Friday, August 29, 2014

TGLVideo Games: Top 10 Local 4-Player Games

In the grand scheme of things, the ability to play video games online with friends (or anyone really) is a pretty new concept, first coming into popularity with the release of the original Xbox, and hitting its prime with Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

But in my eyes, nothing beats the joy of sharing a cramped couch with three of your closest friends for some local 4-player hysterics. On that note, let's take a look at my top 10 best local 4-player games.

10. Pokemon Stadium (N64)

The strange thing about Pokemon Stadium, a game made to provide all of the turn-based battle fun of the original Gameboy games with 3D graphics, is that hands down the most fun feature of the game was the 1-4 player minigame mode, titled "Kids' Club".

This mode provided nine completely different, often reaction or timing based minigames, each lasting no longer than a minute or two at a time. But what made them so addicting and gave them such replayability was more based on the fact that because they were so varied, each person playing would likely be better at one of them than everybody else, ramping up the competitive nature of all players. Personally I am unstoppable at the Simon Says clone, "Clefairy Says". Others included a carnival hoop toss-style game called "Ekans Hoop Hurl", or probably the most audibly entertaining of the bunch, "Sushi-Go-Round" starring Lickitung. If you played this when you were younger, or if you're cool enough to still be playing it now, chances are you also remember the catchy beats that go along with each mini game.

All in all, Kids' Club provided endless hours upon release, and still bears revisiting for those who either haven't played it, or who just want to relive the glory days of the Nintendo 64.

9. Bomberman series (NES/SNES/N64)

Even if you're a gamer who has never played a Bomberman game, chances are you'd recognize it. The multiplayer-centered game takes place on a static, top-down screen, with each player starting in their own corner, blocked off from all other players. By blowing up obstacles and gathering power-ups, the goal is to trap or blow up all other players. It is a very simple premise, but executed beautifully in most iterations of the game. Bomberman has made his way to almost every single video game system, but there are some notably standout titles.

For my money, it doesn't get any better than Bomberman 64 on, you guessed it, the Nintendo 64. The gameplay doesn't vary, but the 3D graphics make it a much more visually engaging choice than the Nintendo or Super Nintendo versions. Not to mention the N64 already has four controller ports, eliminating the need for a multitap.

Again, they're almost all wonderful, but I would take note of two things: Bomberman Hero (N64) changes the multiplayer formula to more of a 3D arena combat style, ditching the classic formula, and Bomberman: Act Zero (Xbox 360) should be AVOIDED LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

8. WCW/NWO Revenge (N64)

Serving as the inspiration for this list, I recently re-purchased this game for only $3. The reason I mention the price I paid is because while this late 1990's wrestling game may not retain any long term resale value, it provides far more than $3 worth of entertainment nearly 15 years after its release, and wow do I feel old now. Even as a single player game, Revenge is widely regarded as one of the finest wrestling games of the N64/PS1 era.

The premise is simple: Pick a game mode, pick a wrestler, fight. But the fun comes in the form of playing with friends, particularly in the Battle Royale game mode, in which any number of wrestlers from 4 to 40 rush into the ring one at a time as his predecessor falls. In this mode, even if a player is eliminated, he takes control of the very next wrestler to enter, guaranteeing not only variety between wrestlers, but bloody revenge between players who eliminate each other. To top it all off, the controls are easy to pick up after one or two matches, and learning how to pull off special/finishing moves is incredibly rewarding, and extremely nostalgic for fans of the WCW.

Besides Battle Royale, the game also includes tag team matches which can be played in a variety of ways, such as 2 player vs 2 player, 1 player vs 1 player, or even 2 players vs 2 computer wrestlers. Forming rivalries and betraying each other becomes immensely fun as the game goes on, and the massive amount of wrestlers and costumes guarantees you'll never play the same way twice!

7. Gauntlet Legends/Dark Legacy (N64/PS2/Arcade)

Are you a Dungeons & Dragons fan? Maybe you've wanted to try it, but don't have the patience? Are you a fantasy fan who thinks D&D is too slow-paced and boring? Or do you just enjoy teaming up with friends in order to help/hinder each other in a chaotic rumble of nonstop goblin/orc/dragon mayhem?! Then Gauntlet Legends (or it's PS2 remake, Dark Legacy, pictured above) is for you!

The game plays from a top down perspective, and beings with each player choosing their class, and colors. These include typical fantasy fare, including Warrior, Wizard, Archer, and even some less standard entries such as Valkyrie, Knight, or Minotaur. Each class controls the exact same, except for a noticeable difference in statistics, and appearance. For example, Warrior will always have much higher health than Wizard, but Wizard may use magic potions more powerfully than Warrior.

The game becomes incredibly hectic as more players participate, fighting over treasures, food, and magic spells to use against the enemy. The difficulty, however, brings everyone together whether you like it or not, guaranteeing plenty of death and laughs along the way.

6. TMNT / X-Men / The Simpsons (Genesis/SNES/Arcade)

Four Player side-scrolling beat 'em ups could fill up an entire list by themselves, and all follow a very similar, if not identical formula. So for the purposes of this list, I've narrowed down to my three favorites.

Much like Gauntlet, these games require a balance of cooperation, and competition that guarantees constant banter between all players. Need health? Make sure your teammates know, or you'll suffer for it. The best of these games even include combo special moves, such as The Simpsons arcade game. There really isn't much to say about these games that you can't experience for yourself. When played in an arcade, they are built to suck as many quarters out of your pocket as possible, so prepare for a lot of death.

Or better yet, buy the console versions.

5. Super Smash Bros (N64/GC/Wii)

Wait...Let me say it for you: "What?! Smash Bros isn't #1?! (insert chain of expletives telling me how much I suck)" Yeah yeah, I know. But that's the fun thing about this being MY list. Don't like it? Make your own!

For those of you unfamiliar, the Smash Bros series pits Nintendo's most famous characters against each other in a competitive arena fighting game. Your objective is to beat up your opponents, raise their damage percentage, and knock them off the stage. With each character being extremely varied (in the original game anyways), battles were always hard fought, hectic and exciting. The tide could turn in an instant with the appearance of an item on the battlefield.

So why so "low" on the list? Well, as amazing as the Smash Bros series as a whole is, I've always thought the series piqued with the original entry. The game only had twelve characters, and nine stages when everything is unlocked. At the time, this was astounding, but after a few hours, you've played them all, and the game can get a bit repetitive. What I valued so much as a kid playing 4-player games with my friends was the ability to continue playing a game for hours, days, weeks, and beyond while still getting a fresh experience each time.

4. Towerfall Ascension (Ouya/Steam/PS4)

Similar to the original Bomberman, Towerfall pits four players against each other, all on the same static screen. It follows the old school 8-bit visual style of the original Nintendo, but with game mechanics and variety that can only be found in recent games. Each player starts in their own corner, and the objective is to take out all other players by either jumping on their heads, or shooting them with arrows. When a player leaves the screen, they come back through the other side, a la Pacman, and arrow power-ups and shields are available throughout each round which spices up the gameplay significantly.

The rounds are short and fast, but one play can still last anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours. Players choose a score to compete up to, and must accrue that number of kills in order to win. Accidental suicides result in loss of points, and happen frequently, leading to some drastic swings in leadership.

The Playstation 4 version does include a 2-player co-op mode, but this game is meant to be played 4 player, and loses a lot if you don't have three willing friends.

3. Super Mario (Kart/Tennis/Soccer/Party/Bros Wii/etc.) (SNES/N64/Wii/Wii U)

To be honest, I feel dirty even having Super Mario ANYTHING on the list. It feels cheap, since anybody who has ever played a multiplayer Mario game knows that it is going to be good. So in the interest of fairness both to Mario games, and to every other game in existence, they're all being lumped together.

Super Mario Party combined the best parts of board games like Monopoly with the short, frantic mini-games of Pokemon Stadium or Wario Ware, resulting in long lasting games, and plenty of Luigi death stares between friends.

Mario Kart/Tennis/Soccer are what you expect. Racing, and sports. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these, in fact they're all superb, but there's not much to say that those who have played it don't already know, and those who don't wouldn't expect.

New Super Mario Bros Wii, however, I wanted to make special mention of. The premise is the exact same as every Mario game going back to his very beginning: Princess Peach is captured, go free her. But this time, up to four players can travel through the classic side-scrolling levels together, jumping off each other's heads, saving each other from certain doom, or even accidentally (or not...) guaranteeing each other's demise. If I wasn't lumping these game together, I'd put this game at the #1 spot. It is the reason I purchased a Wii, and almost the only reason I still play Wii at all.

2. Perfect Dark (N64/360)

*sigh* Again, let me say it for you: "WHAT?! Why not Goldeneye??? It was way better! Blar blar blar!!!" To which I say with full confidence, Perfect Dark makes Goldeneye look like a pile of Goldenpoop.

Perfect Dark was released a few years after Goldeneye by Rare, the same company that made Goldeneye, and basically every other SNES and N64 game you've ever loved. It is considered the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye, even though it adds a plethora of new features that it's predecessor didn't have. Most notable among this were the varied multiplayer options, such as co-op, and counter-op.

Perfect Dark provided the same fast paced shooter gameplay as Goldeneye, but with a twist: Even with four human controlled players, up to 10 computer controlled players could be added into the fray. Included in this mode was an incredible variety of different tactics for those computer players to use (examples include VengeSim, who would only attack whoever killed him last, and FistSim, who tried to steal everyone's weapons), and the ability to have team fights with anything from 6 vs 6 to something as crazy as 2 vs 2 vs 3 vs 5 vs 1.

Maps and weapons were brought over from Goldeneye, players could name each team, player and computer characters could be customized, players could save their preferences to their own profiles for future use (even on separate memory cards, oh what a glorious age that was), the game was beyond fantastic, and it still holds up to this day.

And now for the cherry on top: A few years ago, the game was remade, exactly as it was on N64, onto the Xbox 360, but with better graphics and performance, which fixed the only flaw that the original had. The game no longer slows down when too many characters are on screen. If you have a 360 or N64, you absolutely must own this game!

1. Castle Crashers (PS3/360/PC)

This game is the pinnacle of 4 player couch co-op fun. At first glance, Castle Crashers looks similar to TMNT, X-Men, and The Simpsons arcade games, but this game is so much more.

Up to four players can join in, and battle the forces of evil in order to rescue four kidnapped princesses. The unique draw of this game is that while it is a side scrolling beat 'em up just like the previously mentioned games, it includes a surprisingly heavy RPG system. Each time a player levels up, they can put points into strength, magic, or agility, which unlocks more combos, or higher health. Items and animal partners add to the hectic fun, and every single enemy you fight can be unlocked as a playable character. (TIP: If you want to win, claim the ram as your animal friend. I named him Rammy, and together we were unstoppable!)

The most chaotic 4 player fun, however, comes from rescuing the princesses. After defeating certain bosses throughout the game, any players who survived the boss fight earn the opportunity to fight to the death for the love of the princess. After this brief fight, the game returns to business as normal, but the sudden shift from co-op to versus gives you an entertaining "Uh oh" moment when you glance at each player's health, and pray for your own survival.

If you're worried about length versus price, the game has a story campaign that, on first playthrough, can take up to 12+ hours to complete, and a hardcore difficulty/new game+ mode after completion. This game is still available through download on Xbox Live and Playstation Network, and is well worth every penny.


It really is difficult narrowing down so many great games, so I wanted to include some honorable mentions that are still fantastic and worthy of your attention.

Rock Band 

If you've ever played Rock Band, even if you don't like it, anyone can see the appeal. Just as Madden gives you the opportunity to be a football star, Rock Band gave you and your friends the chance to start that band you had always talked about starring. Now you just have to pick a name...and MouseRat is already taken.

007 Goldeneye

Yes I chose Perfect Dark over Goldeneye, but in no way does this lessen the impact that Goldeneye had on gaming as we know it. Doom may have revolutionized the FPS, but Goldeneye forever changed split screen multiplayer. Sadly, I'm seeing more and more people on the internet whine about how the game doesn't hold up, and calling it overrated, but this isn't true. It may not be a great game by today's standards, but it had an incredible impact, and the classic maps, and most importantly "Slappers Only" mode, still provide entertainment even today.

Left 4 Dead

I really wish I could put this in my top 10, but sadly it violates the standard that I was going for: 4-player on ONE system. I've spent countless hours with my friends playing this game, which provides some of the most harrowing co-op I've ever played, but the sad truth is that in order to play 4-player, you need two consoles, and two TVs. *sigh*

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 

Think of it as Gauntlet with super heroes. This game was, and still is a great time, but there is still a reason it didn't make the list. The combat can tend to get fairly repetitive, and the levels can get a bit too overly long and empty, leading to some dull moments that made me yawn just one too many times.

Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing

This game is exactly what I needed in college: Mario Kart re-skinned, and available on non-Nintendo systems. Yes, it is an exact clone of Mario Kart, down to the items being colored (and often even shaped) the same as Mario Kart's items, and its slight lack of originality is why it didn't make the list. But even so, this game is still the best Kart racer I've ever played that doesn't have a fat mustachioed plumber in it. If you haven't, go buy this game. Just don't touch Big the Cat...he sucks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TGLComics: Taking Chances - Why comic readers need to stop complaining about change

It's been a running joke for decades now that there are only three characters who have ever truly stayed dead in comic books: Bruce Wayne's parents, and Uncle Ben. Outside of those unlucky few, no comic book readers get too upset anymore about the "death" of a character because, as we all know, they'll be back next year, or when their next movie comes out in theaters. All the titans of comic books have fallen at some point or another, and made a glorious return. (Wolverine is about to get his, but don't worry, he'll be back for the next X-Men Origins movie)

There is one, however, that I really wish had stayed dead.

*SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't read issue 700 of Amazing Spider-Man (or any of Superior Spider-Man) skip past this!*

In December 2012, Marvel released the controversial finale of the Amazing Spider-Man series, "Dying Wish" (issue #700). In it, Spider-Man has one final climactic battle with Doctor Octopus, who is on the brink of death. In his final moments, Doc Oc uses a tiny drone of his own invention to swap his mind and memories into the body of Spider-Man, and Spidey's mind into his own body. Peter Parker, from the rapidly dying body of Doc Oc, beckons Spider-Oc to protect his family, and maintain the eternal Spider-mantra, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Thus began the year of the Superior Spider-Man, in which Doc Oc, now living out Peter's life, swears to uphold justice better than Peter ever did, to be Superior. He donned a new costume (my personal favorite), and used his super villain genius to finally be a force for good.


Reactions were understandably mixed. Many praised the extreme shift in gears (myself included), while others went so far as to threaten the life of story writer Dan Slott and his family.

Superior Spider-Man continued from January 2013 until the recent re-reboot of Amazing Spider-Man in April 2014, no doubt leading to the "I told you so" crowd getting heads so big they could make the Watcher jealous. But, as mentioned earlier, with the upcoming release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theaters, it was no surprise to anyone with even the slightest lick of common sense that Peter Parker would make a glorious return to his own comic.

But if you ask me, it was the wrong move.

Allow me to explain: Spider-Man has been around since 1962, and for over 50 years now, we've watched him beat up the bad guy, save the girl (well, for the most part...sorry Gwen), and never ever break his personal code of minimal violence and no killing, even in the aforementioned death of Gwen Stacy. To be fair, its only natural that everyone freak out when something like that changes, because with Spider-Man, his unbreakable oath of responsibility is all we've ever known. But seeing the total opposite of that was so refreshing! Suddenly nobody had any idea what he'd do next. Every issue was groundbreaking for 52-year-old hero, doing something we'd never dreamed he'd go so far as doing. Each time I finished an issue, my mouth would hang wide, and I'd run to my wife, lips flapping like a little kid telling his parents about a car crash. But the point is, I kept reading. I HAD to know what came next!

And what made it even more powerful was that it wasn't some paltry 3 to 5 issue series, as far as Marvel wanted you to know, this was forever.

But, as we all suspected it would, the series ended. Peter returned, and order was restored. In this universe anyways...

I don't know what it is about Spider-Man, but it seems like of all the Marvel heroes, he always gets the shortest end of the stick. Aside from Earth-616, this is just as obvious in the Ultimates universe.

First appearing in 2011, Miles Morales burst on the scene, breaking grounds as the first biracial super hero. Once again, reviews were less than stellar. Some loved, most were pessimistic. But again, Marvel gave no choice as Peter Parker once again met his grizzly end. (Seriously, this guy needs to join a team full-time...)

But the barriers were broken, and Miles became the new guardian of New York in the Ultimate universe. After the media backlash cooled down however, Miles quickly rose to popularity.

So what makes readers so willing to accept the death of the same character in this universe, but not Earth-616?

Both Spider-Oc and Miles Morales can both be easily written off by the casual observer as publicity stunts, and to a degree I do believe that both were created in an effort to boost readership and promote interest in the characters before the movie releases. However to the weekly reader, they were brand new characters.

Weekly comic books have been around for almost 80 years now, with characters like Batman, Superman, Captain America and Spider-Man hitting milestone anniversaries. Introducing new characters nowadays understandably gets a quick shrug from most die hard readers, and those who don't know much about comics are more likely to gravitate to heroes they already know. But with these two series, Marvel did something that took a lot of guts: they took away the reader's choice. If you wanted a Spider-Man story, you had no Peter Parker option left. And this is what it all boils down to: the discomfort of the reader. Any hero can die, but how much more of a slap in the face is it to not only have them die, but have the villain ultimately triumph within the body of the hero?!

It hit me too! After an issue or two of Superior Spider-Man, I was uneasy because I had never seen the likes of this story before. But as I pushed myself further in to each issue, it quickly became my all-time favorite Spider-Man story arc, if not my favorite comic book story period.

What it all boils down to is this: TAKE A CHANCE. The majority of those who ripped these two changes to shreds hadn't even read a single issue of them. They just got angry and boycotted them without giving the new idea a chance.

Friday, August 8, 2014

TGLMovies: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Guardians Of The Galaxy
PG-13 (2014)

Okay, I've been known to show a bit of favoritism towards comic book related movies, so before I go into my (as best as I can) unbiased movie review, let me get my fanboying out of the way...

*deep breath*


Okay. Got that out of my system, let's get this rolling.

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesle, Lee Pace

Peter Quill, a.k.a. "Star Lord" (Chris Pratt) leads a group of former criminals and bounty hunters (Saldana, Cooper, Bautista, Diesel) to save the galaxy from the powerful Ronan (Lee Pace).

I could go further into the plot, but to do so would remove the magic of the story. It needs to be experienced rather than told.

"Something good...":
 Ever since the release of the first Iron Man (2008), I've seen every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date (Iron Man 1-3, Hulk, Thor 1-2, Captain America 1-2, The Avengers). I know all the ins and outs, characters, and over arching plot points. But what I loved the most about Guardians is that you don't need to know absolutely ANY of it in order to enjoy this movie. Granted it doesn't hurt, and there are one or two characters who have had minor roles in previous Marvel movies, but there is nothing that would hinder your full experience.

Guardians has, in more than a few cases, been referred to as the new Star Wars for a new generation of movie goers. I don't take this to mean that it is superior, rather that if you go into the movie assuming that you don't know a single character or alien race, the movie will guide you through all you need to know. There are a multitude of alien races, but you don't need to know all of their names/origins. None of the Guardians themselves have had their own movies, but their histories are all discussed in enough detail to flesh them out while still leaving plenty of time for action. Oooooh the action.

The sweet, sweet space adventure action. As previously mentioned, it is very hard to describe this movie while trying to leave enough room for your own viewing to be enjoyable and spoil free. That said, I haven't seen a movie with such incredible action and special effects for a long time. Guardians is not afraid to throw hundreds of combatants on screen at a time, leading to one of the most spectacular final fight scenes I've ever seen.

In terms of acting, this movie actually took quite a few risks, but every one of them paid off in a big way. The two most well known actors of the Guardians themselves (Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper) merely voice their characters, and don't actually appear on screen. As for my personal favorites (Chris Pratt and David Bautista), Pratt has had little to no exposure in movies, and is primarily known for his comedic role in television's Parks And Recreation. Bautista on the other hand, is first and foremost a professional wrestler, not an actor. That said, he absolutely stole the show for me. His character, Drax, is covered in muscle, and while I expected him to be the silent bruiser, he made me laugh the most.

Conversely, big name actors like Josh Brolin, Glen Close, John C Riley, and Benicio Del Toro, all have very little screen time, but with the time that they are on screen, they all shine.

The movie's soundtrack has garnered much attention by itself, as the entire playlist comes in the form of 1970's and 80's pop music, including the Jackson 5, Blue Swede, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, and many more. Again, without spoiling, every song fits perfectly with the characters, and it is pretty fun to hear 80's pop music during several action scenes.

"...Something bad...":

As much as I hate to admit it, the movie is not flawless. The most glaring problem I had was with actress Zoe Saldana, who portrays Guardian member Gamora. As a character, Gamora is a rough and tough bruiser, but deceiving, given her appearance. As portrayed by Zoe Saldana, Gamora acts like a snooty princess, then flirts, then acts like an idiot, then gets angry at everyone for hardly any reason. If I had to pick a "least favorite" scene, it is a particular one with Saldana in it. She just isn't as engaging as the rest of the cast, and when you have nothing but bright shining stars, and one that shines just a bit less, the dimmer star will stick out like a sore thumb.

Other than Saldana's shaky acting, however, you'd be hard pressed to find anything to complain about.

"...A bit of both":
For the past year, Marvel has been pushing this as their "next big franchise" and rightly so. Guardians sets a strong base for a plethora of future movies and tie-ins with existing Marvel franchises. If you like comic book, action, sci-fi, or comedy movies, go see this as soon as you can.

I give Guardians Of The Galaxy an unsurprising yet totally deserved, perfect 10/10.

Yes, there is one. If you haven't seen the movie, STOP HERE, as spoilers are coming up.
If you have seen the movie, read on regarding the post credits scene.
A good amount of you, if not all, have no idea who that was sitting next to The Collector casually sipping his drink. In case you were curious, his name is Howard the Duck. He is in fact a Marvel Comics character, though he's never been overly popular. He did get his own failed movie in the late 80's, and Guardians director James Gunn has confirmed that this was just a joke, and not implying anything about Howard getting his own movie.