Monday, October 23, 2017

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Night of the Demons" (1988)

...and like that, you've seen what is literally the scariest thing about this film. The poster. That's it.

...

No, this is not the set up to a joke, I'm serious. "

Angela is having a party. Jason and Freddy are too scared to come...But you'll have a hell of a time" Har har har. My pimply, flabby white ass.

If my typed sarcasm was an indication, I am not a fan of this movie. I'm aware that it's a cult hit, and I'm frankly at a loss as to why. It's not particularly original despite its promises that are just lawyer friendly enough to avoid copyright infringement, it doesn't bring anything new to the genre (using just about every single haunted house and demonic possession trope), and it absolutely wreaks of the 1980s trying so, so desperately to die.

...probably so they can get out of this movie.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

MadCap's Comic Reviews - "Angel" #7: Time and Tide, Part Three

We now return to our Voyage of the Damned already in progress. When we last left our dynamic duo, Angel and Illyria, they were on a pirate boat in the past where Angelus and Darla had been sent - rather like Team Rocket - blasting off again. While Angel feared for future continuity, he and the depowered Elder God had greater worries, primarily the fact that they were on a boat that was not only under siege by pirates, but had a pest problem that was rapidly getting worse.

Friday, October 20, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb"

The adventure series of Indiana Jones needs no introduction, but I'm going to give one anyway because padding (truly, the greatest horror of all)! Indiana Jones was the brainchild of Steven Speilberg and George Lucas before the former stopped denying the stupider ideas of the latter. The first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was intended to be a homage to the old pulp adventure serials that the two had watched and enjoyed in their youth. In particular, the iconic look of Indiana Jones was inspired by Humphrey Bogart's outfit in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and that and other serials had a heavy influence on the plots of the original trilogy.

But where does The Emperor's Tomb come into play? Well, directly in canon before Temple of Doom, my personal favorite in the franchise. It's 1935 and Indy begins a trek through the jungles of Ceylon to - in the style of Raiders - recover an artifact. After making his way through a ruined temple, matching wits against ivory hunters, and dealing with a great white crocodile, Indiana does indeed manage to recover the artifact...which turns out, unlike the Idol of the Havitos...to be intrinsically important to yet another quest he finds himself on when a Chinese official and his lovely assistant arrive to inform him of - the search for the tomb of China's first sovereign Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. And thus, another epic adventure begins as Indiana travels from New York City to Prague to Istanbul to Hong Kong...and to Hell itself in his quest!

...well, one of them. Chinese got a lot of Hells.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From MadCap's Couch - Tales from the Darkside: "Ursa Minor"

Teddy Ruxpin strikes again!
Portrait of a family, a young couple -Richard and Joan - and their daughter, Susie, living in a happy home...or trying to, at least. Richard's got some problems with drinking and smoking, as well as a bum leg, and Joan is doing her best to make ends meet, working on her masters' degree and trying to make a better life for their daughter.

But there are good moments. Right now, it seems that Richard has gotten her a teddy bear for her birthday...although he doesn't recall giving her the gift in question. As time goes on, strange occurrences take place around Susie. A shattered flowerpot here...some very bear-like pawprints on the wall there...all of which Susie attributes to her teddy bear. At first to Joan's irritation...

Richard, of course, tells her not to worry. It's just a phase that little girls go through, and Susie will soon grow out of it. Nevertheless, he consents to trying to dissuade her from that train of thought with a bear rug. After an argument with Richard and going to bed later in the night (following a waltz into Susie's room where Joan just misses the bear's eyes glowing blood red), Joan wakes up to find Susie in the kitchen...with Teddy, and a bowl of split porridge, and begins to believe that there may indeed be something to her stories about the bear.

After all, Susie couldn't have made porridge on her own...

Monday, October 16, 2017

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987)

I'm standing in the night alone
forever together
OHH!!!
With the Dream Warriors
don't wanna dream no more
With the Dream Warriors
and maybe tonight
Maybe tonight, you'll be gone!

I'll go ahead and preface this with the following statement: this is my second favorite film in the franchise after 2. Yes, that's after Freddy's Revenge. I like this film and Freddy's Revenge better than I do the original. While the original is a classic and people rightly love it and cherish it and celebrate it, Freddy's Revenge and Dream Warriors are the only sequels that actually tried to do something different with the franchise.

...besides New Nightmare, but we'll get to that.

Dream Warriors, however, also marks the point where Freddy Krueger made the sharp turn from being a terrifying menace...into being a joke that only was frightening because of his dream powers...and his puns.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

MadCap's Comic Reviews - "Angel" #6: Time and Tide Part Two

Okay, I know what you're thinking. "Hey, Madcap! The last time you did a comic that promised a prize fight, you became the laughing stock of the internet! Because at no point in that comic did either of the two people who were listed on the marquee ever in a fight and, in fact, only had one exchange in which they called each other douchebags!"

Well, I say, "Shut the hell up, voices in my head that compel me to shout random things onto the internet! I actually checked this comic and the title is, in fact, not a lie!"

...I'm secretly very lonely. If you're reading this, please send help.

Friday, October 13, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Scooby-Doo Mystery"

Scooby Dooby Doo
where are you?!

Yeah, you may not have wanted it in your head, but it's there now. Scooby-Doo has been one of the most surprisingly enduring fixtures in pop culture since...well, since it was first aired on television in 1969. From the creative minds at Hanna-Barbera, who were responsible for so many shows that are still fondly remembered even today, Scooby-Doo has been among many of those beloved shows. One may wonder why, but I really think the answer is simple.

It's one of the most adaptable things for the two main characters: Shaggy Rogers and Scoobert "Scooby" Doo. Why? Because they're both cowards, and everyone can relate to cowards, because that's absolutely how you would act in a situation.

And before you think that's not an endearing character trait, just remember that Falstaff was a coward.

...you guys do know who that is, right?

...because Yahtzee of Zero Punctation already once pointed that out?

Scooby Doo was a show that I was fortunate enough to get to know in it's original incarnation due to my parents having the VHS tapes of several old episodes of the 1969 series. It was great when I was a kid and I still love it to this day. There have been plenty of variations, spin-offs, and reboots over the years, but all the versions that are well remembered stick to the tried and true formula (with some variation in the case of things like Scooby Doo Mystery Inc.) of the original that pretty much everyone can relate to: some kids and their dog driving around in a van and solving mysteries.

...okay, that might not be the best way to word it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

From MadCap's Couch - "Tales from the Darkside: Anniversary Dinner"

Tales from the Darkside is a lot like other anthology shows like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits...in that it's an anthology show that uses horror or science fiction elements to tell a story. While most do have a horror edge, they don't really go for masquerading as a morality play like the previously mentioned shows. Sometimes...most of the time, really...Tales would use those elements and tell you a story that was, quite frankly, just plain fucked up.

"Happy Anniversary" is definitely an episode that is just that in a nutshell. However, it's even more chilling in the fact that it has no supernatural or science fiction elements whatsoever. It's a story that is so grounded in reality that it could be happening in your neck of the woods...or just down a few old country back roads.

Monday, October 9, 2017

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)

And now, continuing Horror Month 2017 in the only way we can! Covered in blood!

With surprisingly, little blood.

I admit, I'm not as big a fan of the Texas Chainsaw franchise as some. However, it is a landmark in the slasher film genre such as other films of the era like Black Christmas and Halloween. And, with the recent passing of its visionary director, Tobe Hooper, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to one of the directors who inspired other filmmakers to this very day.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Loot Crate Marvel Gear + Goods October 2017 - "Defenders!"


Defenders Defenestrate!!!

(It means to push out a window)

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

MadCap's Comic Reviews - "Angel" #5: Time and Tide, Part One

Angel is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, spun-off from another of my favorite TV shows of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Say what you will about the stigma around its creator, Joss Whedon, but the shows themselves are very solid works of fiction. If you want a very deep and intricate look at both shows, check out Passion of the Nerd on YouTube. At the time of this writing, he's been doing an episode guide and analysis on both shows and does a damn better job than I could in explaining things in deep detail.

However, for the sake of brevity, I'll give you only the details necessary for this particular quartet of issues I'm going to cover this month, Angel #5-8. In Angel, the titular vampire was once one of the most deranged, bloodthirsty monsters to walk the face of the Earth. However, he failed to follow the horror movie rule of "don't fuck with gypsies" and ended up being cursed with a soul...something the vampires of the Buffyverse (generally), do not have. Thus, he was doomed to remember every evil deed he had ever committed...and be weighed down under that guilt, suffering for all of eternity.

At least until 1999, when he left Buffy's supporting cast to go to LA. Getting together with a wise-cracking half-demon and Cordelia from the aforementioned parent series, Angel opened up a detective agency with the single goal of helping the helpless. Over five seasons, we were both introduced to and came to love a wonderful cast of characters, all of whom grew and develop during the series' tenure in a way that rivaled Buffy's, if not surpassed it's parent show.

Which brings us to where spoilers come in. So, with the final warning given, we begin.

Friday, October 6, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Resident Evil"


Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, how did this game series ever get off the ground?

That's not a set up to a joke, this game is legitimately just plain awful! And I don't mean that from the perspective of the time since it was released, I mean how was this good for 1996? The voice acting is the stuff of legend, despite every attempt to scary, it only manages to be startling (which is not the same thing), and the only real nemesis who will be doing their best to come at you and drag you into the bowels of Hell is the fixed camera placement.

And yes, the series did get better later. I know many people who still hold up Resident Evil 4 as a triumph and an excellent game.  But this? No. Just no.

The plot is simple - a police spec ops team has gone missing and the Beta Team gets sent to...

...what?

...oh, it's the Alpha Team getting sent in after the Beta Team. Way to play with my expectations, Capcom!

You get a choice between either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, two characters who have continued on into the series' various sequels and spin-offs. In this particular story, they are of the Alpha Team of the S.T.A.R.S. department of the Raccoon City Police. After a meeting with some wild dogs, they hole up in a mansion with their totally not evil boss Albert Wesker.

Oh, c'mon, this isn't a spoiler. The game is over twenty years old by now.

But as either Chris or Jill, you'll traverse the Mansion to eventually discover that it's nothing more than a front for the Umbrella Corporation's testing of the dreaded T-Virus, a biological nerve agent that brings forth zombies. This makes the original Japanese title "Biohazard" (which, ironically, would be used as the subtitle for RE's seventh game) make much, much more sense than "Resident Evil". Sadly, due to the inability to copyright, they had to come up with another title during the localization of the game.

Bang up job, guys! Well done. 10/10.

But this game's name is actually the least of its problems. As I stated above, you get a choice between either Jill or Chris. Jill has more inventory and better weapons, while Chris is heartier but has less inventory space and access to weapons. Who do you choose? I have no idea, mainly because your biggest concern isn't going to be inventory space or weapons (actually, they are, but I'll get to that in a minute), it's going to be the most dreaded, evil, insidious nemesis you can imagine. It is a foe so potent, so terrible and frightening that it turns the manliest of men into mice, shrivels testicles like raisins in the sun whenever it strikes, and makes you feel as bad as though you'd just jaywalked...and been given a croquet mallet to your groin for your trouble.

THE CAMERA!

Yeah. Fixed camera angles. Don't you just love spending hours trying to adjust to re-orienting your grip on the controls every single time you enter into a new room? No? Well, sucks for you, buddy! Trying to avoid a zombie while using a ridiculous key like the Eagle Crest to open a door? Too bad, you just turned a corner and, not thinking, ran right back into it.

And now you're dead.

You idiot.

I've seen defense of this mechanic, saying that it adds to the survival horror aspect. I disagree, mainly because the first word of that genre is "survival" and doing that while accidentally running back into a zombie that's trying to eat my face is the exact opposite of that. I'm not asking for some kind of "skip zombie" button or something, but my spatial orientation being thrown off every single time I enter a new room is just plain unacceptable. Call it a personal preference, but I hate it with a violent passion and all it does is heavily diminish the experience for me.

The game is a collect-o-thon, which isn't a bad thing as some make it out to be. You have to find certain items to progress through certain areas and that's fine. A bit weird that whoever created this mansion went out of their way to not only have a bunch of very unique locking systems and bizarre puzzles to lock rooms up instead of...y'know...locks and keys, but to each their own. Who knows? Maybe it makes more sense in the original Japanese.

Health pick ups come from herbs or a first-aid spray ported over from the Kanto region, which still do not get anywhere close to the awesomeness of booze being used in Shadows of the Damned.  Still, getting high instead of getting drunk as a healing tactic does have it's potential. Legalize it! With that, however, I have to address an issue that I've been dancing around: the inventory system. I'm conflicted on it, mainly because I understand why it is the way it is...but I still hate it.

Jill has more inventory space, and I suppose it's best to pick her ultimately because of all the things you have to carry. Sure, you'll likely die more as you try to get adjusted to the camera trying to murder you every time you walk through a door, but to hell with it, you may as well go out on your own terms.

And that's really all I can say about it. The voice acting is the stuff of legend, but then several localized products hold that distinction as I said before. But no, the first Resident Evil, at least, is not scary. Startling? Sure. Has a good story? I wouldn't go that far. It's playable, though even my usual rule of "play through anything once for the story" was very nearly shattered like a twig thanks to the god awful interface.

Resident Evil is brought to us by Capcom. Originally on Playstation, it is now on...many, many platforms.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

From MadCap's Couch - Tales from the Darkside: "Trick Or Treat"

Once upon a time, there was a movie called Creepshow. You might remember it as a horror anthology film in the vein of Tales from the Crypt and other 1950s horror comics. It was a hoot! And take a wild guess who produced it.

Go on, guess!

...Google's cheating, you know.

But yes, it's George Romero. Yes, that George Romero - may he rest in peace. Apparently, some Hollywood types wanted to make a series based on the concept, kind of following in the vein of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. However, because Warner Brothers owned enough of Creepshow for that to not be used, the producers decided to change the title of the series to Tales from the Darkside.

The series ran for four seasons from 1984 to 1988, with a Pilot movie airing in 1983...which is the one we're here to talk about.
"Just try and leave a flaming bag of crap on my doorstep, assholes!"
"Trick or Treat" is the pilot for Tales from the Darkside...and it's pretty good. Very flawed and not making any sense when you really stop and think about it, but it's a spooky little tale that would set the tone of the series...which it often didn't follow. Ironically, despite having a very atmospheric and somewhat chilling title sequence, and being executive produced by George Romero, Tales also did science fiction, comedy, and even a few romance episodes.

But horror is what we're here to talk about, and "Trick or Treat" is definitely a good one. It's the tale of an old man by the name of Gideon Hackles (Bernard Hughes). He is rude, callous, and more worried about his numbers and books than people and souls...even his own. He's the model of a miser to make Ebeneezer Scrooge before his fateful Christmas night look absolutely saintly by comparison.

Monday, October 2, 2017

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Friday the 13th Part 3" (1982)

...good grief, this movie.

So, 3-D is a stupid gimmick. There, I said it. It has been used all of once to any good effect in a film that had literally nothing else going for it. I am speaking, of course, of Robert Rodriguez's cinematic opus Shark Boy and Lava Girl. But we're not here to talk about that horror movie, we're here to talk about this horror movie. For the third entry in the Friday the 13th series, it was decided to take the series into full-on 3-D! Then Paramount decided the gimmick was stupid and decided not to do it ever again in the series until they sold it off to New Line.

But to catch up on the plot, Friday the 13th Part 3 picks up after the rather ambiguous ending to Part 2, wherein protagonist Ginny (Amy Steele) was being carted away by paramedics while crying out for Paul (John Furey) - a character whose fate is still debated by fans of the series to this day - and Jason seemingly having escaped.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MadCap's Mad Rantings - "Randy Pitchford and Why I Cannot By Anything by Gearbox"


9 minute of me beating the deadest of the dead horses, because while I get accused often of not letting it go...Randy Pitchford still hasn't four years on!

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

And for more videos on YouTube, check out MadCap's YouTube channel here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom"

...what the hell is it with Yu-Gi-Oh! games that have nothing to do with the actual Yu-Gi-Oh! card game?

No, seriously. This isn't a joke. What is it about the game that all of two of the games based on it that I've reviewed have anything to do with the actual card game? And only one of those games have actually gotten it right? For some reason, the thrilling fourteen episode-long card game matches are just not appealing enough to children of the early 2000s, and thus we come to yet another game The Falsebound Kingdom.

In the beginning, you get two protagonists to choose from - the two greatest super special awesome mega maxi awesome badass duelists ever to duel their way around a Duel Disk, Yugi Muto and Seto Kaiba. However, much like the end of Season 1 and the Virtual World arc in the anime, victory shall not be determined by bullshit main character powers to give them exactly the right card at exactly the right time...but by their skills in video games!

...actually, it's more like Capsule Monsters. Anyone remember that?

I mean, besides LittleKuriboh?

Trapped in the virtual world by the totally not evil Scott Irvine...who is definitely not being controlled by the evil DarkNite (who is totally not the dumb mask-wearing former Hogwarts roommate of Voldemort), either Yugi or Kaiba must gather together the greatest forces that they can muster in the form of the iconic monsters from the game. But rather than the traditional dueling, as was previously described, they put to use the monsters...in a style similar to Pokemon. But it's triple battles galore here, with Yugi, Kaiba, and all of their cartoon pals controlling up to three monsters in various scenarios.

And yes, the plots for both Yugi and Kaiba start out differently, but end up in the same endgame of fighting their way into the heart of the virtual world and facing Scott Irvine and DarkNite...and claiming either Silfer the Sky Dragon or Obelisk the Tormentor depending on which campaign you picked! But that's not even the fun part! Finishing one campaign is one thing. Finishing two campaigns is another...because then you unlock a special mini-campaign with Joey Wheeler as the lead!

...oh. Goodie. Joey. Because that's who we want to play as. Joey.

Beating Joey's game unlocks the Winged Dragon of Ra.

My Pokemon comparison isn't without merit. Beyond just the style of battle, the monsters have their hit points, attack and defense stats, and even action points. Monsters who have a color closer to the color of the character who commands them will be stronger as well, although a monster's color will change if they're used repeatedly by a certain character. Along with these, there are also RPG elements like settlement fortification, the characters working across a map in each scenario and either besieging or taking over fortresses of all sorts to fortify their position.

That's right, it's a real-time strategy game. My faaaaaaaaaaaavorite...

Seriously, can't I just challenge him to a children's card game?

Mechanically, the game isn't bad. It does what it sets out to do. But for the Yu-Gi-Oh! series, it just feels like an odd duck.  This is really the most not at all Yu-Gi-Oh! product that I've ever reviewed for the series thus far. It's understandable why it didn't get good reception upon release, IGN in particular only giving it a 3.5 out of 10.

While I respect what Konami was trying to do, I really don't understand why. It's not really for fans of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and making it exclusive only to the Gamecube couldn't have possibly helped matters, either. It's...an odd duck. Give it a different name, make it a new IP, it might have gone somewhere. As it stands, it's just...confusing.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom was developed and published by Konami.

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series" (Episode 3)

Sailin' away
on the crest of a wave
its like magic!

Rollin' and ridin'
slippin' and slidin'
its magic!

Episode 3 of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series - "More Than a Feeling" - continues on in the epic tale of the Guardians from a continuity that is not entirely discernible as they follow the trail given to them by the Eternity Forge in the last Episode. However, if the title card isn't an indication, the episode also deals with the relationship between Gamora and Nebula as well as their relationship with their adoptive father Thanos, much as Episode 2 focused on Rocket and his backstory.

However, this is blended together well with the quest for the mysterious voice that's been calling Peter Quill to the temple, as well as some explanation about the Eternity Forge from a source that will be very familiar to anyone who has seen Guaridans of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With the Kree still at their backs, the Guardians are split once they learned that taking the Forge to the temple where it was made can either empower it to bring back anyone who has ever died ever...or destroy it and keep its power from being used by less than appropriate hands.

Naturally, especially given both the backstory of Drax the Destroyer and the revelation about Rocket in the previous episode, the Guardians are effectively split down the middle as to what to do with it. Either way, because it's Telltale, the story has to progress...although, from the looks of the ending, your choices may very well matter for the first time ever. We'll have to wait until Episode 4 to see the full, if any effects...though I will admit, I should have seen the ending coming.

The flashbacks to Gamora and Nebula's last mission together do a lot to develop their characters in a similar way to how it did in Vol. 2. Depending on player actions (and, I'm happy to say, statistics show most people are not hilariously sociopathic), Quill can either help them mend that relationship or see it split apart.

On the whole, it's definitely not bad, but it suffers the same problems as the previous two episodes - namely the interface with point and click and the quick time events. Given that these are both hallmarks of Telltale, it's a little hard to call them criticisms, though I do find having to stumble around looking for the one thing I'm supposed to activate in a scene to become rather tiresome, and QTEs...well, there's a few anti-frustration features where only a few of them result in you having to restart a sequence, which is nice.

So, it's still somewhat irritating mechanically, but there was more substance to get me interested in the story again, which is really all I can ask for.

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, August 25, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Batman: Arkham Knight"

...so, remember when I reviewed video games? Fun times, right?

I joke. I've been hard at work in the real world with my job, though that doesn't mean I haven't been very active on Twitter. Which I have. One such activity has involved me mentioning various facets of this game, Batman: Arkham Knight...in particular, the Riddler's constant irritant, but I'll burn that bridge when I come to it. I've also been gearing up for October, wanting to make up for my absence of content with much, much more for Horror Month 2017...whether or not that manifests, we'll see in the October still to come.

But it's rather fortuitous that this is the game to get me back on track for game reviews, given that information, because Batman: Arkham Knight is a game all about fear. Batman himself needs no introduction, though the same cannot be entirely said for the main villain of the piece: Scarecrow. Jonathan Crane, a scientist who wanted to learn all there was to learn about fear, and the only individual in this or any comic book universe who is able to pronounce 'b's and 'p's without possessing any lips.

Truly, the greatest superpower of all.

But it seems that, on a Halloween night some nine months after the events of Arkham City, Scarecrow has issued a warning that Gotham will be gassed with a brand new form of his fear gas...and the entire city evacuates.

Overnight.

What a remarkable coincidence.

Of course, this evacuation has a simple reason: to keep the player from feeling like a total psychopath for charging around the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile. And yes, the Batmobile finally makes its appearance straight out of the Christopher Nolan films (depending on the skin you choose for it). And before anyone jumps down my gullet, the thing controls like ass!
OHHHH MY GAWD! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR FAAAAAAACE?!?!?!
I wouldn't mind it, expect Rocksteady was clearly very proud of this, putting in races, using it and puzzles, and bringing vehicular combat and it just...sucks. And that's a shame, really. Changing direction at high speeds is next to impossible, and the streets of Gotham can be very twisty at points. Eventually, you do adapt to it, but the gratitude you have for a "battle mode' to reorient yourself is lost when Firefly escapes for the fourth time and you know you'll have to eventually drench a firehouse and listen to Crispin Freeman mugging at you like a jackass yet again.

But the main story involves Batman trying to hunt down and stop Scarecrow's latest plot. However, it seems that he has a tag-along with him this time, the Joker as once more voiced by Mark Hamill. Much like the original Scarecrow sections in Arkham Asylum, the Joker's presence adds to the screwing with reality in several sections of the game as we're never completely clear for most of it if what Batman's perceiving is, in fact, real.

Also, as if the plot were not already lengthy and convoluted enough (and it is), Scarecrow is assisted in his endeavor by an army of hired guns led by the mysterious Arkham Knight. The Knight is an enigmatic figure who is both well trained and equipped, having a deep knowledge and hatred for Batman that has driven him to go to any leng-it's Jason Todd.

Yeah, no. It's Jason Todd. I really don't know who Rockstead thought they were going to fool on this one.

It's not even a particularly clever twist either, given how Batman can't figure it out even with the Joker basically spoonfeeding him flashbacks to Jason's torture and eventual "death" at his hands. World's greatest detective my pasty white rear! Though it's a little strange seeing as, unlike the DCEU films, I don't think the Arkham series has made even a passing mention to Jason Todd before this point. Correct me if I'm wrong but, like with Batman: The Animated Series in the 90's, I'd assumed that Jason had just been quietly swept under the rug.

The line of progression for Robins went from Dick Grayson (now Nightwing) and then to Tim Drake, and that was it. If he was mentioned, I don't remember it. Not that it's so much of a continuity issue and it's something I can look past. My main question is why they didn't just have him as Red Hood? It's not as if the "shocking twist" is actually that big of a deal, and the reason why he took the alias of the "Arkham Knight" is...kind of just ignored. The title could just as easily to refer to Batman himself and indeed could have just to keep the series naming convention.

Other than that, there isn't too much to say. It's fun to ride around Gotham and totally not send criminals to an early grave by vehicular manslaughter (they're just sleeping, honest!). It's irritating to have Riddler somehow having hacked into all of Gotham's loudspeakers being a man desperately beginning for someone to knee him multiple times in the groin. It's nice to get a final word on the Arkham Universe even if I think it's a little premature to call it quits after four games. Still, it's better to go out on top, and I would say that Arkham Knight is definitely that.

"Never ending Baaaaaaaatman! Da na na na, na na na, na na na! Batman!"
Arkham City would have likewise been a fine place to stop, but it didn't really feel like an ending. Just an ending to the long battle between the Batman and the Joker, and the realization of how they were two of a kind, in their own twisted way.

Knight gives more finality. It introduces and then wraps up the storyline for Jason Todd, lets Batman say goodbye to his sidekicks, supporting cast, and even his villains, as his final nigh...oh, yeah. Spoiler alert. Batman's identity gets revealed to the world by Scarecrow and he and Alfred potentially die.

Maybe.

It's unclear.

If you get the 100% ending, you get a weird bit where a demonic-looking Batman takes out two thugs in an alley...but I didn't get the 100% ending, seeing as the ending where Wayne Manor blows up makes more sense in my head.

Also, despite his compensation issues, if I ever go solving all of the Riddler's riddles, it'll be by accident. Like all the Arkham games and the Batman mythos in general, he's just...really, really annoying. Why Bats doesn't out gadget him and beat the snot out of him, rather than play his really rather stupid game is beyond me.

So, in short. Good game. The combat is good, the gadgets are as fun as ever. The story is even good, even though it's a hodgepodge of a bunch of different Batman stories across multiple forms of media, though that works in its favor rather than as a detraction. Rocksteady dug deep into Batman lore to bring up some many things that I thought would never see the light of day in a Batman game, such as Man-Bat. I'd even say it's the best of the series, with my only real complaints being the Batmobile and the sudden introduction and the hiding of the fact that Jason Todd is the Arkham Knight. Because...reasons?

Batman: Arkham Knight is now avai-

Oh...yeah. The racetracks.

Yeah, I'm not reviewing those. Batman does not do NASCAR.

Batman: Arkham Knight is now available from Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "The Last Starfighter" (1984)

So...let's talk about the ultimate video game nerd power fantasy film.

Because I, the MadCapMunchkin, am here to tell you that this film here is basically it.  I don't know about you, but it's the dream of every single video game nerd I know (myself included) to be told that you are so amazingly badass at playing video games that a group of aliens who made said video games want you to come from boring old Earth to their planet halfway across the galaxy to fight in an intergalactic war against a nigh-unstoppable foe who seeks to conquer or destroy all sentient life in the universe. And all you have to do is be blackmailed and guilted into it, and then eventually pick up your girlfriend that you so totally have and do the same to her in a never-ending cycle of shame and misery!

...wait a second. Let me start over.

The Last Starfighter is the tale of Alex Logan (Lance Guest), the assumed alias of Jimmy Lloyd after the terrible events of Halloween night of 1978 (the good version), now living in California in protective custody. However, this protection is not so restrictive that he can't spend time with his sort of sort of not girlfriend Maggie (Catherine May Stewart) or play his favorite (and only) arcade game in the trailer park Starfighter.  So what if he has no prospects at going to college? At least he'll always have video games.

But when Alex gets the high score on Starfighter, he finds himself kidnapped by a stylish con-man by the name of Centauri (Robert Preston) and pressed into the service of Rylan Star League as a Starfighter, which is apparently a very rare gift among the civilized societies of the known universe. So much so that there's only a handful of pilots and navigators to battle the dreaded Ko-Dan Armada and defend the planet of Rylos and the Frontier.

Why the Rylans themselves can't get into their Gunstars and go fight off the Armada is something they skillfully avoid mentioning.

But yes, thus begins an epic adventure as Alex must lean to actually pilot the real spacecraft and save the galaxy from the Ko-Dan and the dreaded Xur (Norman Snow). Xur, by the way, winning the award for least intimidating villain ever...except maybe when put up against Lisa from The Room. He hams it up and does practically nothing the entire film that is in any way remotely menacing. Even the Ko-Dan are wondering when they can get rid of him. He does have a really cool mace thing.

A few things before I dive into what I enjoy about this film - because, yes, I really, really love this movie - yes, it's a Star Wars-ripoff and yes, it's a Galaga rip-off. Neither of those things happen to be criticisms. It's a 1980s science-fiction film, of course it drew large amounts of inspiration from Star Wars. And it's one ship going up against an entire armada of other ships, Galaga. That being said, those don't detract from the film in the least.

What does kind of detract from the film is the fact that we're not actually given that much detail about the Rylans or the Star League or even their conflict with the Ko-Dan.  For things that are seemingly so very important, they're either glossed over or not mentioned at all. I will give it credit that the simplicity of it is realistic seeing as Alex isn't told all of this either, but we as the audience really know nothing about any of it beyond the fact that the Rylans say that the Ko-Dan and Xur are pure dang nasty evil.

In A New Hope, you get some exposition through the opening crawl and some dialogue between characters that set up the Empire almost from the jump as an incredibly evil, oppressive regime and we see our heroes have very clear reasons for fighting against that regime. With this movie...you're just told that and given vague mentions of a "dark betrayal" and just told to go with it. No real attempts at world-building, though we do see some very unique designs for the various alien types and both the Gunstars and the Ko-Dan ships.

The Frontier in particular is one of several special effect shots that honestly look really cool for the time. While the sets where the actors are is done by physical locations while the space scenes are done with early CGI. Cheesy by today's standards, sure, but in 1984 it was cutting edge.

However, the film isn't about paper-thin plots or outdated CGI. It's about Alex pushing himself beyond what he believes he's capable of an unlocking the hero within...after being emotionally blackmailed into doing so by various individuals, up to and including his own robotic duplicate (also played by Lance Guest). However, this does work and Alex does eventually step up to the plate after an attack by the Ko-Dan makes him...the Last Starfighter.

Despite the forced blackmail to do the right thing, the film is definitely a good one. Yes, we don't know much about what's going on, but Alex never learns it and I suppose that's realistic to his situation as a whole.Yes, it's outdated in terms of special effects, but it holds up better than most for a movie that's over thirty years old. I love it, and will be happy to watch it time and time again, until I'm battling evil in another dimension.

The Last Starfighter is brought to us by Lorimar Productions and Universal Pictures.

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

From MadCap's Couch - "Castlevania" (Season 1)

A show review? I thought that would never happen again after Netflix took off Sliders and I became far, far less than inclined to ever review Supernatural ever again. But it seems that just when I think I'm out, Netflix drags me back in with a Netflix original Castlevania series. Based on Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, but with an art style reminiscent of Symphony of the Night, my favorite game in the whole Castlevania series (that I've played)? I couldn't resist that, could I?

And now, four episodes later, I really, really wish I had.

Let me go ahead and get the things I like out of the way. The animation is phenomenal. It follows on from the art style of Symphony of the Night as I said before and it definitely shows. The voice acting is good. Beyond good, actually. Richard Armitage does a great voice for Trevor Belmont in particular, showing in the The Hobbit trilogy that he has the gravely voice that makes for an excellent vampire hunter.

And now...into some gripes.

The music is composed by Trevor Morris of Dragon Age: Inquisition fame and...none of it is memorable or indicative of Castlevania in any way. None of the music from the games is heard! At all! Though that may be because of the lack of truly awesome moments worth of epics like "Vampire Killer" or "Bloody Tears" as I'll get to in due course.

Another reason this is a full Season 1 review instead of the individual pieces? There are only four episodes as I mentioned above and they're all about twenty minutes a piece. It's bad when the Telltale Guardians of the Galaxy game I've reviewed the first two episodes of a few weeks ago have a greater length than four episodes of this. So, without further adieu...with spoilers to follow beyond this point.

Episode 1: "Witchbottle"
A young woman named Lisa is either brave or stupid enough to march into Dracula's castle in order to learn how to drop science. Sometime later, she's burned at the stake by the Catholic Church because we haven't seen enough of the Catholic Church being dicks in fiction.

Seriously, they've proven more than enough in reality that they aren't on the level. Let's make some new villains, screenwriters.

However, Dracula and Lisa were married and Dracula is understandably rather pissed about the fact that they burned his wife at the stake and...rather generously gives them a single year to leave the area or suffer a terrible fate. They don't, so he kills them all.

Or, if you don't want to read all that: The Catholic Church were dicks and Dracula did nothing wrong. Because, honestly, he didn't.

When Satan tells you to move or die, you move!

Episode 2: "Necropolis"
We are finally introduced to Trevor Belmont, a layabout drunk who runs around in clothing that bears his family crest. The Belmonts apparently having been exiled from Wallachia for reasons that don't exactly pan out because it's the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church are dicks.

Are you seeing a recurring theme here?

But this episode really highlights the main problem with the series as a whole - a lot of talking. A frankly outrageous amount of talking. I'm fully aware that exposition has to get out, but the show itself seems to be built up entirely around just getting out exposition.

The writer of Castlevania is Warren Ellis, who some of my readers will know for his comic book writing (particularly the "Extremis" storyline of Iron Man that was developed into Iron Man 3) and video game writing (Dead Space).  Was he just in a rush with this? If so, I find it hard to believe since this has been in development hell since around 2008.

C'mon, dude. You can do better than mountains and mountains of exposition. That would be like writing paragraph after paragraph of insane rants on an internet blog about geeky B.S. that nobody cares about! Who the hell would want to read that?!

But besides that first paragraph, the only actual thing that happens is Trevor getting to another town where he is given crap by the Church and given an ultimatum to leave, and meeting with a group called The Speakers after saving the Leader, eventually agreeing to enter the catacombs beneath the city to find their leader's granddaughter.

Episode 3: "Labyrinth"
Trevor enters the catacombs and finds a cyclops in what is literally the first Castlevania-esque moment since the first episode. It's a good fight and there had been a few action scenes before to solidify Trevor as a combat badass before, but this is literally the first one where he takes on a monster rather than another human.

Definitely have been getting a Castlevania: Colonial Marines vibe with all the human vs. human fights...

But yes, it's good even if it is surprisingly short. In slaying the cyclops, Trevor releases the Speakers' leader's granddaughter Sypha Belnades from being a stone statue for all eternity. And then, we descend into more talking about the Speakers and their missing "Lost Soldier" who is apparently the only one who will stop Dracula, before the Church starts to come down on the Speakers because of the lie that they're responsible for the plague of Dracula because witchcraft and not anything to do with Christian hypocrisy.

Once again. Anyone? Theme? Do you feel the anvil hitting your head yet?

Episode 4: "Monument"
And now we finally get to something even vaguely Castlevania related. It's here that the show actually shows that it could be something fantastic...and it's a fight between a bunch of townsfolk and demons after Trevor outs the Church for their part in Dracula's mass slaughter in Wallachia.

...at this point, I'll take what I can get.

And it's a good fight, using bits of Castlevania lore to their advantage such as the use of holy water and Sypha's magic. It's only after the fight that we get more and more into the games themselves as Trevor and Sypha have to navigate a deeper part of the catacombs in order to find the Lost Soldier...who is revealed to be Alucard, the son of Dracula and Lisa. What follows it a fantastically choreographed fight that shows Alucard to be a badass where it took Trevor four episodes...and I'm still not very convinced.

But in the end, yes, the three of them band together once Alucard is convinced of their intentions of killing Dracula. And...the season ends.

All that build up. All that exposition. All that distinctive lack of things Castlevania-y...and then it's over. Luckily, it has been renewed for a Second Season with eight episodes instead of just four, so we'll likely get more. Hopefully, they'll work on what has gone horribly not good for the first season as I've described here.

1. Cut down on the exposition. We don't need so much and we don't need to know everything right away and have it repeated over and over again.

2. More monster fights. We have all of two. And they're in the last episode. I don't know anyone who comes to Castlevania to see the Belmonts fight other humans.

3. MUSIC! I cannot stress what a big part of Castlevania that was completely left out of this and it's a major let-down. They were able to use the designs from Symphony of the Night and follow (for the most part) the story from Dracula's Curse, so why didn't the music make it in? Why? WHY?!

If you have Netflix and you want to get into it, go for it. Just be ready for more talking than there is actual monster hunting in a show that is based on a series of games that is literally all about monster hunting.

Castlevania is now on Netflix from Federator Studios, Powerhouse Animation Studios, and - of course - Netflix.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Ladyhawke" (1985)

If you're a new reader of my blog or you're completely unaware of the fact, I'm a big fan of the sword and sorcery genre, be it in films, books, video games, or whatever else have you. I'm also a big fan of Eighties movies and the cheesiness inherent in most of them. This film, Ladyhawke, has a great deal of the later with very little of the former. Oh, it certainly shows that it's from the Eighties what with a very out of place soundtrack that uses synthesizers in what should be a Medieval European setting, but it isn't as if the characters suddenly run into the band playing their instruments during a sequence or anything of the sort.

Also, for a sword and sorcery story...there isn't much sorcery.

Let me unpack this a bit. The tale takes place in the Middle Ages in that one area of France where everyone somehow has British accents. A thief by the name of Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick) is breaking out of an impossible to escape from prison, pursued by some guardsmen sent after him by the dreaded Bishop (John Wood), Philippe finds himself saved by the uber-badass and possible ancestor of Miles Teg known as Etienne of Navarre (Rutger Hauer).

Both we and Philippe learn over the course of the story that Navarre was betrothed to a woman named Isabeau (Michelle Pfeffier).  However, Isabeau was of such beauty that all who looked upon her fell in love with her...even the Bishop. When he learned of their union, he seethed with anger and called upon the Devil himself to curse them both. For the rest of their days, they would be apart. During the day, Isabeau taking the form of a hawk and at night, Navarre becoming a wolf.

Always together, eternally apart.

And Philippe's part in the tale? As he escaped from the city, Navarre reasons that he can help him sneak into the city in order to kill the Bishop and break the shared curse. The best part? The film actually delivers entirely on its premise. More than that, it actually is able to craft a believable, complex, and tragic love story between two characters who share, all told, about five minutes of screentime combined.

That's right, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeffier share all of two scenes together, and it still works.

The film also, for the major plot point of the transformation between human and beast, doesn't have any scenes that show the transformations besides a single one that drives home the hopelessness of their existence and really helps to build on the romance subplot.

There is fantastic acting all around to help the believability as well. Rutger Hauer plays a total badass hardened warrior on a mission who will not be dissuaded. He is desperate to be free of his curse and to free his beloved from the same fate. There is a surprising amount of chemistry between him and Michelle Pfeffier for them only sharing two scenes together, which is a testament to the acting talent of both of them. It's an onscreen romance that works better than many I've seen in film or television. It's well developed, built upon in almost every scene with the plot being centered around it, and the two of them make it believable.

And then, of course, there's Matthew Broderick. He's absolutely phenomenal and Philippe is one of the funniest characters in all of fiction. Every single scene - and I mean it. Every. Single. Scene. - he's in, he steals it. Philippe's continuous struggle in trying to be good for the Lord (in monologues, no less) are an absolute stitch and he serves also as a silver-tongued messenger between Navarre and Isabeau during their switches in what are some genuinely heartwarming moments.

Really, the only critique I can give him is his slipping accent, but that's easy to look past. At least he's attempting to do an accent instead of pulling a Kevin Costner.

This film is magnificent and I would happily enjoy it again any time. It is the very height of excellence and, yes, by the end of this film, you will believe a lady can hawk.

...yes, Richard Donner directed this. It was either that or a "What a guy, Gaston!" joke. Be grateful.

Ladyhawke is brought to us by 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MadCap At The Movies - "Spider-Man: Homecoming"


Spider-Cap!
Spider-Cap!
Does whatever a Spider-Cap does!

Flails his hands! Everywhere!
Sometimes wears,
Underwear!

Look out!
He's got some bad B.O.!!!

Spider-Man Homecoming is now in theaters from Marvel and Sony.

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series" (Episode 2)

Once more, we pick up with the Guardians of the Galaxy! Episode 2 of the titular "Telltale Series" picks up with the group right after Peter Quill is suddenly resurrected by the awesome might of the Eternity Forge!

Spoiler alert.

Again, choices are made and backstory is given. The big focus this time around is Rocket Raccoon and his life before joining the Guardians...and it's pretty damn tragic all around. What was really only hinted at in the films is brought up in full force, and it really does help to explain Rocket's more callous, harsh attitude in the present.

And in the present, the trouble with the Kree and the Eternity Forge continues, along with the addition of Nebula, who is none too happy about the death of Thanos and seeks revenge as well as use of the Eternity Forge once she discovers it actually exists.

Apart from the plot, it's second-verse same as the first. Quill (and Rocket, for a bit of flashback) moves around environments until they discover things he needs to progress, makes decisions that will either please or alienate others, and hint at looming choices later to come.  The only criticisms I can levy against it are the same I had for Episode 1 - the QTEs are not immersive in any sense of the word, and I have yet to see full-blown consequences of my choices, if any as of yet. Just different bits of dialogue and either Gamora or Rocket being somewhat more snippy at or happy with me depending on the ones I made.

I really don't have much to say on this one, unfortunately because...it's not a complete game. It's a piece. And that might work just fine for some. Not for myself. Unfortunately, I've determined to milk this out into five reviews and so I shall...whenever the next parts actually come out.

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 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 case...you 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 leave...no, 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.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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

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

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Friday, March 24, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Horizon Zero Dawn"

So...humanity has a weird fetish for post-apocalyptic fantasies, doesn't it?

I'm not making a joke here, it just amazes me how many games, television, and films use the time after the end of civilization as the entry point to their plots. Such as it is with Horizon Zero Dawn, a game from the loving arms of Guerrilla Games and Sony. And if Guerrilla isn't familiar to you, don't worry, it wasn't to me either. Their most known for the Killzone series of games...which I haven't played.

Now, instead of the "sort of" future, we have the far future. In Horizon Zero Dawn, we are introduced to the infant child Aloy on her naming day by the badass mofo Rost, who is an outcast from a tribe called the Nora. It seems that humanity has regressed to a tribal state while occasionally applying the technology of old to their weaponry in order to hunt...the technology of old.  If the cover wasn't a dead give away, robots are roaming the Earth like the dinosaurs of old.

I can practically hear Ubisoft facepalming at their lack of foresight in terms of DLC.

That being said, this game really does blend the best parts of Far Cry Primal and Blood Dragon, and I do mean that as a good thing. The game feels very much like a Far Cry game with both its mechanics and its level progression...as in, at least in the latter case, it's a carbon copy. But that's not a bad thing, since I really like the level up system in the Far Cry series.

Unlike the Far Cry series, Horizon Zero Dawn finds itself in my good graces right off the bat (besides in its premise) by not locking me into first person mode! I know that seems like a minor complaint, but it is really something you really appreciate only when you can't do it. Shooting from over the shoulder (bow combat is very much the attack of choice besides the few bits of melee) is actually a lot easier for me and Dawn provides. Also, one can appreciate the work the animators put into the character model, which is nice. There is a good bit of detail in every pull of the bowstring...even if the faces are more than a little...off...in some places.

Along with the bows (and there are actually a nice variety of bows), Aloy can also get a hold of a variety of tasty gadgets like a tripcaster, and starts with a lovely spear for light and heavy attacks. And, of course, there's the crown jewel of the set...a shotgun. Of a sort. And for the longtime readers of mine who know the joke well, let me allow Rocket Raccoon to express my feelings on the matter.

The combat is pretty involving and very much in the "hunter" vein of things. Aloy sneaks through the tall grass to stalk her prey and avoid their gazes, making this a post-apocalyptic game as a bizarre mirror universe version of the Pokemon games. Instead of catching them all, Aloy mercilessly takes down the robots opponents to gather scrap metal and wires and other components to either craft items with or to sell off for scraps of Metal.

Yes, metal scraps are the currency in this game. Like the bottlecaps in Fallout, don't think about it too hard.

Aloy's main bit of flair, however, is a Focus. Not the Final Fantasy XIII type, no no...it's basically a Dragon Ball Z scouter. Aloy can tag enemies for attack and use the device to track the movement patterns of enemies to make them easier to take down and/or work around. And while the scouter does not, in fact, let Aloy know her enemies power level (OVER 9000!!!!! or otherwise),

The story is good, if a little coconut and banana sandwich crazy (not Fallout crazy, but we're getting there). The combat is nice and involving and even the resource collecting is more than a little fun. The protagonist is engaging and her journey to discover her origins is compelling and wrought with peril.

 If there's anything I can say I don't really like about this game (y'know, if you put a gun to my head), it's that it has the Bethesda problem of too many side quests popping up to distract from the Main Quest...and since I rather like that in Bethesda games since (nine times out of ten) it really helps to open up the world and give it more depth than just the Main Quest does on its own, as well as giving a reminder to the player that things do actually happen independent of their actions, that would really make me a hypocrite, wouldn't it?

(Go ahead and pull the trigger, Spunky)

It keeps me interested and is engaging, looking at the post-apocalypse in a surprisingly fresh way.  Even if just about everything has been done before, it feels like new and it's a good first effort by Guerrilla in the RPG department. There have been teasings of extra plot to come, most likely as DLC.  Believe me, I am more than ready for it!

Horizon Zero Dawn is now available from Guerrilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment for Playstation 4.

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