Nov 25, 2009

Lego Matrix

Short, but cool.

4-handed Guitar

When they started just playing on different strings, I thought, aw cute. When they went half and half (one strumming the other’s strings and vica versa), my mind was blown.

Nov 23, 2009

Nov 21, 2009

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Awesome!!  This game was so damn much fun! I remember the demo and being kind of unimpressed, it seemed shallow. That’s true, and it isn’t. The much self-lauded physics engines are okay, they are cool, certainly if you are going to be force’ing things around, they ought to move interestingly, but it’s not like it changed my life. The combat is deeper than I thought, there’s enough saber combos and combinations of force powers that actually give you a wide variety of things to do. Any significant enemy or boss ends with a quicktime event, which are pretty awesome. QTEs are always a pain cuz you are focusing on your stupid buttons instead of the cool action, but it’s still pretty damn cool. The graphics all around are pretty great. It helps that it’s a fundamentally cgi almost cartoony world, but it all looks really good. The character models are also great, though the facial animations leave something to be desired.  Especially on the monkey main character, the girlfriend with enough plastic surgery to look like that cat lady, and the mutated clone of jimmy smitz. Eyes tend to have a glassy clearly separate look to them as well. But besides that the game looks great. The environments are beautiful star wars imaginings. Everything looks good and right. The game is kind of buggy, mostly forgivable (in that we somehow accept a buggy game these days). Just dumb things like stuck on invisible walls, stupid save policy, and one hilarious moment where I pushed a boss through the ground to her death (I got the points). But each boss ends with a QTE, not death, so the game was stuck and I had to reload. Kind of annoying, but honestly only a handful of annoyances in a great game is okay. The highlight might be the story. It fills in a gap between the 3rd and 4th movies better than the 3rd movie filled in the gap between the 2nd and 4th! The corruption and redemption of a character is more believable here than in any of the 3 prequels. It was really enjoyable from top to bottom, the progression of powers is good, the fights are generally challenging but not frustrating. There was one fight where you had to fight like 4 of these ironman dudes that are really meant to be fought 1 on 1, but that was the only one I had to retry 80 times to win. I’d almost consider playing this game again on a harder difficulty or to collect more stuff, as I don’t have any other PS3 games to play. But then I realize I have 3 or 4 unplayed PC games sitting here. Plus replaying for collectables or achievements is freakin’ boring. Maybe if i was 14, not now. Anyway, off track! The point is, great game. Just the gameplay isn’t a new era of gaming, but it’s very fun. Add in the very good story, and you have a winner. Had much more fun than in 75% of MGS4! There is DLC, and believe it or not I considered it. But $10 bucks for a single effing chapter is pretty much the dumbest thing I ever heard. The game is going for $30 at retail now, why the hell would you charge another $20 in missions and $15 in character packs? Idiots. But let’s pretend I never logged onto PSN, and say great game.

Call of Juarez – Whooopsie! When I bought this for $2 on gogamer I thought it was the new one. Turns out there was an old CoJ from a couple years ago. Oh well, play it anyway. It’s an okay game. It brings some somewhat interesting (I guess) game play mechanics in, though they aren’t really that interesting, but at least they were trying. There’s some slow motion bow&arrow and gun aiming. There’s a quick draw high noon sort of mechanic that isn’t that much fun. It’s neat how the story alternates between characters, especially since they are at odds with each other to begin with. The story itself is fine, not bad. The voice acting is surprisingly decent for what is otherwise kind of a low production values game. I think maybe that’s why I feel meh about it, it just doesn’t feel that exciting. Everything is done fine, but not great. And since the gameplay is interesting in theory but not necessarily all that fun, you have to have more in the production department to keep me going. It’s a relatively short game, so I did push all the way through. But if it was twice as long I wouldn’t have made it, I imagine.

Prince of Persia – The newest of the PoP revival, though still a couple years old. But hey, I’m always behind the times on games. Playing this one on PC (another cheapo gogamer purchase). Sadly, that fact presented many of the issues. The first was controls. Playing this on keyboard and mouse is an absolute nightmare. There are four basic attacks (kind of like the four face buttons on a controller?), plus a block and movement. Trying to map all four attacks and a block to my mouse, though it does have the requisite number of buttons, is horribly janky. On top of that, my mouse only registered 1/5 of the “forward/back page” button clicks, making the “press the button repeatedly” moments literally impossible. Fortunately, the day was saved when I borrowed a 360 controller from JIHoR and that worked wonderfully. The game is quite fun to play with a reasonable control scheme. As the PoP games are known for, the fluidity of the motions is pretty good. Jumping from this to that and flipping and sliding works pretty well. Next comes the other big PC fault – my computer wasn’t totally up to task. In any sufficiently complicated scene or battle, the framerate slowed down pretty pathetically. This is presumably not a problem on a console and would have made the game more fun. It’s frustrating to lose because the game didn’t keep up with your button presses, or even worse, you get used to pressing multiple times so that it does, but then it registers multiple presses and you jump into oblivion for no good god damn reason. But getting past that, the game is pretty fun. It is not nearly Sands of Time. SoT was revolutionary, the entire time mechanic was so mind blowing, and so much more fun to use and to save yourself with. This game doesn’t have that, all it has is a chick who follows you and helps you jump around. And if you fall, slip, get stabbed, or swallow a grenade, she casts a spell and you’re back, presto. That is fine, certainly makes getting through the game a lot easier, but it’s not anything like the fun of playing with time. The platforming is still fun, though, the best part of the game. The fight mechanic isn’t great. There’s combos that are kind of neat, blocking that’s a little finicky, and most annoyingly there are repeated quick time events. Not really fancy QTEs, just things that you have to press the button fast to dodge or counter an attack. Trouble is it’s a big pain in the ass, especially with a bad framerate fucking up your response time. So the combat kind of sucks, but it’s tolerable. The art style is basically cell shaded, with a little more style. I don’t really like cell shaded most of the time. I guess it kind of works here in a storybook tale sort of way. But hey, if it was real graphics, my computer would have slipped a disk, so i should be happy I guess. The story is very simple for the most part, the voice acting is good. The script is mostly good, some of the humor is forced and falls flat, but the prince is mostly charming. The ending is pretty fantastic, as far as I’m concerned, with only a slight negativity due to natural expectation of a gamer these days that you can always choose between good and evil. But there’s no choice here, and the end is very effective. Over all, good game.

Vakyria Chronicles – Pretty great game! I played the demo forever ago, but not during a time I had gamefly, so I never got the real thing. Luckily JIHoR had it in, so I borrowed it! It’s a turned based, RPGish war game, set in sort of a fake WW II time. It’s pretty japanesey in visual style, but in an odd mix with european influence. The gameplay is the star of the show. It’s not really like anything else I can think of. It’s kind of a first person RPG combined with final fantasy tactics or something. You have different units (although I think there should have been more) with different specialties. You run around, shoot bad guys, save the world, etc. It sounds simple, and it kind of is. There’s not so much strategy to it. Mostly you sneak up behind with these guys, run at them with these guys, and in general: just use the tank. The story is…. kind of crappy. There are some sweet spots, a clumsy discussion of race, and an awkward importance placed on community over technological superiority, which is very japanesey too, and kind of silly. It’s funny, we had this discussion – why does the VC mindless babble seem more tolerable than the MGS4 babble? The conclusion was that in an action game you expect action and badassery. And in a jrpg you expect miles of text. Well, that’s what you get, but it doesn’t really make sense to me, babble is babble, and if I have to “sit through it” instead of enjoy it, you made a game with a shitty plot. But I’m being overly harsh, it’s not intolerable, and you can of course skip it if you don’t have my disease. And certainly in this case the gameplay is original and fun enough to justify it (where as MGS4 was pretty derivative of itself). So, really good game, not underrated, but underplayed.

Nov 9, 2009

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Xmen Origins: Wolverine – Yeesh. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I had heard it was horrendous from all but one person. If you average everyone, such that it is slightly over horrendous, that’s a pretty good estimate. The opening credits I actually quite liked (if you ignore the canadians fighting in every american war ever). That might be a bad sign that that’s the highlight? The rest of the movie is… fine. It’s not super bad, I expected more cheesiness? poor production? not sure what. It was just kind of a crappy action movie, not worth noting if it wasn’t wolverine. There are some okay fights, some decent choreography. The striker group at first is kind of neat, if short lived. The effects are mostly fine, EXCEPT when wolverine first gets his claws. Then, HOLY SHIT, what the fuck happened? Why does he have roger rabbit graphics coming out of his hands?! Christ! Truly amazing bad failure there, just completely out of the blue shockingly bad. Happened a couple times, but that was the really bad bit. The rest of the effects for explosion and such are fine. Besides that, I’m having a hard time thinking of what is bad about this movie, except that it’s just kind of heartless. It doesn’t evoke much response in me as a viewer, seems like the syfylis channel decided to make a wolverine movie. What they do to deadpool is fairly fucking tragic, though that will only matter to a fan of the comics. His introduction is decent, though he is played too sullen for deadpool. He jokes, but it’s got a bitter layer that’s not appropriate to the traditional character. Then you go and beetlejuice his mouth shut, and it ruins literally the core concept of the character. Fuck, his catchphrase is “the merc with a mouth”! You took. His mouth. The whole climax of the movie is kind of a whimper. Overall, not as bad as I thought, but that doesn’t make it good.

GI Joe – Huh. Y’know, not bad! It’s kind of a fun movie, lots of effects and fights. The gun fights aren’t all that impressive, really. The ninja fights seem technically good, but they don’t grab you. Actually? It’s been a couple days since I saw this, and I’m realizing it wasn’t that good. It wasn’t bad, it was kind of a fun experience to watch. Lots of shiny. But now with some time I realize it is a completely forgetful movie. There was not a single wow moment, or how cool moment. Nothing that sticks as a big effect. I do remember the horrible jelly person CGI (also known as the Blade 2 effect) early in the movie. I definitely remember, because I wrote down, the worst dialogue in the world: “He sure didn’t want [the nanobots] taken out” “There’s nothing you can do for her?” “It’ll take some time, but we’ll take them out” Umm… really? Christ, did you read 2 lines ago? Anyway, I don’t know, I was thinking that as long as the movie gave me big booms, ninjas, and that red head, I’d like it. While I was watching it I thought it succeeded, but now I don’t remember any booms, the ninjas were lame (seriously, why the fuck does snake eyes have a mouth? its creepy!), and the red head was permanently encased in black leather, soo…. I changed my mind. It was bad.

Bolt – I liked this! Better than monsters vs. aliens, certainly. It’s not an amazing movie or anything, in the inevitable comparison – it’s no pixar movie. But it’s certainly a fun and funny movie. Granted, animals are an easy target, but i quite liked it. There’s not really a whole lot to say about it, it’s a naturally simple movie. But the graphics are acceptable, the voice acting is serviceable, the script is funny, and that’s the whole story. Good movie if you want a cartoon.

Safe Men – A 90s movie suggested to us by someone. It’s pretty fun. It’s very quirky, but in a peculiar way. There are flavors of quirky. You can be wes anderson quirky, amelie quirky, christopher guest quirky. Lots of kinds of quirky. Most of them don’t appeal to me. They are as often as not so far up their own quirky asses they forget to write a good movie. This is another kind of quirky and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. It’s not a kind I’m familiar with. I just imdb’d the director/writer, he hasn’t done much, most notably the tick (never saw it), along came polly (decently funny, but not like this), and I love you man which I actively disliked. None of these movies are like each other, so I’m still left thinking this movie is a very particular kind of quirky. Jesus, how many times am I going to say quirky? Anyway, the movie is fun, sam rockwell is kind of doing his thing. Mark Ruffalo is kind of also doing sam rockwell’s thing, which is actually pretty funny. It’s not a super complicated movie, it almost feels more 80s than 90s, it’s like dirty rotten scoundrels or something, charming bad guys. It’s really pretty enjoyable.

Soylent Green – Knocking out another unseen classic! This one is good! Except for one glaring exception, it’s actually pretty good! If I didn’t know the ending, I wouldn’t have expected it until he gets to the factory. My movie watching companion (not knowing the ending)got it then. But it’s really kind of a cool investigation story in a reasonably convincing dystopia. The big problem with this movie is the treatment of that hooker chick. What the fuck?!  He meets her, and immediately places her as property and bangable whenever he wants? And she meets him and immediately places him as savior and needs the big strong man to save her? It was pretty fucked up, I gotta say. But short of that glaring fuckedupedness, I liked it.

Serpico – Quite a good movie, this. Not that anyone was waiting 35 years for me to weigh in. Just as a movie it’s good, not amazing, but good. It all rests on Al Pacino, and if I can forget that he’s been acting the same in every movie since, I can recognize that it’s a very good performance. His commitment is pretty staggering. Everyone else that supports him does their job, which is too be sad, menacing, supportive, antagonistic, or friendly, but only in a way that doesn’t get in his way. I guess it was maybe an early example of “gritty” story telling. It’s hard to take that in context, there are certainly a whole lot of movies that have done that better since. I’ll give it an odd form of credit that it stands up to time. It could very easily be overwhelmingly 70s, but it doesn’t feel that way except perhaps in filming style. As a story that is based on real life, it’s pretty amazing. It was only 40 years ago, such rampant and accepted corruption, and then someone actually does something at such great risk, pretty astounding. Certainly a good movie, over all.

Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy - Had this one bookmarked for a while, but who has time to watch an hour long fan movie? Well, me, tonight, apparently. One the one hand, it’s an hour of MGS story. And hours of MGS story were pretty much what made MGS4 a not great game. On the other hand, holy balls this is a fan movie? It looks amazing! Better visuals than a fair amount of real movies! Granted, the acting is bad. The story isn’t great, but hey, that’s pretty much keeping in canon. The voice dubbing is something atrocious. You’d think it was actually filmed in a different language, the dubbing is so bad. But nope, just poorly done looping. The effects are pretty good though. There are some all digital scenes that give everyone a glow I don’t like, but it’s not really any worse than a big budget all digital movie. There are some cgi blood problems toward the end, which is becoming my jihad as of late. But jesus christ, they got an effing metal gear in there! They aren’t fucking around! Sadly, i can’t really recommend spending an hour to watch this unless you are crazy into MGS, and no one who reads this is. But it should be noted for it’s production values at least. If nothing else, the fact that I just pasted this into the movie section instead of its own post shows where I place it.

Finger Tutting

Had only really seen this stuff before on AB Dance Crew. It’s not really that worthwhile outside of the broader dance, but there are some cool moments.

Nov 8, 2009

Citizen Journalism

A very thought provoking post at TechCrunch. It’s a complicated problem, but I pretty much agree with him. I won’t watch the Neda Agha Soltan video, just as I wouldn’t watch a beheading, the death of Hussain’s sons, or any other bullshit that has too many hits already. But the This American Life allegory at the end is very powerful.

Nov 5, 2009

Filipino Prisoners Do Queen

They’re baaaaack. Not as good as before, remember Thriller? but still fun.  And I didn’t even know about this one!  Is it weird that I’m a filipino prison complex fanboy?

Nov 2, 2009

Star Wars Retold

Another one I had bookmarked, hilariously cute and cool.


Horribly sad short film by the guy who did District 9. Good though. Reminds me of Brian Clevinger’s Warbot, except that comic is just mean, but awesome.

MSU band doing Numa Numa

Super cool! I want to see this whole show (technology themed). PS, so much more interesting than jay rees doing another freaking band with incompatible music that hasn’t been cool in 10 years. Though I do hope MSU has some actual marching involved, at least U of A gets that right.