Saturday, June 28, 2008


I must have been looking forward to Wall-E for the better part of a year and a half now. Its really interesting how with every Pixar movie when you first hear their wildly creative idea you know next to nothing on how they'll flesh it out into a full-length movie but every single time they deliver in spades, I mean, even Cars their only lame looking movie turned out a LOT better than it looked. With Wall-E for half of the time I was hyped up for it all I knew was that it would largely be without dialogue and was loosely based off of the Charlie Chaplin film City Lights. Pair that with the fact that Andrew Stanton is an animation god to me between his screenwriting on the Toy Story movies and writing/directing Finding Nemo (which to many is the best Pixar film) and I'd have enough reason to be really excited for this. I felt a little uneasy about the early marketing for Wall-E with half the teaser devoted to ranking Wall-E up there with Pixar's other classics and their Superbowl Ad playing off of the character recognition of Buzz and Woody. I guess that's what it took to really sell Wall-E as a character, most of the advertising now just highlights just how enticing this little robot is.

Onward to movies I saw this week:

Wall-E - I caught a late showing of this yesterday and the theater was only about a quarter full. This is a bit disappointing for me especially after the entertaining but cinematically disappointing Kung Fu Panda is raking in big money at the box offiice. Unlike Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E is a movie that could care less about marketability, merchandising and big name stars as voice actors in fact with the exception of the obligatory John Ratzenberger voice role the strongest star power the movie has going for it is Ben Burtt of Star Wars fame's work on the sound effects for the movie. Of Course, any movie that would portray the owner of Buy-N-Large as the president of the world back five hundred years ago would want anything less than to be labeled as a corporate money grab.

As someone who kept up on every screenshot and every second that got released for this movie, I'd have to say that my expectations were ridiculously high for this movie and I was probably more hyped up for it than even Ratatouille (and I bought the Art book for that one before I saw it) and it was up there with The Dark Knight when it came to my most anticipated films of the year. Luckily Wall-E delivered every single expectation I had for it and then some, like every joke in the movie contributed to the story in some way and there was a ton of subtlety in the animation in others.

Comparisons to Sylvain Chomet's 2003 animated film The Triplets of Belleville would be inevitable. Both Wall-E and Belleville featured next to no dialogue and humans portrayed as amorphous blobs and Wal-mart shoppers. What's interesting is that unlike the Triplets of Belleville which just felt sour and artificial to me, Wall-E was largely entertaining even outside of its social commentary. Even though Wall-E blamed the end of the world on the Buy-N-Large corporation the humans were shown as good natured beings with the real villain really being their over reliance on technology. It was a bittersweet message for a film with such a depressing and dark opening scene. One could also compare the feelings of isolation to the first half or so of last year's I Am Legend especially comparing Wall-E's cockroach to Will Smith's German Shepard though apart from that Wall-E is a WAY better film than I Am Legend was, even at its best parts.

Wall-E is easily my favorite movie of the year so far and its every bit as strong as Finding Nemo and Ratatoille before it. I'm not sure yet whether or not I'd rank it as high as the original Toy Story quite yet but really its hard to rank Pixar movies because they are all amazing in their own unique ways. See it, see it twice, and whatever you do don't see Wanted, you'll be glad you did.

Air Guitar Nation - I picked this one up from the library because I'm a sucker for serious documentaries about ridiculous subjects. This one felt a lot like a lighter less dramatic version of The King of Kong: a Fistful of Quarters. While it certainly had a lot of funny moments, it ran a bit too long for my tastes and it was only about an 80 minute movie to begin with. Its worth seeing solely for the energetic performances and its surprisingly good licensed soundtrack. Good but not worth repeated viewings.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Adventures in Geekery: Wii Homebrew and Panda edition

Yes, its true. Yesterday I decided to get rid of a couple of those AMC Silver tickets I had lying in my wallet and I went to see Kung Fu Panda. For those who follow my blog, you'd know I had less than favorable impressions of the movie. I had incredibly bad vibes after Dreamworks ran a PowerPoint presentation for Digital Arts students at Pratt, and the incredibly derivative looking trailer didn't help. I don't think there's ever been an American Martial Arts movie in the past 20 years that hasn't used the song "Kung Fu Fighting" somewhere in the trailer, and that "Battle Without Honor Or Humanity" track from Kill Bill has been used in every possible ironic sense since it first appeared in a film. Luckily, it was mostly void of the pop culture snarkiness and cheap gags that's a mainstay in most Dreamworks Animation movies but it still wasn't half of what I'd consider Pixar-quality.

Onward to the geekery:
Kung Fu Panda - to start things off, this movie gave off an incredibly great first impression with this 2-D animated opening from James Baxter Animation, who also worked on the opening 10 minutes or so of Enchanted. It looked absolutely incredible on the digital projection with details like a really subtle paper parchment texture showing through. It would be interesting to see if the film would be any different if they tried to make the entire thing in this style, or at least created some sort of cell-shading filter to mimic this simplicity with the control of 3D animation. When the actual movie started, I was fairly satisfied with the amount of squash and stretch they were able to pull off with the animation in this. They started using it in Madagascar but it was really pronounced in this movie. The lighting in this was quite good as well, with a fearless choice to go with red and blue lights in some of the scenes, its great to see Dreamworks finally playing around with the limitless amount of freedom CG gives them for their movie.

In a lot of ways Kung Fu Panda reminded me a lot of Over the Hedge in that it was a step above the Shrek movies and really entertaining, but not anything I'd go out of my way to see again. Like Over the Hedge's decision to have Bruce Willis play a cuddly raccoon and Avril Lavigne voice an angsty teen possum, it had a needlessly star studded cast which really only needed Jack Black at the end of the day. Some of the questionable choices included Knocked Up's Seth Rogan voicing a praying mantis, who only had a couple of snarky one-liners and an excuse to get his signature laugh somewhere into the movie. Angelina Jolie played a moderately big role as a cuddly tiger but she appeared alongside Jack Black in the Dreamworks's horrible Shark Tale movie, maybe Dreamworks is running out of marquee actors to pick from. It also had Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan in there, but only to collect a paycheck, all I can remember is that they played a Snake and a Baboon respectably and they said maybe two or three lines. You'd think they could have put a little money aside and gone with Saturday morning cartoon voice actors for those minor roles and put a little money towards the writing, which was easily the weakest thing in this movie.

While I remember at Pratt, Dreamworks touted this as an animator driven project and that's what really saved this movie in my mind. It seemed like they just let the animators have fun let it be through slapstick gags or a few ridiculously awesome action sequences that seemed a little out of place for the rest of the movie. The real problem with this movie was the fact that all the sequences that were supposed to convince us that Po (Jack Black) was not the dragon warrior were just played off as slapstick gags. I really wish there was just one scene, where you could legitimately see Jack Black get his ass handed to him and just get a look of desperation on his face. Yes, I know this is a "family movie" but they did it in a Bug's Life and it was EASILY the strongest moment in the entire movie. Instead, the scenes when Jack Black actually did give up we really had little reason to actually believe him where in most of the shows he had a "smile on his face" and it looked like he was having fun in the midst of those slapstick gags. While Kung Fu Panda had its share of flaws, you could certainly do a LOT worse when it comes to 3D animated movies.

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro - the funny thing about Hayao Miyazaki is that even when you think you've seen all his films already, there's always one that you missed. I saw this at the library in the children's section and I was apparently the only one who's taken it out ever since they first got it a few months ago. I think this one was made before Studio Ghibli even existed and its quite odd because it still has a lot of the staples of a Miyazaki film (like flight, bad guys who are actually good) but it also has a humor and sensibility that I didn't know Miyazaki even had. I found this one pretty entertaining but I really feel like Miyazaki's style really evolved around the time they released My Neighbor Totoro, his early stuff like this and Nausicaa was good but they were fairly flawed. Only worth it if you haven't seen some of his more recent stuff yet.


This week I also installed the Homebrew Channel on my Wii, after hearing that the latest update will disable the Twilight Hack I figured that now was my only real chance to do it. I installed the hack mainly just so I could back up my 160 hours of data in Brawl. While my warranty expired last February (it was a launch Wii, extended for registering) I figured if my Wii ever bites the dust which I feel its getting pretty close to, I want to have a way to back up the titles that the Wii OS wouldn't let me like Mario Kart Wii, Brawl and Guitar Hero III.

Getting the Homebrew channel wasn't nearly as user friendly as I imagined it. After checking where my Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess disc was manufactured and reformatting an SD card with a very specific tree of folders. It seemed needlessly tense. Especially when I ran the Twilight Hack and this MS-DOS like bios started up and told me if my Wii doesn't work anymore that its no one's fault but my own. It was all a very nerve-wracking process and I doubt really anyone outside of maybe a half of a percent of Wii owners would ever want to go through it.

After installing the channel, it all ran kind of fine. The start-up logo for the channel was quite cool, it would be nice if you could access the Wii menu with through the Wii's bios from there and there's no way to get back to the channel's menu within any actual applications. Most of the homebrew apps were pretty much unplayable, this included a soundless version of Duck Hunt which was done much better in a Flash game before it and a version of Tetris with a fair bit of slow-down. The SNES emulator on the other hand worked without a hitch and supported the classic controller. As someone who's dropped more money than I'd like to think on Virtual Console downloads, this was quite novel. I spent most of the mod from there on playing EarthBound, which I'm actually enjoying quite a lot.

I might try to see Shakespeare on the Sound one of these days too...before it ends fairly momentarily.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

I want MGS4 almost as much as I don't want a PS3

If there's a theme of the video game releases of 2008, it is that they are all just delayed big budget blockbuster titles that were supposed to come out in 2007. I can't really blame the companies for delaying the titles, Super Mario Galaxy, The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4, Bioshock, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Halo 3 were all released within four months of each other. Had it been any other year, any of those titles could have easily taken Game of the Year from just about any game publication. The slew of delayed AAA titles released this year included Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. These delayed titles, thanks to some added development time are some of the strongest games of this generation with Grand Theft Auto IV getting reviews as strong as Super Mario Galaxy (though I'd take Super Mario Galaxy or Legend of Zelda over GTA any day) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl is second to only Nintendo's top tier Mario and Zelda franchises when it comes for the best rated Wii release ever.

The rest of 2008 is really hard to judge for especially before most of the big holiday guns are revealed at this year's souped down E3. Prince of Persia and Soulcalibur IV highlight the multi-platform releases and I'm sure Guitar Hero: World Tour will sell a lot for imitating Rock Band but I doubt it will really be anything spectacular. The PC is getting Spore which is Will Wright's much delayed follow up to Sim City and The Sims franchises. While the Xbox 360 is getting Gears of War 2, Too Human (a title that went in and out of development hell for the past 10 years) and the third entry of the Nintendo 64's popular Banjo-Kazooie franchise. The PS3 has the way cool looking LittleBigPlanet and a sequel to Insomniac's Resistance franchise. Not much has been announced for the Wii yet apart from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (which I'm hoping is as good as its Gamecube counterpart) and De Blob shows promise, I'm sure Nintendo has an ace up its sleeve for Christmas at this coming E3 convention.

With Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots released only a few days ago, I'm feeling a stronger and stronger temptation to get a PS3. The fact that Wal-mart is also offering a $100 gift card with all PS3s including the MGS4 Bundle and the ability to play Blu-Ray discs helps a lot too. While I know that there is a chance that MGS4 could very well be ported to the Xbox 360 by the end of the year much like how Resident Evil 4, Killer7 and Viewtiful Joe were ported to the PS2 despite being touted as Gamecube exclusives for most of their development. If anything, the PS3 version will still be better than anything they could release on the Xbox 360 because the game was designed around the 60 GBs available on a dual-layer Blu-Ray disc and I really can't see them cramming that onto a few DVDs without a ridiculous amount of compression. On top of that, millions of dollars were spent from both Sony and Konami for them to make the game's engine optimized for the PS3 and I doubt Sony will ever let Konami let go of it. Besides, I really REALLY want LittleBigPlanet and you can't really discount the multi-platform games like Oblivion, The Orange Box (which is fine with the new patch), Assassin's Creed, the sequel to Beyond Good and Evil and that way cool looking Prince of Persia game coming out. I'm not really all that interested in the frat boy mentality of most of the Xbox 360 exclusives anyway and most of the Japanese titles I want are out on either the Wii (which I have and love) or the PS3.

So far, I watched the first three hours of Metal Gear Solid 4 played on a live-stream off of Giant Bomb. As someone who's only really played Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on Gamecube and just watched his brother play through MGS2 and 3, I'm actually pretty excited for this one. They seemed to lighten up the intensity of the stealth mechanic with new ways to hide, new melee attacks and a slightly more liberal cone of vision. On top of that, the game adopted a lot of the gameplay elements from Gears of War making it a fairly competent action game if you want to totally ditch the stealth element altogether. I heard they have better unlockables and hidden weapons if you play it killing as few people as possible though which is great reward for the purists of the series.

If your reading this in my blog, here are a couple of clips from the game so you can see what I'm talking about...

The cutscenes did drag on a bit much though. It would be generous if I said half the footage I saw was gameplay and the other half was either a cut scene or a codec conversation. Fortunately, what I saw of the cutscenes looked REALLY good. The direction of the tension and action looked every bit as awesome as the trailers shown at the past few Tokyo Game Show and E3 conventions and the themes of the war economy in a not too distant future hit a little closer to home than any other entry in the series. Did I mention that aging Solid Snake was one of the smartest moves made in this one, while each Metal Gear Solid game is famous for having an "edge of your seat torture" scene of sorts putting a 70 year old version of Snake through the bowels of war makes the entire game feel almost like a torture scene for him...and yes, that is a good thing.

Will I buy a PS3 within the next two months solely for this game? probably not, but its really hard to resist...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

just felt like posting rube goldberg devices

I found this today on StumbleUpon and its one of the best Rube Goldberg machines I've seen in ahwhile, but then it also made me think of all the videos I've seen. Here are some that stuck out in my mind as particularly memorable examples.

I found this one over on Alton Brown's blog about a year ago. I believe this commercial won Honda a design achievement award. When I first saw this I thought some parts of it were 3D animated but in fact, it was just an incredibly elaborate reaction with an incredibly high budget for filming. The budget takes away some of the fun of a rube goldberg machine but you still cannot deny the charm in this video.

This one was commissioned for two Swiss artists Peter Fischli & David Weiss, the actual chain reaction goes on for about thirty minutes but as you can see from the four minute sample on the internet, its some pretty elaborate stuff and I remember hearing that they went under a fair bit of scrutiny from the person who commissioned it up until the actual device was done.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The best argument against Dewmocracy is a five minute conversation with the average Mountain Dew drinker.

Its not summer without a new spin-off flavor of Mountain Dew. I remember back in 2001 hoarding as much Mountain Dew: Code Red as the words "limited edition" made me fear the flavor's inevitable demise. Luckily the flavor returned the following summer as a permanent addition to the Mountain Dew family. 2003 marked the release of Mountain Dew Livewire which was Mountain Dew's answer to the caffeinated Sunkist orange soda, didn't really taste all that much different either they sort of brought this flavor back but only in 20oz bottles in select areas, sadly the NYC area is not one of them. Other subsequent limited edition flavors included Mountain Dew: Pitch Black which tasted like really bad cough medicine and Mountain Dew: Pitch Black II which tasted exactly the same, only this time with a "sour bite" covering up the hideous taste of the last one. While I don't exactly miss this flavor, I still have a few cans of Pitch Black II lying around. Apart from that they recently released the Game Fuel flavor to coincide with the release of the game Halo 3 which didn't really taste all that different than Code Red and infact did not really have that much more caffeine either, I still kind of dug it though. With the exception of the short lasting MDX energy drink experiment, I felt like limited edition Mountain Dew flavors were simply just a thing of the past...


Last winter the Pepsi company launched a new website called DEWMOCRACY!! The site would allow Mountain Dew drinkers to create a new Mountain Dew flavor based off of any color they could think of with an accompanying name. While my Battery Acid and Rusty Nail flavors were not accepted, this summer they just launched three new limited edition flavors, Revolution, Voltage and Supernova. With the titles being as non-descriptive as possible your Mountain Dew drinker was only trusting the Pepsi company to articulate the flavors based off of the colors they like, seems more like a dictatorship if you ask me. Onward to the flavors!

Mountain Dew: Voltage - The first flavor I'll mention is also the most popular one currently on the Dewmocracy website. Voltage tastes surprisingly close to the commercial failure Pepsi Blue flavor which consequently was resurrected in a Mountain Dew slurpee flavor. Or you can say it tastes like a blue non-diet version of that Fresca soda that is popular with the soccer moms across the country. Voltage is described elegantly on Wikipedia as "A blue colored raspberry-citrus and ginseng flavored Dew" which I suppose is about as accurate as the marketing material can describe. Its a decent flavor but I'm unsure as to how is winning on the online voting by such a large margin.

Mountain Dew: Revolution - this one is a "A translucent blue-colored, wild berry fruit and ginseng flavored Dew." All the new Dewmocracy flavors seem to be pushing the "ginseng" aspect of the flavor. While ginseng has not really been proven to actually give a surge of energy or anything, its been popular ever since Red Bull became a huge overpriced phenomena. This one tastes very similar to the Voltage flavor but is more of a subdued flavor, I couldn't really say it tasted like too much of anything, the sugary taste overrode any citrus-y flavor I could derive. This one is the weakest of the three flavors in my mind.

Mountain Dew: Supernova - This one is marginally my favorite, with a "A pink colored strawberry, melon, lime, and ginseng flavored Dew." To me, it tastes more like a grape soda riddled up with caffeine. Its kind of like a more refined version of the original Pitch Black flavor, and I don't mean that as a bad thing. I'm not really big on any of the flavors to be honest but this one would be my favorite I guess. I really can't see any of these flavors lasting more than a year when they inevitably pick the winner to grace store shelves. It might share the same fate as Mountain Dew Livewire if anything.


THERE ARE NOW MOUNTAIN DEW FLAVORED DORITOS TORTILLA CHIPS!! Its one of the flavors for the new Doritos Quest flavors that you can now find at your local gas stations and other trashy eateries. While I have not yet had the privilege to experience this flavor I can only imagine it tasting amazingly terrible. Kind of like the hamburger flavored Doritos from last year.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Adventures in Geekery: Not Many Films Edition

This past week, I haven't really seen that many films. There's a part of me that wants to see Kung Fu Panda after I saw it got an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the best rated Pacific Data Images film since Shrek 2 (which I never really thought too highly of). I'll probably see it next week when I'm away where the movie tickets are cheaper. I don't really want to pay $11.75 to see another formulaic pop culture heavy film with snarky talking animals spewing whatever kind of crude and sexual references that could fall under the PG rating. According to Dreamwork Animation's Powerpoint presentation at Pratt, that was their "winning formula" that they discovered after making the first Shrek movie. While I can't really speak down on the company, for the concept art they've shown was top-notch and if animator blogs are any indication, there are some smart and extremely talented people working there. I just feel like the upper management is more concerned with making a movie marketable to corporate America than opposed to a timeless and artful movie that sells itself for its merits and creativity (a vital aspect that most of their 3D films lack).

Onwards to movies!
Beowulf - Just when I thought I was finished talking about uninspired 3D animated films, I haven't mentioned that I took out Beowulf from my local library. This latest film from Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, as well as that Forest Gump Oscar grab) takes the boring literary epic poem and translates it into a generic beef-headed action movie. The film uses a more large scale version of the motion capturing that Zemeckis incorporated into the Polar Express and Monster House which he served as a producer on. The main noticeable difference here is that Robert also attached small cameras over the eyes of the actors as a feeble attempt to avoid the doll faced world of the uncanny valley. While its cool to see the pupils of a virtual Anthony Hopkins dilate, it still doesn't come off as believable as they still bear the weight and rubbery texture of corpses. They should have went for a more stylized approach like they did in Monster House, where I could at least pay attention to the dialogue without getting freaked out by the hideous zombie animation.

The actual Beowulf film was a letdown for me as well. Most of it followed our aggressive titular hero in a series of violent trials against mythical creatures and long overblown dialogue sequences. I'm unsure how the film managed to get a PG13 rating from the MPAA. The over the top blood in the movie is reminiscent of an M-rated video game (I'd say God of War but that would give this movie too much credit) and it features what is supposed to be a naked Angelina Jolie (but it was really just Angelina Jolie's head plastered onto the body of the model of a 19 year old woman) that leaves very little to the imagination. I keep on getting reminded of some of the antics revealed in the independent documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated where big name studios would pretty much pay off the MPAA for the coveted mall friendly PG13 rating leaving most low-budget indie movies with R and NC17 ratings that they probably don't deserve. Maybe it was the terrible animation that really saved it from getting the R-rating at the end of the day. The violence looks so fake that its hard to take seriously and the animation is too wooden and soulless for the film to possibly be erotic. This reminded me of The Animatrix's Final Flight of the Osiris short film where the uncanny valley helps cross the narrow line between sexy and repulsive.

The movie somehow was able to garner a respectable 70% on Rotten Tomatoes but I feel that is largely in part to the fact that they screened the stereoscopic IMAX 3D version of the movie to the critics. I mean, I saw the infamously bad Open Season in IMAX 3D and didn't mind it due to the novelty of seeing 3D animation rendered for glasses. In fact, I felt kind of robbed watching it in "2D" on DVD. I'm sure when its more of a mainstay, it would be less impressive but for now I feel it will inflate the critical reception of movies that don't deserve it.

The Machine Girl - While I've already made a blog post about how awesome the trailer for this movie was, I finally saw it in its full length and I'm happy to say that it lived up to every ridiculously high (and by that I mean low) expectation I had for it. If you've seen the trailer, you'd already know what to hope for as the movie pretty much has the same exact pacing and amount of action as the trailer, just imagine it was extended to 90 minutes. The film seemed like what would happen if you gave a hyped up 12 year old $5 million and asked him to make Kill Bill and what your left with is a plot with about as much depth of a Power Rangers episode and a non-stop onslaught of over the top and anatomically impossible violence. Unlike Beowulf, The Machine Girl understands the immaturity in its exaggerated violence and instead of trying to convince the audience that its a serious movie, it plays off this fact and just tries to give you a good time. While it may not be a fulfilling movie experience to watch alone, it makes for excellent riffing material if you can get a bunch of sarcastic friends together in a room to watch it.

Rocky Balboa - I was surprised at how much I liked this film. Having only seen the original Rocky movie from 1976, I was afraid I would have been lost because I haven't seen any of the four sequels that followed. Thankfully, Rocky Balboa was as much as a sequel as it was a remake, where its plot was self-contained enough to entertain a new generation that hasn't experienced a Rocky movie but it had ample references and appearances of the characters from the past Rocky films to please the longtime fans. In that respect I'd consider it the perfect family movie. Pretty much anyone can grasp the story of a retired boxer who goes in for one last fight but the fact that it was a Rocky movie gives something for parents to be excited about as well. There was very little action in it surprisingly, with most of the film just building up to the final fight in the last fifteen minutes. What it did have was corny dialogue and an innocent sense of humor that was harmless enough that you can't help but really celebrate this movie.

With the underwhelming Gamestop "Game Days" sale, I also picked up a couple of video games that I would have never picked up at full price...

video game geekery:
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games - This is one of those titles that I pounced on as soon as I saw it for $30. While I'm against the idea of a minigame compilation released for the Wii at full price, the shallow ten hours or so of messing around and the value as a party game make me a lot more open to a budget price tag. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games falls somewhere in between Wii Sports and Track and Field in my mind. At times, the game is pretty easy and straightforward ideal for the typical middle aged Wii consumer and young children but then at random intervals the game becomes needlessly convoluted and difficult. The amount of precision and patience with the unforgiving difficulty of these minigames harkens back to the difficulty of most NES games, and often on these games the controls more rely on button presses than on motion, making it kind of difficult to explain to the "non-gamer" this was marketed towards. The novelty of seeing both Mario and Sonic on the screen at the same time was handled much better in Super Smash Bros. Brawl with this game putting more attention on the Olympic Games in Beijing than the idea of two rival mascots finally appearing together in the same title, very little of the aesthetic and catchy music from the two franchises is actually implemented into the game, which is a bit of a disappointment to me. At the price though, the game itself was pretty fun and if you could overlook some of the apparent shortcomings you have a fairly solid and deep collection of minigames.

Octomania - I'll admit it, I mostly picked up this game for its overtly Japanese intro movie and its horrendously bad voice acting. This game makes it no secret that it was supervised by the creator of Puyo Pop, which I consider the best puzzle game second to only Panel de Pon (known here as Tetris Attack or Puzzle League) and Tetris. While you probably haven't heard of Puyo Pop, the game has been released to the United States under the names of Kirby's Avalance on the SNES and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine on the Sega Genesis. More recently though the game has made appearances here in its original Japanese form in a Gameboy Advance remake and its sequel Puyo Pop Fever which appeared on the Gamecube and Nintendo DS systems. Between that and the fact that games like Puzzle Fighter and Dr. Mario have an uncanny resemblance to the title, you've likely played something that was derived from Puyo Pop. Octomania follows the same basic structure where you'd often be facing against an AI where you'd compete to get big combos and ultimately drop useless tiles on the opponent to the point where they'd lose the game, or vice versa. These are sandwiched between cutesy voice acted "story" sequences as each opponent gets progressively harder.

While its not as addictive as the aforementioned Puyo Pop its fun enough to warrant the $15 purchase. The game also supports Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection multiplayer but the game's so obscure that its next to impossible to find a stranger to play it with and your better off exchanging friend codes with someone you know from the internet. Its worth noting that the game is just about unplayable with the default control scheme which requires you to use the Wii's IR based cursor to switch over tiles, its not precise enough to really get that far into the game. You can toggle to a more comfortable NES style horizontal configuration with the minus button on the remote or through the options area of the main menu.

Octomania was localized and published by Conspiracy Entertainment. This was the same company that brought us Ninjabread Man and Anubis II, both of which were some of the absolute worst games to ever grace the Wii. While both of those titles were developed by the British based Data Design Interactive, I have to commemorate Conspiracy for finally bringing over a solid and fun game to the Wii instead of cramming up the shelves with cheap budget cash-in titles that take advantage of mothers and casual consumers that just don't know any better. Sadly I don't think this is really a trend, there's still a sequel to Ninjabread Man coming out...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

schlocky asian horror movie, now on DVD

I'm pretty sure that if you were using the internet at any time during the month of December you would have seen this ridiculously beautiful trailer for The Machine Girl. It seems to tackle the typical themes of extreme Asian cinema including a desire for revenge like in the critically praised Old Boy and the "low budget be damned" approach to gory special effects like in the midnight B-movie classic Killer Snakes.

If my blog post about MadWorld is any indication, I'm a big fan of weapons for limbs. The film seems reminiscent of Robert Rodriguez's entry to last year's Grindhouse, Planet Terror. That is, without a shared $60 million budget with Quentin Tarantino which was used to digitally remove Rose McGowan's leg and add a machine gun to it in every shot. If it were truly a "grindhouse" experience, it would look a lot clumsier. That is unless the point of the film was to take low budget plot and honor it with cutting edge special effects. If the trailer is any indication The Machine Girl should have the same over the top violence, except with less CG and more rubber prosthetics and hoses for gore.

Today the film was quietly released on DVD and is being sold at the fairly reasonable price of $12.99 at Target and Best Buy locations, and I heard on imdb that its $11.99 at Walmart. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the audience for this would just snag it off of BitTorrent but then again I paid upwards of thirteen bucks to see Teeth at an indie playhouse in NYC and I only saw that movie just for the novelty of its obscure premise. I have certainly done worse before.

Monday, June 2, 2008

perhaps the coolest Wii game I never knew existed

Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy from on Vimeo

I only just noticed this awesome title today on Giant Bomb and I'm already pretty excited. Its release is only a week away and this is the first word I heard of it. While the narration of the trailer is pretty lame, I'm pretty excited to see what kind of creations the community is able to come up with for this title. With another "me-too" shoot-'em-up released just about every week for the Virtual Console on the Wii Shop Channel and an already overcrowding amount on the new WiiWare service in only the first month, its great to be able to potentially access a ton of great schmups (that's short for shoot 'em up :P) without having to fork over $6-$10 in Wii Points Cards. It will also allow for bullet patterns a la the underground Gamecube now XBLA title Ikaruga.

Another plus, is that it will come with the cult indie PC titles TUMIKI Fighters, rRootage, Gunroar, and Torus Trooper right out of the box. While the games are already available online for the PC as a free download (and trust me, I was addicted to Torus Trooper last year), they'll feel much more at home playing on a console. Especially, holding the Wii remote horizontally, NES style. I'd almost say its worth the price of admission alone for those titles.

Sadly, a game like this is only as strong as the community that supports it and with Majesco's track record with Psychonauts and Advent Rising, I wouldn't be surprised if this title wouldn't last more than a few months on store shelves...only to be replaced with another flock of low-grade PS2 ports and casual minigame compilations.