wanted was to bang a different chick/alien that time around. I guess maybe males go about it the other way around or at least have that excuse to see the make out scenes.
    8. Dungeon Keeper

    "Your creatures are annoyed. You cannot pay them." It amazes/scares me how many Dungeon Keeper lines I still remember. I must have played that game more than I realize.

    "Your creatures are falling in battle." I remember it was one of those games my mother bought for me for some reason. She had to work a lot so maybe it was simply to keep me entertained. By 97, when the game was released, I was about 12 which is, without a doubt, the best time to get a game about managing a dungeon filled with demonic creatures. It taught me a lot about organization and resource management and I'm not even kidding.

    "Your gold reserves are running low." I never did play the second DK and, even though I heard say they were like spiritual successors, I never really did like Populous or Black&White. Dungeon Keeper was it for me. I lived to see those Imps dancing at the walls to fortify them while my leathery yellow hand hung close by to slap them as needed.

    "The Lord of the Land approaches!"

    7. Broken Sword 


    Many of my friends, male and older, rave about so-called "point&click" games like Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle or The Dig. I'm sorry. I was just too young for that. And without a computer. And a girl. So it's mostly understandable that I missed out on what they call the Golden Age of point&click.

    But I had my crack at Broken Sword. I'll never forget the first time I watched that intro, with the Parisian rooftops and the ballon and the absurdly low framerate my crappy computer could chug out. Good times.

    With the first... come to think of it, with all of the games of the saga, I learned patience. In the first one, there was s place where you had to find the one stop on a brick wall atop a haystack where you had to stick something. Took me a few years to realize my game hadn't bugged out. The second one I had to wait to even purchase it. I'm still waiting to finish the third one as I seem to have misplaced my copy of the first CD.

    Good game, though. Too bad it's taking me over 10 years to finish all of them. And maybe it's just me forgetting the plot (which I did) but I'm not sure if there are any broken swords in the games at all.
    6. Theme Hospital


    And here we are again, amid projectile vomiting balloon heads and snipe practicing on rats. There's not much more I can say about Theme Hospital than what I've already said.

    It was a time in my life where I played a lot of strategy games, apparently. I wonder what that says about me. I was playing Theme Park around this time as well, although my computer wasn't as agreeable with that one.

    Theme Hospital made me aware of the subtleties of the english accent. Especially in the word "warning" in the phrase "Warning! The hospital administrator is cheating! Warning! A cheat is in the hospital." Yeah, I heard that a lot.


    If interested, check back tomorrow for the top five. Wow, that was so E! Entertainment of me, to cut you off before the top 5. For shame.