Monday, October 20, 2014

Speaking as a liberal, this is the absolute worst kind of liberal:



Who the fuck are they kidding with this crap? This is one of the worst videos I've ever seen on Upworthy.com, and that's saying something. Elliot is clearly an astoundingly shitty, arrogant professor who confirms every single one of the worst stereotypes that people have about liberals, especially the whiny preachy 'social justice warrior' types who think people should feel guilty for being born white or male or whatnot. I can only assume that she gets away with crap like this because she's tenured, because this kind of pretentious bullying is better suited to an opinion show on Fox News than a college classroom.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Game Reviews: Vanquish, Limbo, Brothers, Banjo-Kazooie 3, Red Dead Redemption

  

   


Vanquish

This one really wasn't on my list of games to play until a couple friends recommended it. It's a very arcade-esque third-person shooter by Sega. The storyline was very anime, but also very forgettable and generic. You play as a soldier in a powerful exeskeleton suit (you know, because Sega was going for something new and original). To be fair, the twitch-based shooting mechanics and cover mechanics were both very highly polished and pretty fun. But the level design was almost as generic as the story - it suffered from the same problem as Call of Duty ("Go here. Shoot this. Go here. Shoot this. Go here. Shoot this. End of game.") The voice acting was god-awfully cheesy too (although that kind of added to the anime feel). If this had been a Metal Gear game starring Raiden with the same gameplay, I might have been more invested in it. But even if I wouldn't necessarily consider it anything special, it also wasn't a bad game, by any stretch.

Overall: 6/10


Limbo

I've been wanting to play this indie game for quite a while now. It's a relatively simplistic 2D puzzle-solving platformer, but the fantastically creepy atmosphere and black-and-white horror aesthetics were amazingly effective - they're really what makes this game so memorable (and it is!). Steph and I played this one together, so we could take turns at solving the puzzles - and the game certainly does have its challenging spots, even if it is only about 3-4 hours long. It's not hard at all to see why this game got such glowing reviews. It's nightmarish, but enticing, and the ending is simple, but satisfying. Overall, it's solid, artistic, and fantastically unique - exactly the kind of thing that makes modern indie games so great.

Overall: 8/10


Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

This game, though it's adventure rather than horror, shares much in common with Limbo: it's a highly-polished indie game, and essentially one really long 3-to-4-hour level with plenty of clever puzzles to solve. You play as two brothers (duh?) trying to save their father who is ill. The controls are simple, but effective: the left stick controls the older brother, the right stick controls the younger brother, and the triggers work as "action" buttons - and that's it. Another of the many interesting pieces of this game is that although there is voice "dialogue", the characters don't actually speak a real language: it's up to the player to interpret what they're saying through context, gestures, and emotion - it's a subtle effect, but ultimately a likable and creative one.

This game certainly has its creepy moments, although it's not as brutal as Limbo (at least not in that manner). The most brutal thing about this game is its ending, which has no qualms about punching you in the gut two or three times. But that emotional impact is why this game got rave reviews, and why a couple of game journalists have called Brothers "the future of gaming" and even their "all-time favorite game". I wouldn't go quite that far, but I can certainly understand where they're coming from.

Overall: 8/10


Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Yeah, nothing creepy or emotional about this one (unless you count nostalgia, as I was a HUGE fan of the first two Banjo-Kazooie games on the N64 as a kid). This one is a lot more like a Dreamworks CGI movie. I was hesitant about playing it at first, because while the first two games were solid 3D platformers in the same vein as Super Mario 64, this one is more about exploring and beating various challenges by the use of player-created vehicles, made from parts that snap together much like Legos in the real world (and I do love my Legos :p ).

In fact, other than the much-improved HD graphics, I really didn't like this game at all for the first couple hours. But once I nailed down the vehicle-building mechanics (which do take considerable practice), it dawned on me just how astonishingly creative and deep the game is, far more so than its two predecessors. But it still draws on a lot of what made the first two games so memorable, like exploration and memorable characters - one of the game's five massively huge levels is actually a giant museum dedicated to the first two Banjo-Kazooie games, and I LOVED it, because it was so unique and nostalgic.

But let me take a moment to explain what wound up being my favorite thing about this game. After I unlocked all the optional parts and weapons that can be used in vehicle creation, I promptly and gleefully threw them all together to create this monstrocity, which I dubbed "Banjo's Super-Batmobile":





If civil war descended upon Spiral Mountain, this WEAPON OF WAR is what Banjo would use to end it. This tank is bloody unstoppable. I armed it with almost every weapon and gadget the game offers - homing rockets, lasers, flamethrowers, grenades, surface-to-air missiles, mines, cloaking device, armor plating, defensive forcefield, auto-repair robots, stereo system......I hope Captain Kirk never picks a fight with Banjo and Kazooie, because this thing could bring down the bloody Enterprise. If you look up Youtube videos of the game's final boss fight, it typically takes about 10-12 minutes to complete, and I beat it in under 3 with this tank, cackling maniacally the entire time. Seriously, driving around as lovable, goofy, lazy Banjo strapped into this HELLBORN DEATHMACHINE OF JUSTICE is so much hilarious fun it was almost enough to award this game a perfect 10 in spite of its learning curve and occasional graphical snafu.

Grant Kirkhope, one of the game's main designers, as said that he wishes he could put Banjo-Kazooie 4 on the Wii U (which is near impossible, since Rare is now owned exlusively by Microsoft). I would LOVE to see Banjo-Kazooie 4 - so much so that it would be one of the few things that could entice me to buy an Xbox One - and I hope it's a hybrid between the classic platforming of the first two games and the ingenious vehicle-based puzzles of this one.

Overall: 9/10


Red Dead Redemption

I'm not even sure where to begin. If I were okay with giving this game an 11 out of 10.....I'd probably give it a 12. I've spent the better part of the past month completing every single challenge and piece of story in this game's massive open world....and I loved every minute of it.

For starters, the graphics are hands-down the best I've seen in any game outside of next-gen PS4/XBO titles. Rockstar packed uniqueness and detail into every single nook and cranny of the game, and the landscape - including gorgeous sunsets and thunderstorms - is absolutely jaw-dropping.

The voice acting and story are on par with the graphics, as well. You play as John Marston, an ex-outlaw turned family man who gets strong-armed into hunting down his old gang by an unscrupulous government agent who has abducted his wife and son - it has all the makings of a classic western film, including every cliché in the book, but still manages to be fresh and captivating - and the ending is easily on par with Brothers in terms of willingness to punch you in the gut, although it does wind up being pretty gratifying.

Among the game's many, many, many cool features are the "fame" and "honor" meters. Marston starts off the game as a nobody, but as tales of his travels spread, you gain fame, and become more widely recognized in all of the game's different towns, until you reach the status of "legendary". But even cooler, you start the game as a "drifter", and have the option to evolve Marston over the course of the game into either a hero, by doing good deeds for the people you meet, or a desperado, by doing evil deeds like robbing trains and stagecoaches, or by kidnapping women, hogtying them, and leaving them on train tracks (I'm not kidding, that's actually an option). Which in turn affects a wide range of events in the game, such as whether people greet you warmly and ask for help, or shy away from you in fear or even send bounty hunters and posses after you. Rockstar thought of bloody everything.

Aside from the story, the side quests, and the optional bounty hunting, there is also a wealth of minigames available. Some of these are one-shots, like horse racing, while others involve actual "cowboy" actions, like herding cattle and breaking wild horse, and still others that are actual games that are (relatively) period-accurate, such as horseshoe-throwing, arm-wrestling, five-finger fillet, and blackjack. One game was something I'd never heard of before now, called Liar's Dice - kind of a cross between Yahtzee and poker. Speaking of which, the game included a fully fleshed-out Texas Hold 'Em minigame that you can play at almost any saloon in the game (saloons at which you can drink whiskey, get drunk, and start bar fights, as well). It's an old-timey poker simulation of sorts, and TONS of fun. By the time I finished the game, I was at about 45 hours - 8 of which were spent just playing poker for fun (and money). The game keeps track of almost every statistic you could possibly think of.

The actual mechanics of the game are as solid and polished as the rest of it, even if they are FAR more complex than Brothers and Limbo. But a few hours into the game, everything from riding my horse to hunting deer and wolves to hunting for treasure to winning duels to diving for cover in a gunfight to using the slow-motion "dead eye" mode to quick-draw and shoot half a dozen bandits trying to rob me all in one fell swoop was a piece of cake. A piece of delicious, delicious cake. No lie.

It's not hard, at all, to see why this game won so many "Game of the Year" awards, or why IGN rated it as a 10/10 "Masterpiece" - because that's what it is. Games like this are why I keep saying Rockstar is the only game company on the planet that can go toe-to-toe with Nintendo (tongue-twister?) in terms of quality. Red Dead Redemption is now my 5th favorite game of all-time, beating out the Anniversary edition of Halo, and just behind Smash Bros, Zelda: Twilight Princess, Arkham City, and Super Mario RPG. It's that. Damn. Good.

It's been quite awhile since I liked a game enough to go full "completionist" on it, to go after 100% of everything the game had to offer (excluding multiplayer, which this game has).




And you know a game is good when the first thing you want to do after beating it is start over from the beginning again. I'll have to try the "outlaw" path next time....

Overall: 10/10

Monday, October 6, 2014

Yeah, this birthday definitely didn't suck.

In fact, I'd say it was the best one I've had in a long time : )

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL BIRTHDAY PHOTO ALBUM.







So, my last two birthdays were complete disasters, for reasons I don't want to get into. Tempting as it was to spend this one locked in my apartment alone with pizza, beer, and my Xbox, I took the opposite approach instead: So, the universe wants me to keep having crappy birthdays, huh? Well FUCK YOU, UNIVERSE!

I made a few changes to my approach this year: first, the list of people I invited was.....how should I put this.....pared down based on demonstrated reliability. In other words, it was Steph, my parents, and my sister, end of list. Second, I planned the whole thing (both weekends) in minute detail, several weeks in advance; and third, I built flexibility into the plan, to handle any last-minute curveballs that could screw it up.

And it

( •_• )

(  •_•)>⌐■-■

(⌐■_■)   worked.



FRIDAY, SEP 26th:
Steph came over on Friday afternoon, and I got my first birthday gifts: a "donut cake" and a new grill, complete with charcoal and tools (in Ninja Turtles wrapping paper, no less!)

SATURDAY, SEP 27th
The next day, per my plan, Steph and I went to OKC Riversport Adventures at the Boathouse District not far from Bricktown, to ride the epic zipline across the Oklahoma River. To my surprise, there was some sort of Olympic-style international kayaking tournament going on there at the same time, complete with teams from several countries, a large audience, and an announcer with a British accent. Unexpected, but cool - and it didn't interfere with the zipline ride at all.

After that, we stopped for lunch at Akropolis in Midwest City (they make awesome gyros). And after lunch, we went to play laser tag at Laser Quest in northwest OKC. I'm a huge fan of laser tag, but we hadn't been to this one before - I have a slight preference for HeyDay laser tag down closer to Norman, but Laser Quest was still a crapload of fun.

Game 1:
C: 4th out of 34
S: 6th out of 34

Game 2:
C: 5th out of 38
S: 11th out of 38

We went home and I grabbed a quick nap and whatnot. After I woke up, we had stuffed-crust pizza, along with Disaronno, raspberry wine, and Redd's Apple Ale (♫ These are a few of my favorite things... ♫) We also played with Legos and painted random stuff while watching my all-time favorite movie, Inherit the Wind.

Then we / I stayed up until about 4:30am playing Metroid Prime and Red Dead Redemption. So I guess my birthday wound up involving pizza, beer, and Xbox anyway, but in a good way :p

SUNDAY, SEP 28th
The next day, we went to Stillwater and had sushi with my friend Dani, who bought me an epic Batman shirt at the Scottish festival that was in Oklahoma recently (see photos).

TUESDAY, SEP 30th
I had to work on my actual birthday, but I went out to lunch (at Akropolis again!) with several of my coworkers. And I recevied lots of birthday wishes via Facebook, of course : )

FRIDAY, OCT 3rd
The following Friday, my parents and sister came to OKC (Steph arrived shortly before they did). So I got the rest of my presents, and my usual carrot cake + peanut butter cup ice cream : )

The other presents were bloody epic, too. Knowing that my birthday gift to myself was a Wii U, my parents got me Mario Kart 8(!!!). My sister's gift, however, made my jaw hit the ground: she bought me a ticket for 15 minutes of playtime with a baby tiger at an Interactive Zoological Park here in Oklahoma. HOLY. FREAKING. CRAP.

I also showed my family the finer points of Red Dead Redmeption (poker, for example). I'll have the review for that unbelievably awesome game up in the next couple weeks or so.

SATURDAY, OCT 4th
After lunch the next day, we went back to Laser Quest for more laser tag, this time with the whole family playing. It was awesome - my parents had never played real laser tag before!

Game 1:
C: 2nd out of 35 (damn straight!)
D: 8th out of 35
S: 16th out of 35
J: 25th out of 35
G: 31st out of 35

Game 2:
C: 4th out of 31
D: 7th out of 31
S: 10th out of 31
J: 18th out of 31
G: 31st out of 31

We stopped at Sonic on the way home (I got a blackberry Coke Zero, and the carhop said my Mustang was awesome). Then I hit the gym for an epic workout, and came home for a shower. For dinner, we went to HuHot Mongolian Grill in Quail Springs Mall. (I love the CRAP out of that restaurant.)

When we got home, we all created our Mii characters on my Wii U. We also played Apples to Apples, otherwise known as the family-friendly version of Cards Against Humanity.

SUNDAY, OCT 5th
Steph had to leave early, since she had work at noon. My parents and sister and I had lunch at The Garage, the burger chain that just had a place open up near Midwest City. SO good (with lots of healthy options, no less). After playing some Mario Kart, they all headed back home in the afternoon.

EPILOGUE
I'm 28 now. Meh? I'm pretty much still a college student, except with no homework or finals and lots of disposable income. Woohoo!

Thanks to everyone who made this birthday kick exponentially more ass than the last two did!  \m/

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My 10-Year Anniversary As A Blogger

Sadly, I didn't catch this until it was a few months too late. But this, technically, was my first-ever blog post, from way, waaaaay back in the Xanga.com days:

Who would have guessed that that post would be the genesis for whatever this mess you're currently reading is :p

2014 Cherokee National Holiday and Pow-wow

Steph (who is one-quarter Cherokee, herself) invited me to this year's Cherokee National Holiday celebration in Talequah, OK. No way I was going to pass that up :p

CLICK HERE for the full photo album.

We started by visiting a museum and several exhibits about what life was like for the Cherokees a couple hundred years ago (and farther back).






One of the coolest parts was a walking tour of a recreated small Cherokee village, with all sorts of examples of the different types of housing they used, of how they made pottery and wove baskets and whatnot:








A couple people were playing stickball, a Cherokee sport that evolved into lacrosse:



Apparently, the Cherokee would use this sport to settle differences whenever possible instead of going to war (even if the game's lack of rules meant that a few players died each game anyway).

The object was to use the two netted spoon-like sticks to fling the ball through the goal at the top of the pole. The game continued until either team reached 21 points.

One of the few rules in place was that on the occasions where women were allowed to play, they were allowed to be as aggressive and violent toward the male players as they want, but the male players were never allowed to fight back or defend themselves under any circumstances.

(In other words, the Cherokees invented the most feminist sport ever :p )

But my favorite part of the tour was the archery demonstration:



He even gave us a demonstration of how they chipped the rocks to make sharp arrowheads.

After the tour, we went to the big, open field where the actual pow-wow would be taking place:



The pow-wow itself was pretty cool, too. It started with all the performers walking and dancing onto the field. After that, the first of the actual dances was the one where anyone who wanted to participate was welcome, Cherokee or not. Then came the "tiny tots" dance, where the Cherokee children all danced (or waddled :p ) on the field. And after that, they started with the more professional, traditional Cherokee dances and music.

















All in all, I'd really put the experience pretty much on par with seeing a full-blown Italian/Catholic wedding in Italy. Very cool!

My souvenir of the day was an authentic Cherokee blow gun:



(Judging from the new holes in my apartment wall, I'd say it works pretty well.)