Friday, June 23, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series" (Episode 1)

Well, seeing as I liked both the movies, it was only natural that I would eventually tackle the Guardians of the Galaxy game by Telltale. I was interested when the first trailer was released, and I was equally interested when it actually came out, I just didn't get to it. But thanks to my local Gamestop, I have the entire season pass. And because the game itself has been milked out into five sections for maximum pointlessness, I'm likewise going to milk out this review in five parts for maximum page views.

That's right! MadCap has officially sold out!

Bring on the money!

In all seriousness, I've never played a Telltale Game before, though I've seen plenty about their Walking Dead series via internet memes. Mostly jokes about how the choices ultimately really DON'T matter. Needless to say, in the first section, I haven't seen much despite several menacing warnings that Rocket will remember this.

And that.

And that, too.

To begin, the Guardians are mucking around and apparently are completely divorced from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that Peter Quill looks absolutely nothing like Chris Pratt. And I mean it's BAD. Really, really BAD. I'm not sure if they couldn't get the rights to the likenesses of the actors, but oh LORD does it just look bad. Quill looks more like Sean Gunn than he does Chris Pratt. Fortunately, the character's trademark wit and snark remain. The other Guardians are also very true to their counterparts, though the animations are a bit off for some. It may just be Telltales' style, but why is Gamora's hair purple? Why do Rocket's eyes look like he's seen some serious shit? It's curious to me, though it may just be a stylistic choice and I really just need to get over it.

But the art design isn't what people come to Telltale for! If the memes are any indication, it's because of something that someone will remember! That's right, choices! You get plenty. And plenty of Quick Time Events to break up your decision making. And that is basically the only mechanics there are in the game. You make some choices in conversation and in conflicts, you have a Quick Time event laden action scene, and repeat the process.

The actual game play boils down to that LA Noire style of things where you wander around environments and interact with them to find clues. Eventually, you trip over everything enough times to find the things you need. Rinse and repeat.

The plot, however, is where the game is actually very interesting and is  - as I've acknowledged before on this very blog - something that will get me to play almost any game regardless of how the mechanics are. The Guardians of the Galaxy go out and pursue Thanos, who has beaten the Nova Corps left, right, and center in order to get his hands on an ancient artifact known as the Eternity Forge. He does retrieve it, though after some minor puzzle solving and a lengthy series of quick time events, the Guardians do the unthinkable...and kill Thanos.

Let me repeat that, since I know those of my readers who read comics are going to be shocked.

The Guardians of the Galaxy go out and kill Thanos.

Y'know, Thanos? That guy who worships Death? That guy who once went out and got a gauntlet that let him casually wipe out half the universe with the snap of a finger?

Yeah. That guy.

And he goes down like a bitch, too.

Yeah. I can't get over it. The guy who it took half the Marvel universe to stop. Not kill, stop. He goes down so, so easily.  Of course, it turns out the Eternity Forge is able to resurrect the dead, so I doubt it'll be the last we see of the Big Purple Bastard, though they do try to lay it on thick as the galaxy celebrates the death of one of its greatest threats.

But the choices come onward again through lengthy cutscenes, having the player take the role of Peter Quill (for the most part) and interacting with the other memories of the Guardians in order to have conversations that will build on later events. Presumably, anyway. As of this writing, only Episode 2 has been released (yes, I'll be doing that next week) and the long-term effects of everything have yet to be seen.

On the whole, it's definitely not a bad first effort in a Telltale Guardians universe. It has the same problems of a lot of force decision games, but it does retain a great deal of what is beloved about the characters, as well as the somewhat goofy, somewhat serious style of everything. And, of course, excellent music as one would expect from a Guardians-related product.

Not much else I can say. Looking forward to the rest.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is now available from Telltale Games for Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Yooka-Laylee"

...yeah, no. Totally still topical, right?

I was a big fan of Rare when I was growing up, still would be if they weren't the dilapidated corpse that Microsoft has turned them into, producing...that game I cannot mention without breaking out into a rage-induced rant.

No, not that one.

But yes, I was a fan of Rare. When I heard that Playtonic was made up of former Rare employees and they were working on a spiritual sequel to the Banjo-Kazooie series, I was delighted! Ecstatic, even!

Then they dropped JonTron as a voice.

And yes, I'm aware of all the things that went along with that. It's their business and he himself even said he was understanding of their decision. So that's put to bed as far as I'm concerned, much as it would have been nice to have him in the finished product.

Then we got the finished product.

Let's unpack this a bit, shall we?

Yooka-Laylee is the tale of a lizard and bat who totally are not suspiciously-similar to a certain bear and bird. They live in a shipwreck that they dub the "Bat Ship Crazy" (HA!) and are the keepers of an old book that suddenly gets sucked up into the sky because of the machinations of an evil bee known as...Capital B. This bee, working from his hideout in the Hivory Towers is totally not at all similar to a certain evil witch in that served a similar role in that other game. It appears the book that they got a hold of is "The One Book" - a book that can rewrite the laws of reality completely. Thus with the pages (called "Pagies") out and about across various worlds within the hub of the Hivory Towers, Yooka and Laylee head out to reclaim it.

Aided by a snake named Trowser (HA!), a scientific octopus named Dr. Puzz, and sentient vending machine known as Vendi, the duo will gather all the moves, transformations, and tonics they need to defeat the Capital B and keep him from using the One Book to rewrite the universe to his whims.

No doubt the pages will inevitably lead to a wide conspiracy about the meaning of background items and their references to future games.

Or, y'know...they could just spend their time cracking jokes about Swop N' Stop and other Banjo-Kazooie related things.

I joke, but there's legitimately two (count them - one, two) Ice Keys that crop up. Because references to past glories are far better than making anything new.

And that, really, is the problem I have with this game on the whole - it really, really wants to be a Banjo-Kazooie game so hard it burns. So much so that it doesn't really try anything new. Sure, there are a few tweaks and variations on things, but it's trying too hard to recapture the feeling of the original two games and not focusing enough on being its own thing. Some would say I shouldn't complain. After all, Playtonic could have just thrown non-sequitur cars in for no adequately explored reason because a man with a television set for a head told them to.

Yes, I'm still pissed off. What of it?

But the fact remains that this would make a very good Banjo-Kazooie game. And, mechanically, it does. Yooka and Laylee homage the bear and bird they're spawned from in their movesets, species-oriented differences aside. I could see many of these moves easily fitting into Banjo and Kazooie's arsenal with a little bit of a name and anatomy change.

I understand the use of the formula and them wanting to tap into the nostalgia. But from both the standpoint of creating something new...they really didn't. Even Yooka and Laylee could very easily just be replaced with Banjo and Kazooie and there'd be no real difference. Their personalities are so similar as to be indistinguishable (Yooka being perhaps a bit more eager to get on with the adventure than Banjo was).

The collectibles nature of the game was enough, and there's certain plenty to collect: pages, quills, and ghosts that are totally not Jinjos. But the game is self-referential to the point where the original game (which was, itself, self-referential) is telling it to stop. It doesn't allow us to really go in different directions or explore anything new that hasn't been or wouldn't have been in a proper Banjo-Kazooie game. In trying to recapture the past, Playtonic didn't really get what made the game a huge success in the first place.

While Yooka-Laylee does bring some colorful characters to the table, not a lot of them are memorable. In Banjo-Kazooie? Some of the background characters are memorable. They were awash with personality and humor. The humor is here...if it's a little less leaning on the fourth wall and more breaking it entirely when the characters have to refer to the fact that they're in a game every five minutes...but none of the personality. If we had some unique development of the main duo as characters, that would be something.

And that's not to say that there aren't some unique and interesting characters in Yooka-Laylee, there are...but they just lack that memorability, or are Banjo-Kazooie characters who have been painted over. There's nothing new here. You have the full recaptured feel of a platformer from the Nintendo 64 days...but that's it. It's a recaptured feel, and it's definitely good if you want that particular itch scratched. But it doesn't really do anything new, and it feels like a game that was pulled right out of that long-ago era.

So yes, it's good mechanically as I've said...but it's also because the formula is a tried and true one, not because of anything Playtonic has actually done to update it, or to create a memorable cast of characters and carry the game through on their charm. If you haven't already and want to get your collect-a-thon on, go for it! If not...this probably isn't the game for you, sorry to say. Even if you were a Banjo-Kazooie fan.

Yooka-Laylee is now available from Playtonic Games and Team 17 for Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, May 5, 2017

MadCap At The Movies - "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"

Twice the Guardians! Twice the Galaxy! Twice the fun!

Also, spoilers. And obscure references.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now in theaters from Marvel Entertainment.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

MadCap At The Movies - "Power Rangers" (2017)

Teenagers with actual attitude?

Zordon being a dick who berates children and throws them into pits because they don't do things he likes?

Alpha looking like something out of HP Lovecraft?

All of this and more as MadCap gives a review of Saban and Lionsgate's attempt to tickle the 90's nostalgia bone.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

And be sure to subscribe on YouTube for more videos, here!

Friday, April 7, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "This Is The Police"

Covering the downfall of a good man into a spiral of chaos, confusion, and darkness is something that's been covered before. Most recently in pop culture is that of Breaking Bad, though where that was the tale of a man driven to his edge and then driving right back in order to do the only thing that he felt really gave his life any meaning, This Is the Police is the tale of a good cop gone horribly, horribly wrong as he deals with the effects of aging and the feeling that his best years has passed him by.

Set in the incredibly sort of vague time of 198...something, we follow the tale of Police Chief Jack Boyd during the last 180 days of his tenure over the city of Freeburg. It's worth noting that he's voiced by Jon St. John, most famous for being the voice of Duke Nukem and now giving me the hilarious headcanon that all of Duke's adventures are nothing more than metaphors for Jack's tortured subconscious as he deals with his drinking and crippling addiction to pills. But, to his credit (as he has voiced many other characters besides everyone's favorite Masculinity parody), he brings a voice to Jack and helps to make him a very sympathetic character.

You would think, given the heavy emphasis on Jack Boyd, that the game would be heavily story-driven and that you'd have a great deal of direct control over Jack as he operates during his dark descent into the criminal underbelly of his city like in the aforementioned Breaking Bad. Perhaps this could be done in a third-person style similar to LA Noire, you might think.

You could think that, but you'd be hilariously rather wrong.

No, This Is The Police is a real-time strategy game.

Yeah, no, I was confused, too.

Via an isometric map, you as Jack command the forces of the Freeburg Police Department. You can hire and fire from your two squads, A and B. You send cops out on calls and detectives out to solve cases in a way that is really more reminiscent of a dispatcher than a police chief (and, having served in the former job, this game is a great deal more tedious). I'd say that's all you do as far as the crime solving goes...because that's really it. The success of the policemen in question is based on their own ratings (150+ is generally what you want to aim for), how well they interact with others they're sent in with., and other seemingly completely random factors.

I'm not kidding, either. Everything I've read says that the aforementioned two factors are really the meat of what decides if a cop lives or dies. However, I've had several cases where I've sent out officers on a call and they've all been killed off. Out of nowhere, even when a call doesn't seem like it should have had all that much risk involved. And seemingly for no reason other than the game just decided to piss on my shoes that particular day.

The detectives you have a bit more to work with, assigning them cases and piecing together crime scenes via frames collected in their investigations. Complete the picture, solve the crime, and go arrest the culprit(s). Sometimes, this will even lead into hunting down criminal gangs within the city to give a far more police-y feel to things. However, like with the beat cops, if you put inadequate detectives on the aren't going to have the evidence you're looking for. And sometimes, depending on the descriptions given by witnesses, you may get conflicting information and never be able to solve certain cases.

And if that were all, I bet you'd imagine that the last 180 days of Jack Boyd would be rather boring to play through. And you'd be right, hence where the story comes in. Thanks to the indiscretions of a former deputy Jack ends up, in one way or another, working for the Mafia. To make matters even more interesting, Jack has set himself up with a goal by day 180 - make $500,000. Why that and not a million? Simple. Everybody goes for a million and he wanted to do something different.

Did I mention I really like Jack's character? I think I did. The humor really is good when it's good, it's just a shame that it gets relegated to cutscenes between the days.

Nevertheless, in order to do, Jack ends up double-dealing with the Mafia. And for those of you who think you don't have to thanks to a comment made early on that Jack could just spend his 180 days and just make his money and quietly, he can't. And you can't white knight either. The Mafia will put you in the ground for it (yes, I tried). It's a literal case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. One way or another, some blood's going to be split and Jack's going to go on his journey.

Luckily, with the mafia comes a few perks, namely being able to discretely get rid of officers and detectives who decide to get too mouthy or threaten the stability of Jack's department. Of course, such things don't come cheap...and that's not including when the Mafia asks for some police assistance or for them to turn a blind eye to certain crimes. Of course, that doesn't mean the Mafia isn't willing to compensate Jack for his trouble...most of the time, anyway.

But double dealing with the Mafia, getting cops and detectives killed, and letting crime go unchecked will put Jack on the bad side of City Hall. The Mayor is a Grade A bag of dicks who will force Jack to perform unethical acts (such as using violence to end mass protests...three times), have his pay reduced for not performing up to expectations, and continually cut down the funding of the police department (which means getting rid of officers).

Because the best way to make your cops more efficient is to make sure there are less of them.

So the game becomes a balancing act between pleasing City Hall and pleasing the Mafia.

There's also a gang war early on, but it ultimately doesn't amount to anything in the grand scheme. You can actually completely ignore it (and I did. Twice) and eventually one side will triumph with no real consequences. It's a rather pointless interlude.

And, of course, the intense strategy game ends with a bigger war between the Mayor and the mysterious French-named vigilante, where Jack places troops and then waits for results. Like he's been doing the entire game.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it, this isn't a good game. It's not bad, either, there's quite a bit to like. Jon St. John makes a very compelling and interesting character out of Jack Boyd and his story is triumphant, tragic, and everything in-between...even if it has more emphasis on the latter than the former by the end. However, I feel the focus is in the wrong place mechanics-wise and that this game really would have been better suited to be more in the style of LA Noire as I said earlier.

The story is pretty good, but you have very minimal choice as to how things play out and it takes forever to get there. The third and final leg of the game feels particularly stretched out in a way that wreaks of padding.

If you're up for strategy and a lot of it, go for it. You will get a very nice tale to go with it about a man coming to terms with aging and the fact that the past never really can come back, no matter how hard you want it to. When it's gone, it's gone. There's no getting it back.

Rather like the time you waste in the longer, dragged out sections of this game.

This Is The Police is now available from Weappy Studios and Nordic Games for Windows, OS X, Linux, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

MadCap Unboxes - "Marvel LootCrate Gears + Goods March 2017"

MadCap fights with phonetic spelling and an X-23 "water-bag".

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

And be sure to subscribe on YouTube for more videos, here!