Sunday, 26 August 2012

Top 25 Video Games I Like The Most (20 - 16)

20. Megaman 9 (PS3)

So, you're wondering why Megaman 2 isn't on here or any of the Megaman X games. Well that's because the only Megaman games I've had played are 1, 9 and 10. Now if I perchance had played some of these previous games, Megaman 9 wouldn't be on this list, because I've seen a good amount of reviewing, video game footage to know that those games are possibly much better than MM9. It's even apparent that I enjoy MM2's soundtrack more than MM9. But I can't list a game I haven't played as much as I'd love to fawn over how great the music is. So I had to choose through these slim pickings. The original MM while fun and challenging, felt a little short compared to the other two and MM10 didn't really provoke me to play more. It wasn't as rememberable. So MM9 would be the one that I would choose here.

While I've said that MM2's soundtrack is chiptune heaven, there is still no doubt in my mind that MM9 does really well of matching it's brilliance. The tracks range from peaceful adventuring (Splash Woman's stage) to cautious maneuvering (Plug Man) to catchy as hell (Hornet Man) to downright intense (Concrete Man). Then again, it's quite obvious that when you talk about a Megaman game that the music is going to usually end up being quite good. If it isn't that way, then something is incredibly wrong. As is also expected from the Megaman franchise is a great deal of challenge of abilities to switch from to get ahead in the game. For instance, there's a part in Tornado's Man stage where there's these platforms that twirl you about. You're supposed to time your jump right so that you end up jumping where you want to go. Or how about the part in Jewel Man's stage where you're in that room and you're supposed to avoid the rocks that rain down on you and jump at the time that the boulder with a face comes up. Or how about Plug Man's stage where you get the classic "limited time platform" puzzle where you have to be very careful on how the platforms appear.

The game comes with a good amount of abilities to choose from, my favorites being Galaxy Man's B. Bomb and Splash Woman's L. Trident. Speaking of which, an interesting aspect that this game is noteworthy of is that it has the first official female Robot Master. Can you believe that? Imagine what kind of female Robot Masters could await us in Megaman 11 perhaps...although in MM 10 there wasn't even a single "______ Woman" in sight...which sort of makes you think why even have a female Robot Master if you're not going to carry through with it in further installments. Whatever the case, such a detail like that makes MM9 one of the more interesting selections of the series, even if Splash Woman didn't put up much of a fight. Come to think of it, all of this is delving into something much'll have to excuse me if I cut this entry a bit short. I'm sure you all get the gist of why I enjoy this least to some degree.

19. Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)

Now for a select few of you, you'd think that having this choice on the list is incredibly odd. It's like putting Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine on this list, it's basically the more famous version of a reskin of a game. Even then, Pokemon Puzzle League would be the lesser known version as people would either recollect Panel De Pon or Tetris Attack first. So, why is this on the list then? Well, believe it or not, this was a game that strengthened my relationship with my mother. The first time she got introduced to this game, she really seemed to be invested in it. It was a simple puzzle game where the point was to match up blocks so they'd dissapear. The bigger the combos were, the more damage you could inflict on your rival. The goal would to basically fill the screen of the enemy by throwing as many obstacles in their path as possible. Add in the sort of cheerful, family friendly look that Pokemon would emit, and it seemed to get both of us engrossed in the experience.

For the most part, I'd go against her in the versus matches, as she was the only person I knew that could put up a challenge in this game. Everyone else I'd play with would end up losing to me and usually want to play something that would be equally fun for the both of us. Sometimes, I'd just watch her go against the computer in some of the timed challenges or against Mewtwo since I was never able to defeat any of them. Now, it may seem to you that the reason I put this game on the list (that being because this game appealed to a family member and helped us bond in a way) seems kind of outlandish, but there's something more to it. See, in all of my gaming life, it was rare that I would get that sort of reaction out of someone for a game that didn't get much of a following. Sure, my friends would love to play SSB, but who wouldn't. Someone who looks at a game like Pokemon Puzzle League wouldn't be all that crazy for it.

Not only that, but it was the most iconic one because I too enjoyed playing the game. My mom also liked playing Dr. Mario 64 and Mario Golf, and while those games are good, I was more into playing Pokemon Puzzle League. It was like Tetris, except the stakes were higher and you could play with someone else and have loads of fun. A game that has that sort of ability to bring endless hours of entertainment with family is doing something right, even if it's rehashed. I'm sure there are other people out there that have had their fair share of this game and enjoy it for it's addicting, fast-paced nature.

18. Terraria (PC)

This choice was a bit of a tough one to decide. I was either gonna put Sonic R, Kirby: Nightmare In Dreamland or Terraria in here. I enjoyed all three enough so it would end up on this spot, but I had to end up with one. While I love playing Sonic R (in the same way I love watching "The Room"), it would kind of make people think I'm a fool for deciding it. And I have a better choice for a Kirby-related pick on the list. So Terraria had to do. Here's the odd part though, while I have tons of fun playing this game, I find myself incredibly frustrated by it. In fact, I dare even say it's the choice that has brought me the most aggravation on this list.

For those of you who are unaware of the bittersweetness of Terraria, just imagine it like a 2D-Minecraft with a little more of a goal to achieve. There appear to be bosses scattered around the game and there's a lot of place to go that you have to be well prepared for. For the most part, I usually end up building houses, treasure chests, anvils and tables around certain "checkpoint" areas" and spend my time underground, discovering and creating caverns. It has a nice adventurous feel to as you progress, as there are tons of treasure chests to rob and pots to smash as well as zombies, skeletons and giant blobs to kill. There's also tons of potions and shiny things like gold, silver, copper, jade, ruby, sapphire and ameryst. It's loaded with that special adventure feel.

The problem doesn't lie with the lack of a goal. I've played goalless games before and have had a ball of fun, the problem actually is when I do get a goal set, I get demolished. For example, the further you head out in either direction, the tougher it becomes. That's understandable, but at some instances I find myself getting cornered and ganged up by an onslaught of enemies. Then once I do get by, I usually end up fighting a boss I can't kill and then lose the cash that accumulated. I end up dying a lot so I find continuing pointless at times. Not only that, but in single player I can't find a store for the life of me, so I can't even use all of that cash to benefit me when I do get to more challenging areas. I'm skeptical of going into multiplayer unless I have some friends by me and I usually end up playing to the point where I don't want to play the game anymore. It's incredibly fun in short busts though.

17. Skullgirls (PS3)

Fighters sort of share the same treatment as they do with RPGs. Unlike RPGs though, I actually have move fighters...and they're even made by different people, what joy! My distance with fighters though is that I don't have one of those arcade style controls, and even if I did, I'd still suck. See, while people like to say that fighters are just a frenzy of button mashers, it actually plays out more like a hyperspeed Simon, where you have to land the right buttons at the precise time to pull off the best moves. For a EVO champion, that's possible, but for me, I couldn't pull off consecutive combos if my life depended on it. I'm the scrubbiest of the scrub, constantly getting my ass handed to me by either human player or computer as I frantically push everything to land a hit. I tend to forget that what helps you in a fighter is also knowing how and when to block, which I tend to forget.

So, why would this fighter be here if I suck at them? Well, because I have a lot of fun with this fighter. I lose a lot, but I have fun nonetheless. I heard about this game for quite a while, and got interested when I saw the art-style and some of the gameplay. The characters, stages and whole word seemed to have a sort of old-timey American cartoon feel lightly coated onto the design. In Peacock's case, it's incredibly evident, but in the other characters it's more hidden. For the most part, it borrows a good chunk of anime art-styles, which isn't necessarily bad, as it's pulled off in a manner that makes it look inventive. It's hard to really pinpoint what makes the style seem different from the standard anime look, but when I look at it, it feels as if it one of the early black and white animators was trying to draw anime. Call me crazy, but that's how I see it. Whether or not you agree with me on that, the music from this game did sound good regardless. It perfectly fit the cartoony theme that the game was trying to push.

The roster of this game isn't half-bad either. For one, it's comprised of nothing but female characters. Some may see it as something else to look at it the game, some see it as a sign that we're progressing as a society, I see it as something that makes this game a tad different than the other fighters that I've played. The characters themselves are interesting as you have a secret agent (Parasoul), a schoolgirl (Filla), a cartoon "icon" (Peacock), a catgirl that can detach her head at will (Ms. Fortune), a circus performer with a hat that has two muscular arms (Cerebella), a quasi-demonic nun (Double), a nightmarish experiment-gone-wrong (Painwheel), and a nurse (Valentine). Each of them, as you'd expect, have their own stories, motives and powers. Based on these descriptions, you could pretty much guess how some of these characters fight. Valentine would fight with medical tools, Peacock will use cartoon weapons, Ms. Fortune would scratch you and throw her head at you, etc. The fighting itself plays fairly smoothly and it's fun just see what kind of moves you can pull when you pull them right. Personally my choices in the game are Valentine (for the whole nurse motif), Ms. Fortune (because I've talked with the VA and she seems like a nice gal. Also she's quite the artist, how 'bout that. That and I also like the catgirl motif) and Parasoul (for the secret agent motif and using that badass umbrella of hers), but all the other characters work out fine.

Even though I find myself scared and annoyed to play the game with anyone or anything because of my lack of skills, I still push through to at least get a few games here simply for how much fun and how interesting the whole game is. It just has a feel to me that's really inviting. Maybe it's not one of those games that many people would really consider to play because they're rather go with the other fighters, and maybe they'd think that this game just banks on the fanservice (which I think is preposterous), but it's still a wonderful experience playing this game every once in a while.

16. Batman Arkham City (PS3)

I honestly think that the best way to summarize my experience with this game is how I summarized it before:

"The Riddler isn't as great as they made him out to be. That can be partially due to the design that they went with him and that can also be due to how he seemed less like a mastermind luring you into a grand trap and more like a whiny bitch when you'd solve his riddles. The trophies can also share the blame on why the Riddler wasn't as great as I wanted him to be, but that wasn't as big as the last two parts. He did sound somewhat threatening with some of the messages he'd sent out to you, but that's about it. I guess that's enough of me nitpicking, now onto the rest of the game.

Yes, at times it felt like some of the events were trying to be bigger than one another, but it felt like it was easing into all the chaos that was coming from such an environment. It felt epic because there was proper timing to when the stakes would be risen. It was constantly building up one crazy shitstorm after another. The characters themselves are written well, but that's almost expected when talking about Batman (unless we're talking about Frank Miller, hyuck hyuck). Sure, I bitched about the Riddler, but the Joker's obviously better and has more screentime so I can smile at Hamill's hysterical Joker cackle after frowning at what I saw with the Riddler. Hugo Strange was very interesting to see as sort of the main antagonist in Arkham City mainly because I've never heard of him and he was equally as threatening as any other Batman villain.

Gameplay-wise, with all the crooks to beat up and sneak-attack, puzzles to solve, areas to glide through and   gadgets to mess about, it feels quite strong. Each of the bosses you encounter are somewhat difficult, but you can overcome them if you do the usual "time your shit right" tactic that works with most bosses in most games. The difficulty does kind of go up and down at times, but it manages to provide a challenge to the gamer which isn't a bad thing. Succeeding in something that had to make you plan out your moves carefully is more satisfying because you had made a greater effort to overcome the problem. Everything just seemed to fall into the right places in the game. Except The Riddler. But like I said, it's just a nitpick. That, and even I, as a Riddler fan, have to admit that he wasn't all that special."

As I replay the game, I find that nothing much about this has changed except the way I look at the Riddler. Sure, a part of me still isn't okay with the final design and how the Riddler came out like a total wuss, but now that I think about it, he had the gall to toy with Batman by scattering trophies and cryptical messages, which is what the Riddler is known for. That part may have been tedious for me as a player, but that's the whole point of how the Riddler functions, he's supposed to be tedious. Also, while he comes out weak, you could attribute it to the idea that he's more about brain than brawn. With that said, you could also say he should have been smarter about how he would have dealt with Batman rather than just getting pulled under the creaky floorboards.

I still think that all of the exploring you do in the Arkham City is loads of fun and the array of baddies that you fight are done very well. The story was also something really worthy of note as it had all the elements that would be present in the comic book but it also had a very cinematic and intense vibe to it as you watched everything unfurl. It had it's own identity too as it was dark but also fast-paced and had the stakes as high as ever. The Catwoman mode of the game was kind of cool to try. I wasn't all that into it because I didn't really care that much for Catwoman (shocker, isn't it?), but there was something there that I could enjoy  (the stealing, mostly) and that's enough to at least consider the choice. I really don't know what else to say that I haven't already said right now so I'll just stop padding this and end this list.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Top 25 Video Games I Like The Most (25 - 21)

These sorts of lists are the kind of lists that not many people quite care for. It's a very generic topic to go about and it merely serves as a way to just gush about the games that you enjoyed the most. Quite frankly everyone's heard the praise that some of these games that you enjoy of and they get bored of it. On the off-chance you get a few choices that surprise you, but for the most part you know the games that they talk about. You already know why they're good and whatnot. Nonetheless, I've decided that I might as well write the list of what I, at the present time, enjoyed the most as a gamer. Now, let me make a few things clear.

  • Some of these games aren't exactly what you would consider great and they have their flaws, this list is based on what I had the most fun playing and what resonates with me as a gamer. 
  • Just because I don't mention a good game here doesn't not me I don't like it. This kind of list leaves with a lot of great choices being left out.
  • Honorable Mentions: Yoshi's Island, Goldeneye (Old and New), Quantum Of Solace, Pac-Man Rally, Cave Story, Infamous, Uncharted Series, Mario Party 2 and 3, Killing Floor, Audiosurf, Beat Hazard, Binding Of Isaac, Left For Dead 1 and 2, Super Metroid, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario, Saints Row The Third, Diddy Kong Racing, Snowboard Kids 2, Warioware Inc, AGH I'LL BE HERE ALL DAY

Now let's just get through this long list already...

25. Spongebob Squarepants The Movie The Game (GCN)

Before I talk about how baffling this choice is, allow me to explain something about how a good chunk of the games that I have were accumulated. When I lived in Venezuela, most of my games would come from my father after he went on a business trip or my grandparents. Video games in Venezuela were incredibly pricey and the stores themselves were somewhat scarce. It isn't like now where I can simply just ask my folks for money and walk to an EB Games, back then I'd usually earn my game by doing well in school, wait for Christmas/my birthday or get that occasional game from my grandparents. I had a grander appreciation for my library of games, and seemed to look past their flaws and oddities most of the time (save Superman 64, that game was awful). Nowadays, as I sift through my library, I find that some of those games that I got from my dad feel like they were just gotten at the last second. Sometimes I'd inform him on what I wanted but other times I'd just have to take what I got and give it a try. This was one of the latter games.

I figured that the reason I got this was because of my infatuation with Spongebob Squarepants. I loved anything that had to do with that yellow square at the time and a significant amount of the games that I have reflect that. Those games weren't necessarily bad though. There was Employee of The Month which was a fairly amusing point and click adventure, Operation Krabby Patty which was a collection of games that I remember vaguely being decent and Lights, Camera, Pants which was basically a rip-off of Mario Party sans the board that managed to be entertaining. While they were okay, they all felt plain. Employee of the Month seemed as it would have been just as good as a 10-part episode, Operation Krabby Patty doesn't cling to your mind and Lights, Camera, Pants...well actually that one's okay even if it is a ripoff, but it doesn't have much else to offer. This is where the Movie game differs from all of them.

The game relives every moment of the movie even providing some stills from the movie (which I guess they can't use the actual movie screenshots because money) and it does it perfectly by making it a platformer. You go from Spongebob to Patrick in each of the levels and you do your best to get from Point A to Point B as you would in a regular platformer. What made it interesting is how some of the levels were constructed in relation to the movie. For example, the first part of the game takes place in the dream at the beginning of the movie. The next scene after that is you at the Goofy Goober, going through a video game version of Candyland gently woven into the level design. The gameplay is simple platforming goodness along with the fighting abilities that allows you to take down enemies with Spongebob's iconic karatei skills or Patrick's...tongue. There's various other skills you can unlock as you progress in the game, and you can upgrade them too if you have enough of the dumbbells (which serve as the coins in the game) collected.

There's also a great deal of variety in the gameplay, ranging from your regular platforming adventuring to driving levels, tubing levels, fighting challenges, the occasional boss battle, platforming challenges, a Spongeball challenge which is kind of like Marble Madness and a Sonic Wave Guitar challenge which is basically you directing a note through a series of rings so it reaches the finish line in time. Personally, I enjoy the Spongeball challenges the most not only for the music but for the smooth controls and the general feel of the level. While I enjoy the charm of the game though, the game is fairly easy. While that's understandable since it's a game targeting a younger demographic, it felt that there was potential in there that could have served for a richer gaming experience.

Ironically, there are two points in the game that it decides to be cheapishly hard. Those being the Sonic Wave Guitar challenges and the final tubing level that took place in the Knick-Knacks shop. The first one has the problem of a fixed camera, areas with terrible lighting that land you hitting a wall, somewhat stiff controls and an aggravating sharp turn that can incredibly absurd levels of challenge. While that's bad, you can eventually beat it if you set your mind to it and don't fully distract yourself. The Knick-Knacks sliding level on the other hand is constructed very oddly. There's a lot of places where you have to jump with lightning fast reflexes and immense precision. The curves can stray you off the path fairly quickly and it doesn't help that sometimes messes with the controls in certain areas making it all the more harden to get by. It's even worse when you're doing a timed challenge or something of that like.

Despite the control problems in some areas of the game, I still find myself enjoying a great deal of the game. There's still a part of me that likes the show, which probably benefits the game, but the general platforming is all around fun. The design for the enemies and levels are top-notch and inventive for having to be restricted to following the movie. Not to mention that some of the music tracks surprised me for this game.

24. Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)

A good amount of people will think that I should have put Melee on the list rather than Brawl, and I can understand that. The gameplay feels more crisper and evened out in Melee than it did in Brawl. The reason that I decided to go with Brawl rather than Melee, is that Brawl was grander than Melee. There are 10 more characters, 12 more stages, there's a level editor, final smashes were added to the game, you could play online (although it is awful) and  the "story" mode was more cinematic (metaphorically and literally). It was going to be the first game that Mario and Sonic were going to duke it out once and for all in a video game, but then the Olympics ruined it. At least this one was the first game that you actually fight as either Mario or Sonic in a battle. You could also play as Solid Snake in this game. So it clearly shows that this installment was trying to be bigger and better than Melee.

I generally found myself having more fun with Brawl than I did with Melee as well. While there was an instance of Fox, Falco and Wolf sharing similar playing maneuvers and final smashes (along with Ness and Lucas and the Links), there were less clone characters and more variety with the roster. The soundtrack of the game is wonderful. Especially the covers and the few original tracks are so beautifully orchestrated. It's just sublime listening to the music, especially the main theme. It is an absolute marvel. The single player mode of Subspace Emissary was an interesting mode. On the one hand, it seems inventive to tie all the characters into a story and slowly amassing your roster by going further into the levels while creating some new enemies to combat against. On the other hand, this mode would have worked much better if you could combat against more of the enemies from where the characters came from rather than just fighting this Primid invasion or whatever. It's not necessarily a bad mode, the problems just seem to come more from the design rather than the gameplay. It's fairly challenging and fairly enjoyable too.

The actual game itself, that being all the fighting with friends (or CPU if friends are unavailable or non-existant), is as fun as ever. For those of you who are unaware of how Super Smash Brothers works, it's basically a fighter mixed in with a few platformer elements along with some items thrown into the mix. The point of the game is to knock your enemy right out of the stage by any means necessary. You have your regular attacks and your special attacks. What makes Brawl all the more interesting is that they've added Final Smashes which are attacks you can obtain by breaking Smash Balls. Once you have them in your possession, you simply press a button and unleash all sorts of hell. It's such a satisfying experience when you have that Final Smash and you take down your enemies lightning fast. The characters you can choose from are great, from the speedy Sonic, to the powerhouse Bowser, to the Pikmin reliant Captain Olimar, to good ol' Mario, to the all-around awesome Meta Knight, to so many other great choices.

It's hard to say what makes this game so great because it's the type you need to have close friends playing along with you. It's a game that is generally fun when you play it with somebody else. The single-player experience is fine, and you can definitely have your fair share of amusement with the CPU, but with others playing alongside you, it's all the greater.

23. Super Paper Mario (Wii)

Let me make it clear that I'm not as big on RPGs as others would be. I don't have that many of them in my collection, save for the Paper Mario series. Do I hate RPGs? I don't make it all that evident that I have much against them. Unless we're talking about JRPGs, in which case it looks like I'm apalled by them. As much as I jest with others on how "X game that just happens to be a JRPG sucks", I don't have that much against them. Sure, a lot of Japanophiles like these games and I don't really approve of them, but that's not enough reason to hate them. Some of the most interesting characters, weapons, designs and music come from JRPGs. Disgaea 3 and the golden games from Final Fantasy series being prime examples of the wonders it can offer. I can't really pinpoint why I don't play that many RPGs, whether it be J or W, since it's not really a length issue or anything since I have played some RPGs before and been okay with it. I guess it's just one of those preference matters.

With that said, Super Paper Mario isn't the typical RPG. I mean sure, the series is supposed to be known for it's RPG style and it has some RPG elements, but it is not exactly an RPG in the way it flows. It actually flows much more like a platformer mixed with a beat-em-up, combined with some puzzle elements that has some instances of a more RPGish feel. For the most part you fight your enemies in real time and the only instance of changing abilities or your partners in the game is by pausing the game and selecting something else rather than doing it in a turn-based battle. And while people call it the black sheep of the series, I still find it to be a tad better than the original Paper Mario. It's heresy, but the way the game flows out is actually kind of enjoyable. But it's more than just how the game goes by the gameplay. I mean, a good chunk of the puzzles can be solved by just titling from 2D to 2.5/3D and I've seen platforming before in a Mario game. What exactly makes Super Paper Mario that special that it deserves to be an inch better than the original?

Count Bleck, that's what. There is no denying that I have a fascination for the main villain of the game. The design looks so dapper, the colors work perfectly, the sadistic smile and cackling of "Bleh heh heh heh!" when he does his diabolical deeds and his motivation that's actually surprising for Paper Mario standards is just great. Sure, you could say that Dimentio was better. You could also say that the way Dimentio looks is much more interesting that Bleck but I couldn't care. Without spoiling it for those who haven't played the game, Count Bleck is perhaps one of the greatest characters in the Paper Mario universe, if not the best one of them all. The story of the game is also one of the more interesting ones for the series as Bleck forces Peach and Bowser to marry so that a Chaos Heart will open a void that will destroy every dimension out there. He doesn't want to rule anything...he wants to annihilate everything. That's just maniacal.

It's one of those games that has a good chunk of references from other games while giving itself it's own identity within the series. Granted the way it does that is basically be the middle ground of a JRPG and a regular platforming Mario game, but it still does it well. While some parts are just painfully easy, it delivers with a good amount of challenge and a tale that is absolutely fantastic for Paper Mario standards, which granted aren't that high, but it's something you wouldn't really expect from your run-of-the-mill Mario-related game.

22. Mario Kart DS (DS...duh)

There's quite a lot of Mario Karts to choose from. And even more Mario Kart ripoffs too. Now sure, you may think that's a joke, but some of the ripoffs are pretty good, like Diddy Kong Racing, Pac Man Rally and Cra-uh...never mind that, but yeah some of them are okay. Hell there's just some fun racers like the Star Wars Episode 1 Pod Racer N64 game and Beetles Adventure Racing (I never did get that rainbow Beetle...), and Cruisin' US-nevermind. It was kind of tough to choose which one of the racers would end up here. It eventually came down to Pac-Man Rally, Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart Double Dash and Mario Kart DS. I excluded Mario Kart Wii because I didn't feel all that much invested in it (even though it's got some good tracks) and it just came down to PCR, MKDD and MKDS. I then eliminated PCR and MKDD because while both had some interesting concepts and incorporated having special items that specific kart racers could apply in the race, MKDS felt more balanced and perfected the portable karting experience. So yeah, let's talk about MKDS.

Now while some herald Mario Kart 64 as one of the greater MK installments (which I think is a little silly), I'd have to say that Mario Kart DS is the best of the best. It managed to take everything that was right about the other games (which if you've played the games, you'll find a lot of the good is basically used with all of the other versions, save for some small alterations), and made it all the better by moving it to the DS. Each of the new tracks looks awesome and can be navigated fairly easily. The music isn't half-bad, with one of my personal favorites being the Airship Fortress not only for the wonderful track but for the level design itself. It also was the game that managed to bring back some of the better tracks from the past such as Choco Mountain and Mushroom Bridge. The gameplay is just your standard racing with peculiar items aiding you to defeat your rivals and annoying you when your rivals use them against you. The original powerups come back like the green shells, the red shells, the dreaded blue shells, the banana peels, the lightning bolts and the stars. And then there's newer weapons such as the Bloopers that spray ink on your enemies so they can't see the road ahead and the Bullet Bills that push you further into the track while taking down anyone who stands in it's way.

What makes the game all the better is that there is online. And while Nintendo's skeptical for online gameplay, it works well with this game. You can race with your friends or with random strangers. For the most part, everything moves in "real-time" so to speak, when you're online, and it's all-around enjoyable when you end up beating more than one nationality at this game. That's one of the charms of this game, just being able to race around people from across the world and doing it without that many problems.

21. Saints Row 2 (PS2)

While I enjoy my fair share of GTA, there's no doubt in my mind that Saints Row is always a few steps ahead in the levels of fun you can have. There's a lot more creativity to be had in Saints Row as you usually end up buying places, changing your appearances, changing your clothes and finding new ways to kill people with all sorts of weapons. Oddly enough, my exposure to the Saint Row games started with The Third and went down. You may think that with that said, I would have chosen Saints Row The Third, because of the purdy graphics and all the zaniness that you encountered. Sure, it was fun how crazy the Third ended up being, but there was a lot of problems. It didn't end up fully embracing that madness and DLC made all the variety equal forking over some more cash. And even then, some of the new DLC was mediocre.

Saints Row 2 on the other hand feels more full. It also knows it's tone better than the Third. While there's a lot of outright insane events that occur in Saints Row 2, it juxtapositions itself well with the sort of city and trying to rise from a fallen icon to a shining sign of yesteryear's glory coming back to take back the throne. The characters are actually pretty fun too, Johnny Gat being a man that's equally as nuts as you, Shaundi being the stereotypical stoner and Pierce being the brains that everyone seems to pick on. You end up fending off some Jamaican gangmembers, some Yakuza wannabees and some "hardcore" biker gang in the process of reclaiming what was rightfully yours. The game is chock-full with tons of activities, missions and places to go about with that will keep you occupied for a very long time, such as finding stunt jumps and. places to tag with your gang sign. Unlike Third, you have to go around a lot of terrain and figure out the secrets yourselves rather simply obtaining something that gives you the secrets right away which adds for a greater level of challenge.

Now, if you don't want to do any of the racing, celebrity protecting, fight club fighting, assassinating and shooting gang members in a specific area that the game offers to you, there's always just messing about as you would in a sandbox. It's evident that if Saints Row seems to trump GTA, it's practically going to deliver in that field and it does. Very well might I add, as when you run over pedestrians they fly out like crazy. You have a good amount of variety with the weapon choices as can just go about slicing people with a katana or bashing their brains with a mallet, choose from a pistol or a revolver, use a pipe cane as a shotgun, decide from a rocket launcher or a sniper rifle among many other choices. While all the variety and replayability is present, there's still a fair amount of bugs and glitches that you'll encounter that can be a bit of a pain. Other than that, this is one of those games that is just perfect for relieving stress.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Breaking The Bits

Breakbit Music is home to a great variety of electronic artists. I should know because I visit the site a lot and download albums from that variety of artists. I've downloaded albums and EPs such as "Lucid", "Ode To Glenn", "super kawaii", "Hyperglide 1.5" among many others. Recently though, I've been coming across a bunch of albums and EPs that I've missed, and some of the newer works. For convenience though, I will talk about three new releases that I've been listening to over and over and over. So yeah, let's just hop to it now.

Genre: Breakbeat, Experimental, Funky House
Number of Songs: 22
Cost: $5 (or more)
Personal Top 5:
1. Facebook Is What It Is
2. Oops A Song
3. Cigaweed
4. Autism and Recipes
5. Anti Drug P.S.A

DR777 has always struck me as a person who constantly experiments when he makes any of his content. Whether he's making a video for his channel or releasing another song to Breakbit, he tinkers with anything and everything and makes the best of what he's got. It's also interesting to note that he manages to establish his own style a lot when he really gets experimental. Such songs like "Y.D.L.M", "Forgotten 2" and "Alternate Perception Fifth" are great examples of this. One of the songs in the album really surprised me was "Children Don't Get Weary" for the mellow feel that goes about. That's not to say that DR777's style can't be less energetic and frantic, "Cigaweed" and "Complimentary" kind of prove me wrong. It just has a very different sound to it that I didn't expect from him. That doesn't make the song any less good, it's still a great track.

It's interesting seeing the contrast of the songs in the album, like how he can go from upbeat and adventure-game like with "The Chronicles of RA" to fast paced and pseudo-surreal with "3200 Mhz" to laid-back and mysterious with "Facebook Is What It Is" to country mixed with breakbeat with "*BONUS x2 POWER UP!!* Autism and Recipes [Cuntree-Core REMIX 2012 REAL]". It's just impressive seeing someone not only attempt a variety of different styles but to also make it work wonderfully. My one tiny nitpick would be that I would have liked more added onto "Thunder Man" or a whole new track entirely replacing it just to have more of the experimental goodness. Although I can forgive that because it was a very nice touch adding a Notepad file with recipes if you bought the album. Plus I still love all the other songs a lot.

Genre: Breakbeat, Chiptune, House, Glitch, Trip-hop, Funky House
Number of Songs: 10
Cost: $0
Personal Top 5:
1. Sines Point To Yes
2. Destiny Avenue
3. Coral Fumes
4. Peripheral Forces
5. Good Food Syndrome

Glue70 has two styles to him that usually are present in his albums. He's either remixing a popular track in a manner that sounds different but works or he's doing his own style with the occasional sample coming out in a way that blends magnificently with the song. Usually I've heard more of his remixing side, but in this album I'm hearing more of his own style. Sure, he still samples in this album, no doubt about it, but it's hardly the focus (save for "Peniclean" and "Like These Vibes") of the song. No, the focus is how he forms the beats, the melody and everything else. Whenever the sample does come up, it would transmit well with the mood that glue70 would want to create with the song. Take for example "Sines Point To Yes", whenever you hear the wise old man, he'll fade it out so you hear what he says and then fade in once it's over. Then he'd make everything quiet and then go with a more hip-hop feel around the end.

His sample-heavy side is still there as it's apparent in "Like These Vibes" and "Peniclean" but he takes a rather different approach to it by making a tune and then chopping bits and pieces into it so that it works well with the new tune he's created. Most of the songs in the album though are directed to him heading away from that and there are two songs where he just does his own thing with very very little to practically no sampling at all. Those being "Nu Disco Ballad" and "Peripheral Forces". Whether I'm right on this or not, is hard to say, but there's a greater sense of his own groove in those songs that doesn't have to interfere greatly with samples. And it works quite well with those songs if I do say so myself. No matter which style glue70 goes with, this album is packed with a great selection of groovy tunes.

Genre: Big Beat, Breakbeat, Downtempo, Garage, Progressive, Remix, Trip-hop
Number of Songs: 19
Cost: $0 (or more)
Personal Top 5:
1. Fine Day For Science
2. Past The Bolted Door
3. The Fanciful Unicorn
4. Ion Flip
5. Constant (Album Mix)

mrSimon is one of the bigger artists on Breakbit, and seems to have dabbled in a lot of experimentation from all the years that he's messed around with music. He also has made some incredibly bombastic and intense tracks that could fuel thousands of raves. In 2011, he had teased to make a whole album dedicated to tribute Dexter's Lab in the best way he knew how. He released Constant as a single with remixes by other artists just to tempt us even further. Finally, after waiting, he releases this album and it's everything that you could ask for and then some. All the songs from the album transition seemlessly into each other, which is interesting considering we get tracks such as crazy DnB "Past The Bolted Door", quasi-dubstep "Drop That Monkey", solemn-sounding "Fine Day For Science" and techno "Disruptor".  All of the samples are placed precisely in each of the songs, "Ion Flip" being the greatest proof of how well they're weaved into the song. "Quadrant 4" manages to use samples but at some points, it's incredibly subtle about it which makes the song all the more relaxing.

Each song has it's own theme that is trying to encompass a certain factor of the show and it works well. You can feel what part of the show he tries to portray with the song by how the mood is made and the choice of samples which is just astonishing. The other artists in the album also do a great job with their song. glue70 remixes Fanciful Unicorn in his own way that keeps that sense of upbeatness the original had, Dainumo's "Optimum Efficiency" sounds very chill and flows with fine finesse and Jeesh's "Electrochemistry" is a terrific trip-hop track. It's evident that I really enjoy this album (hell, I was quoted with my Twitter after exclaiming that it is "Absolutely beautiful" on the Breakbit page of it), not just because it's a wonderful tribute to a childhood memory but also because it is a well-crafted album with a wide variety of wonderful songs.

So yeah, go get all of these albums right now!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Natural Born Killers Review

I'm fairly disappointed with this movie. For one, this movie was trying so hard to be artsy that it would make the guy who made The Cell look modest. Obviously that's a hyperbole, but I still think Oliver Stone was trying too hard to push boundaries. The quick cuts, titled angles and random imagery weren't unsettling, they were unnecessary (save for the Indian part, that worked well). The different sort of bits and pieces he threw into the movie like cartoons, showing the public through old TV (and in the actual news being interviewed by whoever, but that was done briefly and it was only furthering Stone's purpose), and the splashes of color tend to not mix so well at times.

The world they live in is odd, not in the sense that the over-glorification of mass murderers is taken to be very far-fetched (you make certain aspects exaggerated in a film to create a point), but how characters are being portrayed in the film and how they react. While Mickey's reason to going cuckoo is there, it's just scratched upon. There's no further going into Mickey's psyche to explain why he does his actions. Mallory hooking up with this random guy (Mickey) that seems to be easy on the eyes and giving her sweet talk is shaky to say the least, knowing how she's been treated by her father. Although you could reason that she's looking for any way to escape the family's clutches. Both of them seem to have little to no reason to go killing everybody else in the film, and while that's okay for any other movie, this movie is supposed to be a greater dissection of pyschopaths and how the media portrays them.

Scagnetti being a scumbag seems reasonable as it's good seeing that balance of the corrupt cop trying to act like he's the poster-child for justice. I think the point should have been hit harder with him being twisted rather than just killing one random hooker and immediately being the man fighting his own reflection. The warden seems to be portrayed alongside Scagnetti as a demon, but that doesn't make sense. Yes, he's harsh, but his prison is filled with the worst of the worst. There's great incentive for the warden to do terrible acts to the criminals and to want Mickey and Mallory killed. Wayne Gale's reason to go along with the killing spree, while it seems like it's out of nowhere, makes sense. He's filled with stress and tries to keep his composure but when the riot breaks out and he's strung with the killers, he has no choice but to go with the flow to save his ass. Once he does snap, he feels alive and musters up the courage to do more impulsive actions.

Oliver Stone portrays that the "media overglorifies crime and killers" so much that it feels like the common sense from the common man is gone from the world. Some people out there are equally sickened with such a phenomenon and while everyone's got some sin in them, they try to become better people and fight it off while also trying to destroy those who have the sin shrouding them. It felt very one-sided, and for a movie that deals with a topic such as this, that doesn't necessarily work to it's favor. The actors were okay for what the script offered, with the only exception being Robert Downey Jr. simply because he was wonderful with his overacting. I'd say Tommy Lee Jones was also fun overacting but that's really how I'd see a warden reacting to all of the shit hitting the fan.

The only part that I truly loved, and ironically I'd hail as one of the best scenes in a movie is the "I Love Mallory" scene simply for the juxtaposition of the sitcom setting with the dark dialogue. That and Rodney Dangerfield was the perfect man to be cast as Mallory's father. Other than that, the film looks pretty, but it tries too hard to be artsy and botches it's own message.