Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TGLVG: DmC: Devil May Cry

DmC: Devil May Cry
2013, Rated M (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

A brief history:
Back in 2001, Capcom released the original Devil May Cry for Playstation 2, which followed the story of the snarky white haired demon hunter and half demon protagonist Dante. Praised for it's stylized combat, and punishing difficulty, the series saw the eventual release of three more games. The third game introduced the character Vergil, Dante's half demon twin brother, as the main antagonist.

Overall, the series saw great success, especially with Devil May Cry 3, and slightly less so with 4, when the series made the leap to the Xbox 360. But in 2010, it was revealed that hack-n-slash game developer Ninja Theory, famous for the equally devilishly difficult Ninja Gaiden series, was now holding the reins, and planning a full series reboot titled simply "DmC". At the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, a teaser trailer was released, which outraged fans when they got their first glimpse at the new younger, short black haired Dante. Long time fans cried foul, protesting that Ninja Theory was trying too hard to appeal to the "Twilight crowd".

But, when the game was released in January of 2013, critics raved, praising the new combat mechanics, and the stunning visuals. DmC averaged an outstanding 8.5 / 10 in basically every review. But despite these glowing accolades, the game didn't sell close to what it deserved. Fans were still too set in their ways to bother trying the game, and sales suffered for it.

I myself have been a long time fan of the series, and despite initially amid the crowd of "I don't like Dante's new look"ers, I found the game for cheap, and decided to give it a try. And holy crap am I glad I did!

Story: 8/10
Don't worry, I won't be spoiling anything that you don't learn within the first half hour of gameplay, but here is a brief rundown of the game's basic plot:

Dante is a hedonistic a-hole. He spends his days hunting and killing demons, and his nights sleeping with strippers, and drinking. But everything quickly changes when a large demon tracks him down and sucks him into Limbo, the world of the demons, parallel to our own. Here he meets a human girl, Kat, who helps him escape, and takes him to her boss, a mysterious figure named Vergil, the leader of a "terrorist" organization known as "The Order", hellbent on ending the life of the demon king Mundus, a demon posing as a businessman, who for years has been controlling the human race through brainwashing and manipulation.

The story has never been a big part of the past games. It has always been there, but it was never the reason that fans bought the games. This game, however, has a movie-worthy story. Whereas past games would provide a cutscene every three or four levels, giving you a feeling of "Oh right, I forgot there was a story...", DmC starts and ends every level with story related scenes, as well as dialogue throughout the levels.

I'd love to give the story a perfect 10, but I do have to say I was pretty disappointed with how thrown in the "twist" ending felt. Again, no spoilers, but the final conflict before the credits roll felt like it could have been further hinted at throughout the story. That said, I loved actually caring about every character, even so far as feeling brief, fleeting moments of pity for Mundus himself.

Gameplay: 10/10
It's safe to say that when it comes to difficult games, I'm not good. Given the chance, I'll always play a game on easy mode first, because I like to relax when playing video games, rather than become frustrated. This is the main reason that I was very hesitant to first purchase the game. Not only does the Devil May Cry series as a whole have a strong reputation as a very difficult series, but the addition of Ninja Theory as the new development team meant to me that the spike in difficulty would be too much to bear.

Well, I was dead wrong. Granted, thus far I've only beaten the game on it's easiest of the three initial difficulty settings, the game is challenging, but if you're looking for a fight, avoid the easiest mode at all costs. I can't often (if ever) say that I've been able to beat a game without dying, but I am able to say that in this case.

But don't let this deter you. Another trope of the series is the amount of unlockable difficulty settings. All said, DmC has seven different difficulties to try, ranging from "Human" (easy mode, basically made for those who want to experience the story with little challenge), all the way to "Heaven or Hell" (a remixed mode, enemies die in one hit, but so do you), and even "Hell or Hell" (enemies have normal health, but you die in one hit). The game is short, my first play through taking about 6 hours, but it's meant to be played multiple times, and to be mastered. The reward of playing the harder difficulties is the satisfaction you get from being able to take out a room full of enemies without being touched, all while pulling off stylistic attacks an combos. And oh my, are those fun to pull off. And on that note, let's talk about the combat. 

Fans of the series will remember Dante's main weapons: His sword "Rebellion", and his twin pistols "Ebony and Ivory". They're definitely there, but I don't think I used them much until the very end of the game. The game's combat is made truly intricate and in-depth by the introduction of Dante's half-demon-half-angel heritage, and the discovery of his Angel and Demon themed weapons.

Pressing the attack button has Dante strike with his sword. But holding the left shoulder button and pressing the same attack has him use his Angel weapon, a blue glowing scythe that attacks fast and wide, but much weaker. Holding the right shoulder button instead wields the Demon weapon, a powerful red axe that hits like a freight train, but is very slow. Certain enemies can only be hurt with certain weapons, but players can switch freely between all three weapons to create unending combos of destruction and chaos. Throughout the game's 20 missions, I didn't have a single mission go by where I didn't outwardly celebrate a new, previously undiscovered combo of death.

Presentation: 10/10
I am a strong proponent of the belief that video games are a form of art, or at the very least artistic expression. And in my case to prove it, I present this game as Exhibit A. The majority of the game takes place within Limbo, a variant of the real world where demons dwell. Whenever a new area is introduced, the player is treated with a cutscene displaying the change from the real world to Limbo, and these scenes left my jaw on the floor. The colors vary from rich oranges and blues, to a later level that presents segments of the area like drawings on a chalk board, representing your pre-rehearsed plan of action. 

Every level is entirely unique, and not a single moment feels recycled. All previous games in the series had utilized backtracking in immense quantities. DmC has you backtrack once, for about five minutes. Other than that brief (and frankly understandable) moment, every single setpiece is totally fresh. Combined with the controls, which allow you to push/pull pieces of the environment in order to traverse the layout, your eyes will never be bored.

Replay Value: 7/10
As mentioned earlier, a large factor of replayability in the DMC games has always been the ever-escalating difficulties that are unlocked with each playthrough. With many of them come changes in enemy behavior, and remixes of the levels themselves. This is a great bonus for those looking for a challenge, and a justifiable reason for the story mode being so brief, taking anywhere from 6-8 hours to complete. 

Each mission also contains collectibles, such as "lost souls" which are scattered through each level, keys to unlock bonus stages, and of course the bonus stages themselves, which reward you with increased health, or other similar prizes. These can be fun or infuriating. The race bonus stages are fairly poorly put together, but the combat stages provide a high amount of satisfaction when accomplished. One such stage has Dante facing a room full of enemies, whom he must defeat without being touched by any of them.

Completing various levels or tasks within unlocks concept art, and completing the story mode unlocks costumes, and further difficulties. But as for whether or not any of this is really worth it, my verdict only if you're looking for a challenge that will kick your ass several times over.

There are a few fun nods to the past games...

Final Score: 9/10
Buy this game. It's that simple. I found my copy for $10, which is slightly less than the average price for it now, and it is worth every penny. The combat is challenging but extremely rewarding, and the story is engaging, and will leave you wanting more.

BONUS - Downloadable Content:
Given that this game has been out for just shy of two years, there has been a DLC add on released. As of now I have yet to play it, but for those who enjoyed the story, the DLC follows Vergil immediately after the main story ends.

There are also three skin packs for Dante's weapons, and a costume pack, all of which aren't really worth your money. Your weapons move so fast that glimpsing the weapons won't happen often enough to make the weapon skins worth it, but the costumes are honestly up to your discretion. Personally, I'm a fan of aesthetic changes to characters, but they can all be unlocked in game, if you've got the guts.

Monday, December 1, 2014

TGLM: The 10-Movie Actor Challenge #1

Today I'll be trying something new. A few months ago, I was posed a challenge by one of my faithful readers: Review ten movies that all starred the same actor. This series is a long time coming, but, as I found out, it is surprisingly hard to come up with an actor I've seen in at least ten movies. That said, let's take a look at some ground rules before we dive in:

1 - The actor's appearance must be in a starring role. Cameos do not count, but antagonist/villain/partner roles do.

2 - Television shows and short films do not count, but to mix things up, video game appearances are allowed.

3 - If the actor is in a series, it will only count as one appearance. (e.g. Terminator 1 through 3 only counts as one movie for Arnold Schwarzenegger)

4 - Movies or other material that I've reviewed in the past can be used, though I'll try to avoid this when possible.

The rules have been established, and the challenge posed. So let's kick off the 10-movie actor challenge with our first contestant...

Will Ferrell

Zoolander (2001)
Starring alongside protagonist Ben Stiller, Ferrell plays the unforgettable villain and fashion mogul Jacobi Mugatu. Zoolander led the ranks of early 2000's star-studded comedies, standing out largely due to it's ridiculous plot, involving a male modeling political conspiracy that stretched as far back as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

In terms of Will Ferrell roles, don't expect anything out of the ordinary. He's loud, obnoxious, makes funny faces, and has some of the movie's most quotable lines. It's exactly what you'd expect from him, in the best way possible.

Elf (2003)
In this now holiday classic, Ferrell plays the lead role of Buddy the Elf, a human who has lived his entire life in the presence and care of Santa Clause and his elves. But when Buddy grows up, towering over the tiny elves around him, he realizes he isn't quite as elf-ish as he once thought. So he journeys to New York City in order to find his birth dad, who resides on Santa's "naughty list", and convince him to change his ways and be "nice" once more.

As with Zoolander, expect typical Ferrell, but this time with a kid friendly twist. It's all here, the funny faces, quotable lines, and some gross out humor that cements his character as fully believable, and yet out of this world.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Self-obsessed, "good" looking, and on the top of his career path, this movie charts fictional news anchor Ron Burgundy's story of success, his hard fall to the bottom, and his attempts to climb back to the top.

As the pattern has begun to indicate, expect more funny faces, gross-out moments, and the most quotable lines from Ferrell's character. But, as Ron Burgundy himself says, he's nothing without his news team. His acting here does nothing to separate itself from his previous (or future) movies, unless you factor in his interactions with his star-studded cohorts. To me, it isn't so much his lines, as it is the whole news team's lines that stick in your head.

Kicking & Screaming (2005)
Phil Weston is a mild-mannered suburban dad, who cares deeply for his son, trying not to become the competition-obsessed neglectful father that his was. But when he strikes a wager with his dad (Robert Duvall) in order to get his son more play time on the little league soccer team, he is suddenly thrust into the world of competition he has avoided all his life.

While this family movie didn't earn any mind-blowing reviews, it remains one of my absolute favorite Will Ferrell movies. For about half of the movie, we get to see Ferrell in a role he isn't terribly accustomed to: a quiet, somber do-gooder. The movie has the best of both worlds, combining his goofy faces and shouting with a more subdued acting style, basically the opposite of what we've come to expect from him.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Harold Crick is the pinnacle of average. He goes to work, comes home, and keeps to himself, taking pride in his lack luster life. That is until he learns that he's the protagonist of a famous author's new book, via an unseen voice that only he can hear narrating his life.

This movie struck me fairly strongly the first time I watched it, mainly due to how much of a departure it was from Ferrell's typical mode of operation. He's still funny, but no longer due to the goofy faces and loud noises we've come to expect. For once, we see Ferrell playing a role that almost any actor could have played. While I enjoyed him in this movie, you could easily sub him out for any of a number of actors. (Jason Bateman, Jim Carrey, and Steve Carell all come to mind first) But that said, I love Ferrell in this role, mainly because of how unusual it is. This movie is absolutely worth a watch, if not a purchase.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Ricky Bobby, the most famous and unbeatable NASCAR driver behind the wheel, meets his match when French Formula 1 driver Jean Girard swoops in and quickly begins to steal his glory. Ricky's life and career begin to spiral out of control, as he must fight his way to the top once again.

Basically, this movie is Anchorman with race cars. I remember seeing this in theaters, and being disgusted by how advertisement-filled the entire movie is. At one point, it even cuts away for an entire Applebee's commercial as a gag. But upon later views, it becomes more apparent that the amount of ads within the movie IS the joke. This is especially apparent during the end credits and bloopers. That said, we get the same Farrell we're used to, a description I feel like I need a keyboard shortcut for at this point: Funny faces, loud noises, and the best quotable lines. However, I still thoroughly enjoy this movie. Just don't think too hard, and you'll get some laughs.

Step Brothers (2008)
Dale and Brennan, two 40-year-old slackers who still live with their parents, are forced to become step brothers when their parents marry each other.

Let's just get this out of the way quick: Funny faces, loud noises, quotable lines. Now then...the plot may sound simple and dumb, but this is one of my absolute favorite Will Ferrell movies. The chemistry between Ferrell and co-star John C. Reilly is much better than it was in Talladega Nights, possibly due to a smaller cast retaining the majority of focus. Either way, Ferrell is his typical comedic self. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

The Other Guys (2010)
Starring alongside Mark Wahlberg, The Other Guys takes a new twist on the buddy cop / action comedy. The two decide to step up and be the heroes after the position of "hero" is left vacant by the sudden deaths of the typical burly super-cops.

As strange as it is to say, Ferrell takes a back seat to Wahlberg in this goofy action comedy. That said, Ferrell's approach is a bit outside the norm in this one, as it combines his normal wacky style with a subdued character, more akin to Kicking & Screaming. But talented as he is, the result is a memorable experience, one definitely worth multiple views. This movie is a must-see.

Everything Must Go (2010)
Nick Halsey is a former alcoholic, whose life causes him to relapse into his bad habits. In response, his wife kicks him out, dumping everything he owns onto the front lawn. Nick responds with laziness, choosing to live on the lawn. But when the police say he has to move, he decides to have a yard sale in order to have an excuse to stay where he is. But his neighbor's little boy befriends him, giving him a new viewpoint on his life.

This is definitely not your typical Ferrell. Much like Stranger Than Fiction, what we see here is a dark comedy that gives him a chance to show off more than just a funny face. The downside with these performances, however, is that while Ferrell can pull this role off, he doesn't do much to make you believe that he's the only actor who could do it. This movie is worth a watch, but it doesn't hold much that will bring you back to watch it time and again.

Megamind (2010)
With an origin story akin to that of Superman, the super villain Megamind is constantly at odds with his nemesis, the Man of Steel-esque hero, Metro Man. But when Megamind finally comes out on top, he's forced to rethink his goals. He's forced to ask himself a question he never thought of before: What do you do when you finally rule the world?

Lending his voice to this animated action / comedy, Ferrell brings his greatest strengths without subjecting viewers to the same funny faces we've seen countless times in the past. This family friendly movie by Dreamworks is absolutely worth multiple watches, and the stars that round out the voice cast hold their own along side the very recognizable voice of Ferrell.

Phew! That's a LOT of Will Ferrell. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this new segment, and if you have an idea for an actor you'd like to see showcased, or if you have your own favorite Will Ferrell movie that I didn't mention above! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch something that doesn't involve funny faces and loud noises.

Monday, November 10, 2014

TGLVG: Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Yeah, I know. Two video game reviews in a row? What gives?? Well, its my blog. I do what I want! BWAHAHA!!! ...ehem.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes
(PS Vita, PS3, PS4, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, OSx)

*NOTE: This review will cover the PS3 version*

Over the past 6 or 7 years, Tell Tale Games has been releasing a stream of increasingly fun Lego-based games. The earliest entries included Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Carribean, and later expanded to franchises like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and even Batman/Justice League. Personally, I've played through Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and my wife greatly enjoys both Harry Potter games, but by far the superior game in the Lego series so far has been Lego Marvel.

Now please understand, I'm acutely aware that I'm a Marvel fanboy. However, here are the quick stats of how much bang you get for your buck, whether or not you enjoy Marvel comics:

155 unique characters (not just re-skins, also not including the 10 or so DLC characters)
15 story missions, 11 bonus missions
12 slots for customizeable characters (yeah, you can MAKE YOUR OWN SUPERHEROES!!)
44 different land vehicles
15 different air vehicles
Multiple unique costumes for 20+ characters
This is the pre-DLC character list. The blacked out spots are create-a-character slots.
Oh and let's not forget the best part: If you're sick of doing missions and just want to unlock some stuff, the team at Tt Games painstakingly recreate the ENTIRE ISLAND of Manhattan out of Legos and filled it with citizens and cars for you to explore, which has thus far been my favorite part!

Okay, now that I've gushed over the content, let's get into the nitty gritty and review this sucker!

Each level houses lots of secrets for different characters.

One of the greatest strengths that this game has is how late in the Lego series it is, as well as how far into the console life cycle. Because of those two reasons, the game looks beautiful. The island of Manhattan is seamless, and the load times between missions and gameplay are very bearable.

That said, there are some downsides in this department. Because of the scale of the game, it is incredibly glitchy. I have the game downloaded onto my system, so I don't need a disc. While this is convenient, the first time I downloaded the 7GB game (which took a good two hours) it would crash every time I'd play it, within 20 minutes of playing it. I recently deleted and re-installed it, and that problem seems to have gone away, but there are plenty of glitches still present.

This isn't a surprise considering how large the game is, but it still can be a buzzkill during some levels. Characters will frequently get stuck within the map, and in several cases they'd get stuck in such a way that I had no choice but to restart entire levels. One instance had Iron Man falling, dying, respawning, then falling and dying again, to the point where I couldn't switch characters, or do anything. These glitches do bump down my final rating, but are not enough to deter a purchase by any means!

The cutscenes are crisp, and very funny for the child at heart.

The game takes place in three main areas: Story missions that usually last around 20 minutes, bonus missions, usually around 10 minutes, and free roaming through Manhattan.

The story missions have you slowly building your ranks with heroes as they combat an increasingly large amount of villains, who are trying to secure mysterious "cosmic bricks", black Lego bricks that hold extreme power. Each story mission teams up two to four heroes, and has you swapping between them in order to solve puzzles and beat up bad guys. If you're playing two player (which I HIGHLY recommend), each player takes control of one hero, but you can still swap. But even if you're playing single player, the other hero will still be on screen at all times. Each story mission also has a multitude of unlockable areas and items, many of which you can't even unlock until you replay the mission with different characters, which greatly expands the replayability of the story. Oh, and in typical Marvel movie style, stay tuned after the credits when you beat story mode for a bonus scene!

The bonus missions are unlocked by completing enough optional objectives within the story missions, or by acquiring enough Gold Bricks, which are found by solving puzzles in the open world of Manhattan. These missions are typically good for a laugh, and involve tasks like helping Iron Man throw a party for the Avengers, or playing as Spider-Man as he cleans up an office after a villain attacked it. These, just like the story missions, have three or four side objectives to help unlock more characters, but don't hold a whole lot of replay value beyond one or two times.

The streets never feel empty of life or activity!

For my money, the free roam in Manhattan is where this game shines. Picture the open world environment of games like Grand Theft Auto, but in Lego form, and kid friendly. Through all three game modes, you collect Lego bits which are used as currency to unlock characters, costumes, and vehicles. Personally I spent the most time collecting these in free roam mode, by having any hero drive a car, smashing through stop lights, mailboxes, and anything that will break.

But here is why the free roam mode really shines: It's two player! I can't remember how many times growing up that I wanted to play Grand Theft Auto 3 two player with my brother, but we never could. Well in Lego Marvel, you and a friend can split up, and do whatever you want in free roam. The screen splits, and you can help or ditch your co op partner as you see fit.

You'll play as everyone from Iron Man to Taskmaster, to Howard the Duck.
I cannot stress enough how much you need to give this game a try. Though mainly geared towards a younger audience (with features like the inability to get a game over, constant instructions appearing on screen, etc.) it has something for absolutely everyone. With a few more bug fixes, it would definitely be a perfect ten, but there is nothing here that will make you never want to play it again.

9 out of 10. An absolute must play!

As I stated earlier, if you decide to go the downloaded route, and you have some issues, just uninstall and re-install it. Worked like a charm for me!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TGLVG: Resident Evil Director's Cut

Whoops...I haven't posted anything for several


In honor of  my favorite time of the year, as well as the semi-recent announcement that Capcom will be re-re-releasing the original Resident Evil on PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, and Xbox One as an HD re-remake, I grabbed a friend, and set out to conquer a game that I've owned for almost ten years, and had yet to beat. So let's take a look at the PSone classic that created the survival horror genre as we know it today.

If you play video games, and you haven't at least tried a Resident Evil game, shame on you. But here's a quick, spoiler-free rundown of the story:

It's the year 1998, in the outskirts of fictional town Raccoon City. Over several weeks, citizens have been going missing, and many have turned up dead, reportedly eaten by what some were calling "monsters". You play as either Chris Redfield, or Jill Valentine, two members of an elite special ops unit called S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Squad. Basically a fictional SWAT team). You're objective: Locate the crashed helicopter of your squad mates. But things quickly go awry, as you run for your life from a pack of monstrous dogs. You take solace in a large mansion nearby. Once inside, however, the horrors of a mysterious zombie-ridden conspiracy await you...

First thing's first: The opening cutscene is legendary among gamers due to how absolutely horrible the acting is. The creators of the game decided to use live action actors, and the result was nothing short of eternally memorable. Even if you have no interest in playing the game, I'd highly recommend you at least give the scene a watch here:

For our playthrough, we decided to play as Chris. He starts out with a gun, but if you play as Jill, you'll get the ability to pick locks, and two more inventory slots (trust me, those two slots make a WORLD of difference).

To say that I'm a wuss when it comes to scary things is an understatement. That said, however, after almost twenty years, this game still harbors some legitimately creepy moments that don't resort to simple loud noise jump scares. The basic emotions of the player are where a lot of the terror comes from. For example, you can only carry six items at once (as Chris). Obviously you'll want a weapon, and yeah, you're going to need some ammo too, so count out two of those slots. Carrying healing items is a smart bet, and you'll need several keys as you explore the mansion. Because of this, inventory management adds to the suspense throughout your journey. Should you bring more health or ammo? What if you run into a required item for later? What happens when I need to carry so many items that a weapon may not be an option?

While not every room houses enemies, you never know when you'll run into them, so each new door you enter tends to get the blood pumping. Not to mention the classic door opening cutscenes used every time you enter or exit a room...They are spooky for sure, but they do get old after the amount of backtracking you'll be forced to do.

The gameplay is something that a lot of long time fans tend to enjoy, and new players seem to hate. It's hard to explain without experiencing them for yourself, but moving your character can take a bit of practice. That said, when you're good at it, movement is a breeze.

Something I have always loved about the Resident Evil series (well, up until RE4 anyways) was the camera angles. The entire game plays out almost as if you were watching security tape footage. As you walk around each new room, the camera angle switches to different corners of the room, encouraging you to explore every nook and cranny. Be careful though, because some rooms will have some nasty surprises that the camera angles are hiding.

My main complaint for this game was that without a guide, the puzzles are incredibly difficult. To access different areas, you have to collect four crests. But to get those crests, you need four keys. But to get some of those keys you'll need random gems and even MORE crests. This has become a mainstay in Resident Evil games, almost classifying them as horror puzzle games, rather than action. But even with a guide, this game took us eight and a half hours to beat. If we didn't have a guide, we probably wouldn't even be halfway done. This isn't a bad thing, and by no means a deterrent from trying the game, but its something you'll need to mentally prepare yourself for, and its the reason that it took me so many years to finally sit myself down and BEAT it.

There are some puzzles, however, that really stand out as unique, challenging, and very fun. One such is during a scenario (in Chris's story) where you briefly control a different character. Given two vague numerical hints, you are tasked with attempting to combine four different chemicals in order to reach a certain combination. (It sounds odd, but that's the best I can describe it without giving away any plot spoilers) This sequence was agreed between the two of us to be the most fun, challenging, yet solvable puzzle in the game, and can be completed with significant challenge, and without a guide.

Before I get to my final verdict, I felt it may be helpful for those interested if I shared just a few of my experiences that might help you, again without spoilers.

-Choose your character carefully!
As I mentioned, the game lets you play as Chris or Jill. While I'd recommend playing through as both in order to get the full story and development of characters, it is understandable that you won't want to have to run through the same puzzles over and over. Chris was our choice, simply because I remembered that he starts with a gun, while Jill doesn't. She does, however, have the ability to pick locks, and gets eight inventory slots, instead of Chris's six slots. And trust me, that makes a HUGE difference later in the game.

-Experiment with items
The healing items in the game have a few different forms, but the one you'll run into the most are herbs. There are three different kinds (the game will explain the difference so I won't bother), but what I will say is that you should definitely experiment with them. We didn't realize until about 3/4 through the game how much it would have made a difference if we had tried mixing the herbs earlier!

-Use a guide
I know it may seem like cheating, or it may seem obvious, but the simple fact is we had twice as much fun when we knew where we were going as opposed to the several hours we spent aimlessly wandering.

I've always known the story of the games, and I've watched a friend of mine  beat the first three games what feels like a hundred times. And yet playing through it myself after all these years still felt like a fresh, spooky experience that I would recommend to any action/horror fan!

The puzzles can be a bit lengthy, the combat can get a little sticky, and the backtracking will be the main reason that your playthrough takes so long, but in the end it is definitely worth it.

My rating for Resident Evil: Director's Cut:

It's not expensive, and it's available on basically every platform in some form.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TGLC: Gotham review

In the past few years DC Comics has proven that they rule the small screen, with little serious competition from Marvel. This is, once again, evident in DC's Batman prequel, Gotham. The show, which premiered Monday on Fox, stars Ben Mckenzie as Detective Gordon, a greenhorn in the Gotham City Police Department. His first case: the double homicide of the parents of Bruce Wayne.

This fall, we will have reached season three of Arrow, the highly successful superhero action show, as well as the dawn of it's spin-off, Flash, both of which contain action packed, super heroic crime fighters. Gotham, on the other hand, teased an "Agents of SHIELD"-esque style of story-telling that focused on the B-list characters, rather than capes and tights. That said, how does it stack up?

In short, to answer the first burning question, it's good, and is worth your time. Since the premise is centered on the police department, and not Batman, be prepared for quite a bit of NYPD Blue and CSI-type interrogations, following leads, etc. but set within an environment we're already familiar with, while highlighting characters who will become future heroes/villains in the comics, and hopefully in later seasons.

Corey Michael Smith as Edward Nygma

Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot
Without spoiling the entire pilot episode, it centers on Detective James Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock, a semi-crooked, battle hardened GCPD detective. Their back-and-forth is definitely engaging, but it often comes too close to the typical, "you've got a lot to learn, kid" and "I'm too old for this" cliches. That said, Ben MckKenzie's take on Gordon is fantastic, they stress that he's a rookie, like a blank slate to be decimated throughout the coming episodes. The pilot also introduces several likely season antagonists, including crime bosses Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone, as well as potential future villains, including Edward Nygma, Oswald Cobblepot, and even a brief cameo from the future Poison Ivy. Young Bruce Wayne even seems like he'll be showing up fairly often, and David Mazouz does an amazing job as the young future caped crusader. Batman fans will no doubt have a field day with the amount of cameos and easter eggs that this show will pack in future episodes.

As strong as the lead cast is, however, the supporting cast can be pretty weak. I don't know what it is about DC Comics TV shows, but they have a tendency to pick comparatively weak supporting actresses. All scenes featuring Gordon's fiancee Barbara, played by Erin Richards, feel like watching a cardboard cut-out. She shares a scene with Gordon's rival detective Montoya, played by Victoria Cartagena, wherein they discuss a game changing plot point, but I couldn't get the full effect of the news, due to their incredibly bland "acting." This is, however, a nit-pick as the rest of the cast does a fantastic job in their roles.

Just as Agents of SHIELD is set in the Avengers universe and therefore lends a similar atmosphere, this show gives off an energy nearly identical to that of Batman Begins, apart from the new cast. This tends to bounce back and forth between a help and a hindrance. For example, there is a montage of Gordon and Bullock interrogating a series of shady individuals that takes place under the dim, yellow light of a swinging lamp. This seemed incredibly cheesy, and didn't fit very well, given the quick pace, and drastic changes in atmosphere. As mentioned earlier though, it is also done very well in later scenes, one such being the first time we're introduced to Oswald Cobblepot, as he and several goons beat someone up in a dirty, rain-soaked alley. Given that this is a pilot episode, it seems likely that these quick bounces in atmosphere will be resolved in time. There's a delicate balance that needs to be struck between a CSI-esque crime drama, and an Arrow-type comic book show.

The short answer is: Yes, you should give this show a chance. While it does have several wrinkles that need to be worked out, it does what a pilot episode should, it sets the tone for a good show with a strong cast of interesting characters within a familiar setting, but from an angle we haven't seen before. 

Here's the best part, if you didn't get the chance to watch it on TV, Fox has the episode available to watch online for free:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

That Guy Defends Movies: Episode 1 - Speed Racer

The internet is....a thing. Its a thing that can be wonderful, and seconds later make you want to dig your fingers into someone's throat to shut them up. No matter what the topic is, people will always disagree on it. But what I hate more than anything on the internet is when people say things like:

"That movie SUCKED."

......Are...are you going to go into further detail? Are you just going along with the bandwagon because you heard a famous critic say he didn't like it? Did you have a friend who saw it that wasn't a fan, so you just take his word? Do you simply not like one of the actors?

Opinions are a wonderful thing, but people need to learn that saying things like "Its a fact" does NOT make it fact! And having an opinion means that it is YOUR belief, NOT a statistically proven reality simply because you SAY IT IS!!!

Now this applies to everything, (most notably politics, religion, etc.) but here and now, it has led to a new segment of TGLM, titled: That Guy Defends Movies. This is where I'll be defending  movies that I feel have garnered an undeserved reputation over the years, and explain why you should give them a second (or maybe even a first) chance, or at least get you thinking about why you don't like them in more detail, other than just saying "it sucked". These won't so much be reviews of movies, more along the lines of editorials, so expect POSSIBLE SPOILERS.

On that note, let's get rolling!

Kicking things off is one of my top favorite movies of all time, no joke. I saw this movie in theaters at least five times, bought it on DVD on day one of release, and since then, I haven't been sick of it for one second. So let's take a look at...

Speed Racer (2008)

I mentioned that I saw this movie in theaters at least five times, and in all of those viewings, I remember seeing other patrons in the theater maybe once. From opening week until the final viewing, this movie was a box office disaster. Rotten Tomatoes reviews averaged out to a 5/10, and critics demolished the movie's "headache-inducing special effects" (Rotten Tomatoes), stating that it "...proudly denies entry into its ultra-bright world to all but gamers, fanboys and anime enthusiasts." (The Hollywood Reporter). Others mocked its story, or lack thereof, in some opinions. For others, it was the cheesy, over-the-top acting. There are plenty of topics of discussion, so let's just dive in.

According to reviews/critiques, the main issues that critics had boiled down to these categories:

Directed by the Wachowski brothers (um...siblings now I guess. One of them had a sex change a few years back), famed directors of the incredibly popular Matrix trilogy, Speed Racer is based on the 1970's anime of the same name, following the high-speed exploits of Speed, and the rest of the Racer family. The show has had a lasting impact on anime, and pop culture in general, and even a few new iterations on TV around the same time as the movie. 

The TV show had a very distinct style: packed full of color, fast-moving backgrounds, and camera cuts. After all, the title of the show starts with SPEED. On that note, to betray the show's heritage of style and explosions would be an absolute insult to fans, and would betray the idea of what made the original so fascinating for newcomers. The visuals of this movie are the biggest reason I adore it so much. Every color glows, whether it be the breathtaking sunsets, racetrack crowds, or even just the driveway of the Racer home. You don't see these visuals in even the most special effect-packed movies year after year, and for me, this was a welcome change.

I really want to address that comment I pulled earlier, saying:

"[Speed Racer] proudly denies entry into its ultra-bright world to all but gamers, fanboys and anime enthusiasts."

Ehem...NO SHIT!!! That's like saying Seventeen Magazine proudly denies entry to it's all-pink periodical to all but SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS! The movie was clearly marketing itself to Hot Wheels and video game-loving pre-teen kids, and if you ask me it does it flawlessly! How or why anyone could chastise a movie for appealing to it's target audience and seriously call themselves a movie critic makes my soul hurt. Just because it wasn't the type of movie that these critics would go home and watch to relax does NOT justify the movie being bad.

I don't like Wizard of Oz very much, but I can still admit that it was visually unique, especially for it's time. I don't listen to The Beatles, but I acknowledge the impact they had on music as a whole, even on some of my favorite bands. Personal dislike does NOT warrant a bad rating.

To be fair, I'll admit that the very end of the final race does give me a headache:

But at the same time, it still to this day gets me out of my seat with excitement.

If you haven't seen the movie or TV show, here's a basic backstory (potential SPOILERS):
Speed Racer's older brother Rex Racer used to be one of the best. But in order to fight the growing mafia control and corruption over racing (which in this world is about 1000x bigger than football in America), he faked his own death, and became the crime fighting Racer X. The movie follows this, but puts a larger focus on the trauma and changes that Rex's death caused the Racer family, and how Speed plans to finish what his brother started by taking on the Mafia controlled racers in several high intensity races.

Maybe its just me...but what about that is so hard to believe or follow, given the already present visual style? Why is it so easy for people to believe a guy dressed as a bat can take down a purple-suited clown, and yet THIS seems far-fetched? Granted there is quite a bit of dialogue, but none of it is anything that a child wouldn't be able to follow.

My one and only complaint with the story is that when the Mach 5 is given all of it's powerful new counter-weapons, there are a few explained that are never used. That is literally my only complaint with the story. It's simple enough that kids can follow, but gets into a complex economic/political/mafia-esque scandal that's just as entertaining for adults.

Critics bashed the movie's hammy acting and over-the-top characters, but again, take a look at the source material:

If you've never seen it, I'd suggest taking a look here:

Given that, what could anyone honestly expect to be any different? The casting of each character was perfect, combining incredibly well known actors like John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, with newcomers including Speed himself, Emile Hirsch.

There are plenty of scenes where the acting is ridiculous and over-the-top, but guess what? That's what they were going for! (see my previous rant about overpaid movie critics clearly judging based on what their personal likes/dislikes are, not the quality of the movie)

All in all, the movie is NOT for everyone. If you look at this and get a headache, you're probably not going to want to see it. But for any kid who has ever played with Hot Wheels, and in terms of pushing special effects to their pique, this movie is, in my opinion, solid gold, and absolutely worth at least one view from any action/racing fan!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sexism In Comics: Let's get something straight...

Have you ever noticed how people, since the dawn of comics, movies, television, etc. have always felt that there’s such thing as a line between “too much” and “acceptable”? Whether it regards violence, nudity, language, or even religion, there has always been a line. If you’ve taken a look at any news site in the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen the questionable alternate cover of Spider-Woman that has the Internet all abuzz. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s how it looked:

The cover is by famous Italian comic book artist Milo Manara, and reflects his personal style, which has won countless awards. Tonight, I signed into Facebook, and was greeted with a link portraying the cover of a new comic book based on the pop culture character Vampirella. Here’s what it looked like:

 BREASTS. Bare naked, no excuses, breasts.

Now, if you, at gunpoint, HAD to choose one that you thought would cause more controversy than the other, what would you choose?

Here’s my point: Over the past two (or so) weeks, the Web has been buzzing with imbalanced beliefs about sexuality in comic books, because of the Spider-Woman “controversy.” Some viewers said that it appeared as though she was “presenting herself”, or that her costume wouldn’t cling to her in such an unrealistic way, saying that men have never been portrayed in such a way, and that the comic book industry is sexist. (This is a load of garbage, but not my point at this particular time...)

Granted, it may not have been the most realistic, or even the most decent cover in the world. But suffice it to say that there are definitely more unrealistic things in the world of comics than a character’s costume clinging to their skin.


I love comics. No, I LOVE comics. I don’t see them as sexist, racist, religion…ist…whatever. If you have half a brain, and can see that they quite obviously take place in a fictional realm wherein people have super powers and have, for damn near a century, donned skin-tight costumes in the process, then you will be as un-offended as I am. But this Vampirella garbage? This is where the “exploitation” that so many have been complaining about becomes a real, serious issue.

Now, I don’t have kids. I plan/hope to someday, and at such time as I do have them, I’d LOVE to take them to a comic book store. So if you can, please join me in this future situation: You and your six – to – twelve year old child (male or female, it really doesn’t matter) walk into the comic store together, and you see this cover, featuring a woman, TOTALLY bare-breast. Heck, for the sake of argument, let’s say the Spider-Woman cover is right next to it. Chances are, you AND your kid will notice the Vampirella cover first, and be FAR more shocked by it. Now as a parent, who loves and cares for your child, are you going to be okay with exposing your child to this at such a young age?! I’m not talking about anything religious or not, what I’m talking about is plain DECENCY.

But TGWLComics, the human body is art! You're an artist, you're just being immature.
Okay, you're right. I went to school for art, and I learned that the body is a beautiful thing, and inherently is not a sexual thing, until sex is added into the equation.

That said, I pose a new situation to you: 
You and your child are walking down the street. Suddenly, a completely topless woman walks past you. Men can't help but stare at her and cat-call her, purely because of her body. Not because of anything she's ever done to prove that she's anything but a pair of breasts. Do you want your son to learn that this is okay, or your daughter to learn that this is how she should act?!

This comic book cover is the first and ONLY time I've EVER been this furious about female exploitation.

If you have any brains at all, you won't support this...this SMUT! If I had any disposable income, I'd buy and BURN this crap, and I hope you'd do the same. Personally, I have nothing at all against the Spider-Woman cover, and if that shocks you, take a look at this video, and I hope you'll agree with me. But this Vampirella crap does NOTHING to end the media's attack on comic books/video games/movies and sexuality, and I pray that you join me in fighting this garbage.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

TGLComics: Marvel vs DC, who rules the big screen?

As far back as the dawn of comic books themselves, we've had comic book movies and TV shows. Even before Adam West donned the cowl, one could watch the Dark Knight's adventures portrayed by Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowrey in the 1940's. Before Chris Evans even knew what a shield was, Dick Purcell had already battled evil as Captain America in 1944. And before Samuel L. Jackson had even been considered to play the famed director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the role had already been tackled in 1998 by David Hasselhoff know what, let's actually forget I mentioned that last one.

Marvel and DC have both seen vast success in the realms of movies and television, but there's definitely a pattern of success that both companies should note: Marvel has claimed a clear victory at the movies, but DC has an undeniable lead on television. 

The Avengers (2012)
How Marvel conquered the Big Screen:
Comic book movies have been around for decades, but in 2008, Marvel changed the game. They finally stopped licensing their characters, and took a crack at making movies themselves. Iron Man blasted into theaters, and saw a good amount of box office success while he was at it. The movie was good, but it was what came after the movie that changed comic book cinema as we know it. A figure enshrouded by shadows emerged towards Tony Stark and spoke those wonderful words: "I'm here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative." Comic book fans were stunned. Marvel was taking things in a whole new direction, and the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" was born. Marvel had it's best foot forward and later that year saw the release of The Incredible Hulk, and another saliva-inducing after credits teaser. Two years later, Iron Man 2. The next year, Thor and Captain America. And finally, the shining jewel that is The Avengers. We're a little over halfway through Marvel's "Phase 2" of movies, and as it stands, Marvel Studio's Kevin Feige admitted earlier this year that Marvel has movies planned as far ahead as 2028. If that isn't overkill, I don't know what is, but still, they know what they're doing. Even with different directors, writers, etc. there is obvious consistency throughout their movies. The various directors and writers work together to guarantee continuity, with Joss Whedon confidently (and rightfully) ruling the Marvel movie throne. Marvel did it right in that they chose a fantastic set of directors, locked them in the world's most comfortable prison, and catered to their every whim until they walked out with pure solid gold, as opposed to rushing them all for a quick buck. My former mistrust that comic book movies should still even continue being made has been quelled after Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Cap 2's shining examples that skillful repetition is actually possible.

Plus y'know, Disney can give them more money than God to make their there's that.

Avengers: Disk Wars...*sigh*
How Marvel botched the small screen:
Imagine if tomorrow MGM announced a weekly James Bond television show, but it didn't follow 007, instead it followed Moneypenny. Sure, people would watch because they know that Bond is going to show up for an episode or two, but after a few weeks when 007 doesn't show up, you're just stuck with the receptionist. This is the problem with Marvel's biggest TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Casual viewers assumed they'd be seeing Thor, Cap, Iron Man, at the very least Hawkeye or Black Widow once every few episodes but all they got for the entire season was the back-ups, with a thirty second cameo by Nick Fury. There's only so many times the viewer can say "Oh! They mentioned (insert character)! Cool!" without actually seeing anyone, before it gets old. This was painfully obvious, as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ratings plummeted, losing one third of its viewership in one week. You'd think that this would be a strong indicator that they need more big names, but we'll have to wait and see with season two.

I've always felt that comic books are best represented on TV in the form of cartoons, which Marvel hasn't been terribly successful with either. In 2010, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes premiered on the Disney channel, sporting two seasons based heavily on existing comic book plots, including "Secret Invasion." But the animation was lackluster, and the tone couldn't decide whether it was a kids show, or aimed more at a young adult audience. Then in 2013, it was replaced by Avengers Assemble! which, while still running today, has met with worse reviews, and fans wishing the previous show would return. Marvel's small screen failings seem to come from their lack of dedication. Spider-Man alone has had no less than 8 different television shows of his own, the X-Men have had at least 4, and the Avengers at least 3. Unfortunately, now that Disney has it's cold clammy hands on Marvel's rights, we can expect to see plenty of cash-in ideas. One such idea is Japanese Pokemon/Digimon ripoff, Avengers: Disk Wars in which kids collect disks infused with the powers of members of Marvel comics, and summon them a la Pokemon. There really are no words for that one...

How DC's movies have gone wrong:

Now please do not misunderstand. Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was phenomenal, and the box office numbers will attest to that. But since the release of Batman Begins, there was never any lasting hope for a Justice League movie, or even any tie-ins at all with other DC properties throughout the trilogy.

Fast forward to 2013, which saw the release of Man of Steel, and at Comic Con 2013, DC blew the roof off when the Batman/Superman logos appeared together on screen. Finally in April 2014, Justice League was confirmed as a movie with a 2016 release date. But is it too little too late? Marvel did something fantastic with it's movies: It told individual stories in such a way that even non-comic readers were able to learn about the characters, and a universe was established over five years. On the opposite end, let's take a look at the confirmed character roster for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg, Lex Luthor, Aquaman, Green Lantern, along with rumors of Martian Manhunter, Doomsday, Joker, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Amanda Woller, and on and on... It's pretty obvious that if you want to break records in the box office, you'll need more than just comic book readers to come to your movies, so for a 2 to 2.5 hour long movie, isn't this a bit of information and character overload?! DC is jumping into a race that Marvel won six years ago.

In this case, Marvel is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps: we all know that whatever they do will be successful, and make us proud to be fans, whereas DC is a fresh high school grad who chugged one too many energy drinks and suddenly thinks he can swim the English channel just to get our attention.

The Flash (premiering this fall on CW)
How DC has dominated television:
DC has ruled over television for well over a decade. In 2001, the live action adaptation of Superman demolished ratings with Smallville. Meanwhile that same year, the Justice League cartoon was scoring big on Cartoon Network, with a clear political/super hero tone that knew it's intended young adult audience and struck big, along with fantastic animation, and engaging plots. Both of these ran their time with huge success, but it seemed like DC started to slip. That is until 2012 saw the release of Arrow, a show not about a grunt, or a c-list character, but a card carrying comic book Justice League member. Between the first two seasons, ratings have gone nowhere but up. Clearly aware of the success, DC is taking full advantage and rolling out three more live action TV shows with a similar action/drama/peppered with comedy tone. This fall will see the rise of The Flash, Gotham, and Constantine. With this, it seems that DC has the chance to sweep Marvel's momentum right out from under them. They have the chance to build and sustain a cinematic universe on a weekly basis, whereas Marvel's movies can take years to make, market, and release, television shows work at a quicker pace, and keep viewers engaged for longer. If DC played their cards right, they could build a Justice League TV series that crushes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the dirt.

What happens next:
Due to the entertainment industry as a whole becoming a cash-in, money making machine, what I'm about to suggest will probably never come anywhere near happening, but I can dream. That said, here is my recipe for success for both of these companies: 

Marvel, stop making TV shows. That ship is sinking. Actually, it has never really been afloat. On the other hand, your movie yacht is cruising just fine. Focus solely on movies, and not only could you make more faster, but with better quality. Oh and by the way, whose idea was it that the Punisher would transfer well into anime?!

DC, you lost in the movies. Trying to amass every character you can into one or two behemoth movies could backfire in one of a thousand different ways. That said, you clearly have some aptitude with television shows, so take a page from Marvel's playbook and build a consistent universe on TV, but you need to walk away from movies. You are years too late.