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Swordsman (PC) Review

July 31st, 2014 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Perfect World || Overall: 8.0

World of Warcraft never wowed me. I didn’t ground myself in Tera. I didn’t enlist myself for Guild Wars. Neither did I ever play EverQuest. Much like the old Zelda CD-i games, what your humble reviewer is trying to say is that he avoided Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games like the plague. Perhaps it was due to a lack of interest in taking the RPG experience online, or maybe it was the fear that the time sink would melt the proverbial face off of my free time à la Raider of the Lost Arc. At least, that was until I gave Perfect World’s MMO Swordsman a try.

giphy
Always make the Indian Jones reference.
Always. 

Disclaimer: This review is based on my experiences playing the Infinity swordsman class up to level 37, during the open Beta. There may be some changes when the game goes live on July the 29th and after as the game is updated.

 

Swordsman Online is Perfect World’s latest foray in the Free-to-Play (F2P) Action MMO market. Inspired by the popular writing of wuxia (martial hero) novelist Louis Cha, Swordsman trades in the typical fantasy-styled combat and races found in most MMOs for martial arts action and oriental locales. The game touts wonderful graphics, an abundance of visceral martial arts inspired combat, exclusive guild-only quests, a variety of classes based on schools of martial arts, a rich story, and an overall fun experience for any MMO junkie.

 

Though, does the Action MMO hold true to those boast? Well, without further ado, here is my review.

Lets get this started
LET’S GET THIS STARTED!!!
YEAH!!!

Right off the bat, Swordsman introduces you to a rather aesthetically intricate and detailed character creation process. From height to build to facial scars, the standard character options already provide an ample playground to create a character to your liking. Furthermore, the advance options offer you sliders to adjust the size, shape and location of those features allowing anything from an eye-catchingly attractive character model to a grossly hideous one.

Character Creation 2Character Creation 3
Character Creation 4Character Creation 5
It ranges somewhere between Cloud Strife to Quasimodo.

Along with the varied character models, the graphics in the game are much better than I expected from a F2P offering. The fields are decorated in a lush mixture of greens, grays, blues and browns that capture the various dirt roads, mountains and areas of water you’ll come across. Inside the cities, the graphics do well to bring the various decorations of the city to life, and also include some neat tile designs that can be seen along the main roads. The shadows in the game also deserve a special note with every item in the city casting its own distinct shadow and, at times, overlapping with others to create an almost realistic effect. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the greenery outside of the cities’ wall. The only other graphically lacking part is that a few of the enemies and other NPCs don’t seem on par with the rest, but it still turns out to be a very minor flaw when compared to the depth of the other visuals in this Action MMORPG.

 

Being an “Action” MMORPG, the combat in this game appears to take on a far more involved attitude than with other MMOs. Instead of targeting an enemy to constantly unleash a swarm of basic attacks, every swing of the character’s chosen weapon takes either a button press or mouse click to execute and actual aim to hit the enemy’s hitbox. The typical flow of combat takes on a mixture of those attacks along with special moves and a dodge mechanic to round off a standard fight. There is also a combo mechanic that grants more damage depending on the number of continuous hits you have scored… as long as another player doesn’t move your target out of the way mid-combo or the clunky controls don’t screw it up.

Not Giving a Shit 2
Currently Pictured: My character not giving a shit as he spins around like a
doofus for a high combo.

Regrettably, while the game offers three control options, the controls aren’t the most intuitive with the combat. No matter which of the three control styles your choose, you will find yourself having to get used to the clunky controls rather than naturally having it blend with your own personal style of playing, which can delay you from enjoying it at the onset. The controls themselves have an effect on early combat that causes it to appear stiff until you acquire a more diverse move set later in the game. Though, with that said, each successful hit does carry a distinct weight to it as it makes contact with the enemy. Watching a finishing blow send the lifeless body of an enemy flying did solicit a grin from time to time.

 

The questing itself is rather generic, however. Most taking the form of fetch quests, defeating a certain number of the same enemies, talking to NPCs or the occasional boss fight. Considering that the game has a rather robust acrobatics system that offers triple jumps, air dashing, and gliding, I was hoping there would be more quests involving these abilities that are ripe for platforming elements. Unfortunately, only one quest asked me to use such skills to climb to the top of a building to meet with a man’s wife. Also, word to the wise, there are guild specific quest that serve to spice up the gameplay a little bit, so I’d recommend joining a guild at some point.

Secret
“Golly, Mrs. Lin! I’m okay with that, but I sure hope you told Mr. Lin
about it.”

In addition, early on, the quests give a considerable amount of experience points for whatever you have chosen to do, from important to inane. Constantly I would find myself talking twice to the same character only to have him vomit out about ten percent of the experience points I needed to gain a level. I would prefer to see all that experience be bundled up at the end of the quest line in a neat box, rather than be given out in parts like that for every unimportant task I do… but that’s just, like, my opinion… man…

well-thats-just-like-your-opinion-man-gif-the-dude-lebowski
Abide.

Out of the figurative box and onto other parts of the game, Swordsman offers a whopping ten classes under the guise of martial arts schools your character can study. While each of the schools or “classes” are different, they all follow the standard roles of tank, DPS (Damage Per Second), healing, support and control seen in most MMORPGs. Delving deeper, each of the schools offer three distinct styles that can be changed on the fly even during mid-combat that are usually either a variation on the school’s role in combat, or a dip into another of the usual combat roles.

 

Being comfortable with my masculinity, I chose to study under the Infinity Style that is usually practiced by nuns and offered quite the unique counter mechanic to their tank-ish style of combat. Most of the skills are charged attacks that release high damage the longer the charge is held.  However, if hit during the charge the class will unleash a completely different move that usually substitutes damage for a negative status effect or a “debuff” on the opponent. I found that to be a rather interesting mechanic, and would love to see what other mechanics the other schools introduced in the story could pull off.

SWORDSman
The Infinity School also attempts to make a two sword style viable, which is about
as unrealistically awesome as I wish to be. 

Taken by itself, the story is a little bland and hardly noteworthy. When seen through the eyes of a martial arts film aficionado (i.e. me), it’s quite the enjoyable love letter to genre and the books the game is based upon. All of the tropes are there: the main character’s village being destroyed, ancient relics, feuding martial arts schools, revenge, secret scrolls and the glorious Fu Manchu facial hair. To add to that, Perfect World made the decision not to dub the dialogue and to keep in its original Mandarin Chinese. This proved to be fairly wise decision as the authentic Chinese voices give the story an authentic vibe, in turn. The only way it could be more authentic is if it replaced the voices with bad English voice acting that doesn’t exactly match the lips flaps of the character. All in all, the story is a mixed bag; those that enjoy the genre will enjoy the homage to the books and films the story is based on, and those that do not will hardly care for it.

Fu Manchu
Though early cinema has given the Fu Manchu facial hair a bad rap,
few things are as majestic when properly maintained.

Beyond the story, the game offers a variety of instances, dungeons and events for a group of people to run. Starting at around level 15, the player is already offered their first instance to play at one of three difficulty levels. While most instances can be tackled by themselves at the normal level, swordsman and hero levels ramp up the difficulty to be better tackled by a team of players. Along with those, the game also offers a variety of dungeons at higher levels that offer their own form of exp rewards and items gains. Adding to that, there are many daily events and activities that are sure to better your character in one way or the other.

Generic
The instances are as important to do as their names are generic.

The Player versus Player (PvP) options come in a few flavors. While typical one on one and group combat can be enjoyed in the game’s arena, which includes customizable settings and a reward system for the victor, the game also offers guild based PvP that allows guild to take over land in-game. However, the most intriguing option lies in how Swordsman handles PvP in the open world. PvP players outside of the arena and the guild wars come in three types. First are the Harmony players that aren’t allowed to attack others. Then there are the Outlaws that can attack any player above a certain level for a monetary reward but at the cost of their name turning red and branding them as a player killer. Lastly, there are the Avengers that are only allowed to gank (kill) characters whose name has turned red, netting the player an item from the character’s inventory once defeated. In a way, this game of mouse and cat (and dog) is a fascinating way for the player characters to police themselves.

 

As for the audio, I found it rather lackluster to say the least. Not that it ever detracted from my experience of the game, but nothing struck me as noteworthy in the music or sound effects department in the open beta.

 

Being in open beta, Swordsman is riddled with enough bugs to make a roach motel jealous. A few I encountered included: graphical glitches, closed doors that I could pass through, opened doors that looked closed on screen, the sound randomly cutting out during cutscenes, my character freezing in place for several minutes and an invisible enemy hunting me down until I could escape to a safe zone. As a special mention, the most amusing glitch in the game allowed me to make the enemies windmill uncontrollably after being killed by certain moves. While none of these glitches are game breaking, they sure do bring you out of the game’s immersion.

Dance
I like to think that sometimes I don’t kill my enemies, but instead their defeat
inspires them to take up their true passion in dance.

Lastly, for the duration of the game, I was offered the Hero’s Pack by Perfect World. Included in the package comes a combination of a mount, a unique companion, equipment, an exclusive fashion and consumables all meant to make your Swordsman’s experience all the more enjoyable for $59.99. While most of the items only serve to streamline the experience and literally make things faster for you, like the Blazing Stallion that goes about 3 miles per hour faster than a typical horse, there is some worth in the rather powerful Ring of Valor, which is an upgradable piece of gear that can boost its stats as you level. Also, the package offers you a unique fashion  which doesn’t serve anything outside of an aesthetic sense that this is the closest you’ll be to looking like Mortal Kombat’s thunder god in Swordsman, which admittingly, is still pretty cool. Overall, while it can be convenient for those starting out or seeking to raise an alternate character, I found the Hero’s Pack unnecessary for a patient player.

Raiden CosplayThunder God

Maybe if you squint your eyes and turn your head to the left…

Though the game definitely has it share of glitches and faults, I believe the game is worth a try for anyone looking for a new MMO to enjoy. From the unique setting, variety of classes, abundant PvP and eye-catching graphics, the game more than makes up for getting use to its clunky controls and other lesser traits. Plus, it made my first true MMO experience not all that bad…

-~-

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“Katy Perry – Dark Horse” Breakdown

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Music, Screwed Up Chronicles No Comments »

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Dave's Breakdown

To continue on the earlier thought that practically every song Katy Perry sings is about Katy Perry taking it from a very large penis in some shape or form, her recent single “Dark Horse” is also about a big penis slapping the shit out of her ovaries.   In this edition of Dave’s Breakdown, we’ll go over the lyrics of this song with a fine toothed-comb.

[Juicy J:]
“Yeah / Ya’ll know what it is / Katy Perry / Juicy J, aha. / Let’s rage”

Okay this part is your normal introduction of the “guest” singer in a song.  So we have it established that this guy “Juicy J” is the object of Katy Perry’s lower abdominal discomfort.  As his name implies, he probably has a very large, juicy penis.  Or at least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe.

[Katy Perry:]
“I knew you were / You were gonna come to me”

Well, you can’t get more blunt than this.  This guy is “cumming” to her!

“And here you are / But you better choose carefully”

Choosing what, you might ask?  I’m guessing anal or vagina.  You have to choose carefully because if you go anal you can’t go vagina unless you trade out the condom because then there will be shit on the condom and putting shit into a vagina isn’t nice for anyone.

“‘Cause I, I’m capable of anything / Of anything and everything”

She’s open to every position you can think of, and she is very flexible.

“Make me your Aphrodite / Make me your one and only / But don’t make me your enemy, your enemy, your enemy”

Something about not being open to threesomes.

“So you wanna play with magic / Boy, you should know what you’re falling for”

Play with “magic” being semen swirling inside of her vagina.  Falling, because when she squirts, she squirts with such force she’ll make you fall backwards.

“Baby do you dare to do this?”

It is pretty dangerous because her vagina/ass is very tight.

“Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse”

Now, here it is.  She is riding the “you” in the song like a horse, but a dark one.  Because you didn’t expect her to be so easily fuckable.

“Are you ready for, ready for / A perfect storm, perfect storm”

She’s so perfect in bed, the sheets will wrap up like a tornado or something, and you can’t get out until you rip a tendon.

“Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine / There’s no going back”

Once you decide to go steady with her, anal is off the table.

“Mark my words / This love will make you levitate”

Your semen is going to “levitate” cause you’re going to be laying down while she’s riding you like a (dark) horse.

“Like a bird / Like a bird without a cage / But down to earth / If you choose to walk away, don’t walk away”

You can’t leave until you make her squawk like a bird.

“It’s in the palm of your hand now baby / It’s a yes or no, no maybe / So just be sure before you give it all to me / All to me, give it all to me”

Katy Perry’s ovaries are in your hands and you have to put them back inside her vagina, fertilized.

[Juicy J - Rap Verse:]
“Uh / She’s a beast / I call her Karma (come back) / She eats your heart out / Like Jeffrey Dahmer (woo) / Be careful / Try not to lead her on / Shorty’s heart is on steroids / Cause her love is so strong / You may fall in love / When you meet her / If you get the chance you better keep her / She’s sweet as pie but if you break her heart / She’ll turn cold as a freezer / That fairy tale ending with a knight in shining armor / She can be my Sleeping Beauty / I’m gon’ put her in a coma / Woo!”

Translation:  Wear a condom or you’re fucked in more ways than one.  Knight in shining “armor” indeed…

“Damn I think I love her / Shorty so bad, I’m sprung and I don’t care”

Not even trying to hide that this part is about a penis.

“She ride me like a roller coaster / Turned the bedroom into a fair (a fair!)”

Usually roller coasters come with lots of safety precautions, but once you’re set up, its going to be up and down, up and down, up and down, and possibly barfing at the end because of all the nausea/gagging.  There will also be lots of gross food and cotton candy pubic hair.

“Her love is like a drug / I was tryna hit it and quit it / But lil’ mama so dope / I messed around and got addicted”

Funny how they use a word that has the word “dick” in it at the end of this verse.

In conclusion, Katy Perry has big boobs, but now her songs are more about being exclusive to one person and getting only one person to fuck her brains out in a consistent relationship rather than as a fleeting one night stand like in her song “Firework.”

-~-

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Long Live the Queen (PC) Review

March 4th, 2014 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Hanako Games || Overall: 8.0

Welcome Lords and Ladies, gentlemen and women of esteem to the tale of Princess Elodie. A young girl caught betwixt her royal appointment as upcoming queen and the many dangers that the title holds. Watch her take classes on the many facets of a proper ruler and matriarch. Watch her weave her way through the tribulations of both political intrigue and royal scandal. Watch her conquer both the battlefield and the ballroom with her might and refinement. And watch her die… and die… and die again…

Cheerful

Don’t get too attached, her many deaths will be the result
of your bad decisions.

 Okay, I had my fun.

 

Long Live the Queen is a visual novel of political intrigue, war and death all dressed up in a pretty, pretty pink ribbon for your playing pleasure. The game casts you in the role of young princess Elodie, fresh from the sudden and unexplained death of her mother; this understandably depressed young lady is now tasked with running the country until her proper coronation on her fifteenth birthday. You, on the other hand, are in charge of keeping her alive by means of a point and click adventure where you will raise up skills to complete tasks through menu commands. You will fail.

 

At its core, Long Live the Queen is a literal numbers game. You have a number of weeks until Elodie’s coronation, attempts on her life occur on certain numbered weeks, and you then avoid them by having leveled the necessary skills to survive to a certain number. Long Live the Queen’s success in this formula is in how fluidly this all comes together. The game does the number crunching for you while clearly explaining all in-game mechanics.

 

If described in one word, the “game play” in Long Live the Queen is “light.” A typical in-game week consist of first sending Elodie out to learn two skills in the form of classes, and ends with having her participate in some sort of event during the weekend. Both skills she has focused on are raised by a base of two points per day and, with no bonuses, results in 10 points for the week. This is further diversified by her mood; every weekend you are asked to have Elodie participate in some sort of activity that affects her mood and, in turn, her mood affects how well she does in her studies. If done correctly, you could gain a bonus that is about three times the usual rate. If done incorrectly, you could succumb to a penalty that results in an effective score of zero points for the whole week.

Skills

The skills range somewhere between “a lot” to a “crap load.”

Now while simple enough in execution, to make the most out of your skills and moods requires a careful point and click balancing act. First off, the skills are quite numerous and the game doesn’t really allow for your princess to train evenly in all fields. More often than not, you will find that making Elodie a jack-of-all-trades will lead to an earlier demise than min-maxing (minimizing the effect of undesired skills and maximizing the effect of desired ones). This can get particularly difficult when you find out that each skill has two associated skills that must be raised over 25 points before the skill you want can be raised over 50 points. Overall, you’ll find that a well-rounded princess usually equals a hated, useless and dead one.

 

Moods, to the same extent, also require their own special balancing act to make the most out of them. Each mood is set at one end of an eleven point scale and at the opposite end of that scale is a mood that is contradictory to it. For example, in this game, you can’t be angry if you are afraid, you can’t be cheerful if you are depressed, and you can’t be lonely if you are pressured. How much each of those makes sense is up to you. So whenever a certain activity gives you points in one mood, it also detracts points from its opposite mood. This will often have you subject your princess to a constant state of manic depression as you go from one end of each mood scale to the other in search of the right mood bonus to complement the skills you desire. Though, even with perfect mastery of both skills and moods, it doesn’t mean your princess will make it out alive.

 PassiveAggressive

 It’s not like I think that the combination of angry and afraid is being
passive-aggressive, but it could make sense, man…
Source

Elodie is going to die… she’s going to die a lot… but that is also part of the fun of Long Live the Queen. Even when you believe you have a perfect set of skills and moods to take your little monarch from princess to queen, the game has no problem throwing a surprise curveball at you and killing Elodie off. The process, while frustrating, often times fills you with a renewed sense of determination as you start fresh and tweak her skills to overcome that particular obstacle and then find another one to have you repeat the whole process. Even when you do eventually manage to make Elodie a queen, you can find yourself eagerly replaying the game to find out what other sets of skills can make her a queen and not a cadaver. Altogether, Elodie’s constant deaths give a sort of morbid charm to the game.

SwordBlood
ArrowBlown_up

Never before has brutal death been more adorable.

Visually, the game takes many cues from the art styles found in most shoujo (girl) comics in Japan, which makes sense since this game is targeted towards girls but with a wider audience in mind (justifying my manhood: done). The girls are cute and the boys are just as pretty. My only problem is that despite the game fitting the visual novel category, it seems far more inclined to just describe the story rather than illustrate it. The game could do well to provide more illustrations during the more important points of the story than just a portrait of a face and some text next to it. Though, when illustrated, the pictures are a treat to see.

 

In the audio department, the piano arrangements that accompany the story give it a fairy tale ambiance, as well as, just being pleasant on the ears to hear. It does well to highlight the sad, cheerful, and action scenes throughout the novel. In contrast, the sound effects are virtually non-existent. Which is a shame, since a well placed clang of steel or cheering crowd could have picked up the slack where the visuals did not.

 

There isn’t really much to say about the interface. To its benefit, everything is easy to get to, clearly explained and hardly confusing. You point. You click. You get on with Elodie’s life (or death).

 

The narrative does a good job at juxtaposing the pretty princess theme with the darker tones of rulership. One minute Elodie could be enjoying a grand ball, and the next she could be at the end of an assassin’s blade. Though, in that regard, it does exactly what the game promises; it takes you through the “typical” year of someone destined to be queen. Where the narrative thrives is in the fact that, despite one scene near the end, it is exactly what you make of it. Often times, you will even find that events from much earlier have great impact on events found later on in the story. Though, whether princess Elodie makes the castle her gilded cage to protect her from the world’s troubles, becomes a war mongering tyrant, or goes on an adventure to vanquish fantastical beast is completely based on the skills she takes and choices you make.

 Military Elodie

…or you could play her like I did. As a warlord skilled in both decoration and public speaking that I imagine
screams, “I AM THE PRETTIEST!” after every victory to the cheers of a loving crowd

 

and so ends our tale of princess Elodie. A tale, while lacking both in effects of visual and of sound, can be an intriguing piece that is delightfully frustrating and wonderfully addicting to come back to. To all the Lord and Ladies in the audience, I bid you “Adieu.”

-~-

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Puzzle and Dragons (Android) Review

January 7th, 2014 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment|| Overall: 8.5

Hardware Used: T-Mobile G2 with Android 2.3.4

With its roaring success in the Land of the Rising Sun, (that’s Japan, because the sun doesn’t rise elsewhere) GungHo Online Entertainment now intends to addict America with its special blend of Puzzle, RPG and Free-to-Play/Pay-to-Win elements with the straight-to-the-point title Puzzle and Dragons. Though, does the game deliver a fun experience that can garner the attention of an American audience, or will it simply fade in obscurity like many other Japanese imports?

Nintendo Gameboyvirtualboy

If you need me to tell you which of these imports was a failure and which wasn’t, then videogaming
might not be the right hobby for you.

 

Puzzle and Dragons is the unholy combination of the puzzle elements of Bejeweled, the monster mechanics of the Shin Megami Tensei series and a dash of Pokémon for added flavor. While each game is addictive in its own right, someone in Japan thought combining the three would make an addiction juggernaut of the likes that mobile gamers have never seen before… and for the most part, he was right.

 

Puzzle and Dragons starts you off with the wholly “original” idea of having you pick one of three elemental monsters: a fire monster, a water monster, and a plant monster. You are given a random “rare” monster to further entice you to collect more monsters. Afterwards, you are thrown into a seemingly endless supply of dungeons to capture monsters, level and evolve your collection, as well as level yourself up — all to eventually continue the vicious cycle when you find that you can now take on stronger enemies and dungeons. All of which aptly describes your journey through the game.

Mega-Evolutions-of-Classic-Starters-700x372puzzle-dragons-main

Okay, I don’t care how it happens but one of you
is helping me catch a Mewtwo.

Game design in Puzzle and Dragons is actually pretty solid. The meat and potatoes of the core game will have you encounter wave after wave of monsters in each dungeon until you reach the boss monster. During battles, the monsters will attempt to attack and reduce your hit points to zero. You’ll counter by matching up elemental gems to make your corresponding monsters attack and reduce the enemy’s hit points to zero. The best moves are when you form a chain of matches, which further multiply the damage your monsters dish out.

 

Along the way, you collect more monsters while making enough coins to further advance your monster team. While the premise is simple enough a layer of strategy is added by the various special abilities each of your monsters provide that sometimes cause extra damage, other times restore your HP, and can even convert one type of elemental gem into another. Taking these special abilities into account when forming a team of monsters can mean the difference between beating an enemy monster that your current level shouldn’t be able to handle or having a boss curb-stomp them. Furthermore, special “Leader Skills” further shake things up and add another layer.

 

Puzzle and Dragons also resides in the easy-to–learn-but-hard-to-master category, though the game does a sufficient enough job at explaining the basics, it leaves the more advanced strategies to the players to find them on the internet or discover them in a happy accident. Overall, the gameplay is fun and engaging.

Strategy

This is an example of strategies derived from a
“happy accident.”

 

On the other side of the Free-to-Play coin is the fact that Puzzle and Dragons is a Free-to-Play mobile game and has no shame in reminding you of that. While plenty of activities can be done with the in-game currency, namely leveling up your monsters and evolving them, there are activities that require a special form of currency called a “Magic Stone.” The activities vary in usefulness; you can revive your monsters in a dungeon, regain their stamina so you are allowed to play longer, or get a turn at the hallowed “Rare Egg Machine” for an almost guaranteed chance at a strong monster for the price of five Magic Stones. Then, once their usefulness has been established, the game proceeds to remind you at every turn that they can be purchased in their online store, especially when you have none left.

 

Now, a fair warning to new players: the game will attempt to make it seem like Magic Stones are easy to come by as it bombards you with them early on in your career as a Pokémon Mas… Persona Use… Dragon Tamer(?). Know that this is only temporary and the stones quickly become a much rarer commodity. That’s not to say that you’ll never get them, and that you can’t eventually achieve the same results with a lot of hard work, but the game is more than happy to offer you an easy way out if you wish to throw money their way.

 

The controls in this game sometimes suffer the same foibles that many touch screen based games have, but work enough of the time for that to not be a problem. The game never really asks you to do any more than tap the screen or drag your finger along it, and barring an occasional accident, you are able to do just that with no problem. The other elements of the interface are also easy to use. On the main menu, everything is visible and doesn’t require more than three taps to get somewhere, and in the dungeon the elemental gems and monsters are in clear view. The only problem I have with the touch screen controls is that the gems seem a bit too close, making it hard to see the gems around the one you’re currently in control of. Of course, it could just be my fat finger and small phone that are the real problems.

 

Visually, the game doesn’t really offer much outside the portraits that come with each monster. They are often colorful, creative and somewhere along the lines of adorable, ferocious or a very specific fetish that I’m sure applies to someone. In contrast, the backgrounds are mostly just pallet swaps (recoloring the same textures) of the same hallways. The special effects are just as bland and usually involve a ball of colored light that hits the opponents, followed by an uninspired effect that represents the element used in the attack.

Echidna ArchangelLilith Flame Girl

Ladies…

 

The music unfortunately hits the same note (see what I did there), and is just as bland as most of the visuals. You are constantly subjected to the same slightly upbeat and so-often-forgettable-that-I-had-to-log-into-the-game-to-remember-it music in every dungeon. The monotony is only broken up by another, more intense song that is also played at every boss encounter. The sound effects are just as forgettable and really don’t do anything different that you haven’t seen before.

 

Now, a special note should be added as to why this game is so addictive. Not only does it provide solid gameplay, and a vast collection of monsters to collect, improve, and form a team around, but the game is also constantly in the midst of some sort of special event. The events serve many purposes from providing the user with fresh new dungeons to explore, the chance to collect rare monsters such as angels, demons, and batman (I’m not kidding), and also the ability to collect more of the coins, experience, and “Magic Stones” to make team building all the easier. Furthermore, these events often come and go, so it pays to log in daily to check out what is going on, what you can take advantage of, and exactly how long you can take advantage of it. In conclusion, the events give an incentive for players to log in daily.

BatmanPuzzle

Okay, let’s be honest here… you’d make a much better leader of this team
than me, so I’ll just stand back here and let you call the shots.

 

Despite the hiccups in the audio and visual department, Puzzle and Dragons is a fun and addictive game. The combination of bejeweled-like puzzles, collectable monsters, and a Shin Megami-like advancement system seemed to have meshed well into a game that is indeed playable, and worth a look.

-~-

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Aspects TD (iOS) Review

November 26th, 2013 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Sabaton Games LLP || Overall: 7.0/10

Hardware Used: iPhone 5 with iOS 6

Due to a supposed shortage of tower defense games on iOS (I’m not personally an expert on the statistics of genres of the games on the App Store), Sabaton Games thought it prudent to create the recently released Aspects TD.  So, has Sabaton Games developed the experience one should expect from a tower defense game on the iOS?  I suppose the answer would be yes, but at the same time, no.

Aspects TD is a little bit different from most tower defense games I’ve played.  Most of my genre experience comes from the fantastic PixelJunk Monsters, as well as many StarCraft (the first one) Use Map Settings games, among other games I can’t particularly remember.  The most unique thing about Aspects TD is certainly being able to essentially “combat” against an opponent.  More than just defending your base with towers known as Totems, you are assaulting your enemy’s base with your OWN monsters known as “Phantoms.”  Monster waves are sent to each player at the same time, from what I can tell, and you’ll have to be able to time your summoning of extra Phantoms at the right moment to throw a kink in your opponent’s tower coverage in hopes to get some of your Phantoms across the map and through to the opponent’s base.

This game-play design forces a balance.  Either build more Totems to defend or summon Phantoms to attack your opponent.  You automatically gain a resource called “Mana” every time one of your Totems kills an enemy Phantom.  When you summon your own Phantom,  you begin to gain Mana from something called “Faith.”  You gain more Faith by summoning Phantoms — 10% of their cost goes into this Faith pool.  Every ten seconds or so from the time you summon your first Phantom, you will begin to gain Mana equal to the number of your Faith in addition to what your Towers gain from killing monsters.  This process continues until the end of the match, and your Faith number will grow as long as you summon more Phantoms.

Depending on how well you do at placing your Totems, you may be able to be more economical and send more Phantoms out against your opponent and gain resources over time.  The investment can build up into something worthwhile, but depending on what kind of enemies end up being sent at you, you can definitely use that extra 1000 mana to build more Totems rather than waiting for the long-term interest on your investment.  Unfortunately, the game does not reward you for being truly economical with your Mana — you don’t see the typical percentage gain of resources based on what you have pooled.  This can create the issue of needing to keep your Mana at near 0 or you will run the risk of possibly being behind in either defense or attacking.  If you choose to spend on attacking, your Faith will grow to almost ridiculous levels and you won’t have enough time to use it on building more Totems or attacking.  But at that point, you’ll probably be able to overwhelm your enemy with a ton of Phantoms — so that isn’t a big deal, per se.

On top of the prior circumstances, due to the mishmash of enemies each wave, you can’t really construct a strategy other than hopefully having enough damage to get through each progressive wave.  Phantom waves are not usually themed, such as “flying only” or “this type of enemy only” so it can be hard to plan for all contingencies at all times.  Each wave increases difficulty of killing the monsters, because your Totems do not grow in strength and your enemies get more health.  The tuning in this regard seems very exact and they don’t really give much leeway in exploring the use of different totems in different places.  Totems cost a lot and there’s not a huge diversity, not to mention they can’t be upgraded at all.  It feels like they were going for more of a Plants vs. Zombies feel more than a traditional tower defense game in some aspects, but in the end after trying a lot you can get through most of the fights just by trying to perfect your strategy as much as possible.  Overall, the game tends to just be super fucking hard and you can get the feeling you are relying on luck to get past the challenges rather than actual strategy.

Your profile will have experience gain, but for what purpose, I couldn’t tell you.  I can only assume that your Phantoms/Totems gain power as you “level up” but that means you have to lose several games before you gain enough power to actually beat a mission you might be having trouble with.  There is no indication of actually increasing your power through these levels, since when you level, there is nothing that tells you what you’ve gained.  Even if you notice that some of the numbers in your profile change, whether or not they are large enough to affect anything is left to question.

As you play the game, you’ll notice that numbers fly all over the place signifying how much damage your Totems are doing.  These numbers are useless, and clutter up the screen, not to mention they are absolutely redundant since there are also health bars — which can’t be seen because they are hidden behind all the numbers!  There is wayyyy too much information and it is to the detriment of the visuals of the game.  The satisfying aspect should be seeing the damage you do to your enemies, not the damage numbers covering up the actual visuals.  Health bars are more than enough to gauge if an enemy is going to die, and should be all that is needed.

Controls are a whole other issue with this game.  For one, the squares are way too small.  I don’t know how much of an issue this would be on an iPad, but since they opt for a “tap and drag” interface rather than something that is more natural for a touch screen, it can be quite cumbersome to place your tower somewhere you actually didn’t want it to go or on a square you aren’t able to build on.  A more natural option would have been tapping an existing square on the board and then choosing the Totem you want to make from there.  The same is true with the Phantoms — you are “tapping and flicking” them upwards when really all you should have to be forced to do is tap them.  The User Interface can be cleaned up considerably if they put a little more effort into those systems.

Lag can also be an issue — when you have a ton of Totems and a ton of Phantoms going around on your opponent’s map, numbers are flying everywhere, shit is blowing up, and you are left with a game dropping down to four frames per second.  This goes to the root of the issue where the words “less is more” comes to mind.  It may have been a more pleasant experience to be able to place less Totems on the board in a more strategic fashion, with less enemies, and less stupid numbers flying all over the place.  Not to say that you can’t have a game that is designed like Aspects TD is currently — just that there are some things you can do to prevent a clumsy game-play experience that chugs at a low frame rate when too much is happening.

The character art in the game is pretty cool — but the actual game-play art is below what you may have expected at first glance.  The “Phantoms” pretty much all look like crap, but some of the Totems look very cool.  The totems have this weird sci-fi shamanistic thing going on — think Avatar, I guess.  There’s no real explanation as to why Totems launch missiles and shoot lasers or flames, but at least they look cool doing it.  This leads into the story itself.  The story is actually very interesting in the beginning and I was very hopeful for what the game would have in store.  I had been putting a lot of effort into this game since it was so freaking hard, but it came to be my extreme disappointment that the story completely fell off and most of the missions became something like “Oh, I have to defend my people” and “Oh, there’s bad guys over there, but whatever I’m going to go and kill them.”  The story had started with some sort of conspiracy thing and mystery as to where the evil forces were coming from.  Also, I was hopeful that the technology would be explained somehow to add more layers to the story.  But they never really propel that story forward by the time you’re on the 19th mission, which is the currently last mission available.  Not to mention, the 19th mission also feels like it is rigged against you and unless you grind some levels, I don’t see how its possible to beat the mission at all.

According to the game, there are more missions “coming soon.”  It is kind of weird, because the whole way through, you’re “unlocking” more Phantoms and Totems — even in the last available level!  Like, for what purpose am I still unlocking things on the last level?  Is there a time where I actually get to play the full game with all of the options available?  Apparently not.  At least, in this current version of the game.  This isn’t a “free to play” style game in which you expand your options or buy more missions.  By saying there are missions “coming soon” it is essentially saying that you are buying an incomplete game.  It’s nice to have an update to look forward to, but when you’re playing a game you outright bought and you get to the end of the game and you haven’t actually started to use all of the skills you learned about during the progression, you can feel cheated.  It feels almost like the game is too hard on purpose, just to elongate the amount of time you have to spend on the game to get to the last mission, with the last mission being practically unbeatable.  There is also no information regarding when “soon” is or how many missions are to be expected.

There are three different characters to choose from… but you can only save the progression of two separate characters.  Each of the three characters have their own perks, and special totems.  But as you might expect, the story is the same for all of the characters.  I am unsure why you can’t have one save slot for each character, but it’s not like it really matters that much since the game is essentially the same between them.  Save slots don’t even seem very useful at all in this game, since you can go back and play any mission at any time.  It only seems to serve as restricting you from switching characters on the fly and to keep your “levels” contained to only one of the characters.

Oddities arise with the game as well — you will see the occasional bad spelling error or a grammatically incorrect phrase.  I think there also might be a tower that has had its description switched with another tower, but I can’t be too sure there.  Considering there isn’t a whole lot to actually read in the game, it is fairly rare throughout the experience where you’ll encounter these bizarre errors.  Sound is another issue with the game, which is easily solved (hint hint).  The music is repetitive and the sound effects are just annoying.  While I can agree that the music is nice to listen to maybe one or two times, there doesn’t appear to be any variety at all — they keep playing the same song over and over.  Sound effects can be really annoying if they are not used correctly, but like many other games you may play on your iOS device, it’s better to just turn off the sound.  The game has been stable, and except for the massive frame drops when there is a ton happening, there is only one consistent crashing problem.  When you lose, if press “Next” the game will just quit completely and you will have to boot up the game again to replay the level.  To prevent having this happen, you have to tap “Skip” and then replay the mission.  I have no idea what “Next” is supposed to do if it was actually meant to work.  It’s almost like the game is saying “You suck, you shouldn’t play this game anymore, so let me quit the game for you.  See ya later asshole!”

Currently the game is $1.99 for a release sale, but will go up to $2.99 once the promotional period is over.  Two dollars is definitely not a lot of money, but in the case of this game it might be worth it if you’re really into seeing a different tower defense game, or if you absolutely need something like this on your iOS devices.  Multiplayer is a feature in the game, but can only be played locally, so if you want to take advantage of that feature, you’ll have to convince another friend to pay their two (or three) dollars to get into the game, as well.  I suppose that the multiplayer aspect might actually be “the thing you were meant to do” with this game, but considering Tower Defense is a niche genre already, you’re not going to find someone to play this with unless you make them buy it.

-~-

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Grand Theft Auto V (PS3) Review

November 14th, 2013 Posted in Game Reviews, Games 1 Comment »

Developer: Rockstar North | Publisher: Rockstar Games || Overall: 9.5/10

For me a Grand Theft Auto game is like one of those mini-milestones in my life, where I get to experience something fantastic, funny, and overall extremely entertaining.  I’ve bought each of the mainline GTA games during the first week of release, and have thoroughly enjoyed each of them.  I still have yet to complete any of the games on PlayStation 2, and I still need to buy Vice City Stories, but I can pretty much say that GTA is a big part of what makes gaming so enjoyable to me.

So, does Grand Theft Auto V continue to be the torchbearer that has been such a motivator for me to stick with gaming as a whole?  The answer is yes, but the answer is also no, in some regards.  Grand Theft Auto is a lot of things to a lot of people — a social scapegoat, a cool game to fuck around endlessly in, and most of all an offensive and satirical look at America and what it means to be an American.

Grand Theft Auto V breaks the mold of its predecessors by allowing you to play as three different characters.  Each character has their own individual stories and some missions that overlap with each other.  The missions culminate at certain points of the story where you will do “Heists.”  Heists can essentially be looked at as the major challenge or “boss” of that point of the game.  To open up more missions, you must complete the Heist, at which point you unlock missions for all three characters again.  Heists themselves are very dynamic story missions that allow you to switch characters based on what sort of preference you have.  At times, you’ll also be forced to change characters to progress the mission.  There are several occasions where a character has to drive 5 miles to a certain location, but during “their drive” you can switch to another character who is currently in the middle of another objective that is occurring.

Each of the three characters draw parallels to previous characters in the series, with the character Trevor, who is a drug dealing crime entrepreneur being the most unique as far as the series-as-a-whole goes.  All three characters, and their motion capture/voice work actors, do an amazing job in conveying the story and making it enjoyable.  First and foremost, the story of Grand Theft Auto V is a character story.  There is very little strength in an overall arcing story, which never really comes to a head — but the real joy of the story is the interactions between the characters, and the way they live their lives and the things that go on around them.  The main storyline revolves around the government and government corruption, but is never fully revealed as to what the purpose of any of it is.  My feeling is that there will be expansions, a la GTA IV’s expansions, where each character may be the sole focus to fully flesh out the remaining questions that each individual’s story sort of left open ended even as the credits rolled and after.

As a result, the story sort of just drops off at the end and you’re left with a few questions for each of the individual character’s stories without any real indication that they will be answered or even if the inevitable expansions are even going to focus on the main protagonists of the GTA V.  A lot of the plot points of the personal stories of each characters make you question why they bothered having them when there was no real pay off.  A wait-and-see approach for the expansion plans is sort of unnerving, but if it pans out the way I hope it does, then it may not be that bad.

Now, the game play has been much universally improved from GTA IV.  Combat is a lot more fun and refined.  The addition of the weapon wheel allows for switching guns in a more efficient manner.  Many of the same features you expect in a GTA game are present, and have been refined as well.  Being able to customize cars permanently is a welcome addition for the single player mode.  Speaking on cars, your characters all have their own “personal vehicles” that you will undoubtedly drive more often than not.  This is a vast change from previous games where you would always just steal a car to get around the city.  Now that you have your “own” personal vehicle you can always rely on using that car and you may even prefer to use it to make you feel as if the story is more realistic as you are making your way through it.  The cars are also unique, so you can tell when another character is driving it or is parked somewhere waiting for you to start a mission.

During a lot of the missions there are opportunities to catch references to action movies in a way that is an homage to Hollywood and Los Angeles, which the game is framed after entirely.  There are plenty of hilarious scenes and subtleties that make this Grand Theft Auto leagues ahead of any before it, while referencing others at the same time.  Most notably is San Andreas, as you encounter gangs that existed in that game as well as visiting CJ’s home neighborhood — you will instantly recognize it and there is even a mission where you will have a shootout through the whole neighborhood.  You will also be able to walk into a lot of different buildings during your missions — one such being the LifeInvader offices where there are a lot of Facebook-related jokes and scenes to be had.

Missions are split out into separate categories — “Missions” and “Strangers and Freaks.”   During the series there has always been those “off-storyline” missions that came around that made you question what they had to do with anything.  In Grand Theft Auto IV, they added “strangers” that you could meet on the street and talk to them for a little while.  The Strangers and Freaks missions in Grand Theft Auto V allowed Rockstar to combine both of those aspects and let themselves go really crazy with designing missions.  Shooting aliens after smoking weed, kidnapping a movie star for two old British tourists, and skydiving out of a helicopter into the city are only some of the things that you can do in tandem with the main storyline.  Another welcomed feature is the ability to replay all of the missions you find and refine your score on them so you can earn trophies.

With Grand Theft Auto V, you can tell that even though the game is goofy at times, they have made it a point to make the game very much more “realistic.”  The way people walk and run, physics that are toned down, and the serious storyline are all honed in on this goal of becoming a “realistic” game.  A major casualty of this appears to be the loss of many of the more “traditional game” elements that we have seen in the Grand Theft Auto series, namely Vigilante, Ambulance, and Firetruck side missions.  Vigilante has been seemingly replaced with “random events” that you will stumble upon as you are driving through the city.  During these random events, people will get their property stolen or police will be in a shootout with the criminals and you can either step in or let them go.  While they are nice as an addition, I think I would have gotten at least a couple of more hours of enjoyment from being able to hunt down a list of bounties or have the game generate a group of criminals for me to take down, like in GTA IV.  It is unfortunate because GTA V’s combat system is A LOT OF FUN, and I wish I could just have more combat outside of missions.  Being able to access the internet on your phone is also very convenient, but it seems like there are a lot less web sites to find this time around.  Watching TV is also not as convenient because there is no “full screen” mode and the volume never seems to be able to be turned up loud enough where I can comfortably hear what is going on.

The graphics in the game are very impressive.  Really awe-inspiring, however, is how big the game’s map is and how accurate it is to Los Angeles and the surrounding area in California recreated as Los Santos, Sandy Shores, and Blaine County.  Being from the LA area, I felt right “at home,” and the lighting in the game makes it that much more authentic.  The wilderness and desert areas are much more fleshed out compared to how they looked like in GTA: San Andreas.  You can even hunt in the wilderness.  While GTA V is a “revisiting” of San Andreas, the lack of San Fierro and Las Venturas can sort of irk you if you are a stickler for the “lore” of Grand Theft Auto.  As a result of having the game be more focused on Los Santos itself, we got a much more detailed and expansive city.  The radio stations are also pretty good and varied.  There are some great tracks in the game, but since nothing can ever live up to GTA: Vice City, we’ll just have to say it’s about as good as it can be.

A part of the experience to note is that ever since the Hot Coffee controversy became a big deal with GTA: San Andreas, Rockstar started becoming more and more daring with what actual sex content they choose to depict.  While GTA IV poked fun at themselves by saying “hey wanna have some HOT COFFEE” and then had a lot of groaning noises saying how good the coffee is, in GTA V they literally have people having sex in plain view as part of missions — not something that is really optional like dating.  And I don’t think anyone even gave a fuck (pun!) about it this time around!  I was laughing my ass off when I saw one of the “movie stars” getting pounded doggie style as you take pictures of her, which resulted in her chasing after you in her convertible trying to kill you.  GTA V can just be a lot of fun.  You can also call random characters up to “hang out” with them and play mini-games, but as opposed to GTA IV, you aren’t forced to maintain any relationships, but as a result there doesn’t seem to be any benefits from them now.

Playing the game for about 50 hours, I can say that GTA V is the best game of the series.  Growing and changing as a gamer since playing GTA III, I find myself less and less inclined to just “fuck around” in the game for an endless amount of time.  This time around I just got through the missions, played a couple of the repeatable side missions, and called it.  Ostensibly, it was worth my $60 regardless, but the point of mentioning it is that sandbox games have become a more focused experience and is less about “go do anything you want” and more about “here’s the things we want you to do, go do it the way you want to do it.”  This is the way gaming has evolved and I do enjoy a more focused experience for sandbox games since they can be very distracting from the “main game” at times.  Not to say that you CAN’T just go do anything you want to do for hours on end, but it pushes you towards what it wants you to do much more than other GTA games.

GTA V also comes with GTA: Online, which is basically just a fleshed out version of the multiplayer from GTA IV.  GTA: Online is structured more like a free-to-play MMO game with progression of your character, and also gets back to the more “gamey” aspects of the Grand Theft Auto series than the single player experience offers.  There’s definitely more people playing it than GTA IV’s online mode, but since GTA: Online is almost its own game entirely, I will just review it later if I get around to it.  It is constantly changing as well since they will be adding patches and re-balancing as time goes on.

GTA V is good, and I hope to see more for the game soon.

-~-

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The Saga of ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla

September 21st, 2013 Posted in Internet, Screwed Up Chronicles 1 Comment »

ArchNacho and Tortilla Godzilla’s Quality Roms was a really funny ROM site that went down around 2006 or so. This is from their “Saga” page.

First Scroll: Descendance

As with all great legends, the saga of ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla is clouded in mystery. In truth, no one knows with certainty what took place those days in a distant past. What is known, however, is that during the month of July in the year 1999, two deities descended from the heavens to this earth to bring light, joy and quality ROMs to the starving, quality-conscious emu-gamers. They had seen wickedness grow in the realm of man and they were worried. Finally, they decided that something would have to be done; they would have to bring light back into the world. And so it was that ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla left their heavenly abodes and descended unto the earth.

Wherever they went, they saw sin: the wicked men had piled up ROMs in great numbers, without reviewing a single one, without even a screenshot to guide the lost souls! Some had attempted to hide their sins with glorious web design, and men were easily deceived by this trickery! Others attempted to lead visitors astray by hiding the true ROMs between false links leading to sponsors, to fill their own greedy pockets! Hear ye my word, and heed it well: this is the worst sin of all! Luring the innocent with promises of ROMs that do not exist, in order to fill your own pockets or increase your own fame is unforgivable, and those who commit such devilish acts will forever be frozen in the cold pits of Shukarnach! And hear ye, you who would let your banners POP UP and blind the purehearted with their evil messages of greed, sin and corruption: thou shalt not escape the wrath of the quality-conscious gamers!

All this ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla saw in the realm of man, and they knew that it was evil. They would be the light of the world, and what follows is the tale of how they banished darkness and offered to every gamer out there a chance for redemption in the splendour of ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla’s Quality ROMs! No more would their souls be corrupted by unreviewed ROMs without screenshots, deceitful links and pop-upping sponsor banners! Take these words to heart, dear reader, for salvation lies within! Rejoice sinners, for your redemption is here!

Second Scroll: “Salvation”

And so it came to pass, in an age long gone, that ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla’s Quality ROMs was born. In the Rochmann castle, strategically positioned on the slope of Mt. Kjølen, in a city called Tromsø far, far to the north in a kingdom known as Norway, the two began their hard work. Initial results were not as good as they had hoped, but ArchNacho & Tortilla Godzilla had no intention of giving up, so they struggled on. The huddled masses of the net were in desperate need of this shining beacon of hope, integrity and quality ROMs!

Finally, one cold August evening, the first draft was ready and released unto the net. One might say that it looked like crap, and one would not be entirely incorrect.Yet, intentions were good, the jokes were crazy, and the graphics were arguably so crappy it was funny! After all, the Christians spent 400 years collecting and deciding on their new testament, whereas these triumphant two had completed their holy texts in only a few months. In addition, the great advantage of AN&TG’s Quality ROMs over all other holy texts, quickly became apparent: it was ever-expanding and ever-improving! Ever onwards for greater enlightenment and a larger collection of Quality ROMs!

-~-

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My Geometry Test Grades

September 21st, 2013 Posted in Dave's Kingdom, Screwed Up Chronicles No Comments »

I took Geometry in 10th grade in high school.  We had to get each one of our test grades signed off by our parents.  Pretty much after every test I got a lecture from my mom.  I was pretty bad at geometry, mostly because of the proofs.

1st semester:

72
39
74
57
57
32
80
58
74
72

2nd semester:

50
73
66
66
72
91
43
86
46
80

Pretty hilarious, really.  I ended up getting a C anyway, so I didn’t have to retake the class during summer.

-~-

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Why Hitler Gained Power

September 21st, 2013 Posted in Screwed Up Chronicles, World No Comments »

The #1 reason that Hitler gained power was because of propaganda.  Without propaganda, the unemployed would not have known about the Nazis in the first place, which would give their party power.  A lot of propaganda was used.

The #2 reason that Hitler gained power was the unemployment rate during the Depression.  The Nazis talked about radical changes that appealed to the unemployed, and got their votes.

The election was the #3 reason Hitler gained power.  With the help of the unemployed the Nazi party gained an immense amount of power from the people.

And because everyone was drunk the end.

-~-

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The Control of American Culture

September 4th, 2013 Posted in Screwed Up Chronicles, World No Comments »

The control of American culture comes from the government, and those who have influence on our everyday lives.  For example, the government imposes dress codes, bans books, etc.  So that eventually one day these things will come into normal practice without second thinking their choice, as if these bans on laws on ridiculous things were never there.  With the dress code for instance, they intend to make everyone not wear certain types of clothing.

Since students can’t wear them, demand for them goes down and eventually is erased from existence, as habits are built on the next generation to not wear these types of clothing ever again.  This goes for anything else that is trying to alter the way we think or how we want to do things so that they will have more and more control over culture, and us, according to an unknown group controlling it all.

-~-

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Corporations and Society in the United States

September 3rd, 2013 Posted in Screwed Up Chronicles, World No Comments »

Corporations represent the newly changed American society, from World War I, because of the many ways that the people not in charge of the way things are running it, can take charge and be a small part of it.

The Corporation, being a new thing, brought many new businesses into the fray.  Larger sums of money and capital were made.  The hiring of more workers i these newly formed corporations increased the amount of industrial productivity, though most of the workers in the corporation were white collar workers.  The economy of United States fluctuated because of the internationalism, as it got easier to transport goods.  Industrialists were the ones that sold to other countries of the world.

As society changed, new ideas changed with it.  It gave birth to radicals and anarchists.  The radicals were for the disarmament of military weapons all over the world.  Now more locally, they were for prohibition.  These new changes were meant for the good of the people.  But every good thing has a repercussion.  For prohibition lead to lawbreakers and a higher amount of crime.  The corporations also had multiple repercussions, such as taking away the business of the smaller non-corporate businesses.

The progression of business to corporation is an example of how America progressed itself, during the years after World War I.  America ame from a rural to urban society, and for the first time, electricity was able to flow through the cities.  Due to the corporations and their rapidly changing technology, they invted the radio.  The radio helped in increasing the number of billionaires, which raised 400% from previous years, because everyone wanted a radio.

The development of corporations in the business world itself changed American society.

-~-

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Third Party Ownership

September 3rd, 2013 Posted in Screwed Up Chronicles, World No Comments »

Third party ownership is really annoying, I mean let’s take Crayola for instance.  They’re owned by Binney & Smith, which is owned by Hallmark.

It’s really stupid when you look at it.  But I guess we’ll have one thing to be looking forward to: Microsoft owning every company in every industry in the damn world, which means owning US, the government, and the world!  And then the bushes we squat by.  THen, the aliens will come and buy Microsoft which means buying the world, and all our Chipmunks compilation CDs (yes, even the Christmas ones).

Then people everyone hates, like Bill Gates, Rosie O’Donnel, Dennis Rodman, Jean Claude Van Damme, etc. will live forever just to spite us and make more reality TV shows such as Double Dare Extreme (where people use napalm instead of slime) and continuing Survivor forever.

And we can’t do anything because we don’t have any intergalactic space weapons or things that go “whoo whoo” to get rid of the aliens.

Then, the aliens make crop circles everywhere.  Even in our grass, our pretty flower fields, and our landfills.  I’m sorry, I’m getting out of hand.  Bye.

-~-

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“Prismacolor Verithin Colored Pencils” Breakdown

August 29th, 2013 Posted in Screwed Up Chronicles, World No Comments »

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Dave's Breakdown

The back of my box of Prismacolor Verithin Colored Pencils had the following to say:

A Definite Strong Point

Prismacolor Verithin Pencils have harder, more durable leads that complement the soft thick leads of the Prismacolor Art Pencils.  Specially formulated leads won’t shatter when sharp-ended.  These last longer under heavy marking and writing pressure.  The thing leads and precision points create the finest details. Verithin pencils are flexible color tools for outlining and lettering.  All 36 color match Prismacolor Art Pencils.  Available in open stock and sets.

Precision Tools of Color

  • Thin leads for small details and multiple uses
  • Hard and strong to resist breaking
  • Made form the finest pigments for bold color laydown
  • Consistent Prismacolor standards of quality
  • Available in 3 Art Sets
    • 12 colors 02476 (796)
    • 24 colors 02427 (731)
    • 36 colors 02428 (732)

And this is what davepoobond had to say about it:

Anyone that picks up a box of pencils and reads this shit on the back and believes any of that bullshit, making the colored pencils sound like Godly items, is a dumbass.  Who writes all this shit?  Do they even believe the crap they’re trying to jam down our throats?  I doubt it.

And waht’s with the numbers?  Its not like we’d actually use them, like to ask for them.  Here’s an example of how that would play out:

(a man is looking at a box of the 12 colored pencils, when a store employee comes up to him)

Store Employee:  Hello, sir.  Can I help you with something?

Customer: Ah, yes, I see you have the 02476 (796), but I can’t seem to find the 02427 (731) or 02428 (732) anywhere!

(Store Employee blinks a couple of times)

Store Employee:  Sorry I couldn’t help you with anything, have a nice day.

(Store Employee runs away)

(End)

You see how ridiculous that is?  Another that that pisses me off is that they keep repeating the same bull shit.  I can summarize the whole thing they had into this:

These colored pencils are good for small detailing and have resistance to breaking.  Comes in packs of 12, 24, or 36.

They give us unuseful information:

Multiple uses — as opposed to only one use?

Hard and Strong — thy’re the same thing.  Drop a word you bastards!

Made from the finest pigments for bold color laydown — What th ehell does bold color laydown mean?  They expect everyone to know that?  How about I boldly lay down my color into your face!!!!

Consistent Prismacolor standards of quality — this means absolutely shit to me.  What would it matter to me about their “standards?”  Their standards could be shitty for all we know.

They also advertise their art pencils about 3 times in the same thing, making you have to think that you absolutely need their art pencils.

What the hell is with their “flexible color tools” phrase?  Do these pencils bend?  Can I tighten a screw with these pencils?  Or maybe get around that sharp corner so I could tighten the yellow on the paper?  Great, thanks assholes!

And their paragraph just looks like a bunch of unrelated sentences tossed together.  The only relating factor to any other sentence is just the amount of bullshit that emanates from the box.

Bull shit.  All crap I tell ye!  Crap!  Crap, I say!  I tell you its pure crap!  Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap shit shit shit shit shit shit!  Good color pencils, though.  =) =) =) =)

-~-

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Wild Arms (PS) Review

August 17th, 2013 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Media.Vision Inc. | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 8/10

Wild Arms is one of the seemingly overlooked RPGs from the PlayStation-era.  While some of the greatest Japanese RPGs to have been created were enjoying their prime, there were many B-tier RPGs that rode the coat tails to success as well.  Wild Arms had given me that feeling upon first thought of the series, and while it may have been trying to copy what made the Final Fantasy series great, it brought its own flavor and methodology to the genre that holds up even into playing it in 2013.

Hunkering down and forcing yourself to play Wild Arms for the first PlayStation is probably going to be a difficult thing to do in a gaming landscape that we enjoy nowadays.  Wild Arms essentially looks like a 2D Super Nintendo game.  The battles are early-3D, which makes the age of the game immediately show.  The art style tries to carry over into the 3D battles from the 2D field, but if the game wasn’t under seeming pressure to integrate 3D elements into the game I could have seen the battles working better as 2D, benefiting from keeping a consistent look throughout.  Given that the game was released in 1996, it probably wowwed a few people at the time, and the 3D battles were probably one of the things that were marketed heavily to contrast away from the Super Nintendo and butt heads with the Nintendo 64 (which had just been released the same year).

The story in Wild Arms is pretty interesting, and the initial set up of the game is actually quite different than your usual RPG.  The game revolves around three characters:  Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia.  Each of these characters are independently controlled and swapped to during play, so you have a somewhat decentralized feeling as to which character is actually “you.”  The only character that is sort of implied to be the main character is Rudy, who is a (mostly) silent protagonist and holds a couple of terrible secrets that don’t really pay off very well in the end.  Rudy is able to use weaponry known as ARMs, which are remnants of an old war that was fought against the Demons, which are the antagonists in the current events.  Jack and his “assistant” talking mouse named Hampan are adventurers who join up with Rudy.  Cecilia is a princess whose father dies as a result of the Demons attack early in the game, who ends up being the shaman savior of the world.  These three characters have their independent storylines at the beginning of the game until they meet up and decide to adventure together.  I wish the reasoning these guys got together was a little more profound, but it really wasn’t much more than saying “Hey, are you adventuring, too?  Let’s go kill some shit.”  Eventually the bonds between the characters are made and the group ends up being a great cast of friends.  They all go through a bit of personal emotional turmoil together despite the larger story going on around them, and saving the world actually gets put on hold for their smaller stories at times, though they do end up being related to it in the end.

The story revolves around a conflict that arises from a group of Demons who find their way back to Filgaia, the planet that the Humans are living on, to either take it over and enslave Humanity — or destroy it.  Filgaia has already been having a little bit of a problem with the planet dying and no one understanding why the life energy of the planet was being sucked out of it with no cure to be had.  At the end of the last war, there was another race that shared Filgaia with the Humans, known as the Elws (Elves).  After the last war they had sacrificed the world’s life energy to rid the invading Demons.  As a result, the Elws and Humans had a falling out and soon all of the Elws “disappeared.”  The Elws soon became only part of stories and besides a few remaining monuments and structures, had been gone for a very long time.  The Elws were very good with technology and along with the Humans had created ARMs as well as huge machines called Golems.  The Golems were tantamount in expelling the Demons and many had eventually been scattered and “lost” outside of a few that were kept around for show.  There are also ethereal entities known as Guardians that watch over and protect Filgaia for some unexplained reason, and had been lying dormant in a weakened state due to the results of the last war.

The Demons themselves are not actually “demons” in the classic sense.  They are essentially robot aliens from a planet called Hiades which is no longer habitable for them.  Unfortunately not too much of their origin was explained by the end of the game, but they seem to be able to come back from Hell (wherever that is) a lot after they die.  Wild Arms, surprisingly, has a lot to do with science fiction.  The beginning of the game has more of a fantasy feeling until later where there is teleportation, dimensional traveling, super computers, and space travel.  You get a little taste of the technology in the beginning of the game, but it doesn’t really come back around until later.  For these reasons, Wild Arms sets itself away from “normal” fantasy RPGs because it seems to address the question of what stakes are involved in not only the survival of the planet, but what external threats are “out there” that could come at any time.  If you take the time to read the extra informational books on the bookshelves throughout the game, you’ll find quite a bit of interesting lore regarding the previous wars, the Golems, the Demons, and the Elws.  If you have any interest in the story, my suggestion is to make it a point to explore towns as much as you can and to read as much of the texts as possible.  The lore is probably the most unique part of the game when all is said and done.

Unfortunately the story starts out VERY slow.  I didn’t feel like the story got interesting at all until about 10 hours played, where the game is trying to slowly get you used to the gameplay mechanics and the feel of the dungeons.  As the story ramps up, I found myself engrossed in the finer details, and while the game itself wasn’t that exciting, I wanted to know more and see more of what was happening to Filgaia and how the protagonists fit into the whole debacle.

There’s probably not much point in actually explaining the gameplay itself.  It’s pretty standard as far as RPGs go from this era, and most of the time you’ll be mashing the X button and perhaps throwing some special abilities out to defeat the endless droves of enemies that you’ll be slaughtering.  There are a couple of unique things about this game from a gameplay standpoint, however.

The dungeons themselves are designed around the use of a concept called “Tools.”  For example, Rudy starts out with Bombs.  He’ll use bombs to destroy obstacles, such as rock walls, boulders, etc.  Most of the dungeons have some sort of elaborate puzzle-solving, and eventually each of your three characters will attain 4 tools each.  Most of the game will be played with only about two useful tools, and some of the other tools are only used situationally a couple of times after you get it and then not again.  The Roller Skates and Power Glove were used probably three or four times outside of the dungeon you actually get it in, for example.  In contrast, most Final Fantasy games don’t really have you do too much with the field (aka the dungeons), leaving most of the challenges to be navigating through mazes or maybe flicking some switches, which Wild Arms has as well.

The battle gameplay is a bit forward-thinking for a game from this era and this genre.  Possibly the most interesting is that they let you swap out equipment in-battle without any penalty, which opens up the use of more items during the battle and being able to adapt to the challenge WHILE you are facing it rather than getting ready for it or dying and then knowing what to do.   There are also auto-battle stances according to whatever behavior you want your characters to adhere to, and they are independently adjusted — meaning you can manually control one, and leave the other two on auto-battle.  This can also be adjusted in battle, which is very convenient in case the auto-battle isn’t working out.  As you grind a lot of mobs to get through some of the dungeons, it can save a lot of button mashing.

Another cool thing about the game as a whole is that they only give you three characters.  As opposed to other games where you can get around ten characters, this allows the game to focus on the characters you have.  You will always use “all” of your party members in every fight, giving you the feeling that all of your party members are taking the burden of the challenges on their shoulders alone and they don’t miss out on any vital events that happen in the game, like beating a difficult boss.  There are also liberties taken with this as well, as there are a few dungeons where you will control only one character at a time, and you have to use the other characters to help yourself in another part of the dungeon until you all meet up again.  Tools are also attached to certain characters, so you will constantly be switching between characters to use the different tools — which allows you to control them in the field in an equal amount compared to the other characters, again resulting in a feeling that your party members are “all” there at the same time, and not waiting somewhere drinking coffee while you’re out saving the world.

A lot of the boss battles are easy — they’re not too complicated or grueling.  Since I didn’t want to spend 60 hours on the game, I was using a walkthrough for the majority of the game, but whenever I hit a boss battle I wouldn’t usually read anything about the boss before going into it.  I ended up spending about 35 hours (which literally took me 8.5 months to play) on the game and accomplished a majority of the optional bosses and activities the game offered.  While there are definitely hard battles to be had, the battle system isn’t necessarily too enthralling or deep.

Each of your characters have a unique group of spells/abilities that they have access to.  They use MP (magic points) or ammo, and most of the time you’ll be using them instead of the normal attacks the game allows you to use.  One thing that struck me as an odd decision was that Rudy, the character who is able to use the “ARMs,” notated in the game’s title, didn’t use ARMs as his normal attack.  He has a sword… The ARMs were “special” abilities.  In fact, ARMs themselves don’t really play that much of a huge part of the game since only one character uses them.  The game could have been called Wild Magic or Wild Fast Draw and the same result would have been seen in the game.  Rudy doesn’t use his special ability to solve anything other than lay the smack down on anything and everything you saw fit to use them on.  It was a missed opportunity to distinguish Rudy apart from Jack, who is an “experienced” swordsman, but for some reason Rudy used a sword, too, and not a gun to blow shit up with all the time.  I suppose that you could use his ARMs all of the time and never use his sword attack, but you usually want to keep “special” abilities for bosses or harder enemies.  That’s what makes them special.

Character progression isn’t all that exciting, but each character is different from each other.  Rudy will acquire new ARMs occasionally through play.  You can spend straight money to upgrade these ARMs to make them more powerful and useful.  You get nearly ten of these ARMs, and the last two are found in the last string of dungeons.  Unless you make it a point to exit the dungeon and go upgrade these, they are pretty much useless since when you find any ARM they are basically crap.  Jack is an expert swordsman with a mysterious past, so he gets “Fast Draw” hints — the name of his school of abilities is “Fast Draw.”  When you acquire a hint, you have to use the ???? ability you have just acquired until you are able to “learn” the ability that you had been given the hint for, at which point you can then use the ability when you like.  Cecilia uses all sorts of magic, and you can learn more by acquiring items known as Crest Graphs.  You use the Crest Graphs to bind spells to the character.  The choices you make at the beginning of the game are more important when you have almost no Crest Graphs, but as you find more, the decisions become less important.  There will eventually be an “Advanced” set of magic, which will sort of reset the importance of Crest Graphs about 2/3s of the game in, but since you can unlearn and relearn abilities with absolutely no penalty, it is easy to just “upgrade” all of your Basic magic spells into Advanced spells.

All of the characters have something called Force abilities.  Each turn in battle gives them a certain amount of “Force.”  Each character has four different abilities that they can use according to their current Force level, and they use Force to use them.  These are especially useful when summoning Guardians or amplifying special abilities during longer fights.

Once you get to the later part of the game, there are a few optional quests and bosses to do, which can fill up about 5 to 10 hours.  There is an arena which gives you very special items depending on which fight you fight up to.  The items you earn here basically let you “cheat” and build out your characters into ridiculously strong killing machines, if you were so inclined to do so.  I passed over a couple of optional bosses, and most of the optional bosses will drop best-in-slot gear for your characters, making them even better.

Something to note, I played the majority of the game without a map.  I was wondering why they didn’t give us a map for the whole game and how stupid it was that there wasn’t one in the game.  I looked it up online eventually and it ended up being that I missed a room where I should have blown the wall apart — IN THE FIRST DUNGEON — and inside that room was the map.  I was making the game way more frustrating for myself than I had to.  Which basically ends with me saying that a map should not be something you find in a game in a hidden room optionally.  It has to be a forced thing you find, are given, or just friggin happens in the game.  BAD GAME DESIGN!

That’s basically Wild Arms.  It’s not an overly ambitious game, but if I was playing it in middle school alongside Final Fantasy VII, I’d probably would have still enjoyed the game quite a bit.  I didn’t actually have a PlayStation until closer to the year 2000 or so, so it was completely off my radar until I started collecting more games later in middle school and high school.  I didn’t actually acquire the Wild Arms games until I was in college, though.

All in all, the things I take away from this game are the great story, and the great character relations that are built through the events of the game.  If you’re able to sit through and play old PlayStation games, it is definitely worth playing.  Unfortunately Wild Arms 2 appears to have an all new, yet seemingly familiar-looking, cast of characters, so the stories of Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia are left to fanfiction.

Since I’ve actually beaten the game, I have the following to say about the story:

*Story SPOILERS past this point.  Beware!*

The story ends with the moral that “Humans are the true Guardians of Filgaia” — not the spiritual entities that are actually known as the Guardians, since now they’re dead or whatever.  Obviously this is a big comparison to what we as humans on the planet Earth are to our own planet.  The story is essentially telling us that we have the power to protect our world and to defend it from bad stuff, yadda yadda yadda.  It’s a good message, although a bit cheesy in its delivery since they literally state the facts (just in case you weren’t able to pick up on that from the 35+ hour journey you just went on).

A few things about the story just plain don’t pay off, and it kind of makes me sad, since there definitely could have been more room to explain some of the things they didn’t delve into:

– The Demon race’s history wasn’t explained, other than that they are evil and are taking over planets.  Were they created from something or what?  What was their fascination with Filgaia over other planets in the universe?

– “Mother,” who is the supposed leader of the Demons is apparently some sort of a parasite and NOT a mechanical robot like the other Demons.  She apparently needs to incubate for long periods of time.  It begs the question of what she actually is, and where she came from.  Closely related, where is “Hell” in this universe?  Is it another dimension?  They have several Demons who die but come back from “Hell” to fight you again but in a more powerful form.  Zeikfreid, who is the last boss of the game comes back to life for a THIRD time at this point, but that time he is all mangled yet is even more “powerful” than ever before.  The only reason he probably didn’t go to Hell the last time was because we were fighting in a wormhole, and he was talking about some nonsense about it being unstable to fight in the middle of the space travel teleporting dimension thing.

– Rudy being a Demon himself raised by a human, he was able to feel pain and compassion.  However, Rudy being a Demon didn’t really do anything in the end.  He didn’t have to choose a side between being Human or being a Demon.  All it did was serve for an explanation as to why people had always wanted to ostracize him, even though they didn’t actually know he was a Demon.  The only reason they actually ostracized him was because of his use of ARMs earlier in the story.  His use of ARMs and his “Demonhood” didn’t actually play a huge part in the ending of the story.  It did serve to characterize him and make him standout during the course of the story, but it was a set up with no pay off, other than giving a reason to have his arm torn off completely and then repaired at a later time.

– The Elws all transported to a different dimension and remain there, and they don’t give a shit about Filgaia anymore.  Their story doesn’t seem to be resolved at all, and it sort of makes me question why they were even written into the current events of the story other than to just have them there.  The only profound thing they did was repair Rudy’s arm when it was ripped off during one of the fights with Zeikfreid, but they are never talked about again.  They don’t even help during the last battle or help Filgaia in the restoration process or anything.  The Guardian Blade which caused Filgaia’s weakened condition is still in the alternate dimension and you never actually acquire it for use.  Another set up with no pay off, as far as I’m concerned — excuse me sir, but I’d like to use the ultra powerful sword, please!

– Jack’s love interest, Elmina, is nowhere to be found after she is saved in the quest in Arctica Castle.  I would have liked to see something else from that plot point to close it out, other than the fact that “she will forget everything, even Jack.”  It would have been nice to at least have seen Elmina living in the world somewhere so that you KNOW that what you went through to save her paid off, but I don’t think you can even find her in the world.  If you have a chance, definitely don’t forget to watch the “hidden” backstory about Jack and Elmina and what happened to Arctica Castle by remaining idle on the Start Screen.  It is quite riveting, and I had only found out about that scene after Elmina’s ultimate resolution in the game.

– I can appreciate the fact that the group “goes on more adventures” at the end of it all and you can kind of tell that the story has come to an end, but I have to wonder what the hell they’re doing.  As far as I can tell, the main conflict that was presenting itself to Filgaia was… solved.  They said that there are “still monsters out there” so it is kind of weird to think that all they’re going to do now is slaughter tons of monsters that are just living out in the world minding their own business.  It would have made more sense if Wild ARMs 2 was actually about them… but it isn’t.  I would have enjoyed seeing more adventures with these three characters, but unfortunately it’ll never happen.

– There is an interesting nod to breaking the fourth wall at the end of the game.  Where they are saying that they weren’t the only ones to have saved the world, they start naming off different characters from the game… whom we didn’t actually see any of those characters during the “celebration” scenes, unfortunately.   At the end of their list, they say something to the effect of “and one more person…” and then trail off awkwardly.  They then turn toward the camera and stare at “you” as if to “thank” you for helping them through their journey as the camera pans up into the sky and focuses on the sun.  The fourth wall acknowledgement sort of caught me off guard, and I didn’t realize it until the awkward end of dialogue and the tilt up to the sky.  Unless you were reading every single word they were saying it might have been easy to miss, especially since the text automatically scrolls and you can’t read it at your own pace.  It is interesting when a game does something like this, and the feeling I got from it, especially from the camera staying on the sky until it faded out, was that you are some sort of “all-powerful being” in this universe watching over them and helping them through their journey.  After being invested in the story and the characters, it’s a charming acknowledgement and it almost makes you feel like you yourself are “part of the gang” instead of being “in the shoes” of one of the characters you were controlling — this is a very different feeling a game tries to give you when all is said and done.  It was definitely my first time experiencing something like this.

There is a remake of Wild ARMs called Wild ARMs: Alter Code F which is a direct remake of the first game and refines the gameplay and retells the story in a more cinematic fashion on the PlayStation 2.  I hope that I can play it one day, but it appears to be a $90+ expense to do so.

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My Decision to Receive Christ As My Saviour

August 5th, 2013 Posted in Dave's Kingdom, Screwed Up Chronicles No Comments »

Note: This was in the back of a bible.

Confessing to God that I am a sinner, and believing that the Lord Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross and was raised for my justification, I do now receive and confess Him as my personal saviour.

Name: Dave “Satan” Poobond
Date: 6/6/6

This is such a crock of shit, because it was Jesus’ fault, not mine for dying at the cross.  He was the one going around praising religion and crap that got him into deep shit and nailed to fucking planks.  Don’t make ME take the blame for it, you bastard prophets that wrote the Bible!

Learn how to spell savior, at least!

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