Friday, July 22, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Pokemon Black and Blue"

Damn it, PETA, who let you near a computer again?!

Seriously, this is yet another instance of absolute and complete research failure on the part of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I am plenty for the ethical treatment of animals, but I also really, really like steak so I'm basically Hitler to PETA (though hey, it's the internet, so it's hardly the first time I've been called Hitler.

So yes, once again (thanks to the sharp uprising in series popularity thanks to Pokemon Go), we are thrown into the jowls of maniacal insanity that is PETA and their anvilicious quest to take Upton Sinclair's The Jungle to an ideological extreme that Lewis Carroll himself could not write something absurd enough to match. There is no joy, there is no humor - not unlike the last time we did a foray into the mind of madness. This is PETA using the thing guise of Pokemon to epouse their mission statement without any sort of subtlety or skill. It is shameless and nonsensical ramblings that strawman anyone who is a fan of the Pokemon series so intensely to almost make them seem more like Saturday Morning Cartoon villains than actual people.

The game begins with Pikachu, who you may remember from the last game, deciding that he has had it with all these fothermucking trainers ruining his fothermucking life and fights back against a Bizarro-universe version of Cheren - one of your rivals from Pokemon Black and White. Upon leaving, he takes Tepig with him and goes on a quest to free the good Pokemon of Unova from the cruel hands of trainers with the aid of Nurse Jenny - seemingly the only "good" human that exists in this universe.

The game mechanics haven't changed since the last game either, but then it follows on from how the Pokemon games themselves haven't changed in ever, so I won't rag on that point too much.

But again, what drags this down is the complete lack of attention that was paid to the morals that Pokemon tries to teach children, as well as a complete lack of humor and a sheer buffet table-worth of bad design choices and preachy moralities that leave anyone who plays this feeling disheartened or just plain pissed off that they wasted their time playing this crap.

And it is clear that someone at least played one of the games...or read the Wikipedia entries on it. Then again, maybe they just thought that Nintendo trying to brainwash into children the belief that Pokemon are just tools to be used for their whims and not living creatures that deserve their love and respect. I'm gonna go ahead and tell you, PETA...there's no subtext here. You're just a bunch of idiots. And idiots you have proven again to be.

Pokemon, ultimately, is all about how Pokemon are just as important as people, and that it's the bond between a trainer and his/her Pokemon that allows them to truly be great. Sure, there are people who will mistreat or misuse Pokemon, but through the games and the anime they are treated as the bad people.  Indeed, the one criminal group who claimed to be about the liberation of Pokemon...was headed by a man who really wanted all Pokemon for himself. As you actually pointed out in this game, when Ghetsis shows up and rants about how he'll use the skins and meats from Pokemon to feed the people of Unova.

Like I said in the review of the first one, the designs are awful and are so mean-spirited that they would almost be funny if it wasn't so sad. Professor Juniper looks like she just escaped from an asylum, frizzled hair and wielding a scalpel and a syringe in a menacing manner. Ghetsis wears a coat that is presumably stitched from Pokemon skins, and once more all the Pokemon look like they've just got off the set of an Eli Roth picture and haven't yet cleaned off the makeup.

The best part comes when you run into Ash. Yes, Ash. Ketchum. As in, the character from the anime who is not actually in the games (Red is completely different, being competent). The sheer madness and plain and simple disrespect for the franchise comes in Ash being portrayed as an uncaring, sociopathic jackass to Pikachu. Again, Pokemon's all about the bond that trainers and their Pokemon share, and Ash and Pikachu are the living example of that. Sure, they've butted heads over the years, but the two of them have stuck together through thick and thin ever since the Spearow attack in the anime's first episode, and there's nothing the two of them wouldn't do for one another.

Showing him like this...dressed up in a bizarre circus ringmaster get up of all things and wielding a whip and a bloodied bullhook is pretty much the death knell of any credibility you could have had in this, PETA. Not, after the first attempt, that you had any to begin with. You didn't actually care about making something enjoyable, you just made something preachy and ultimately rather boring. Really, like the first one, that's all this is - preachy and boring.

And apparently believing that Nintendo has some kind of cultist mentality to brainwash children into hating animals, which is absolutely insane for reasons that I've mentioned already.

So, for anyone who doesn't care to read all that: "0/10, too much water". For PETA, on the off chance that you ever read this (and I know you won't): go back to putting Pamela Anderson's boobs into faux leaf bras, because you suck - and I mean suuuuuuuuck - at making video games.

No, I'm not linking you to the game. If you want to play it, Google it. I have another steak to eat.

Can Nintendo go ahead and sue these people so they'll stop making these really, really bad games, please?

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

Friday, July 15, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Pokemon Go"

...I still have to wear a freaking hat?!

One of the few complains I have about Pokemon GO, a brand spanking new (as of a week ago) augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android.  And what a revolutionary concept it is, too! I never thought that I would not only be able to take Pokemon on the go despite this being a handheld series for many, many years, but also that I would have the privilege of traveling around the land to be the best like no one ever was by running around and stuffing animals into tiny balls.

My cynicism aside, I figured that - as a fan of the series since its inception in the 1990s - that I should do the decent thing and check it out. Thus, when the American release happened last week, I downloaded it. Within about twenty minutes, I worked out that there was little to no new innovation to the formula, which was not so much a problem for me as one might believe. I was introduced to the kindly Professor Willow (this time an man and not a female professor played by Alyson Hannigan) who let me pick a snazzy new outfit and a nickname (after going through several) before introducing me to the world of Pokemon. Cue the introductory monologue that any fan of the series knows and can probably recite in their sleep by now.

Except now, it's mobile! ...which it was already. Because that's how handhelds work.

Really, besides for the fact that your mobile phone uses GPS to coordinate your position and brings up random Pokemon according to your location, I'm not really sure what the appeal is.  Okay, you go around and see Pokemon in augmented reality. While it is cool to catch a Bulbasaur as it wanders ponderously through my hallway, I could just as easily put my Pokemon Red cartridge into my Game Boy color and start up a new game.

...yes, Bulbasaur is the best of the Gen One starters, considering he's useful at the first three Gyms and fills the Grass type slot wonderfully. I mean, I love Charizard as much as the next person, but Bulbasaur is awesome and deserves a little bit more appreciation.  But nah, you guys just go play with your fire lizard. Plebs.

And really, that's about all I can say for it besides the terrible server overloads and the GPS that can't actually track anything.  I've attempted to walk around both my home and the neighborhood around and occasionally got my avatar to face an entirely different direction.  I actually had to go around town itself in order to get any change of scenery, which was admittedly still not a lot.  My particular region is little more than forests, swamplands, and the coastline, and my generated map did indeed project the first of those three things...which sadly means a lovely variety of birds and bugs and little else besides the occasional Eevee.

Which brings me to the other problems with mobile gaming, and this one in particular.  Pokemon Go insists that you indeed go all over to find all assortments of lovely little 'Mons to stuff into tiny balls and train...which can be a hassle if you don't have a particularly robust or forgiving data plan. See, I'm one of the paranoid types that avoids using data like I've got the plague, so the thought of trying to do any of this without an internet connection is something that frightens the ever-living daylights out of me.

Another thing that frightens the ever living daylights out of me? The Teams system. At fifth level, you choose between one of three different teams - Valor, Instinct, and Mystic. Now, call me a cynic, but every time you get involved with a group with "Team" in the name in the Pokemon games, they tend to be a criminal organization that's trying to do naughty, evil things (and not even the fun kind unless they're Team Rocket).  However, for the sake of game mechanics I ended up choosing Mystic because I like the color blue. Do I feel any particular team loyalty? No. And the game doesn't really give me any real reason to, either.

And then, of course, there's microtransactions. And...as usual, there's no point in limiting the amount of fun or enjoyment a player can have by how much money they spend. Granted, the nature of mobile games is different than that of Triple A games, but it just amazes me that so many people (myself spmetimes included) that can be so easily suckered in by a business model that should have been laughed at by anyone who brought it up to people with common sense. For an industry that makes so much money off of lies and subterfuge (insert easy Aliens: Colonial Marines joke here), it seems odd that they would go with the minute "bleed 'em dry" model. It's not even like you're getting an extra area to run around in or more Pokemon to unlock.

Just...more Pokeballs.

That's not to say that Pokemon Go is bad. Far from it, in fact, it's a very interesting experiment and it shows that the Pokemon Company knows the lengths that fans will go to to get just a little bit more of their drug of choice.  And yes yes, I know new things are being added every day such as trading and battling between players and the like. Also, last I heard, Gen II Pokemon were on the way as well.  The problem is that I have to trick my brain into thinking this isn't a Beta...which it technically still is anyway, but I digress. Personally, while I'm a fan of the series as stated before, I think I'll just wait for Sun and Moon to come out closer to the end of the year. Until then, if you're up to the task, go out and be the best like no one ever was, and more power to you!

Next week is another Pokemon game...and it's something far, far worse than this...

Pokemon Go is now available for download on Android and iOS phones from The Pokemon Company and Niantic.

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Movies"

Hurrah for Hollywood!

I had actually meant to do this review a few months ago when Lionhead Studios was sadly closed down by Microsoft.  I know it was fun to poke at Peter Molyneux and his astounding ability to lie through his teeth but, unlike certain other individuals who are forever off my Christmas card list (as if I have one of those), it never seemed like he was going out of his way to save his own ass.  Say what you will about Lionhead - mostly that they were a company where reach exceeded grasp - but you can never say that their hearts weren't into everything they were doing.  And, as such, here is my tribute to them and all the joy and creativity they've brought us over the years.

Some paragraph smatterings on an internet blog that nobody reads!

The Movies came around in 2006 and was the first Lionhead game I ever played.  That's right! Before Fable or its sequels, I actually came across The Movies first, and its a good thing, too.  After all, how else would I have had the experience of building a film empire from the ground up without several hundred thousand dollars in start up money? Exactly, I wouldn't have.  And neither will you have, unless you put yourself in the chair of a Hollywood movie mogul.

Work from the 1920s and cast your stars, your extras, and get yourself a director.  Going through the main game will get you a lengthy tutorial that will explain your options in building up your studio. Starting from a single building where casting of your actors, directors, and extras is done, you get directed to build various sets - and you do have to have a variety thanks to a little thing called novelty value that will bring down the quality of your films if you overuse sets - and other fixtures within your studio lot.  Other fixtures including an area where scriptwriters can be tasked to make scripts based on genre (with random titles, often resulting in very humorous combinations), a laboratory where scientists can be hired to develop new technologies for film making, and even a post-production house where you can edit the completed films before releasing them to the general public.

And there is much more than that,. A lot more, in fact, but it would literally take me the length of several reviews to go over everything that you can add to your studio.  The basic tips I would give are this - 1) Make sure you keep your director to actor ratio at 1:3, that is one director for every three actors you have. This'll keep you from having too many of either and means that, if you do it right, you won't have anyone not working who doesn't need to be. 2) Make sure you keep an eye on your actors'/directors' stress and boredom levels. Don't over or under work them, or you're going to have a bad time dealing with their quirks of personality.

Yes, like many such games, you have to micromanage your actors and directors based on certain personality issues they have. One might be given to drinking, another might be given to overeating. You'll need to manage these in various ways, as well as deal with them when they occasionally get off the wagon either way.  And that's to say nothing of those the game will just throw you who have a bad temperament in general.

Also, tip number three - it never hurts to give your actors a bigger trailer. Never.

When I say I could go on for several reviews about the many facets of this game, it's very true. Lionhead clearly put a lot of work into creating and developing so much to be sure the players had a lot to do, but I could almost argue there's too much to do.  By that same token, it's not like you don't have the time in which to try out everything - the same starts in 1920 and goes on into infinity (though the technology stops in the early 2000s) - it's more of a question of space and is one of the few criticisms I can level against this game.

Granted, I'm sure part of the point is that you're only supposed to have so much space and you're supposed to tear down old and put up new buildings as time goes on, but your studio lots only have so much space and placing buildings on a grid can get rather persnickety when you're off by a single square and the entire building is denied.  Rather irritating, but it does force you to think about placement and more often than not forces you to make some hard choices about which buildings are more important to you in your desperate struggle to get to the top of the film mogul world and cement your position as a legend.  Give it a try if you get the chance.  At the time of this writing, you can pick it up on Amazon for about forty bucks, definitely worth the investment.

The Movies is now available for PC and Mac OS from Lionhead Studios and Activision.

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

Oh, right...there's also a "Stunts & Effects" expansion pack. It's not really notable beyond a few new stunts and effects, as well as making the camera free moving in certain scenes. That's it.

Friday, July 1, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Halo 2"

Halo 2.

It really needs no introduction, does it?

It was a mega hit coming off the coat tails of another mega hit that we touched upon before on this very blog. Basically, there was no way that this game could possibly fail...and yet, it did.

I will be entirely honest with all of you - I have fond nostalgia for this game.  This and the first Halo were two of the first FPSes I ever played. But at the same time, I temper my nostalgia with the knowledge that this represents the pinnacle of everything that Halo was.

Oh, yes.  It is, quite literally, all downhill from here.  Before anyone makes the comment, no, it's not just because of the lackluster cliffhanger of an ending, that itself is a symptom of a bigger problem. A problem that both you and I know by, ironically, a single word.  It is a word that stifles the creativity and imagination put into games. A word that almost always obliterates any hope of a good single player campaign. A word that kills dead the hardwork of the developers who work for hours upon hours to make a good story...only to have it slashed and resources taken in order to put work into it for their publisher to make a quick buck.

Multiplayer.

Specifically, the online multiplayer through Xbox Live.  The original Halo only had split-screen multiplayer (unless you had the PC version, anyway), but online multiplayer became a force to be reckoned with when this game came out.  And while, save for the ending, this doesn't ruin this game...Halo 2 basically started the trend of subscribed online multiplayer coming into mainstream popularity.

But as for the game itself...how does it hold up? Not too bad, given that I'm going by the original version and not the re-release (which, I'm told, has something to do with Halo 5's story that I could care less about).  The Master Chief has returned triumphantly to Earth along with Sergeant Johnson and a handful of the Pillar of Autumn's crew (despite Cortana saying there was "dust and echoes" left at the end of the first one). But now, along with the Chief's crazy antics as he tries to save Earth from an invading Covenant fleet and then follows said fleet, we have a new protagonist in the middle of things.

Enter the Arbiter, voiced by Keith David (FREAKING GOLIATH, EVERYBODY!).  Despite my enthusiasm at the choice of voice actor...I really don't care for the guy, or for trying to make it seem like the Covenant are good guys. While I enjoy the plotlines started in this and that carry over (to an extent) to Halo 3, it really wasn't all that necessary to forcibly switch our perspective to another character when we'd been following around and acting as the Master Chief for an entire game by this point.

All said, he has about the same number of missions as the Master Chief, and while I understand why they did this...it just wasn't necessary and ultimately only serves to pad out the game...which is embarrassingly short to begin with.  Even at the ripe young age of thirteen I managed to play out the entire single player campaign on Normal in a short marathon, compared to the longer time it took me to finish the first one.

Of course, I got it even worse with 3, but that's a tale for another time.

Also, because it is the elephant in the room, yes - the cliffhanger is awful and serves no purpose besides to create hype for Halo 3...which sucked, though it wasn't exactly because of the game itself, but I'll get to that when I actually do review Halo 3.  Needless to say, again, something that Bungie could have easily avoided if they chose to. And they chose to not.

As for the combat, its pretty enjoyable.  The gun variety isn't bad and dual wielding comes into play, which is never not fun.  Sadly, you can't fulfill my dream of dual-wielding shotguns, but I remain hopeful that I will one day see it realized considering we've seen ridiculous weapons in my reviews like Scrooge McDuck's pogo-stick cane or a Super Soaker filled with Holy Water.  That being said, dual wielding Needlers makes for being seriously OP and I think you should enjoy that, since it pretty much varies from here out on just how powerful Needlers are in the series.

Other than that, not too much to say. Like I said, I have a bit of nostalgia fondness for this game even if it began the bottomless quagmire that is Online Multiplayer, so I'm inclined to treat it with some kindness.  Kindness, alas, that I will not deliver unto the game that follows...

Halo 2 is now available from Bungie and Microsoft Gaming Studios for Xbox and Windows.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Doom" (2016)

...okay, Bethesda. Id. I'll bite. Why could you not come up with a title for this one? I mean "Doom"? Just going back to bare basics, I guess, seeing that it's a reboot (or, depending on who you ask, isn't). If it's a reboot, then I guess that's fine, but if it's not, you're recycling the title and everyone will once again have to specify that they're talking about the Doom from 2016 rather than the original one (which I've also reviewed, by the way). Still, that's a minor complaint and something that can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

What really can't be looked over...is the cover. It's generic. It's lazy. Just a static shot of the Doom Guy in his updated armor for this game. It's gone to the point of being an internet meme with people replacing the title with half a dozen other franchises ranging from the most obvious to the bizarre, just showing how hilariously simple it is to mock. And before someone says it isn't an issue, look back at that review that I shamelessly linked into this one for page clicks and look at the cover art of the original Doom.  Doesn't it look so much cooler? Doom Guy surrounded by demons and filling as many of them as he can with lead while they all reach up to try and drag them to Hell.

It immediately gets the attention and draws prospective players in, making them want to buy it.  But this? This is just lazy. It speaks to just completely having stopped caring at all and springing for the generic gold metal.

Pity then that it's not reflective of the rest of the game at all, because the game is actually pretty good.

The plot is very similar to the original Doom in that there's a portal to Hell that's been opened on Mars and some serious shit is going down as a result that you have to stop.  And how do you do this? Well, as I said in my review of the original - "Guns." And guns you get, having the usual tasty variety from the original.  After apparently having pulled a Rip van Wrinkle in Hell for a while (thus providing my confusion as to whether you're the original Doom Guy or a newbie - I've been told both by multiple sources), Doom Guy is up and at it again in a Martian facility that has been completely overrun by the Army of Darkness.

...yeah, I wish it was that one.

Combat is actually very involving, and enemies can swarm you very quickly even on the Normal difficulty, which I am happy to admit I did play on. In such situations, it can get both fusterclucky and very, very fast-paced, I found my heart racing at certain points in on the lower difficulty setting. I can hardly imagine how much of a heart attack Nightmare would have given me. The Glory Kills as well - pre-rendered sequences in which Doom Guy seeks to rip and tear the guys of his foes - are astoundingly visceral and gory as all get out, which lends itself to the reputation the series has garnered for its uber-violence.

I admit and I have admitted several times in my reviews that I am not really a First Person Shooter person. I have played several games in the genre, most notably the Halo series up to the point where the third one threw off my understanding of the plot and thus my interest, but I'd hardly call myself skilled at it. So, coming from my perspective, is this game good? Yes. It's definitely different from my usual benchmark for shooters (as I've been told, not a great benchmark, but it's subjective), with a difficulty curve straight out of Hell itself.

I really can't sit and play it (yes, even on Normal) for more than perhaps an hour before I get too wound up to play. Any time that enemies are attacking, I find myself panicked and firing with reckless abandon (which I can do with the pistol thanks to unlimited ammo and no reload time) and I am unable to enjoy the environments that Id has so carefully designed.

...which, by the way, I had to actually turn up my gamma to see. Seriously, after the first cutscene I found myself fighting in near-complete darkness with only the occasional realization that I'd actually been hit by something. Mind you, this wasn't a problem once I'd actually left that room, but it's important to note enough. There's a difference in creating horror between "something I can't see" and "I can't see a freaking thing!", this falling into the latter category and thus not creating a horrifying atmosphere in the least.

So, for what it is meant to do, it does good. For once, I'd say don't judge a book by it's cover and give it a shot. Some gamers who cut their teeth on more recent shooters may be a little off-put by the pace that will definitely not see you ducking behind cover to manage the hordes of Hell, but otherwise it's what Doom is known for.  The original FPS is back to school everybody once more.

...oh, and then John was a zombie.

Doom (2016) is now available from id Software and Bethesda Softworks for Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

This review is based on the Playstation 4 version.

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Avengers Grimm" (2015)


No. Just no.

...


...what exactly were you expecting from the people who made Sharknado? Don't see this movie. Burn every copy. Giggle as you dance around in the ashes.


Avengers Grimm is distributed by the Asylum. Don't watch it.

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Marvel Puzzle Quest"

Okay, let me be honest here. I hate match three games. I just do.  I have bad memories of playing Bejeweled as a child and never getting it quite right. seeing all those multicolored shapes sitting there, judging me, juking back into place with mocking laughter whenever I didn't actually managed to match three, telling me I was never good enough and that my old man left me when I was a child because I was a completely useless pile of human waste who would never amount to anythi-

...okay, I may have issues that don't actually relate to match three games themselves. In all honesty, I have no real appreciation for the genre.  Puzzle games have never really been my forte in the past. However, one of my dear friends (Cassie, for those of you who follow my Tales from Tabletop posts) told me that I would enjoy this game simply for the Marvel aesthetic, knowing full well what side my bread was buttered on in terms of comic book preferences.

And, give her credit, she was right.  I was suckered in by the Marvel aesthetic.

Marvel Entertainment, D3 Publisher, and Demiurge Studios have come together to make something that is visually very beautiful.  There are new renderings of various Marvel heroes, villains, and others done with careful artistic precision that appear on various screens. The various shapes that fill the grid from which three are matched are very colorful and vibrant and it is quite satisfying to match three (or more) and watch them explode off the screen to damage the enemy team.

Each character has three abilities, each one corresponding to a specific color. They can be used when a certain amount of that color is gained to have various effects on the playing field, such as setting up a timer for a specific event, inflicting damage on an opponent, or stunning an opponent or opponents.  And your rewards for completing the various stages? Any number of things from the all important ISO-8 that levels up your heroes and villains, hero points that allow you to buy new slots, other items to support your team like boosts to increase damage or your stockpiles of a certain color in battle, and new comic book covers to both unlock new abilities for characters you have as well as brand new ones.

Also, on rare occasions, you can also pick up Team Ups that can be used just like regular hero/villain/other abilities, though only for one time and only from points gathered from their own special tile that resembles ol' Shell-Head's Arc Reactor.

Then, of course, comes the joys of strategies and planning out.  Anyone who has read my reviews for a long while knows that I'm a man's man, a courageous man who isn't afraid to pick up a broadsword and go charging headlong at my enemies screaming "FREEDOM!" which admittedly does not leave much room for the strategic mind.  While some fights can be very easily taken care of with minimal effort, some do actually require workarounds such as the use of boosts and other power ups.

So, all this considered...it's also a mobile game.  And mobile games are, by their nature, addictive.  As I mentioned before, you have to buy new slots for heroes using either Hero Points or from cold hard cash. It is definitely possible to play through the game and never spend a dime...but you'd have a very long, hard slog of it, particular due to the fact that awarded covers will be destroyed if they are not recruited or used within several days (usually 13 from the date of award).

Which, again, is to facilitate the microtransactions. Which I'm not a fan of.

However, I will say this game is good and I admit that I really do like it. Despite the problems with some leveling in the competitive circuit (yes, there's multiplayer and no, I don't care for it) and the events (yes, they have events, there is actually a storyline in the game that's basically a run off of Dark Reign from the comics, not much to tell here since you can pretty much ignore it), I find it very enjoyable. It isn't something one can sit and play for extended periods, but it isn't supposed to be. It's a nice little jaunt to fill some time between cradle to grave.

Just...remember the dangers of mobile gaming.  And remember what happens when you stare to long into the abyss an-oh, look! Captain Marvel cover! Woooooo!!!

Marvel Puzzle Quest is now available from Marvel Entertainment, D3 Publisher, and Demiurge Studios for iOS, Android, Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

This review is based on the Android version.

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