Alternate Donkey Kongs Are The Donkey Kongs I Want To Play

Can we PLEASE get some Metroid Kong action happening? Video game developers, you are wasting your time & talents on new IP when people clearly want rehashed content they are already familiar with, mashed together with other nostalgic favorites! “Just give us more of the same, but slightly different!” the crowd yells. Developers, you have you mandate; now go forth and ignore all manner of copyright laws to bring us what we want!
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More monkeyshines after the jump… Continue reading

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Assassin’s Creed III Review

What is it about the third and final act of a trilogy that unfailingly seems to disappoint? You’ve seen it countless times: The Dark Knight Rises, Matrix Revolutions, Spider Man 3, Return of the Jedi… (although, in the interest of full disclosure, the nostalgic chewy center of my heart will anachronistically rope-log-smash your big stupid head if you talk too much shit about Jedi).

Is it a result of the unfairly high expectations that the first two entries in the series have set up? Or perhaps it’s that all the best ideas have been used up by the time the third installment rolls around, and it’s less a matter of inspiration and more about getting it out the door and moving on?

My point being: Assassin’s Creed III snugly fits into the time-honored blueprint – the third (numbered) entry of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is indeed the one with the hairy chest.

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AC III starts out promisingly enough. After the obligatory future-science-conspiracy plot introduction starring series protagonist Desmond Miles, you are whisked back in time to inhabit the life of another one of your ancestors, who at the onset of the story lives in 18th century London. You play through a super cool tutorial mission involving an assassination at the Theatre Royal during a performance of “The Beggar’s Opera,” and soon find yourself on a ship headed for The American Colonies. A few more tutorial-style tasks later, as your journey nears its end, you climb the ship mast, the music swells and the title card appears as The New World rolls up on the horizon. It’s pretty stirring, and it represents the best of what the Assassin’s Creed series has to offer: a sense of historical majesty that makes the games’ settings so unique.

However, another of the series’ trademarks is its open-ended nature — the ability to travel about a series of lovingly crafted historical settings as you wish, completing missions, getting into trouble or simply exploring the sights, and I was puzzled at how limited I felt during the game, post-introduction. You are given one straightforward mission after another, and while you can veer off the path a little bit, the game’s structure feels very linear at first. In fact, without giving too much away, it’s a solid 4-6 hours of gameplay before the story really kicks into gear and the world truly opens up. As a longtime player of the series, I knew this was coming, but I fear that a newcomer might be tempted to give up after such an extended prologue, not knowing that the true game was still hours away. It’s a bit of a puzzling barrier to entry from a design standpoint.

But once the world of Assassin’s Creed III does open up, it does so in a big way. In addition to the bustling colonial settlements of New York and Boston, you are also free to explore a huge Frontier area packed with animals to hunt, trees and cliffs to climb and secrets to uncover. It looks gorgeous, especially when the seasons change from summer to winter and back again, and the tree-running controls are smooth and intuitive, allowing you to cross long stretches of land hopping from branch to branch without touching the ground. There’s also a huge Homestead, AC III’s answer to AC II’s upgradeable Villa, which functions as a kind of home-base hub that features plenty to do on its own, including settlers to help out, a manor to decorate with trophies and a ship to upgrade.

Speaking of the ship, from your Homestead you can access an entire suite of sea-based side missions, in which you pilot a fully-equipped war vessel and take part in naval battles that require strategic maneuvering in order to get into good firing position while trying to avoid being outflanked yourself. These naval missions are a hell of a lot of fun and easily one of the highlights of AC III… I could play an entire “Assassins of the Carribbean” spin-off game based around this concept alone. (You’re welcome, Ubisoft).

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Back on dry land, you of course find yourself involved in the American Revolution for the meat of the game, a setting that is both uniquely fascinating and surprisingly limiting, as you tend to Gump your way from one famous set-piece to the next without it making much narrative sense. One moment you’re sharing a horse with Paul Revere, the next you’re suddenly present in Philadelphia for the signing of the Declaration of Independence and then you’re holed up with General Washington at Valley Forge. While it’s true that any Revolutionary War story worth its tea needs to include these moments, I really thought that they could have been done better and linked together more coherently. I often felt more like a historical tourist as opposed to a force of nature shaping the course of history, like I did during the Italian Renaissance in the best moments of AC II.

Ultimately, the story as a whole lacks urgency. It’s hard to feel like you’re shaping the course of a Revolution when Samuel Adams tells you the only way to fight for freedom is to run out and collect 10 feathers or deliver 5 telegrams or some goddamned mundane thing. The third act to a trilogy should feel impossibly epic, like the culmination of every story element that came before it coming to a cathartic head, but instead AC III seems to rely more on your previous knowledge of this period of history to fill in the dramatic blanks, which I felt was a huge miss and the game’s biggest flaw.

The gameplay itself is fine enough. The running and climbing works as well as it always has, which can feel insanely smooth and fast, and yet you’ll sometimes catch a wall at the wrong angle which will stop you dead — sometimes literally if you’re being pursued by a gang of uppity Redcoats.

The combat still relies on the same block, counter, retaliate pattern from previous games, where you’ll be surrounded by a group of guys that will idiotically attack you one at a time. The combat animations have been spruced up, though, and after a little practice you’ll start chaining together some super cool combos. My favorite involves blasting a guy with his own musket and then using it as a melee weapon against his buddies. You can also do a sweet counter move where you block musket fire using some poor sucker as a human shield. The combat is visceral and crunchy and splattery and fun, although to be honest it feels a tad slower and off-step from its smoother cousin, that of the Arkham series.

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Still, though, the best part about any Assassin’s Creed game is running around the open world, exploring and collecting and fighting, and there’s plenty of that to be done here. I continued to play AC III after I had finished the story to go after more side-missions and collectibles, and I tend to use that as a personal measure of the enjoyment I find in a game.

Perhaps the reason it’s so difficult to knock Assassin’s Creed III is that there’s nothing outright bad about it. Most of the individual aspects of the game are either good or good enough. I suppose that, ultimately, it just kind of ends up being worse than the sum of its parts. Which, when you’re trying to stick the landing of a potentially epic trilogy, can be disastrous.

Bottom line: If you’re already in the Assassin’s Creed fan club, then you’ll definitely find plenty of elements to like here – but will ultimately be let down. If you’re not already a fan, but are curious about the series, play ACII instead. It’ll make you one.

Lazy Thursday Night Links (Smash Them Open, Find Treasure)

Whoops.  Went out after work for *one* beer. You know how that goes <sad trombone>. Never fear though; I’ve found a couple of interesting things totally worth checking out while I check out from this evening.

– Wrap up of today’s unveiling of Amazon’s trinity of Kindle Fire devices.

– Nuke the Fridge reports that the Blu-Ray Director’s Cut of The Dark Knight Rises will feature the origin of Bane! Venom or GTFO.

Another Game We Should Have But Don’t: The Wire RPG.  You leave Ziggy alone!

– Batman: The Animated Series debuted 20 years ago! You’re old now.  Relieve your misspent youth by watching the pilot, “On Leather Wings”.

15 Things you’ll never hear gamers say.

OH MY GOD WHATEVER DUDE I TOTALLY SHOT YOU

 

A Super Mario Bros. Summary: Every Super Mario Bros. level summarized in a single screen sheet. Like so:


Play it in your browser instead of doing work tomorrow! That’s what I’m planning on doing.

Italian Side Quest- Israel

Kick ass hummus

(ed. note: Intrepid contributor ViciousPjuraHead is spending the summer in Italy and will be filing dispatches of a gaming or comic related nature, when he gets around to it.

Moving on from Italy I decided to head to another country that begins with an I.  ISRAEL!!  Luckily I have some friends there who I had visited over Christmas and since I was already in the neighborhood I thought I’d take a little trip back to the Promised Land.  Though this time, getting into the country was a little more difficult.

My first attempt was through Israir with an 11:55 PM flight.  I got there two hours early as per international travel protocol but two hours wasn’t enough.  If you’re heading to Israel, protocols state you have to arrive three hours early. Whoops.  After an hour of trying to get on the plane while being asked a series of outlandish security questions I was told I would not be getting on this flight and to try again tomorrow.  How outlandish, you ask? Well, it was to the point where security read  my Facebook messages and looked at my bank account to make sure that I was in fact a public school teacher and not lying about my profession.  The situation wasn’t helped when security noticed I told me friend that I would shave before the flight; This prompted a new round of questions about why I would want to shave.

Acre – Seat town close to Tel Aviv

I decide to go home and sleep at my friend’s house and try again the next day through El Al.  I get there three-and-a-half hours early, just in time for the fun to really start.  I get yanked out of line by security again, this time though I get the pleasure of a tiny room all to myself  for the next three hours.  I was told that my bags would not be allowed on board with me and that I would have to submit to a full body search.  Naturally I just comply and don’t make a fuss because I have nothing to hide (ed note: yeah right).  When all was said and done I was escorted to my seat with a few minutes to spare and and only after the seat-belt was around my waist did airport security leave my by myself. As you can imagine, a great experience.

Upon my arrival to Tel Aviv I was told to go to lost and found and file a missing luggage report.  I was given a very nice tote bag with a shirt, shorts, socks and various toiletries (ed. note: Score!!).  My luggage finally did arrive… two days before I was set to leave.  All that nonsense aside, once in Israel my time I had a crazy, exhilarating, exhausting time. From floating in the Dead Sea, side trips to Acre & Jerusalem, and culminating with a Dark Knight Rises showing (which surprisingly had an intermission), Italy and Israel really knocked me on my ass.  Though welcoming me home is none other than……..ACE FREHLEY. I LOVE YOU ACE!!!!

Enjoy the photos!!

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Bane’s Audio from The Dark Knight Rises: Before and After

 

knew they changed Bane’s voice. Look, anytime there’s a movie I’m really anticipating, I try to go into a complete blackout about the film.  No extended trailers, no sneak peeks, no early reviews, nothing.  I want as much of the movie untainted and as new as possible when I see it in the theaters.  That being said, The Dark Knight Rises  was particularly difficult to avoid; the first trailer for it that I saw was during a commercial break for the 2012 Super Bowl.  I managed to avoid everything up until previews started rolling in the theater for The Avengers. Not too bad for ignoring one of the two biggest film events for comic book people this year.

During the Super Bowl commercial, Bane’s voice was unintelligible.  I’d heard rumblings that it was bad, but I never thought it would be that  bad.  You couldn’t understand him! What the hell? Look, I get if you’re wearing a mask your voice will be muffled but you would think that, as a main character of the closing third of a massive & beloved trilogy, you would kind of need to understand his dialogue. Apparently enough people freaked out that they did re-dub the dialogue.  So now you can understand him…and his weird ass lilt.  Odd choices, Mrs. Hardy & Nolan, odd choices.

 

With a Jolt, My Mind Awakens…Chapter Two: The Man Who Killed the Superhero (Movie)/Six Degrees from a Graboid

Shock to the Joints and Points of our Cowls, the new Batman movie might have thrown in the towel…

The Tidal Wave of online reviews for “The Dark Knight Rises” seems to combine antipathy, depression, furrowed brows, bemusement, outrageous expletive explosions, unmitigated disappointment, shattered dreams, mouthwatering self-aggrandizement, and tears tears tears…. Perhaps, little Batmen and Batgirls, this time, you DIDN’T get whatcha paid for…

Batmoviemania aside, movie ticket sales remain high, as the Disenfranchised Populi still seek Escapist Fare, clutching shredded optimism in their sweaty palms like Linus holding his “security” blanket. Bizarro Perhaps: We’re just gonna keep doin’ this, aren’t we? *sigh*

The slightest suggestion of a Superhero Movie – anywhere in LA, NY, NJ, even Bollywood, if boldness pursues – should be countered with a thrashing to the head and shoulders by the irate phantasms of departed wrestlers Road Warrior Hawk, Chris Benoit, and Dick Murdoch. Aw, heck…let all the Dead Rasslers take a turn at ya, hmm?

I hope this poem – written just two weeks ago – drives home the point I am valiantly trying to communicate. LEARN FROM IT.
**
the caped boy landed with a magnificent whooooshing flourish
in the parking lot of the local cinema.
he observed the marquee with an enthusiastic Kryptonian grin,
purchased a ticket, and entered Theater #3 to see “Superman IV: Quest for Peace”.
(100 minutes later)
the boy quietly discarded his cape in the nearest trash receptacle to
the alleyway exit of the cinema.
he walked home.
**

One More Wild Thought To Distract You During Tonight’s “Family Guy” Re-run:
If you are six degrees from Kevin Bacon, you’re six degrees from a Graboid.
Speaking only for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, get up on your rooves…and be vewwy, vewwy quiet…

Batman: The Animated Series + The Dark Knight Rises Trailer = Nostalgia, Magic

A few years ago, I got into an incredibly serious argument with a friend about whether or not the opening to the original Batman: The Animated Series was hand drawn or computer animated.  I said hand drawn (ed. note: Because it is! Use your eyes!) he said computer, words were exchanged, beers were drank, more words were exchanged, phones were consulted, onward and onward until the eventual destruction of his apartment.  Damage aside, no consensus was ever reached.  Readers, help me win this years old argument by watching the series opening below and then voting (even though I know I’m right).