Friday, March 12, 2010


Many of you may know that I am friends with Josh Loomis, our friendly neighborhood alchemist. What you may not know is that he's the creative mind behind the movie review series "IT CAME FROM NETFLIX."

Here's a crash course in what IT CAME FROM NETFLIX (ICFN, for short) is all about. Like many of us, Mr. Loomis can't always afford the time or duckets for a trip to the local cinema. Also like many of us, he relies on the ever-handy service known as Netflix to help him fill his downtime with something other than contemplations concerning his belly button.* What makes him stand out from the herd, though, is his ability to review selections from their catalog with humor, intelligence, and more than a little sarcasm.

Whether he's ripping apart a movie most people find popular or praising a film most of us have never even heard of, Josh never fails to entertain and enlighten his readers (and listeners, as there is now a corresponding audio supplement for every review) concerning the joys and pitfalls of film making, script writing, and movie watching. He also never misses an opportunity to make us all dig just a little bit deeper into the given subject matter to behold (and hopefully better understand) what lies beneath the surface rather than settling to simply take it at face value.

As such, I have become a regular consumer of his movie reviews, and when an opportunity came along to support his website and ICFN (and by extension, the writer himself), I jumped at it. Not long ago, Josh started taking review requests for specific films and television shows, and also made it known that monetary contributions were welcome. Without much delay, I plunked down my hard-won GameStop earnings for the chance to see Josh rip into one of the most awful films I've watched in long, long time: Jumper.

Ladies and gents, I make minimum wage at aforementioned job, and I had to work 3.5 hours just to pay for that review. The verdict? It was money very well spent. I highly recommend you go read and/or listen to his catalog of reviews, because if you're going to spend time idly clicking around the internet, you might as well spend it on something more worthwhile than LOLcats and Avatar porn.

If you have some spare change, or just a movie you'd like reviewed, I'd shoot Mr. Loomis an email. I promise you won't regret it.

Oh, and click through some of the ads on his site for good measure. We writers/reviewers/artists/imbeciles/ne'er-do-wells can't continue to deliver the goods if we starve. Just sayin'.

*If you understood that reference and where it came from, you officially rock my socks.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Open Thread: Game Recommendations

For some reason, I completely forgot to mention that I now work as a counter jockey at my local GameStop. The pay is crap, and the hours are scarce, but my managers are great, and it's a W4 job that looks good to mortgage companies.

Plus, it keeps me out of trouble.

Well, mostly.

The gig has more going for it than that, really. Besides a discount on GameStop purchases and discounts at partner stores (free refills all day long at Chick-fil-A? 30% merchandise at Barnes & Noble?? Sign me up!), there are a few hidden perks. The most noteworthy of these perks is the Employee Game Checkout program. I can check out any game in the store for free, for a period of 4 days.



Let me repeat that for those of you sitting in the back of the class: ANY game in the store. 4 days at a time. NO COST to me.

Needless to say (but I'm going to anyway), this is huge! I was lamenting the fact I couldn't afford to perform due diligence on cross-platform games, due to the cost, and BAM! A solution presents itself. I can now try out the PlayStation and Xbox versions of most any game, as long as my store has it in stock. I can finally be a more well-rounded gamer! WOOHOO!

However, I now face a new dilemma. I have no idea what the fuzzy should I be playing.

I've already checked out Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but the jury is still out as to how I feel about it. Having only made it to Mission 2, I don't feel I've given it a fair shake. Snagged a copy of Rainbow Six: Vegas, too, but life has gotten in the way of my actually trying it out, and it's due back at the store by the end of today. (According to Raptr, John tried it while I was at work the other night. He wasn't impressed. There was rage-quitting involved. . .and there's a new hole in the bedroom wall. You do the math. )

Then, my Thought Hamsters got my attention. That is to say, I took a Clue-by-Four to the temple. "You have a blog," their placards read. "Why not ask the readers, genius?"

While their methods. . .leave something to be desired at times, the rodents are right. I'm not writing these posts for my health. (Okay, perhaps for my mental health, but I'm pretty sure I am too far gone for the exercise to be all that effective.) I open the floor to you: What do you guys and gals suggest I play?


P.S.--To clarify, we don't carry used PC games, so PC-only games are out of the running. Sorry, folks.

P.P.S.--Also, I don't own a Wii. Because I'm lame, obviously.

Friday, March 5, 2010

First Impressions, Part 2--Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

I confess, it wasn't my intention to come off as an overbearing shrew in my last post on this topic. Once I got started, though, all the pent-up disappointment in regard to what has happened to the Star Wars universe boiled over, and I got a little carried away. This does not mean I retract my previous statements on this game. I'm simply saying that I probably could have handled things better. But, too late now! The tone's been set, and far be it from me to pull punches when I was the one who started the fight.

Also, I neglected to throw out my standard Your Mileage May Vary disclaimer. Yes, I still think people who say this game is brilliant should have their heads examined, but that's just my opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own, and has the right to completely disregard mine.

One more thing of note before we dive back in. You may have noticed I struck through the "First" in the title of this and the previous post on The Force Unleashed. This whole. . .thing in regard to the game has become something bordering on obsession, so "first impressions," just didn't really fit anymore. "Review" also didn't really fit, as I've made it personal policy not to review games I haven't actually finished playing. (Given a lot of the stuff in my play pile, this policy may change, but that's a horse of a different color.) So, plain old "impressions," will have to do.

Old Business: More on Menus and Controls

Leveling Woes

Something I failed to mention previously was character and skill leveling. Such things are borrowed from role-playing games, and while RPGs are my second-favorite genre of console game, I admit the leveling and inventory systems utilized by some are very confusing to me. Sometimes I'm just too tired to give a damn, but most of the time it is a symptom of a problem I come across a lot as a game tester: Information Strain.

Try to cram too much information in too little space, the player will strain to retain it all, his eyes will glaze over, and he'll decide to do something less complicated, like re-read War and Peace. Fail to provide enough information, the player strains to grasp what the hell you want from him, and he'll curse you to the previously undiscovered 10th ring of Hell because the 9th ring is too good for the likes of you. In my opinion, SW: TFU suffers from the latter.

Perhaps I'm totally inept 1, but the little bit of info they provided for each Force ability was easily forgotten by the time I closed the sub-menu. Choosing what I wanted to spend my hard-won experience points on was about as easy as a man choosing the right breast pump for the mother of his children with no relevant data handy. And while we're on the subject of experience, you gain XP in two ways, primarily via natural game progression, but also by picking up magical McGuffins Holocrons filled with Force points. You then spend those points on abilities that fall into three categories. . .whose titles currently escape me. (Note to self: Find out which dog chewed up my notebook. I'm looking at you, Oddball 2.)

Having more than one way to gain XP is good. . .except when these McGuffins are in impossible-to-reach places, and the Force doesn't affect them. That's right: Someone took the "hologram" part of "holocron" very seriously. Unlike in BioShock, where you can fetch unreachable objects via telekinesis, you must physically touch these things in order to reap the rewards. Granted, you don't have to collect these little do-dads in order to progress, but they are more than a wee bit useful if you can knab them.

Please understand, I'm not against jumping puzzles as a concept. Half-Life 2, for example, has amazing jumping puzzles. Using this mechanic in your game is fine and dandy, unless you manage to design these jumping puzzles very badly. Oh, and force us to accomplish amazing acrobatic feats with an uncooperative camera and sluggish controls. If this is the case, instead of rabidly consuming your game and begging for more, I will round up a legion of pissed off gamers ready to tar and feather you for your act of game design hubris. Simply put, I think this particular issue was a missed opportunity to give players more ways to play around with the Force powers available to them.

Not-Quite Mortal Combat

The hack-and-slash part of the combat works just fine. If the targeting worked better (or I could find a way to de-select Auto Target), I would go so far as to call it "adequate." I contend, however, that the Combo List that goes with many of the lightsaber-related abilities is just plain unhelpful. Honestly, I hate combo lists in general. If I wanted to spend my time memorizing complicated sequences of button presses, I'd play Soul Calibur or Street Fighter, thank you very much. To my own credit, I did try to learn all the combos available to me once I unlocked new abilities, but after a while I wound up doing what I always do in these situations: Mashing the hell out of the Square or Triangle button until no enemies remained. Boring, sure, but somewhat effective.

Some of you are probably saying, "Well, you could have just looked up the combos mid-battle via the menu screen." First of all, didn't we just have a short conversation on breaking the flow of gameplay? Secondly, you're right, and I probably would have done just that had the menu screen not required long loading times just to open and close the damn thing. No, you read that right. A next-gen game's menu screen required a loading sequence. Really, LucasArts? REALLY?

I might be overreacting, but if the designers themselves had not confessed to essentially dumbing things down for people who are unfamiliar with or just plain suck at action-oriented video games, I would be far less upset. Okay, "dumbing down" is a harsh term to use, but good grief. There is a difference between "making things accessible," and "trying to please everyone." You wanted to make this game the virtual version of approachable to garner more players (and by extension, make more money.) Instead, you wound up pleasing next to no one with crappy mechanics and bad controls. Great job breaking it, dumbass.

And don't even get me started on the story. OYE!

Wow, got long-winded again. Cutting it off here to save your scrolling finger. Stay tuned for Part 3: The Rest of the Story!

1--Not likely, but I'm willing to concede I am far from perfect.
--Though, to be fair, Max isn't exactly above suspicion.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Transfer Update

I've got writing to do, so I promise to make this quick so I can get the next bit of entertainment in the pipeline and out into the intertubes very soon.

WordPress is. . .a very different animal than those I've worked with previously. He's a might bit secretive in how to bring out his best assets, and more than a little stubborn when it comes to taking direction. We're making progress, though. The going is slow, but progress is progress.

Until I get all the kinks worked out (or at the very least, we come to some sort of compromise, this new partner and I), I'm going to continue making updates here at Blogger.

That said, away we go!