Big Hero 6 Trailer 2 is Excellent!

     I wasn't a huge fan of the Marvel Comics Big Hero 6, but the trailers for the film are outstanding.  The designs are great and the humor is top notch.  With this second trailer we get to see some of the other characters with their suits and a bit more action.

     I already like the movie and it's not even close to releasing yet.  This is going to be huge.


TMNT: Season 2 Finale: The Invasion: Review (Nickelodeon)

     Nickelodeon went and released the 2-part 2nd season finale of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the official site, and it does not disappoint.

     We get a huge amount of stuff happening in this episode.  I'm going to try and avoid major spoilers here, but some minor ones might slip through.  The big part of the story is that the Kraang invasion has finally begun.  The Shredder and his clan of soldiers and mutants are out and about wreaking havoc while the Kraang are flooding the city.

Leonardo proves his worth.
     The Turtles themselves get into disagreements and end up separating at great cost.  Leonardo shows us how badass he can be and why he is the leader, Raphael shows emotion, Michelangelo shows a true sadness, and Donatello has great regrets.  Leatherhead shows up to aid Splinter (as well as another individual you'll have to see for yourself), Timothy (Mutagen Man) we learn has to be left behind in the ruined lair, but will remain frozen for 70 more years, Ice Cream Kitty has a grand moment, we finally get to see Donatello's hyped Turtle Mech, and there is a genuinely surprising revelation about recurring character Irma (April's friend)!

Mikey's Turtle Mech dreams have come true.
     This episode demonstrates the creators know what they are doing and handling this IP with great care, while at the same time maintaining a nice level of creativity.  They have pushed the boundaries in terms of character growth and story to a point that is enviable by other cartoons.  There is also what I think might be a good Triceraton reference and a blatant reference to the old 80's TMNT Party Wagon.  It has a great story to fit into the series.
     As an aside, I was really hoping Don's Turtle Mech would've actually been run by Metalhead's saved head, but alas it wasn't... yet.

High fives for Ice Cream Kitty
     The way the episode leaves off is a monstrous cliffhanger giving us a ton to look forward to in the next season.  Leatherhead is missing again, Raph hopes Spike (Slash) is ok, Splinter and the Turtles are separated, and the Turtles are forced to run and hide.  The Earth Protection Force arrives to try and fend off the Kraang invaders, which is nice because we get to see some humans outside the Turtles' sphere of influence accomplishing something.
     Essentially we are left with an Empire Strikes Back ending.  The bad guys have won, and the good guys are all down.

A Triceraton reference?  Perhaps a hint towards future episodes?
     Link to the full episode [ Nickelodeon ]

     For more of my Turtle's posts [ TMNT ]

Styx: Master of Shadows: Making of Video: Gameplay

     I've been following this game a lot lately, and today developers Cyanide Studios released a bunch of making of videos.  The only one I'll post here is the gameplay, and I'd recommend you check out their official game site linked below.

     Styx, the tiny, Amber-addicted, goblin assassin, is on his way to the source of his addiction and power- the World Tree in the Tower of Akenash.  Styx: Master of Shadows is a game that focuses on infiltration and has large vertical areas to give players opportunities to make their own paths with cunning and planning, because as the diminutive Styx, he can be easily overpowered by any of the humans and other beings you'll encounter.
     This simple premise of stealth and story has me fully anticipating a hit game.  I honestly believe this could be a very large gem hidden in a slew of recent sub-par gaming juggernauts.

     [ Styx the Game ]


Fez: Review (PS Vita)

     Fez.  What an interesting game.  To be sure, I don't want to talk about all the hubbub surrounding creator Phil Fish, I just want to talk about this gem of a game he made with Polytron Games.

     In Fez, you play as a simple being named Gomez in a neatly made 2 dimensional world.  One day he is granted an extra dose of power with a fez that imbues him the ability to move in the 3 dimensional space.  And it never feels like a gimmick of a game mechanic.  It feels necessary.  Gomez gains depth in a flat land.  Which is exactly a perfect metaphor for the game itself.

     At its core, Fez is an homage to the platforming puzzle games of yesteryear.  There are many improvements of course, such as not having a high level of frustration inducing difficulty that gaming seems to believe it thrives on.  This is a casual nod to the games we loved in the 1980's not a punishment for lacking enough skills to play it.
     There are a multitude of locations and environments.  Finding interesting ways of solving problems to traverse the platforms is never too difficult.  Although I admit I got stuck on the "Mausoleum Puzzle" in the crypt full of many doorways for quite some time.  Overall though, when you see treasure chests and the Cubes you must find to progress, there is a heartwarming sense of progression.  For completionists there is a massive amount of Cubes, and even Anti-Cubes.  There are QR codes, and hints carved into the walls of rooms as glyphs.  There are owls that can only be met at certain times and some nice people met along the way.

     The colors and sounds are all crisp and clear.  Controls are perfect, I never felt that any mistakes were due to input issues- it was my own fault.  The game is so perfectly compact it is hard to find fault in it.

     Fez is about discovery, perspective, and enjoyment.  Once you get the hang of navigating in a pseudo-third-dimension you'll long for more.  Literally turning the world to alter perceptions is a wonderful game of logic-shifting and spatial reasoning.  It's even hilarious to see how the other people around Gomez can't really understand the "Devil Squares"- the Cubes that are outside their range of perception.  They just don't have the capacity to grasp the greater symbolism.

     I, for one, found Fez to be an amazing and completely immersive experience on the PS Vita.  Fez is not just a reminder about what made retro games so fun, it's an addition of another layer of depth to truly fill out our experience.


TMNT: Into Dimension X: Episode Mini Review

     Nickelodeon has been doing a tremendous job with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show.  In this early web-release episode, "Into Dimension X," we get some really good stuff.  Simple changes are hugely meaningful in giving us a change of perspective.


     First off, we get the return of both Super Robo Mecha Force Five Team 5 (The series finale on VHS) and Leatherhead, who has been lost in Dimension X for quite some time.  Leatherhead sends a warning to the Turtles about the Kraang perfecting the mutagen and a dire need to stop whatever nefarious plans they've cooked up.  After deciding to help, Donatello and Leonardo tell Mikey that he can't come because he'll screw things up.  Mikey being the great rebel takes it upon himself to jump through the portal to save his buddy Leatherhead ahead of everyone.
     The rest of the Turtles stunned at the occurrence follow through shortly after.  Anyone else recognize a small homage to the TMNT: Turtles in Time with the portal's tunnel?  Once the Turtles make it to Dimension X and find out that no matter how cute things appear they could be deadly.  Time passes at a different rate and gravity doesn't work right either.  Nothing here is how it seems.  They eventually catch up to Mikey who is a very smart guy with all the differences between their dimensions.  He has somehow learned a huge amount of things and is a greatly capable individual.
     Being a borderline genius here he winds up taking lead and dispatching enemies with ease.  In addition to saving the day in general by thwarting the Kraang's plot- he has a few notable changes while in Dimension X.  The most visible is his helmet- he is wearing a Kraang skull for a hat.  Quite morbid, but very entertaining- I never really thought they'd have skeletons.  Then he has one of their limbs as an armband, and uses fart-noise-making worms as grappling hooks that never lose their hilarity.  In Dimension X Michelangelo is a Batman, and it is wonderful.

     As I am trying to not spoil the entire episode, I believe this is another episode that makes important changes in a way that is funny and meaningful.  One thing that has me thinking is Splinter's staff from older episodes looks an awful lot like the the giant one Leatherhead is hauling around... could there be a link?  I think there could be.
     Anyways, this "Into Dimension X" episode was a nice little jaunt into Kraang territory and I hope to see more of it in the future.

     To watch the full episode [ Nickelodeon: TMNT: Into Dimension X ]

     For more of my Turtles posts [ TMNT ]


Deadpool Movie Finally Confirmed by 20th Century Fox!!!

This is a confirmation notice!
     It has finally happened, according to The Hollywood Reporter and 20th Century Fox (via Twitter) that everyone's favorite crazy merc-with-a-mouth Deadpool is getting his own film as a spin-off from the X-men franchise.  Ryan Reynolds is set to reprise his role as Wade Wilson (Deadpool) from the abominable 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

     This is great news to see that his internet fandom has brought new life to this movie.  Especially since the leaked test footage hit the web months ago looked like they had nailed the character without pulling any strings to make it less than R rated.  Despite the footage being years old, Reynolds' interest hasn't waned- although deals have not been finalized- things are looking good.

     Deadpool is set to hit theaters on Feb. 12, 2016, and will be directed by Tim Miller.

Styx: Master of Shadows: New Trailer: Die Harder

     Developer Cyanide Studios and publisher Focus Home Interactive's upcoming stealth game Styx: Master of Shadows debuts another homage-titled trailer today aptly called "Die Harder."  It shows off a variety of ways that Styx may be killed during the game.  Whether it be by trolls, traps, or magic guards- it's always quick.  Stabbed, shot, strangled, thrown from ledges, and crushed by giant fists.  There's plenty of ways to die if found.

     The most important thing to take away from this is if you are caught- run away!  Styx isn't strong enough to take on even a few enemies at a time.  The game does show the option to parry, but to what extent is not shown.  I believe it'll be just enough to separate yourself from the situation and back to the shadows.

     Styx: Master of Shadows will be available for in October for PS4, XBox One, and PC.

     Only Steam has an exact date (Oct. 7th) listed and a price of $29.99.
     Steam also has an exclusive 20% off pre-order bonus.


Wayward Souls Review (Android)

     To preface this review, I must say I'm relatively new to the phone gaming scene despite almost 30 years of other gaming experience.  In the last year I haven't found much in the way of games I've actually enjoyed on my phones.  In the last 6 months, however, I did find Wayward Souls.  Since it's release on the Android system it is the only game I continually return to.  Because tomorrow Rocketcat Games is releasing both an update for it, AND releasing its RPG precursor to it Mage Gauntlet I am finishing this review post.

Prologue: Paladin vs a zombie horde.
     Wayward Souls is a rogue-like semi-RPG complete with the much overused permadeath and staggering difficulty.  I haven't ever really been a fan of permadeath as I don't have days of time to waste, but Wayward Souls actually gives a little incentive to repeatedly take on the hordes of enemies.  Each of the 6 characters has their own stories for the game.  All their own dialogues and strange occurrences.  Granted 3 of the classes have to be unlocked by beating levels, but one they are, they get their own plot and it encourages players to continue to unravel the mysteries behind the story as a whole.

A lot of the tale is told through ghosts you stumble across.
     It also helps that even if you do play through, let's say, the first level and beat it with the rogue 3 times in a row you might get 3 different pieces of the rogue's sub-story in addition to the main part of it.  Like I ran into a fellow named Jepp Starcloak a couple times, but only with the rogue.  As the warrior I ran into a lady twice, and after looking up some things, I found she is one of the characters from Mage Gauntlet.  A very intriguing crossover.

Jepp Starcloak is the Zapp Brannigan of Wayward Souls.
     With each death you can level characters up.  None of the single-use forged items are saved.  You cannot keep weapons or armor found.  Only the boosted character traits carry on.  Things such as increased health or stamina regeneration that will stick with the character after you've died a few hundred times are the things that can be held and definitely become necessary in the later levels.  As a small bonus to that is the fact that the pinnacle skill boost on each individual character is a "gift" that boosts to all classes, handy incentive to level up each class.
My favorite character: a Prince of Persia-esque Spellsword.
Specialty dashes are very useful.
     The game has a lot going for it.  It's fun, highly replayable, it's got great visuals, moody music, and awesome sounds.  It is an all-around top-notch game.  There are some flaws though.  The controls can be finicky- sometimes a double tap will register as a power move and leave you vulnerable and may cost you an hours worth of your time.  Sometimes movement just stops and can lead to a quick, unfair death, something that has happened to me on numerous occasions.  As has some instant enemy hits that are completely unavoidable.  It's one thing to give players a chance to hit and run- forcing you you plan wisely, but it's another thing completely to force you to take damage just to slightly damage something.  Taking a single extra hit can cost you a lot in the long run.  This fact is exacerbated due to the difficulty, which can be can be quite divisive among players.

     The first couple levels aren't too bad, but I've been stuck on the catacombs for at least a month.  To the point where I'd like to give up.  The difficulty ramps up to absurd with a bombardment of high speed enemy swarms, lots of projectiles, and nearly invisible traps.  I've gotten 3 separate characters to the level and can barely make it to the 3rd floor.  Honestly, not everyone wants a Dark Souls type of difficulty.  Some players, myself included, would like to play through on a casual setting to enjoy the mood and atmosphere, we'd rather have a fun time finding story hidden story bits through the highly replayable nature of the game without the stressful onslaught.  When it comes down to it, some levels feel specifically designed to thwart attempts to pass by certain classes, while others are fairly well balanced.

Even the humor is well written.
     From the prologue to however far one manages to get in the game, Wayward Souls' dark fantasy is filled with lore and a ingeniously threaded story.  It has the wonderful retro 16 bit style of yesteryear hearkening back to games like The Secret of Mana and is brilliantly handled here.  Even with my qualms about the game, this is a must have, and I sincerely hope Rocketcat Games continues with pushing the bounds of phone games like this- just maybe not with the highest difficulty settings possible.

     [ Wayward Souls on Google Play ]


Destiny: Review: A One Week After Release Reflection

     It's been a week since Bungie's Destiny launched and while I am fully enjoying it, I have seen that it is very flawed as well.  For all the effort they put into making it a spectacular multiplayer game it suffers greatly in the single player area, and even greater in the story.  It is so close to the hype it gained, but not quite there.  I don't want this post to come off as just an all-out attack on the game.  Destiny has a lot of good merits, it's just lacking on a few very large things that should rightfully be addressed as the game expands its development in the future.  I'll still be enjoying multiplayer with all my friends at the cost of exploring the single player territory.

"I don't even have time to explain why I don't have time to explain."
     First off is the narrative.  The story is full of hollow characters and vague titles such as "The Guardian" or "The Traveler."  There are a whole lot of grey areas, full of grey motives- even the great divide between good and evil are essentially the archetypal Good and Evil.  But not all the way.  What all the characters lack is personality, a fact that is even more noticeable due to the overabundant cliched storytelling.  The line that the "Exo Stranger" character I screencapped all the pics of here says sums up the dialogue and story more perfectly than anything else.  She says, "I don't even have time to explain why I don't have time to explain."  It truly seems like that's what the writers banked on, rushing us through hoping we wouldn't notice how shallow and generic the plot really is.  It isn't engaging enough to matter, and neither my excessive adoration of Bill Nighy nor of Peter Dinklage can make it any better.

     All these beings need more than just the simplest urges- there is no real depth- and it really drags the game down for all the non-competitive players that came in search of the grand space opera story we were hoping for.  Where are all the new takes on the old, time-worn sci fi tropes?  Destiny's sci fi epic has been stripped of any originality and it feels as if the millions they spent on the game went right passed the writers rooms.  Really, it feels an awful lot like the generic fill-in-the-blank science fiction stuff we were reading decades ago.  Destiny is too damn formulaic.
      Where'd all the promised potential go to?  It's like all those long load-time flights back and forth from the Tower are in reality just us actually traversing right on passed the vast gaps in narrative.

Strangely enough, these are my two favorite characters.
     It also seems like there is no depth in gameplay.  It's all the same throughout the entire game.  There's 3 types of weapons- main, heavy and special.  The loot here isn't anywhere near the exceptional variance I was expecting.  Everything feels nearly the same as everything else.  Rarity drops?  In all the time I've played I've found only a single blue weapon worth using. And damn near the same exact green scout rifle like 20 times.  One of my buddies has literally found the same purple scout rifle 3 times in a row. (Ok- nearly the same one- it's variables aren't noteworthy enough to make them different in play.  It isn't like the variance Borderlands 2's arsenal has.)
     Even the enemies of all races are tiered essentially the same, with damn near the same exact movements and weaknesses.  There are grunts, floaters, heavies, sub-bosses and bosses- repeat ad nauseam.
     The locations are brilliantly designed, but when each mission takes you to the same 6 places, it gets old fast.  Oh look, we're on Earth for the 71st time in the same area as all the last 70 times.  Bungie needs to add more worlds.  And why they're at it, put some damn missions on The Reef.  Seriously, two cutscenes and no action?!?  Ridiculous.  It is a waste of a locale.
     The problem with Destiny is actually in the redundancy.  The same locales, the same weapons, and roughly the same characters.  I've heard it said that Destiny is meant to be expanded, well I hope they've planned a LOT of expanding.  Of every thing they've created.  More worlds for missions to occur in, more variety in weapons, make the various races fight with different tactics, and maybe even some more characters to choose from.

     At level 16 with my Warlock I am only now starting to reap any real differential bonuses in the character.  I've noticed that there are a plethora of Hunters out and they seem to be overpowered with their wonderful arc blade ability.  All the pulse rifles are so close to each other that the differences are negligible.
     And while I'm mentioning irritations, in the single player game- it gets to be absolutely infuriating how much enemies hide.  I can look through a sniper scope from the Tower and all the Captains somehow sense it and run for cover on Venus, which is about 160 million miles away.  In multiplayer this isn't a problem, but in single player it forces you into situation where death becomes highly probably and then into replaying a lengthy battle.  It's happened to me on bosses when I got them down to a sliver of health and had to run out from cover only to be one-shotted from boss attack splash damage.  This could be avoided had they made it optional for random players to swing through and assist for the parts you actually need assistance with, but they can't.  Maybe add a loot incentive in there- because I haven't found anything worth the time investment of the hard-to-kill bosses yet.

     Really, this repetitiveness is a huge downfall.  Coming from a purely mechanical viewpoint Destiny is unparalleled.  Bungie can boast with the utmost confidence about their intuitive systems.  The combat is so perfectly done, and the visuals are absolutely amazing, so why did the story get the shaft?  It's true.  The controls are perfectly responsive, frame-rates are so crisp and clean without even the most minimal stutter, and even the menus are outstandingly designed.
     The story is the only thing keeping this from being the first "real" next gen game.  Bungie, there is still a chance to remedy this.  Make it easier for single players to enjoy.  Make matchmaking in the main game easier.  It's far too often I jump over to help a group without invites and then they're gone.  There needs to be an overlap to compensate for this divide- proximity chatting would be the most notably thing to patch and would be an immensely helpful for the situation.  Multiplayer is FUN.  With a group this game is capital letters FUN, but single player is not.  It has a completely different feel- which isn't really fun.

Is that a self-stabilizing knot of spacetime geometry in your pocket,
or are you just happy to see me?
     I won't be writing this game off by any means, I just would like to see some changes to make Destiny a game we can play for the long term.  I haven't even gotten to the horrendous stop-and-go nature of the engram loot- having to halt and drag a stash through those long load times back to the Tower just to find out it is a pile of crap.  It brings the multiplayer fun to a halt pretty quick, as does the communication issue I mentioned above.  I mean I've encountered only a singular public event in all the time I've played, and I couldn't communicate with anyone nearby to call in reinforcements- and even worse- I couldn't communicate with either of the two others actually with me because we weren't in a Fireteam together.  That is a huge hindrance to the fun we could've been having working together.

     For a game that was meant to be a sort of MMO-FPS-RPG, it is missing the mark.  Not by a whole lot.  A fair amount of small tweaks might fix this.  Maybe it was simply Bungie trying to smash together too many things, maybe not, I don't know.  All in all- I think if Bungie can alter a few very important things, Destiny still has a chance to iron out the kinks and draw us in for the long haul.  It honestly feels like we got 60% of the game, and that we may have to pay extra for the last 40%.

     Destiny still has the opportunity to become the dream game it was hyped to be.


Free Comic Giveaway! The Little Grey Splot and Over the Wall: Drawing Contest

     After Nicholas Straight's The Little Grey Splot debuted this weekend at SPX I have the wonderful privilege to have a small contest giving away 10 copies of his book.  I thought quite a while on what I was going to do and this is what I came up with.

     Contest Rules:
     Much like the interactive nature of the book I want people to make a splotch of any color you choose and then turn it into a small comic.  Turn one splotch into one comic.  Whatever you want. 
      So if you wanted you could make a blue splotch and turn it into an octopus that lost it's bubble gum dispenser.  You could make a yellow splotch and turn it into a star going on vacation.  Anything you want.  Use the above picture from the book as a rough guide, or the example below.

     Because I have no idea who is participating I would recommend children doing this as it is technically a children's book, but anyone of any age may enter.  Please keep it family friendly.  I ask that participants be fair, you may enter as many times as you like but may only win one prize.  Once your comic has been finished email the image to (joshuabarsody(at)gmail(dot)com) and then I along with Nick Straight, and if we can get him with Peter Wartman, will judge the comics.  All entries will be posted on this blog a week after the contest ends.  All entries must be in by Friday October 3 at midnight that night.  Be sure to include your name, email, and shipping address in case you win.
      There will be 9 winners of a copy of The Little Grey Splot, and the Grand Prize winner will receive 1 copy of The Little Grey Splot and 1 copy of Over the Wall.   
     If I finagle a bit and we get enough entries I might be able to get them to put personalized autographs on the books as well.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Comic Review: TMNT: Soul's Winter

     I've had this one sitting for a long time, worried about how to approach it.  When talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there are fans of many types.  They've gone through numerous iterations in both comics and in television/cinema.  In the comics there was a slew of years that Mirage had guests doing small runs for a time.  This non-canonical era saw a variety of creators and styles come through.   Occasionally there would be one-shots, sometimes entire story arcs- but for the whole it was all about indie artists being given a shot at the series.  A chance at telling a great story.  This one in particular was one of my personal favorites, and honestly, these are the only issues that I've still kept in my collection.

***Spoiler Warning***

Soul's Winter: By Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli

     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Soul's Winter was a 3 part comic series in 1990-91, comprising issues 31, 35, and 36.  Long before Michael Bay dreamed of creepy looking, realistic turtles Zulli and Murphy had done this short series.  These Turtles are realistic- beaked and almost monstrous.  They are frightening but fill their roles perfectly.

     In this take the Turtles are made, or awoken- it's never really clear- by Splinter with the sole purpose of Shredder's destruction.  Much like the earlier comics this is purely about Splinter's utter focus on the downfall Shredder.  It is never explained where Splinter came from, nor why he wants Shredder dead.
     What the creative duo has done here is taken the roles of the TMNT and made them work on multiple levels.  They represent the 4 elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  Shredder is a full on samurai and Splinter a spiritual warrior.  This is more than just two beings at war with each other, these are two forces of nature.  Two aspects vying for control in spirit and body, using what ever they have at hand.
     The Turtles are nearly secondary characters here really, as this is mostly about the battle between Shredder and Splinter.  It takes place on both the physical and spiritual plane, and even some of the afterlife or purgatory type of realm.
     The Turtles being drawn into this war are unnaturally forced into life.  Their creation/summoning is very vague and they are brought in for one purpose- fighting.  They have to fight the Shredder and the Foot clan, and even against the winter climate on the field of battle.  The elements personified in action.
     They are made to straddle two worlds- forced to find a ground where they belong.  As the Turtles aren't people, but they aren't quite animals either- they bridge both humanity.  They struggle against nature in every way possible.  Because they are between worlds they must fight to be accepted into either.  It all comes down to mysticism and symbols.

"Everything beautiful bleeds"

     What makes this series different and so great is the fact that Shredder is actually the good guy.  Not outright a good guy, but he becomes the good guy.  Despite almost killing them all he saves them.  During the conflict he achieves a sort of unexpected enlightenment and sets out to set the path right.  He even chastises a few others fighting along the way, like a young couple bickering.  It wasn't simply him defeating the abominations, as he calls them, he wanted them exterminated, but something changed.  He changed and it was amazing.  He beat Splinter in battle by hand, and on the astral plane.  The Foot beat the Turtles, taking one of their hands and leaving one near death.  But Shredder realized that life was bigger than that.  He came to see that all that lives is sacred.
     He came to save the dying and leave them to their lives.  He leaves Splinter with the quote, "Everything beautiful bleeds."  Moving at the least.  To me Splinter should be shamed by hearing this sentiment from his rival.  A turn of fate I had not seen coming when I first read Soul's Winter in my youth, and now that I'm older it makes much more sense.  The message is so much more meaningful, much more powerful in these circumstances.

     Then story then takes a turn and shows Splinter and the Turtles struggling to find their place between the living and the dead, between the worlds of man and animal.  When the last issue ends there are a ton of unanswered questions in a beautifully created world.  There is a lot of room for more, but sadly there was nothing else done with this arc.
     When it comes down to it, the series is great.  Although I think it should've really ended with the Shredder's admonishment and not drug on another whole issue.  Having Shredder saying that and knowing the Turtle will heal eventually would've left the reader knowing that they have a lot to learn.  That Splinter and the Turtles were really no better than their nemesis.  A hard lesson put in such a way to make a massive impact.  Outstanding.

     This isn't a great review by any means.  What I've done here is try and make it sound good enough and intriguing enough to make some of you go out and read this series.  Murphy and Zulli created a TMNT comics series with amazing depth that must be looked into.  It isn't all spelled out and it definitely isn't for children.  This is a dark and grim story of finding balance between life and death.  It's about finding your place in the worst of times, and it is worth looking into.  There are no clear lines of hero and villain, and that makes this 3 issue series truly amazing.  I've never seen another TMNT tale even remotely like this.

     For more of my Turtles posts [ TMNT ]


Josh News: SPX Weekend Giveaway: Free Comics Contest

     This weekend, September 13 and 14th, is the Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, MD.  In celebration two of my friends are going to be there, the highly talented Nicholas Straight, and the also extraordinarily talented Peter Wartman.

     In an effort to promote both them and the independent comic arts SPX I will be running a giveaway of 10 of Nick's book The Little Grey Splot, and 1 of Peter's book Over the Wall.  What this contest will entail I haven't finalized yet.  Return to this blog to see what we'll decide- if any of you readers have ideas post them in the comments!

     I would recommend supporting the small press arts at the official site [ SPX ]


Styx: Master of Shadows: A Skilled Goblin Anti-Hero and Some Trailers

     Styx, tiny Goblin thief and assassin, has set off to commit the crime of the century.  He intends to use his skills to get through the Tower of Akenash to gain access to a the Heart of the World Tree and obtain Amber, the magical sap that can bestow immense power.  The cost of this power is a descent into madness which is something it looks as if Styx is willing to take.

     Players will need to rely on cunning and stealth to make up for the diminutive size of Styx.  In addition to the time-tested assassin skills of ledge-pushing, throat-slitting, and throwing dagger tossing, Styx also has a few extra supernatural abilities up his sleeve to aid in his shadowy business such as creating clones to cause distractions and turning invisible.  The cloned doppelganger can assist in more than just looks, it can help set up multiple murders with you opening up a whole new realm of strategy.  

     Of course the game is designed with verticality in mind so players have a plethora of options to choose from in dispatching enemies in each level.  You can lure guards in and drop crates, you can sneak up and smother someone, or you can even poison them.
     Infiltrating the Tower will take ingenuity.  We must be vigilant and keenly perceptive to make it.  Scale up, sneak under, and find your way through shadow to eliminate all those in your way to the Heart of the Tree to get that sweet golden sap.

     Styx: Master of Shadows is slated for an October release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
          No exact date is set.


Penguins of Madagascar: Little Orbit's New Game Announced

     The best part of the Madagascar films, our flippered friends the Penguins, have broke out on their own for previous games and a television series.  With their very own feature film set to arrive November 26th, Dreamworks Animation and Little Orbit Games have announced a new video game.

     Here's the official announcement description:
     The four web-footed operatives, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, uncover a nefarious plot by the evil octopus, Dave (Dr. Octavious Brine) to destroy the penguin world as we know it. Players will travel to top-secret locales and embark on covert missions to thwart Dave’s evil plans. 
     Players will be able to play as the four penguins and instantly swap between them depending on the situation encountered.  For example, Rico, a demolitions expert, loves to blow things to smithereens while Skipper can dish out his stun slap to give enemy octopi high-powered smackdowns!  Players can solve puzzles by choosing the penguin whose natural skills are best suited for the task.

     The Penguins of Madagascar will be available November 25th exclusively for Nintendo systems (Wii, Wii U, and the 3DS).  For more information the game will be featured at the Gamestop Expo on Sept. 10th.


Mortal Kombat X: Release Date and Preorder Bonus Character Goro

     Today Warner Bros. Interactive announced that NetherRealm Studios' forthcoming Mortal Kombat X will be released on April 14th, 2015.

     In addition we've also learned that the original Mortal Kombat's feared 4-armed Shokan champion Goro will be playable as a preorder exclusive DLC character.  He hasn't been playable in nearly a decade, if I recall correctly it hasn't been since 2006's Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.

     Mortal Kombat X will arrive on PS4, PS3, PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

     For more posts about [ Mortal Kombat ]


Hoard: PS3 Review

     To be honest, I had no idea what this game was going to be like.  I stumbled across it as a free PS Plus title and I'd never heard of it before- so I downloaded it to give it a try.  Oddly enough, I'd found that I had played for hours without realizing how much time had passed.

     What I found with Hoard was a kind of a backwards version of a tabletop strategy game.  Instead of building up towns and adventuring around- you play as a dragon laying fiery waste to the lands being built up around you.  Your mission is simple- to amass the largest hoard possible- leveling up abilities like longer fire breath, more defense, or a higher gold carrying capacity.
     The controls are the most basic possible- one stick controls flight, the other controls the fire breathing.  A couple buttons for the leveling menu and that's it.  But Hoard doesn't need anything more complex.

     There are multiple modes of play including single player, PvP, and even multiplayer Co-op.  In every mode the gist is the same- spread tiny terror around the board collecting a wealth of gold to fill your hoard through dragon-based panic and mayhem by burning fields and towns.  The strategy actually does change from level to level.  Some maps have a better gold from taking out travelling merchant carts, some maps you might get a lot more money from ransoming kidnapped princess, or occasionally ruining a city enough for them to set up tribute payments and then they'll even protect you from other dragons (players).

     The game has pretty good sound effects, fairly decent graphics, and only the music was sometimes strangely unfitting.  Everything else about this game rides that fine line of addictiveness and monotony.  There is just enough to keep players going in every mode despite the repetitiveness.  Just enough to make it fun and keep you interested.  There are certainly some flaws- like an inability to fly and breath fire at the same time- but really this game is definitely worth a play.  Because all modes have about a 10 minute time limit, it doesn't require hours of investment or have a huge learning curve- this is a game perfectly set up for nice short gaming fixes.

     Hoard isn't the greatest game, but it is like one of the blue wizard gems you so actively try to haul back to your tiny tabletop dragon's lair- it's curiously enchanting.  It's not the shiniest, it's not the most valuable, but it holds a magical charm that's hard not to like.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze: Announced

     The TMNT have had some questionable games in the last few years, never quite reattaining the heights of the traditional brawler/beat-em-ups of yesteryear.  However, Activision has been putting out some mediocre ones over the last year.  There was the Nickelodeon cartoon based Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo 3DS, and just a month ago saw the release of the Bay & Liebesman film's tie-in game (also on the 3DS), but neither were as good as the iOS and Android movie tie-in, but hey- they weren't too awful either.

     With that being said, Activision and Wayforward Games have announced a new Turtles game with a new style.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze is a "side-scrolling action-adventure" that bridges the gap between seasons 2 and 3 of Nickelodeon's currently airing animated series.

     Here's a segment from the press release:
     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze brings together new locations, allies and threats!  The game quickly heats up as Shredder, Tiger Claw and a new army of mutants threaten the streets of New York, forcing Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo to take action into their own hands. The game’s distinguishing feature is its vast, interconnected, non-linear game world, which rewards exploration and creative thinking. Powers, upgrades and equipment scattered across New York and Dimension X opens up new environments to traverse, secrets to discover and bosses to battle.
     All four Turtles can be swapped between freely throughout the adventure and each has its own unique rhythm, with specialised stats, strengths and skills. Combat is fast-paced, emphasising the gang’s martial arts prowess through attack and item combos, counters and finishers but also provides tools for stealth-based approaches to avoid or tackle enemies.
     So it sounds like well be getting a Metroidvania game featuring the TMNT, this could be very interesting if it works out well.  At least Activision is starting to branch out and take some chances with the TMNT franchise concerning the types of games they are making, so who knows, this could be a very good thing for the future of TMNT games.  It sounds like an intriguing new take on a Turtles game, and I'm more than willing to give it a shot.

     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze is set "to emerge in Autumn 2014" for PS3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo 3DS.

     Source [ Gamasutra ]

     For more of my Turtles posts [ TMNT ]


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: PS3 Review

     Enslaved: Odyssey to the West starts off humorously, but with a terrible idea.  In a post-apocalyptic world where some past war eliminated most of the humans and let machines inhabit the land, you find yourself (Monkey) aboard a "Slaver" ship.  While contained in a cell you are accidentally freed by Tripitaka ("Trip") a tech-savvy woman that is escaping.  In the series of events that leads to the ship crashing she repeatedly ignores your pleas to help and she effectively tries to leave you behind to die multiple times.

     Once off the ship you awake to find yourself, not just alive, but now enslaved to Trip through a technological headband.  If you disobey her whims or stray to far, you die.

     Not the best of circumstances.

     So we end up with the mindful, cautious and plan-making, Trip and the primate-like, muscle-bound, tail-like belt-wearing Monkey.  Almost two complete opposites working together.

     A majority of the game is spent escorting/protecting Trip back to her home.  Once there things have taken a turn for the worse and there is no one around.  Forcing you to move on and help Trip further.  Gradually the pair form a platonic bond and continue the journey, but I don't think the headband is removed which might just be an oversight, but I can't be sure.

     When it comes to combat, there is a mid-sized range of abilities to combat- mostly provided by Monkey's all purpose staff.  It can project a limited shield, be used for medium and strong attacks, and even has two different long range plasma shots.  You may also call on Trip's assistance through diversionary tactics such as a hologram to draw enemy fire.  Not the most wide range of stuff, but enough for the game.
     A majority of Enslaved felt decently balanced in the fighting, with only a couple areas that felt too unfair- particularly the end boss that is roughly 1,000% too long of a battle with far too many segments to fight through.  What gets to be an issue is the lag in controls.  There are times where inputs are noticeable in full seconds- which can be the difference in life or death in a battle.  They aren't the worst I've experienced, but they aren't even close to the best either.

     There is also a ton of small platforming where Monkey has to scale and traverse large sections of crumbling architecture.  Thankfully this is much more forgiving than the combat is.  Most of it is safe so it isn't as bad as other games where you can toss yourself into a gap without wanting to.  Notably there are a couple sections where you get to ride on a "Cloud."  Monkey's energy hoverboard.  I think they could've added a little more of this with a longer leash from Trip.  The leash thing was cumbersome on the Cloud because if you hit a ramp at the wrong angle it would send you sailing into the death zones and you'd begin at the last checkpoint which could be a long way back.

     Developer Ninja Theory based this game on an old Chinese myth called "Journey to the West," in which a monk uses a magical headband to force Monkey (a Monkey King, to be precise) into assisting him on the adventure.  The story feels simple enough, but also has the undertones of archetypal meaning.  There is depth here, and the end proves to be either fully enjoyed or disliked.  I personally liked the end, although maybe more seeding of it should've been done throughout the game as a whole.
     Ninja Theory bringing back Andy Serkis, actor extraordinaire, probably saved this game from absolute demise.  They used him in Heavenly Sword, and it helped there, and he has once worked just enough of his magic again to keep Enslaved a slightly better than mediocre game.  Lindsey Shaw has done a tremendous job as Trip as well, I don't want to make it seem like only Serkis was good.  The acting anchored the game enough to keep them from appearing as just a bunch of caricatures.

     While Enslaved has some great character moments, a bunch of humor, and decent merits all around it lacks just enough that it can't be a truly great game.  I think having awesome facial animations and voice acting can go a long way, but when the limited combat can be choppy and unresponsive at the worst times it pulls the game back a couple notches.  Top that with some odd graphical hiccups and framerate stuttering it falls just a little further down.
     The entire game was worth the time for the story and acting alone, but as I said, it's the things that aren't quite great that keep this from being truly amazing.

Metrico Review (PS Vita)

     The Playstation Vita exclusive Metrico initially caught my attention with its extremely minimal design, there's always some appeal in taking infographics and making them interactive in a unique way.  However, after playing the game I must say it has a lot of drawbacks the simplistic looks can't overcome.  With the visuals being so clean and simple, I wonder how they managed to have such a flawed system of interaction.


     The visual world of Metrico is its biggest draw.  Comprised of graphs, charts, and percentages that shift as you traverse the landscape it has a special wonder that is peculiar, subtle, and alluring.  Simple art design has gone a long way here to fill a whole world with wonderful graphs.

     The biggest hurdle Metrico suffers is through the compounding problem of input and motion controls.  Each level adds another option, another way to change the world around you.  The puzzle-platforming should've been as simple as the graphics, but they are not.  Just because the Vita has a plethora of control options doesn't mean you need to use them all.  If it works intuitively, go for it, but here there is no such common movement scheme- each new puzzle from level 3 on starts changing how each individual motion alters the world.  One area moving left moves things left, in the next area moving left might result in platforms falling off the screen.  There is no consistency.  Every movement or action the character makes changes the landscape and not always in the same ways forcing you to reacquaint yourself with the actions and reactions in every single puzzle.  It adds a level of trial and error that gets quite irritating at times.
     This might not be a problem had they added a hint system.  There is a sense of accomplishment from completing the puzzles, but when you are stuck it does get a bit frustrating.  There were a few times I ended up quitting and coming back the next day with a fresh perspective from time away and I retried and passed, but not everyone is so patient.
     Finding the solutions to these puzzles can often bring satisfaction when you are forced to try all available motion and action options, then stop to consider how to implement each option's reaction in the landscape- but the cost is having to use some unwieldy controls, and some very awkward Vita handling  Holding the Vita in strange and uncomfortable ways to avoid altering the puzzle itself.  So it becomes a large issue to try and balance the actual system as well as play the game when even the most minute motion causes a change.

     The good side of this is that everything you need to solve every puzzle is provided on screen.  The world designed grows quite complex but the difficulty here is fair, albeit occasionally frustrating, but mostly fair.  Handling the controls can be a pain once the later levels control schemes have been added making solving some more of a pain than puzzle fun.  It is a strange balance of ingenious puzzles and poor control response- especially the rear-touchpad for aiming when shooting.

     Had Metrico focused on the simplicity its visuals promised they might've had a subtle and moving game.  Because they thought it apt to dump a graph mountain of controls on players it makes us want to abandon the game instead of finishing it.

     Metrico asks us a question- do we play just for the elegantly charming puzzles' sake or just set it aside because of the technical fumbles you have to put up with to play it?  There's a lot of experimental things going on here making use of every aspect and mechanical novelty the Vita has to offer, but sometimes that winds up being a bit of a mess, which is how the last couple levels of Metrico felt.  In the end, I got this free on PS Plus and it exhibits a wealth of originality so I would say that yes, it is worth playing despite the issues- it's worth playing for the charm.


Josh News Update! Labor Day 2014 Edition

This is my gross face.
     It's been a busy summer.  Sadly I haven't gotten to as much as I'd like.  Hell, I've hardly gotten to see any of my friends all summer due to school and work.

     On the good side, I'm already back in school, worked all day, and still have a ton of drafts on deck for posting to any readers that might be out there.  Plus I've been plowing through games, movies, and comics to review.

     I've been struggling to keep the right output I shot for up because I get hung up on school assignments.  Working over 40 hours a week tends to kill that nice momentum built up as well and on top of that I've been getting a ton of absolutely necessary work on my house done.

      Currently I'm looking into new windows and siding which is definitely going to put a huge dent in my future economic situation, but they really, really need to be changed- there's wood rotting, a shattered glass door, and a couple birds living in one wall.  These are issues that need attention stat!

     It is kind of tough sometimes, but I'm managing to keep a somewhat decent pace of a few posts a week.  Which was my original goal for school time.

     At this rate I might someday be a real live journalist!

     Or not.


Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel: Handsome Jack Playable... Sort of...

     Apparently as a part of the recently announced season pass add-on DLC for the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, players will get to take on the role of the charismatic Hyperion employee Handsome Jack on his meteoric rise to power.  Well... kind of.

"I am definitely Handsome Jack, I am not a body double."
     What we will actually get to play is a Handsome Jack duplicate.  One might assume this will be similar to one of the Bodyguards or Body Doubles that we got to encounter in Borderlands 2's main campaign mission "The Man Who Would Be Jack" in the Hyperion location called Opportunity.

     Hilariously, I had brought this idea up way back on 11.15.2012, in a post about future DLC ideas:
     Another new Playable Character idea- one of Handsome Jack's doubles.  Maybe even a Handsome Jack New-U spawn that gets messed up in the spawn process.  He could have a ButtStallion special or some such.  What about calling in Hyperion forces, maybe a Moonbase launched robot?
     I'm quite excited about this prospect...
     Will they be another Hyperion Engineer with very unenthusiastic responses?  Will they have a Jack's Pocketwatch special ability that can call in backup?  Will they have a digistructed facade over their regular body?  So many questions about this new character.

     Source [ Polygon ]

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Season Pass Announced!

     Gearbox Software and 2K announced yesterday that the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will follow in its Pandoran predecessors footsteps and have a slew of add-on content.

     Season Pass buyers will get all 4 DLC add-on packs as a bundle that will include "New Challenges, New Missions, New Experiences," and my favorite listing "New Characters!"  Each add-on will sell individually for $9.99 or the pass as a whole will be priced at 25% off- so $29.99.

     As previously mentioned- The Pre-Sequel pre-orderers will get the Shock Drop Slaughter Pit, a typical Borderlands staple of horde wave mayhem hosted by former Dahl military recruiter TR4-NU at an abandoned Dahl facility on the moon of Pandora.

     Borderlands: The Pre-sequel will be available on Oct. 14th for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.