Thursday, January 28, 2016

MadCap's Tabletop Tales - "Stay on Target!"

This is a story about a hard lesson for players to learn - sometimes, the dice just don't go your way. You can have your stats maxed out. You can have all your buffs and debuffs up and running, sure.  But the fact is that - even if it's only a five percent chance - you are eventually going to roll that 1. Sometimes more times than not in a single session. In some games, it doesn't mean an automatic failure, but pretty much everyone who plays tabletop knows that rolling a 1 is never ever ever a good thing.  It's so ingrained in popular consciousness that even non-gamers equate it to ruinous, cataclysmic failure.

Which brings us to our story today: learning to accept that, sometimes, life is just going to take a dump on your hopes and dreams.  And nowhere is this more apt an explanation than in the Star Wars d20 game that I'm currently involved in with my group.  Run by Pathfinder GM Cassie (who you may remember from my tale of the Swiss cheesing of Sean O'Malley), we were placed in the Imperial Era, exactly a year after the first movie in the Star Wars saga - A New Hope.  However, we were not the glorious heroes of the Rebellion, nor were we Jedi on the run from the oppressive grasp of the Empire. Nor, in fact, any combination of the two.

You can imagine how dismayed I was.

However, Cassie told us all we got a "freebie" feat of Force Sensitivity for just being in the campaign, as she apparently wanted to have Force Powers be an open possibility. I was intrigued, and took it for my soldier character - Calen Darkhaven, Soldier (the SWd20 equivalent of Fighter) and former Imperial TIE Pilot hopeful.  Along with Keith and Ripley, I found myself transported to a galaxy far, far away...and then promptly dumped in a backwater system called Minos, which is actually the planet that is farthest from the bright center of the universe.  Eat it, Skywalker!

Calen and the two others, Ben and Dax, had been hired on by the skipper of the Star Dancer to be his crew after his last one had left by hitting the lottery...or some such. Either way, it was only the four of us, a badass repair droid, and our ship. Like Firefly, but without any of the memorable cast. Glad that I wasn't being impaled, I took to the first adventure with my shipmates gusto.

In short order, we lost our captain, got a brand new pre-owned ship, and were left with a crate full of Imperial blasters that were hotter than the pair of speakers I bought from Enrique the other day. This, by the way, being after a nine or so body pile up when a local bandit group thought they could just kill us and take our ship.  So, needless to say, we were indeed going for a Firefly feel to things, and took to it by becoming mercenaries in the Minos Cluster, hauling cargo both legitimate and not so much as we still have that damned crate in our cargo bay. As such, we eventually took a job to bring several crates of Imperial turbolaser parts (highly, highly illegal) to an Imperial prison planet called Gesaril.

...in our defense, the money was insanely good.

So, long story short, we actually ended up losing our shipment and flailing our way onto Gesaril. The planet itself was actually not the prison, but the asteroid in orbit around it was. On the planet was a lush jungle teeming with life. Needing repairs for our ship, we journeyed across one of the nine wrecks of Imperial Star Destroyers for spare parts. We got them without a hitch, got an introduction to the Force via some Satanic Hammerhead Ewoks bringing us a magical computer pyramid (or a "holocron" for those in the know), and headed off after some repairs had been made. And here, six paragraphs in, is where the story finally begins.

Calen, being our pilot (and quite skilled at it as well), was already dealing with problems knowing that he was Force Sensitive in a galaxy where the main authority looks down upon such a thing, and was quite distracted when we left Gesaril orbit with our stolen parts barely holding the ship together. As luck would have it, we managed to evade Imperial patrols and headed towards a planet where we could make some more permanent repairs, Karideph.

And, as we hit the atmosphere...given the shaky nature of everything...Calen rolled a 1. While Star Wars d20 has it where rolling a 1 is not necessarily a critical failure, rolling beneath the required Difficulty is still always bad...and Calen had gotten quite a bit below that. And so, as one could expect, crashing happened. The Star Dancer fell like a stone out of the sky and thankfully managed to avoid any heavily populated areas in its descent. It took us three weeks of game time, but we did some heavy repairs, slapped on a new coat of paint, and everything was right as rain again.

In truth, we got off easy. None of us were even a little maimed from the endeavor! However, it's important to know that even with Calen's bonus to his Pilot checks (fairly high for a third level character at the time of this writing), that 1 can completely throw a wrench into things. It's the same with any skill check or save a character might do. Sometimes, you're just going to have to bend over and ask for it gentle, it's just how the dice roll. It's a hard lesson to learn, but I'll give any newbies out here this freebie one. Minmax all you like, prep yourself with everything from skill bonuses to feats and so on. But, in the end, the dice determine everything, and they can go from hot to cold from one roll to another just as easily as the wind blows.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

MadCap At The Movies - "The Boy"

Did you know, readers, that I have powers of clairvoyance? It's true.  They flit schizophrenically between muddle and pinpoint accuracy depending on my reception. Today, seeing the horror film called The Boy, I found that they had switched on and I predicted the twist of the film within the first ten minutes of its runtime.  Brought to us by William Brent Bell, who you may or may not remember as the director of the infamous Stay Alive, The Boy details the curious case of a young woman named Greta (Lauren Cohan) who is hired by the reclusive Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle, respectively) to be a nanny for their young son, Brahms.  Brahms, to the surprise of Greta, is a doll.

In caring for Brahms, Greta learns about a list of rules that she must follow every day for the doll.  In learning the backstory of the young man, Greta learns that Brahms apparently died on his eighth birthday and thus the doll serves as a facsimile of the child to his bereaved parents, caring for him as though he were their own flesh and blood son: fixing him meals, reading him lessons from schoolbooks, and even playing music for him at a high volume. Indeed, beyond the fact that the "boy" is nothing more than a porcelain doll, it seems rather ordinary.

...or does it? As the Heelshires leave to go on vacation, some seriously weird shit begins happening and Greta begins to believe that the doll is, in fact, possessed by the spirit of Brahms as he has not moved on from this world.  Indeed, she feels an obligation - due to having lost a child herself before it could be brought to term - to care for Brahms.  This is right under the list of bad ideas right up there with "Oh, Mr. Killer! Let me run into your knife for you!!!" Mind you, it's far more character development than we saw in Stay Alive, so perhaps I should just give it a pass and move on. Cohan is very good in the film, though I would say it's beneath her talents.

Really, for a horror film there isn't a lot here to horrify.  I'd be tempted to say there's nothing at all except for the occasional jump scare that is to horror what fart jokes are to comedy.  That being said, one of the only two is actually very well placed, so I should probably just applaud them for that.  Sadly, I can't for much else.  The drawing out of quiet moments for the sake of "building suspense" are almost Biblical in length.  There really is a difference between building suspense and just wasting everyone's time.  Coming in at just over an hour and a half, this film is padded out like crazy with many such scenes that go nowhere.

And yes, there are some shots with the doll that look creepy, but the film holds onto them for way too long. For the first ten seconds it's somewhat disquieting, but after that you're just wasting time.

The pacing, too, is completely off its nut.  It's really like watching an episode of Sliders.  At one point, Greta's doing something and then is speaking to the family's grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans) in the next scene, and it casually gets mentioned that she's been in the house a week.  When? And why did things of the creepy vibe not start happening beforehand?

And, again as I said before, I was able to discern the plot's twist ending based on the first ten minutes.  Without wishing to spoil it...I won't say that it's ripping off Friday the 13th Part 2, but The Boy would be very quickly seen doing its best to mirror its footsteps as closely as possible if you see what I mean.  It really just feels like something that could have used a few more rewrites.  The acting is actually pretty good, particularly from Cohan who has several moments where she shines. But it's just not enough to save the movie.

Its riddled with plot holes and clichés to no end, and the moments that don't have them are just very, very slow - lots and lots of build up with minimal to no payoff. The feeling is like its trying to go for a classic horror feel but without actually having anything scary to actually bring to the table, as well as doing a paint by numbers version of several different subgenres of horror, but without doing anything that makes those genres good.  Indeed, even the jump scares seem like an afterthought just to help keep the audience awake more than to actually startle them.

Ultimately, not very scary, moderately creepy. It has a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason, folks!

The Boy is now in theaters from Lakeshore Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, and STX Entertainment.

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fallout 4"

The last time we journeyed into the Wasteland was my retrospective of the third one about two years and some change ago.  Chronologically, however, New Vegas holds the record for the last time I stepped into the world of Fallout upon release dates and after a bunch of nonsense involving a hoax website and more hype than the hypest hype tree to ever hype around hype, Fallout 4 has finally come to our attentions like the glorious second coming of Christ.

...and it's pretty alright.

Undeniably flawed, but it's definitely not bad.

To get the story - such as it is - out of the way, you are a former soldier in the United States military who was selected by Vault-Tec to be a resident inside Vault 111 in the wholesome and wondrous land of Boston.  Sadly, you didn't get picked for the Vault that has all its entertainment tapes removed save for those of the Dropkick Murphys, but instead end up going the Captain America route and chilling out for a while in a cryogenic pod.  Then you inexplicably wake up just as a man in serious need of facial reconstruction shows up and puts a bullet between your wife's eyes before stealing your baby, then you get put on ice again before making another inexplicable awakening and decide to avenge your dead wife and track down your son.

What I will say to Fallout 4's credit is that the customization options for both you and your spouse are so diverse that it's coconut and banana sandwich crazy and does help to add a little bit more of a feeling of ownership over your character.  And indeed, even if you don't play the opposite gender, your customization options still stick and I was admittedly more motivated to pursue Scarface once he had killed Jennifer Lawrence and I had to go track him down to retrieve the roof that I had indeed tapped that.

Thus begins your journey to retrieve your son...which will very easily get buried under hours and hours of sidequests as sandboxes are wont to bury their players beneath.  But Bethesda has anticipated this and has set the player up to fall into one of the several factions that are leading the Commonwealth.  If you play nice and go along the path that Bethesda sets for you, the first you'll run into is the Minutemen.  That is to say, one guy who is a Minuteman and a bunch of refugees he's running around with, who decide after you kill off a bunch of Raiders and a freaking Deathclaw for them to head back to your home neighborhood and set up a settlement.

The other three are, in order of how much of an evil bastard you are: the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel, and the Institute. Oh, wait. Nevermind. Just the Brotherhood and the Institute for evil bastardhood.  Apparently Bethesda took into account the fact that there were decidedly few options for factions in Fallout 3 and decided to take the route New Vegas did. Unlike New Vegas, there's a little less reason to completely throw out any one faction to join, since it is admittedly a little more morally gray...well, except for the one faction that is so goody two-shoes that it hurts. I could really write a whole segment on just the factions and the different choices, and indeed I probably will sometime in the future.

Now as I set up a paragraph ago, we come to the settlement system, something which plays into every questline save for the Institute.  Taking a cue from Hearthfire, Bethesda decided to not only give you the option of building your own home, but to also help build and grow entire settlements, each one needing the basic necessities of food, water, and defense.  This can be done by getting a settler to harvest crops that either are naturally occurring or that you've planted, creating water pumps and purifiers, and making turrets. There's also the need for beds and then a smorgasbord of other handy little additions that aren't necessary but can add some aesthetic appeal. And if you bring in new people, you have to add more of each of these things and occasionally even have to build something unique or go and defend a specific settlement if you've failed to make a good defense for it.

Which, of course, brings us to the crafting mechanic and by far what is the most utterly tiresome about this game.  In previous Bethesda games, there was a bunch of junk that had been loving programmed into the games that was either worthless or worth so little that there was no point cluttering your inventory with them.  Now, however, everything has some kind of value with crafting - more so if you get perks from level ups that will help you scavenge even more of them from certain objects. It becomes nightmarish when you get to the point of upgrading your weapons, armor, or Power Armor and have to stop and go rooting around for a few more helpings of adhesive.

Speaking of Power Armor, I have some mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, I do like how it's almost an alternate mode rather than just another outfit as it was in previous games, giving the player increased durability and yet another insane set of customization options that really help them to make it theirs. On the opposite hands, I do really see where people are coming from when they say getting the first suit early is astoundingly cheap and throwing it in right before a fight with a Deathclaw almost feels as though Bethesda was just trying to throw in as much Fallout-y-ness as they could in the first hour or so of gameplay with little regard otherwise.

In Fallout 3, getting Power Armor was a journey and a reward for getting far enough in the questline to earn the perk necessarily to use it (unless you just did Operation: Anchorage, in which case, fuck you). Even in New Vegas, you still had to go through quite a bit to get a full working suit of Power Armor that you could use (unless you went with the NCR set, in which case, ha ha! You're a dork!).  In Fallout 4...you get it, pop in a Fusion Core, and get to work in the killing.  Also, Power Cores are not as much as balance as Bethesda has led us to believe, since you're basically drowning in them if you simply go rooting around through some places and that's not even counting the perks that make each individual Core last longer.

I know by this point, if you haven't already stopped reading because of the lack of attention span that everyone who uses the internet has, that people are wanting me to stop dancing around the elephant in the room.  The dialogue options are absolutely atrocious and are the absolute worst part of this game bar none.  In previous games, when in dialogue with most NPCs, you were more often than not given a variety of options to work with via a list.  Immersion breaking? Maybe, but it allowed you to add a little bit of personality to your silent protagonist.  Now, however, your character is fully voiced and is given a Mass Effect/Dragon Age style interface that gives you either an option to say "yes", an option to say "yes", an option to ask for more information, and an option to say "yes", but in a sarcastic manner.

Look, Bethesda, I get it. You want to be like Bioware.  Let's be honest, who wouldn't? They're known for creating fascinating worlds that are filled with well-written and well-developed characters that are beloved all over.  They're the only reason I'm buying any more Dragon Age games despite the fact that they're owned by EA, who I hate. Their dialogue options for player characters tend to be very varied and allow us to mold our character in various ways, even if they're in the vein of "Virtuous", "Snarky Twit", and "Asshole". But the fact was that those choices made some things different.  They gave choices.  All that the dialogue does in Fallout 4 does is make sure that the player gets set on the path to do whatever the game wants simply because that's what they're supposed to do with absolutely no transparency over the fact that that's what's happening.

I mean, I'm not saying I would, but what if I want to say "no" to a quest, put a bullet in the head of the quest-giver and wear their very fine jacket? That is freedom.  And yes, I know that certain bits of the questline must always happen, but previous games in the series have been able to give freedom and still managed to keep the plot going along.  Consider in New Vegas, where the player had multiple factions to choose from and could more or less switch around loyalties up to a certain point while doing quests that would effect their Reputation with other factions that could tip the scales in various ways.

Then again, Fallout 4 doesn't have a Reputation system. It also doesn't have a Karma system, which is utterly baffling considering even the additions to the series that didn't even get Fallout right managed to remember to do that.  Even if you end up siding with the obviously not on the level Institute, there's very little effect on how the world interacts with you.  What it will have some effect on is your companions.  In a move that Bethesda made to be more like Bioware and actually succeeded somewhat is in the companions.  In the previous Fallout games run by Bethesda, your companions reacted to your based on your Karma or Reputation.  Since those are gone now, companions instead have their own personality quirks that must be adhered to gain points towards "like" or "love" and avoid "dislike" or "hate" or risk losing them.

Again, very Dragon Age, and it is applied well here.  The companions are all very well written, having their own personalities and even their own personal quests to tackle for further adoration, loathing, and even romance for certain ones.  Friendships also come with their own perks, and it's worth it to go and collect all of them.

All that considered, there's really not that much to say.  I do like Fallout 4, but it really isn't enough to keep me from denying the flaws.  The dialogue options are ridiculous and keep you on the plot railroad in a sandbox game, the crafting is nice and involving but rustling around for those last few bits of adhesive is an astounding pain in my ass, and the lack of the Karma system doesn't really give any feeling of responsibility or weight to any of your choices outside of a handful of interactions. I do like how the combat has changed (V.A.T.S. now actually forcing the player to stay involved rather than freezing everything around them) and the customization options are astounding for just about everything you're allowed to customize from your character to your settlements to your Power Armor.

This is really a game where you can make it your own.  It's just a shame that it took away from the RPG elements that really make Fallout games good.

Fallout 4 is now available from Bethesda and Bethesda Game Studios for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

MadCap's Comic Reviews - "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers #0"

Say what you will about the early 2000s - thanks, I will!  They didn't have this and thus the childhoods of every single millennial who was born and raised in such a decade is has had an infinitely more terrible life experience because this wasn't on their radar.  Granted, when the original show first aired, I was all of two, but I caught on quick to the hype due to the fact I had a television set and minimal interference in what was on it, so by the time I was able to adjust my eyes to the bright colors and the preachy morality, I was entranced by the five (or six) teenagers with attitude (or not so much, as it turned out) who fought the evil forces of stock footage. I am speaking, of course, of the work of television genius that is...Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills.

...yeah, even I found that joke dated, sorry.

The show goes like this: 10,000 years ago, a sorceress by the name of Rita Repulsa got her ass handed to her by a wizard named Zordon, but not before he was sealed in a jar and only his head was left visible.  In the present that is 1993, she is released by some astronauts and Zordon decides to recruit "five overbearing and overemotional humans" (as opposed to the oft repeated "teenagers with attitude") to fight her and her evil forces instead of, say, alerting Earth's military or recruiting the five greatest martial artists alive.

Needless to say, for a show that was made from the stock footage from a Japanese show (Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger for anyone who has the remotest bit of interest), it was received astoundingly well and become a worldwide phenomenon that continues to this day.  But in looking back on the original show...well, it's just not that good.  The plots are generally boring and predictable, the characters are broad stereotypes stretched so thin that they're almost transparent, and the acting is something that makes Sliders post Season 3 look worthy of Emmys.

And yes, to be fair, it did get better later, but much of that is due to an event that is the focal point of this comic...or, rather, this comic is the aftermath of that event.

In the first season, Zordon recruited five teenagers with attitude - Jason, Trini, Zack, Billy, and Kimberly with their respective Ranger colors of red, yellow, black, blue, and pink. Throughout the first season, they faced some utterly ridiculous plots and monsters, but always managed to win by the end of the adventure because that's how it went...until one day...

They were all of them, deceived...for another Power Coin was made.

Enter the Green Ranger.  The show did a five part episode known as "Green with Evil".  It's insane to think of a five-part epic, but that is most certainly what it was, and it's one of the few things about the show that isn't held onto fondly just because of its nostalgia.  It was genuinely good and still, mostly, holds up. Rita captured and brainwashed Tommy, the new kid in the town of Angel Grove and brainwashed him to be evil.

It was genuinely intense as, for the first few parts of the story, Tommy is able to completely decimate the Rangers on his own, something that none of Rita's monsters had been able to do beforehand. And once teamed up with her generals, he was even able to wreck the Megazord and send the Rangers scrambling for cover.  While, in the end, the Rangers did actually succeed in breaking the mind control and adding Tommy to the team, it was not without its struggle, but it was probably the first genuinely hard-won victory the team had ever had.

...sadly, once Tommy joined, there was actually little in the way of aftermath.  No deep contemplation about his powers coming from a source of deep evil or suffering with the knowledge that he had hurt so many as the Green Ranger...but then it is just a kid's show, right? We can't really go into such things on a show made for a younger audience without scarring the poor darlings.

We have comic books for that!

And thus we come, after a ridiculously long time, to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers #0 by Boom Studios.  Set right after the Green With Evil 5-parter, it seems that Tommy is suffering some PTSD that takes the form of nightmares of his time as a minion of evil, as well as an illusory form of Rita that follows him around and taunts him that he is so much less than he was before when he was evil.  It's actually very much akin to the taunting he received at the end of "Green No More"...but that's getting way too off-topic (not that I haven't been).

This gets to such a point for him that, during a fight against a monster, he locks up and can't deliver a final blow...though the team eventually wins without Tommy dying for the mistake, since dying from being crushed by a monster while Madonna's ghost haunts you is a really, really embarassing way to go. They go back and Jason snaps at Tommy before Zordon teaches them the true meaning of teamwork...or whatever. It basically follows the same structure as the plot of an episode, albeit with Tommy's admittedly rather dark PTSD episodes thrown in.  Light in tone, yes, but hinting at more as time goes on.

The art style is a bit anime for the facial structure and body types, something that I would have normally been put off by, but the expressions are not over the top and for the most part everything looks fairly proportionate save for when they're in the Ranger suits and for some reason they have to look all muscle-y, which wasn't how they looked on the show at all.

Angel Grove also apparently has slid ahead in the timeline and so things like e-mail blasts and cell phones with texting ability exist within the world of 1993...something which doesn't quite fit, but then Power Rangers series rather, if ever, give an indication of an exact year of where they're set, so I guess we can add at least a little elastic to our suspension of disbelief.

So, if you're high on nostalgia, like I was, go for it.  If you're wanting a good comic to read to pass the time, you could do a lost worse. Especially for a comic book adaptation.  So, if you haven't picked it up (I recommend Thing From Another World, who will mail them right to you) already, do so. And may the Power protect you.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers #0 is now available from Boom Studios wherever fine comic books are sold.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MadCap's Trailer Reactions - "Suicide Squad"

So...Suicide Squad, the DC universe's answer to Marvel's Thunderbolts and likely one of the more well-known teams in the DC Universe. Why? Because they're bad guys.  And DC is known for, if nothing else, putting their bad guys front and center.  That's the reason why their poster child is a borderline psychopathic nutjob who runs around in leather and beats the snot out of the criminal element of the city of not-Boston.

You may recall that this is not my first go around with DC'S Cream of the Crop for Baddies, that came a bit ago  when I reviewed Batman: Assault on Arkham.  And it was good.  It suffered from having too much focus on Batman, that is to say any focus on Batman, but it was overall very good and stood very well on its own as an animated feature.  Though I'd expect nothing less from the DC Animated products, they've dominated that market for many years in a way that Marvel just can't manage to scratch with their own, regardless of how good Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man were (yes, yes, and the 90s X-Men cartoon, don't stone me to death).

To get back on topic, however, the first official trailer got released and...it's trying way, way too hard to be Guardians of the Galaxy.  With a full blast of "Bohemian Rhapsody" as we get introduced to an all-star cast of B-List DC villains...and Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie, sans accent).  It highlights the main problem I have with what DC is doing in the post-Christopher Nolan's Batman world: introducing a bunch of characters as though we've already known them.  They're doing it in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Whatever with the Dark Knight himself and now they're doing it here with a bunch of baddies.

The Marvel movies have worked because they take the time and effort to establish their heroes before throwing them into a big crossover event so that we know who in the sphincter of Hell they are when they do.  And before anyone gets in touch to tell me that Guardians did the same thing, I'll remind you that Guardians actually bothered to set up and define the characters of a team relatively unknown to the general public and they managed to make it a monster hit.  And it was in a team film.  At least with Batman he has several previous films of establishment.  Quick, let's do a little exercise. Without having to Wikipedia it, I want you to post in the comments who Rick Flag is for me.

Go on.  Do it.

Mind you, while I find that it's rather pretentious of them to be using Queen in their trailer and while I really still question the fact that Ben Affleck is in this movie (or any movie as Batman, which brings up my fears of a repeat of the animated film what with Joker being involved as well), I have to admit that I am interested to see what they do with it.  I admit, I do like what I'm seeing visually, it looks like a good movie - kind of like my idea of a superhero version of Goodfellas that Sony was going to try and push with that Sinister Six film before Spidey ended up back in Marvel's pen. In truth, it's the first DC product I have had any sort of interest in or excitement from since Justice League Unlimited went off the air.

...how long ago was that? Nevermind.

But yes, maybe I'm being cynical.  Maybe Suicide Squad will prove to be the monster hit that nobody expected and DC will finally have a dog in the fight that is the comic book movie.  Perhaps it will replace Guardians as my favorite science-fiction underdog movi-yeah, reality isn't going to bend that far, DC...

Suicide Squad is due to be released in theaters on August 5, 2016 from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures.

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Best Games of 2015"

Well, I was going to do this last week, but I'm afraid the first week of my current college semester had happened. Yay. Plus side, I might do something crazy like actual reviews coming shortly...and in a new format, if I can help it. For now, however, let's have a look back at 2015 and the Top 5 best games of that year.

Why Top 5? Because my worst list only warranted 5 and I don't want to clean out my entire writing area from all the bile that shoots out when I review something positive. So, without further adieu or confusion about my current worrying medical condition, here's the cream of the crop out of things I've reviewed this year.

5. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Review is here

An oldie, but a goodie, this one remains one of my favorites from childhood and it holds up just as well as it did back in the day. It's a classic on the SNES and with good reason. The Yoshis and their trials and tribulations to return a small Italian baby to his family is epic and grand and given the traditional charm that one expects from a Nintendo game. Platforming goodness mixed with eating your enemies and pooping them out as projectiles (which are launched with an admittedly dodgy firing mechanic). There's nothing not to love, and it stands for me personally as one of the first games I've ever played with any seriousness and determination in terms of  working to see the actual ending, so I admit I do look back on it with no small amount of fondness, but it really stands up well on its own as a classic.

Really.

4. Shadows of Mordor

Review is here

Yes, I critiqued this game heavily for giving us boring generic space marine ranger #4077 with his tragic backstory of the dead family and having his essence fused with an elven wraith. Yes, I raged about the ridiculous amount of loading times even if they weren't particularly long due to the fact they weren't showing things of enough quality or magnitude every time my character coughed. But what this game absolutely excelled at was the insanely visceral feel of the combat. Ranger McFrownypants had been taking lessons from the Batman: Arkham Asylum school of how to be a complete and utter badass and they showed their work in the best possible way.  Given my usual preference for story over the spectacle of game mechanics, Shadows of Mordor stands as a rare anomaly where the combat and mechanics are actually far more exciting to me than anything the story itself brought up.

3. Crazy Taxi

Review is here

I can hear you now. "Madcap, you complete and utter insane asylum MVP! A driving game made your top 5 list?!" That's right, readers and I can hear your minds being blown from here. Yes, I really did enjoy Crazy Taxi and I made it as such clear in my review. The game gives you the right amount of freedom, but also restricts you within reasonable means. Your taxi is indestructible, but you're still bound by at least some laws of physics (however flimsy) that allow you to perform insane trick stunts and allow you to go about however you decide to do so through Not-San Francisco chalking up points and that sweet, sweet cash. To say this game is a treasure is underselling it, it's pure...well, crazy fun.

2. Dragon Age: Inquisition


Review is here

Bringing back the feel of Dragon Age: Origins would have been a difficult task for any game developer, but Bioware was not one to quit after their second entry and the series that really would have been a spin-off if not for the ending, and brought us Dragon Age: Inquisition, which did even more by upping the stakes from the original and giving us an apocalyptic quest with heavy weight to it all. A gold star to Bioware and a shame to EA for their ridiculous business practices in not releasing the DLC to Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 players.

...of course, I say this having gotten the GOTY edition for new Playstation 4. Just when I think I'm out...

And the number one game of 2015 is...
Drum roll, please!

...

1. Far Cry 4

Review is here

...I am riding on an elephant...firing a machine gun.

There is nothing else you need to know about this game. Go and play it.

No, no. Not me play. U-Play. I mean, wait, no! Don't...don't do that.

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

Friday, January 1, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Worst Games of 2015"

Oh, would you look at that? Another year gone. And now, it's time for me to put up my customary lists of best and worst games of this the year 2015. Or rather, that the last year, 2015, since we're all sitting pretty in the brand new shiny year of 2016. Huzzah!

So, here's the worst simply because I like to start off my New Years' screaming like an angry psychopath about things I don't like. But enough about my family's lavish cocaine and meat cleaver parties, let's get on with the festivities.  This year, instead of a Top 10 list, you'll have to settle for a Top 5, because while I played more than enough games to make such lists, too many of them were good, so I had nothing I could really do, alas.


5. Dragon Ball Xenoverse - Resurrection of F

Review here

I liked Xenoverse. Quite a bit. I didn't care for the DLC packs. They barely had any substance and what they did have was sadly very lacking.  A few additional characters and some items were nice, but with no story mode and a distinctive lack of Super Saiyan 3, Super Saiyan God and other transformation modes makes this...really rather disappointing.

4. Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Review here

How are you going to have a D&D game that is so boringly generic and lacking in any character customization? What the hell were you thinking Atari?  Not that I could expect anything better from Fourth Edition...

3. Grabbed By The Ghoulies

Review here

Rare's last dying gasp turned out to be a choked stranglehold beneath the feet of Microsoft.  There is a good game here, but it's completely ruined by a fear mechanic that serves no purpose, a camera you can't control, and a main character who you want to punch in his smug face.

Also, Jump Scares. Which are never not stupid.

2. Mummies Rising

Review here

Yeah, anyone who saw my review of this knew I'd have to say something.  Though I didn't honestly think it would get so high on my list, truth be told.  But as I went back to it for another review (or a re-review, if you will), I honestly can't find any redeeming qualities to it.  You can't see anything more than five feet in front out of you, you move slower than a senior citizen on a walker walking backwards through molasses up to their waist any time you attempt to turn or change direction.

And forget running, there is no running.

Coupled with the complete lack of originality or diversity with guns, I'm not really sure who it is that this is for. It's just really not good. At all. And I'm not saying that because it's a small little indie developer who has no talent whatsoever. I'm saying it because it's bad. Bad lighting, bad guns, bad controls. Just...bad.

And speaking of bad, bad, bad...

1. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Review here

Yeah, there are no redeeming qualities to this game. None. At all. It takes what was my favorite franchise as a child and projectile shits on it at every turn. The fact that this game exists is affront to anyone who had any love of Banjo-Kazooie or Banjo-Tooie. I'd almost argue that it's an affront to the very fabric of creation itself. Everything this game can get wrong, it does. It insults the fans of the series, it smothers the likability of the main characters, much less the several others we've come to know and love through the series.  There is really no way I can even look at this game without wanting to invite every single form of destruction that I could visit upon it.

It's right up there with Halloween II in terms of the terrible, terrible things I would do that would never see the ramifications of legal action. Because five minutes into playing this, and pretty much everyone would immediately agree that I was completely justified. The crux of my entire defense would be pointing right at the tattered remains of the game disc and I'd get off Scott-free.

And all of that isn't even getting into how stupid it is to take a series that was so built around platforming and change it into a game about cars.  Cars.  And that's a very minor complaint in the grand scheme.  The fact was that Microsoft gave not one shit about the fans of the series who had so loved it and wanted the long-awaited third part of it to be good, and Rare was unable to deliver what they had in the past and are now simmering in the lowest depths of Kinect Hell for their trouble.

...which I'm pretty sure is just Hell.

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