Friday, July 30, 2010

Then There Was That Time Cobra Commander Kidnapped Some Autobots

(Sorry about the low content, but today was kind of a distracting day. My parents were attending visitation for a funeral about half a dozen counties away, and I had to watch my kid brother for hours on end.)

G.I.Joe/Transformers crossovers are fairly common. More so in the comics than the cartoons, but it did happen.

Note, starting at about 2:18, "Snake's" remark on the state of the current day (in his alternate future full of Transformers, which would have been in about 2006 of the fictional universe): "I guess they don't make terrorists like they used to." Followed by the obligatory bellow of "COOOOOOBRAAAA *hack cough hack*"

I like his earlier line ("everything is for sale") well enough that I put it in my Quotable Transformers post from a while back, too.

-Signing off.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

(Micro) Game Review: Sprocket Rocket

Sprocket Rocket is apparently a game which is tied in to Wallace and Gromit, of all things.

It features educational content on inventions and patents, as well as physics-based puzzle gameplay and a very interesting dynamic design aspect.

You fly a little ship around, and you can create and modify a tool for it. Such as this:

This particular tool isn't practical or useful at all, but it's fun.

I'd recommend playing around with this game purely for its uniqueness and originality. You almost don't notice the Wallace and Gromit content, except for the occasional angry Wallace grunt as your little ship smacks around.

Don't worry about figuring it out-the game is self-explanatory.

Certainly, there are worse ways to burn a free hour.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ten Greatest Cartoon Terrorists

For no apparent reason, I decided to compile a list of the ten greatest cartoon terrorists. (I would have gone to eleven, but let's face it-the Red Skull just isn't really up to snuff.) Before we get started, I'll set the ground rules of what qualifies someone to be a cartoon terrorist (as opposed to a regular cartoon villain or a supervillain, etc.) so that we can agree on who fits that description.

A cartoon terrorist must:
  1. Have some feature that cannot fit in the real world at all.
  2. Act like a terrorist, i.e. destroy buildings/expensive stuff to inspire fear (or for no good reason) and/or kill large numbers of people for similar reasons. The cartoon terrorist may also seek to take over the world, and most real-life terrorists have imposing their own beliefs on others as part of their mission statement, so that can sort of qualify.

The second point may not fit your definition of terrorist, but it's pretty broad, and I suspect that if you think about it, it'll cover your idea of one.

Without further ado, here are history's ten greatest cartoon terrorists. For once, in a particular order.

10. Baron von Strucker/MODOK/some other guys and Hydra/AIM/Secret Empire (Marvel Comics)

Something of a requirement for cartoon terrorism is large organizations. It usually helps set them apart from the more average cartoon villains. When it comes to the various leaders of Hydra, this qualifies them instantly: Hydra isn't one organization, it's dozens, if not more. The Hydra has many heads, as it were. The main reason they rank low on this list (other than their association with Nazis and the Red Skull, which loses them a few points) is because most of their leaders are relatively generic. Except for MODOK, and everybody loves that guy.

9. Kobra and his death cult (DC Comics)

I confess, I'm not nearly enough of a comic book fan to know much about Kobra beyond the fact that 1) he was created by Jack Kirby, and 2) he's over the top crazy awesome stupid (and yes, that's a good thing). If I recall correctly, his group crossed over with Batman Beyond at one point, too, so that's a plus.

8. Cobra Commander and Cobra (G.I.Joe)

If I say "cartoon terrorist" and you don't think "Cobra Commander" instantly, you are a fool, and I can prove it with math.

7. He-Man and She-ra and the Great Rebellion (She-Ra, the Princess of Power)

Now, I'll grant you, He-Man and She-Ra were never evil or malicious, like most of the characters on this list. But when the two were on the planet Etheria, they were outlaws, along with the rest of the He-Man/She-Ra protagonists.

They didn't do that many things that really qualified as terrorism beyond self defense...

But there was that time when He-Man essentially dropped a mountain on a prison even though he didn't need to do so to escape. That prison presumably only had Horde robots in it (despite the Horde's effectiveness as a regime [and in the early episodes especially, it was effective], they usually had nearly empty prisons-which is creepy for a cartoon in and of itself, but I digress), but Horde robots like pie and slapstick, so they must be people too (a fact that was entirely glossed over throughout most of the She-Ra series).

Then, there's the fact that She-Ra once jumped off her flying horse in order to dive through a Horde prison ship/Q-ship. It was presumably empty of prisoners, as they'd rescued all the people captured in the episode, and it was probably necessary to complete the escape (the Horde commander was locking on with weapons seconds before the sinking), but only two of the crew (named characters) escaped-all the Horde robots drowned.

Perhaps I'm too fixated on the little logic flaw involving the robots, but it really kind of bothers me whenever I think about it... Mostly because the episode of He-Man that was essentially its finale involved a huge, weighty thing where He-Man was upset because he thought he'd accidentally killed somebody. That prison was on purpose, and the pushing over mountains thing was exactly the kind of thing that the accident involved.

6. Shredder and the Foot ('80s/'90s TMNT cartoon)

Well, the Foot didn't pan out so well (they were mostly robots), but the Shredder qualifies handily, if for no other reason than because he had the Technodrome. It filled the purpose of that organization that Shredder so pointedly lacked.

The Shredder from the '00s cartoon was easier to take seriously within the show's context, but amazingly, the Shredder from the old cartoon had the more grandiose goals. Weird.

5. Skeletor and his lackeys (Filmation cartoon)

Skeletor was more of a traditional cartoon/comic book villain in the old Filmation cartoon, but there were times when he attempted acts that Osama bin Laden would have been jealous of.

For instance, the time he tried to ram a giant ship disguised as an island into a dam so large it was holding the ocean back, which would have flooded the majority of Eternia's farmlands and caused most of the population to starve if they refused to bow to Skeletor for his food supplies.

Or the time that Skeletor tried to incite war between two of Eternia's moons, just to be a jerk.

4. Blitzy Zulander and her older brother Ziv, and their household of robots (Bots Master)

One thing that distresses me about my childhood is that there were so many wonderful cartoons that I'll probably never see again. Bots Master is one such show.

It's very difficult to dig up information on the show, and even harder to find pictures, but here's the skinny:

Ziv Zulander was a great inventor. He designed all kinds of robots, most importantly robots with human-level intelligences and personalities. Unfortunately, this caused an evil, Lex Luthoresque villainous CEO, Paradigm (yes, that was his name), to want to kidnap him and/or dissect his robots, whom he thought of as his family, because they kind of were. He was a nice guy, and didn't like the idea of violence, so he went into hiding.

Fortunately for him, his little redheaded sister, Blitzy, was not so good-natured. After she was rescued from her boarding school (apparently, the Zulander kids were orphans), she promptly revealed her own affinity for robot designs-by designing giant killer robots. Jungle Fiver, "the hottest bot on Earth" and a Voltron-like superweapon, was her design.

While her intentions were good (and they were fighting an evil corporation that often veered into cartoon terrorism itself), sometimes she went a leeeetle teeeeny bit overboard.

For instance, once she learned that the evil corporation had provided a trio of lifeguard robots to a beach. (It may have been free of charge as a PR thing; I don't recall. It's been more than ten years...) Anyway, Blitzy was dead sure that they were some kind of sinister killing machines, and decided to mount an assault to destroy them.

As it turns out, she was right-they were perfectly functional lifeguards, but they also had programming to assassinate a major world leader that kept causing the evil corporation problems by drowning him and making it look like an accident-but her response was totally out of proportion.

She sent in a literal army (at least two, probably three, and any non-binary digit number of giant robots qualifies as an army) of giant killer robots to destroy three little lifeguard robots with no weapons or special features (except possibly a cramp inducing beam). This was on a crowded public beach.

And that is how a redheaded little girl outranks Cobra Commander, Skeletor, and the Shredder on a list of the greatest cartoon terrorists.

3. Kane and Nod (various Command and Conquer games)

No discussion of cartoonish villains would be complete without at least giving a nod to computer and video games, which in this case means (heh) Nod and its leader, Kane. If you're not familiar with them, here's a very quick (and epically spoilery) summary: Kane is an immortal from outer space who founded a terrorist organization of epic scale, which regularly went toe-to-toe with the GDI (basically the UN on steroids), was destroyed more or less completely three times and still came back for one more go. Kane himself lived on Earth for thousands of years, and managed to lure aliens called the Scrin to Earth ([inhales] the Scrin had already infected Earth with a radioactive self-propagating material called Tiberium which nearly depopulated the entire planet before being brought under control between the third and fourth games [exhales]) in order to steal their technology and try to use it to ascend the human race into a new species.

Sorry for the density of that paragraph, but relating about sixteen years' worth of story in one paragraph is hard.

Anyway, the games don't explain exactly who Kane is specifically, but I have a theory myself. Apparently, there were at least plans for an in-story reference to a civilization on Mars that was wiped out by the Scrin ages ago, and the Scrin had Kane's abnormal genetic code on record. My theory is that he was one of the Martians.

So, yeah, Kane is an immortal Martian terrorist. Don't tell me that's not awesome.

2. Megatron and his Predacon splinter group (Beast Wars)

I'd been thinking lately of trying to come up with an essay about Beast Wars and its awesomeness, but somebody else beat me to it, and how.

Instead, I'll just briefly touch on why Beast Wars Megatron is an awesome cartoon terrorist. (If I don't rank #1 on Google for searches on "cartoon terrorist," I'll be disappointed.)

Megatron was usually thought of more as a standard criminal (Optimus Primal and the rest of the Maximals) or a well-intentioned loose cannon (the Tripredacus Council and the rest of the Predacons, who had similar goals but intended to bide their time). The crux of the series, though, the point on which the entire conflict ultimately rests, is that Megatron went back in time so he could shoot Abraham Lincoln John F. Kennedy Adolph Hitler Optimus Prime in the head.

It should also be noted that, while he failed at this particular endeavor, he later went on to become far and away the most successful of these characters, managing to conquer his home planet with the rough equivalent of biological warfare. (I don't care for Beast Machines particularly, but you do have to admit that Megatron was very effective as a villain in it. I just don't care for the characterization he received in it. That, and we only get to see the conquesty bits in poorly animated flashbacks.)

1. Syndrome and his goons (The Incredibles)

Syndrome, in a way, is the worst of all cartoon terrorists: He pretty much did what he did-sending a massive killer robot into the middle of a city-just for his own entertainment. Granted, there was the whole revenge plot mixed up in it, but he pretty much was just turning his enormous fortune to making himself look good.

And then, he planned on selling his "superhero power" inventions to the general public, presumably at cutthroat prices-simply to make it so that people with powers, "special" people, weren't special anymore. ("And when everyone's special... no one will be.") Certainly, if everyone had the ability to fly and fire magic tractor/paralysis beams from their fingers, most of the powers the characters had wouldn't have been too impressive.

And that's a list. Feel free to suggest your own ideas, or post your own list; I, for my part, will feel free to ignore your list, because mine is clearly superior even though I haven't seen yours yet. Ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha.

(Just kidding. Really.)

-Signing off.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Golden Age Moment of the Day (41)

Some themed villains take themes too far.

Others, like the Clown, villain in a feature in issue #16 of Four Favorites... don't.

In fact, I'd say that he's even less funny than a real clown.

He is in fact so short of being funny that he negates funniness.

Okay, I'll stop.

But his sense of humor is stupid. (Seriously, how can you even begin to think that a knife to the throat is a "droll" death? Unless you think "droll" means "grim and horrible.")

-Signing off.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Like Knight Rider, But With a Phone Instead

At least, according to vague plot summaries and whatnot that I've read.

Gotta love Japan.

I don't have much to say on this, but I do have a video of the second version of Japan's dub of Transformers: Animated...

It's not that different from the first, but at least it's content.

It does continue the grand tradition of making very little sense...

-Signing off.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Schedule Bump

Sorry, guys, no post tonight. (Well, not here. I have a little guest post going up at my sister's Yu-Gi-Oh! blog, if you're remotely interested in that kind of thing.) Family I haven't seen in a while will be visiting today, and I'm not sure I'll have the time. At any rate, I don't want to have to worry about it.

However, I'll direct you to note the description change I've added up top. I may remove it entirely or change it without notice, but I decided I wanted something up there for a bit.

-Signing off.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Space Crazy Comics: Dr. Meade's Last War

On Monday, I posted a panel from a story in Space War #2, complaining primarily about narration.

I guess I can further torment educate you on this story, hm?

Dr. Meade's Last War opens on a space battle between Earth and a planet named Talus III.

So a "Dr. Meade, great savant of Talus," tells the Talus...ians that we're evil. Hm.

The following narration strikes me as biased.

Of course, then we learn that something fishy's going on.

Something involving a certain Dr. Meade, of course.

You could go with the mouseover text, but of course the more logical answer to this oddity is that Dr. Meade is a double agent.

He's tryin' to kill everybody.

The Earth commander decides that he has to risk making contact with the Talus...ian commander rather than continue the battle, just in case Dr. Meade was not merely a Talusian spy.

The commander from Talus apparently doesn't take Meade very seriously... (No wonder, he looks exactly the same as when he was spying on Earth. What the heck, guys?)

Meade doesn't take it well, and douses commander Wejus's first mate with ketchup.

I mean, I guess he kills the guy.

Wejus attempts to retaliate with his own ketchup bottle, but Meade pulls his turning transparent act again.

Hey, Meade's rhetoric sounds familiar... Oh, yeah, Great Ag and Ob!

Anyway, Wejus and Cogan get along.

They make a stop at Talus III to resupply, and there's a brief aside trip to the supreme ultimate ruler of Talus III. They ride giant birds to conserve fuel.

I wonder how much energy it takes to take care of thousands upon thousands of giant birds that would be better invested in cheap, low-energy vehicles? Eh, never mind.

The supreme ruler dude, who is basically Wejus with a beard and (if memory serves) eyebrows, tells them that he thinks they're going to win.

The "dark galaxy?" I know I complain a lot about this kind of terminology, and at least it wasn't "universe" again, but dagnabbit do I ever hate that!

Dr. Meade is watching them.

How Meade does this stupid stuff is never really explained at all, by the way. There's no explanation for why he's a mile tall or why he can become intangible or why he can travel through space. (And no, none of it is symbolic. He's literally there, as you will see.) Not even half-butted pseudoscientific madness.

Here's where Monday's panel comes in, by the way.

Meade is pretty confident until...

No, I don't know why this would be effective against spaceships particularly... (Although a fun fact about space travel that not many people know is that it's harder to keep a spacecraft cool than it is to keep it warm.) Of course, the fact that they're "semi-liquid" spaceships might be part of it.

Also, "cold ray" is a pretty lame name for this, although I'll give them kudos for not just saying "freeze ray" like everybody else ever.

Then, they notice the gigantic Dr. Meade floating there, and shoot him too.

Wejus and Cogan are happy about this development. Who wouldn't be, I guess?

Of course, their dialogue with each other is total bull. "Don't believe those who lie for their own gain?"

Well, duh, you morons! How can you tell who's lying for their own gain if they're lying?!

Eh, never mind.

The story's not really as bad as I make it out to be, but it's still pretty stupid.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Micro versus Macro... Again.

I won't go into this subject again even fractionally as much as last time (which wasn't that much), except to remind my hapless readers who aren't in the mood to follow that link of what I'm talking about.

In RTS games, many players micromanage things. Excessively.

You often can't win if you aren't able to keep up. (I can't, because I have large, slow, clumsy hands.)

I actually had no idea of how excessive this could be until I looked a bit more into Starcraft, which is pretty much the most widely played RTS out there (and the one most full of fun-sucking features).

According to this page, 50 "actions per minute" (i.e. how many things you do in that span of time) are typical of a "casual" player. To be counted as "proficient," you must reach three times that.

Then there's this guy.

When he says "spam," he's talking about his "APM" (actions per minute), which is unnecessarily high. How unnecessarily high?

If I'm reading correctly, he breaks 700 APM at least once, and may have broken 800.

That's not human, man.

What really, truly bothers me about this nonsense?

The fact that it basically turns your units not into soldiers and bases under your command, but your Borg drones under the command of your overmind. (This might not be inappropriate if you were playing as the Zerg or Total Annihilation's Core or something, seeing as how they're hive minds/huge AI networks; but for human based races or independent-minded ones, even telepaths, it seems radically inappropriate.)

I actually just had a thought as to how to integrate an anti-micro tool into an engine without reducing skill level.

There's a game called Achron which is currently under development. (The developers are using a system where they allow preorder customers to download the beta, so it's playable now.) In the game, you can give commands to units in the past, and it will alter the game's present.

The further in the past the orders you give are, the more "energy" you use up, and if you don't have any of this kind of energy, you can't influence the past until you generate more.

Why restrict this to orders to the past?

In the real world, flinging out senselessly huge numbers of commands would do nothing but confuse the troops and cause endless radio static. Using a system based on Achron's past-controlling model, you have a set amount of "order power" that you can give out, and excessive micromanagement will hurt your ability to respond to changes.

Achron also has systems like slaving units to "commanders" so that orders to the commanding unit will be followed by its "squad." This was implemented to allow more efficient use of order-giving in the past with limited capacity; obviously, it can be put to the same use in this hypothetical present-play model.

The orders to the past would not necessarily be part of the game, of course.

Another idea which I like, which was already implemented in the game Kohan II, involves actively in battle being unable to receive hyper-specific orders. Once a squad in Kohan engages, you can only give it two orders: Retreat or rout (i.e. throw the group into a retreating panic). This prevents ranged unit focus fire micro, among other things.

I complain about the gameplay aspect being ludicrous, but the flavor-based aspect is even worse, really. It's harder to have fun when things don't make some kind of in-universe sense.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Game Review: Cellcraft

Cellcraft is an educational game where you control a single lonely cell.

It's an educational game, fun, and appropriate for everyone.

You need to produce cellular structures and maintain the cell, and I must give kudos to the creator for making this fun rather than annoying. It would have been very possible to mess a game like this up royally.

The game has a story, but I'm keeping quiet about it, because it'd kind of ruin it to talk about it. Suffice it to say that it's amusing and actually has rather little to do with cells.

I kind of can't come up with a lot to say about it, because it's a simple premise with self-explanatory game play (the whole thing is a tutorial, for that matter) and a story that I don't want to ruin. (Though you should see it coming yourself pretty easily, not that that's a bad thing. It is a kid-oriented game, after all.)

This is a very good game, and if it sounds even vaguely interesting, you should try it out.

-Signing off.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Golden Age Moment of the Day (40)

From Space War #2 (Golden Age Comics blah blah free download blah blah)...

I kind of don't like the word "formless." It doesn't really mean anything useful. And most of those other words-"semi-transparent," "shimmering," "streaking," "utter darkness"-don't apply to those ships or are redundant/ridiculous in space.

They're spaceships, by the way...

-Signing off.

Friday, July 16, 2010

CD Player from OUTER SPACE

(Today was a bit of a rough day, so no post over at the Writing Blog. My sister had a bit of a setback for one of her webcomics, so the day was kind of draining.)

Sometimes I derive a lot of amusement out of little things.

The little thing this time around was a new CD player. (Yes, for you iPod freaks, I listen to CDs. I like them. Plus, they can actually be a tad cheaper than buying individual songs on iTunes or whatever. It's 99 cents a song, right? I recently picked up a CD for under ten dollars with twelve songs.)

Anyway, this CD player is partly replacing an older one. I had asked for one that was a bit smaller, and this one indeed fulfilled that request, being perhaps a third smaller in volume than its predecessor. (It also has a randomizing button, which is nice.) But what I really like about it is that it's a very pretty, rather space age little thing:

(You might recognize this fancy photography stand, which is actually just a mild-mannered kitchen stool, from this post, where I put it to the same purpose.) It also reminds me of an insect's head. It looks a bit like an ant's head particularly.

As for my sister, she wants to hug it. Yes, really. That was literally the first thing to come out of her mouth.

My sister is awesome.

Anyway, it also has one of those slowly rising spring-loaded latching lids. This thing will probably wear out inside of three years (especially since I'm prone to playing with it), but I love it anyway.

I mean, it's reminiscent of a car hood or the "brain hood" of a cartoon robot. That's pretty cool.

And now for some terrible photography!

I can't take clear pictures to save my life. My hands shake like there's an earthquake when I try to hold them still for it, and sometimes the camera's anti-shaking sensor won't even let the camera go off. (My sister provided the above photographs, by the by.)

Usually, it just results in awful pictures, but sometimes it makes something amusing instead, such as this rather nifty blurring effect:

It's interesting that all the blurs are in one direction from the main image. (It's also interesting that they're all on the CD player.)

Then there's this interesting little image, which is the result of a certain camera-happy dog trying to hog the spotlight:

I've never seen this effect with a modern camera-at least, never seen events that cause it to happen by accident. (That's my hand and arm yoinking her out of the way, of course.)

I never know how to wrap up these silly little trivial posts...

-Signing off.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Total Annihilation: Kingdoms

I've waxed on a bit now and again about Total Annihilation, one of the early greats of the Real Time Strategy genre. (Great why? It depends on who you ask. Some say it's because it was the first game of its kind with combat physics instead of percentage-based combat systems. Of course, increasingly it seems kind of like lots of RTS games are moving away from physics... Other than Spring, which hardly counts.)

I don't recall mentioning TA: Kingdoms, the black sheep of the TA family.

There's nothing wrong with it (based on the demo, which I've played, and which can still be found for free just about everywhere-watch out, though, the only site I saw a "free full download" hit for was called "The Pirate Bay"), and in fact, my sister adored it. Mostly because, in her words, the Zhon monarch was super-sexy. (If you're wondering, the Zhon monarch, Thirsha IIRC, was some kind of elf demon/bat person... thing.)

Well, I'm sure there was more to it than that...

Anyway, as I've intimated, it isn't too popular and is even less well known than TA (which isn't really hugely famous despite getting ranked high in most lists that rank that kind of thing-it's been number one on at least one top ten). Some TA players blame it moving away from TA's science fiction roots into a more sword-and-sorcery/dark fantasy paradigm, but the success of games like Warcraft and Kohan put the lie to that.

No, I think the problem with TA: K is subtler and more insidious than that.

In Total Annihilation, there were two factions, each led by a Commander (which I mentioned as one of the all-time greatest mecha here), a nearly all-powerful unit that could kill nearly anything, go nearly anywhere, build armies from scratch, capture units for one's own use, regenerate, and even turn invisible. (This was notable mostly because, in the first version of the game, it was pretty much the only unit that actually could turn invisible.)

In TA: K, they follow the same model, only with four "kingdoms" led by four "monarchs." The monarchs were more differentiated (one flew, one could turn invisible, one could resurrect units, one... um, I don't remember if the other one did anything special other than having a seeking attack, which unlike what Wikipedia will tell you, most of the monarchs did [in the demo, anyway]... Then there was the fifth race that was added in an expansion pack, and all I can tell you about that is that their monarch was some kind of clockwork tank guy), had magical attacks that were in ways at least even better than the TA Commanders' D-guns, and in-story were the four immortal siblings that warred with each other for domination of... someplace or another. It doesn't matter much, since the studio that made TA, Cavedog, was never big on story except in grand scope and vague terms.

Anyway, here's the issue: If playing outside of story mode, it is perfectly possible to have four to eight (or more) identical monarchs. In effect, up to however many identical unique immortals. This blows every circuit in my gameplay flavor-loving brain all at once.

In TA, of course, that kind of thing was never an issue. TA's Commanders were one-ofs in the storyline, but it was strongly implied that there had once been many dozens or hundreds on each side early in the war. Anyway, even if that hadn't been the case, they're still mechs, and thus easily replicated.

But in TA: K, it just doesn't quite work.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Free Antivirus (is not angst-free)

You know what I hate? Free antivirus programs that have misleading renewal notices that make it look like they can only be purchased.

Aside from the fact that a misleading notice like this is probably how these guys make most of their money (i.e. it's scammy), it's very frustrating. If I was willing to pay for the darned thing, I think I would have opted for that a long time ago, guys. I actually got rid of an old antivirus because it gave me one of these notices (and I didn't figure out what was up with it until I had well and truly resolved I was never going to use the program again-it had some problems anyway). I almost decided to do the same thing when its replacement did the same thing, but this time around, I'm going to respond with less annoyance. Mostly.

Of course, I didn't bother blogging about it last time, but when this kind of thing happens repeatedly, you take note.

Frickin' almost-scammers.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Golden Age Moment(s) of the Day (39)

As these panels from Space Smith (from Fantastic Comics #7) demonstrate...

...there's nothing quite like Golden Age comic book monsters.

Well, maybe old video game monsters...

-Signing off.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Game Review: Backyard Buzzing

A bit over a year ago, I reviewed (well, the title says profiled) a game called Swarm Assault. I noted there that it's pretty fun as games where you're trying to control bugs go (with all the difficulties of controlling bugs implied in that statement inherent in the game).

Backyard Buzzing is a superficially similar game where you have colonies and insects, and wage war with other insects.

There is an extensive ranking of which insect types are the strongest.

Don't worry about it-it's irrelevant.


Because the strongest strategy is ant spam. (Ant spam, ant spam, ant spam! ANT SPAM! *cough* Now imagine that to the tune of the old Batman theme song.)

Not just ant spam, but ant *tower* spam.

See, Backyard Buzzing has elements of being an RTS, but it's really a poorly designed tower defense game.

Poorly designed because there's no good balance, or cost vs. reward system for "teching up" to the stronger insect types. Or rather, there's no good reward. Sure, each new variety is a bit tougher than the last, with stronger attacks (oh, yeah, they all shoot instead of attack with insect attacks, but it's not as varied or interesting as Swarm Assault) and a bit more health, but it's not really worth the investment. Why?

Well, first, in order to reach the more advanced unit types, you need to shell out rather a lot for their colonies. If you review the list above, the "louse dome" costs five times what the ant one does, for something like twice the health. The "small beetles" themselves cost five times what the individual ants do... for a tiny bonus of perhaps 20% more health and damage. They have no other advantages at all. So you use ants, or you use far fewer guys.

It isn't any better for even the lowest possible upgrade, the Spider Dome, which actually costs 350, not 250, because you have to have an Ant Dome first and upgrade it into the Spider Dome. And the spiders have at most a 10% damage/toughness advantage over the ants, while costing almost three times as much.

Oh, yeah, and guess why turrets are better than mobile guys?

Because they cost maybe 40% more than the regular guys, but are something like three times as tough, with at least three times the firing rate. A cheap ant tower will kill on the order of five times its cost in lice/small beetles, while five cheap ant towers will kill many dozens of times their cost in anything. (This is particularly important because you make money by killing things.)

There are other odd bits, like a persistent recurring bug that keeps you from advancing and the fact that your units and structures can't be repaired, or the truly evil fact that you can sell a badly damaged unit/structure and then buy a fresh one, but the balance is atrocious enough already without going into it.

And oh, yeah, the bugs are morons that have a hard time finding their way out of paper bags.

I'd suggest that you can have fun with it two or three times, but more than that and it gets grating. Just remember, if you have trouble, ant spamming never fails.

-Signing off.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Game Review: Crush the Castle 2

(Don't feel real up to an update over at the Writing Blog, but at least I still have a bit of content here, eh?)

Not too long ago, I reviewed a game called Crush the Castle.

I should have taken a look around the site, because there's a sequel to it, obviously named Crush the Castle 2 (real creative, guys).

Crush the Castle 2 is pretty much a fix for the first game-it adds a whole bunch of features that the first one could have used.

Explosive castle pieces, for instance.

And precision bombs with which to set them off.

This castle literally flies apart-and I do mean literally-when that chain reaction finishes.

There's also more general variety in all aspects of gameplay. There are more different kinds of little people to kill, more different kinds of projectiles of every kind, and even an entirely new variety of projectile, the special effect projectile (provided by a wizard).

And when playing custom castles, a special projectile of epic sort is available.

Three notes: Yes, that is a black hole (the black hole alters the game's gravity in its area, and when it dissipates, the altered gravity reverses, flinging everything away from itself); in this game, instead of corpses, victims of your barrages leave behind indestructible tombstones; and I made that "castle," Wizards of the Coast (in-joke alert) because it was funny.

I did submit it to the online custom database, but that thing doesn't work very well, I'm afraid, and while there's a share feature, that works even worse. Here, I'm playing it in the Castle Builder test screen.

The black hole projectile has an interesting quirk: The little guys tend to croak when they hit anything or anything hits them, even the ground if tipped over slightly, but there's one circumstance in which they don't-if they get grabbed by a black hole while there's nothing else for it to grab. I made a second "castle" that played with this.

What happens?

Well, I named the castle "Twofer (seriously)." (Refer to above notice about its status in the castle database.) Why?

Because, even though there's only one guy, you can make two kills. (For some reason, if he flies offscreen while still alive, when he dies he counts as two deaths. Maybe there's someone on set standing just off camera that he smacks into?)

This game is very similar to its predecessor, but more fun. If you play either of them, play this one-the first one isn't necessary.

-Signing off.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Supreme Commander Vs...

(Kinda tired and lazy today, so I figure I'll just spam my readers with video embeds and see what happens... Did I type that out?)

So I've occasionally talked about the old game Total Annihilation, and its spiritual fan-made successor Spring. I've never mentioned Supreme Commander (except offhandedly once), which was the creator-created spiritual successor (he no longer works with the company that owns the rights to the game).

From what I've heard, Supreme Commander was generally seen as either mediocre or outright bad (depending on whom you ask-Total Annihilation fans actually are more critical of it than the general public).

Spring fans?

Well, most of them were TA fans first, and they have access to a rather similar free engine.

The fact that Spring is an engine and not a game can't really be emphasized enough. The following three videos are all taken from Spring "mods" (modules or modifications), i.e. discrete games.

(Respectively, P.U.R.E., a mod that is intended to evoke TA while being distinct from it; a Star Wars-inspired game; and a WWII-based game.)

So Spring gives you your choice of any number of free poisons. There's even Nanoblobs, a public domain mod. (Most Spring content is free already; Nanoblobs is free to steal for your own use. You could even technically change its name and other minor details and then sell it, although you'd be pure evil if you did.)

So, yeah, Spring >> Supreme Commander.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Space Crazy Comics: Mission Into Time

From Space Action #3, Mission Into Time is one of those nutty stories that is insane on several levels.

We are told that would-be astronauts have been failing for decades... since the good old days of 2014, when the first launch was attempted. (The story's present is in 2035.) The world watches a rocket launch with baited bated breath.

It doesn't go well.

Two additional panels establish that the dude works feverishly for several months on some kind of secret project to solve the problem.

Which is naturally not a spacecraft, revolutionary or otherwise, at all.

DUDE. If you can build a functioning time machine, you don't need dangerous, dirty, unreliable rockets. You DUMMY. (Also, note how cheerful he is about possibly messing up distant future history.)

As the time traveler goes through poor-man's Ditko space, we see that the writer has a quirky grasp of terminology:

Yeah, I wouldn't get into a disintegrating time machine, myself.

The future looks... Well, just take a look.

Things might have gone better if he hadn't made the faux pas of calling the locals' head scientist fat.

Okay, so that's not what he said, but it amuses me. (Also, note that the ray gun in the foreground. Its control dial appears to say [something] "VOLUM.")

They are suspicious of him, because history says there is no such thing as time travel in 2035.

Learn your basic science, and maybe I'll take your history seriously, 'kay? (Also, Peace Guards is peculiarly ominous, innit?)

Anyway, they imprison him, and he sees a space station out the window, and gets excited about it... at the precise moment somebody arrives to interrogate him.

He beats up the interrogator and the guards, steals a uniform, and scrooches somebody.

(To get some idea of what I mean by "scrooched," look here.)

He finds a futuristic vehicle and uses it to get around in search of a way onto the space station... Because of course he's going to find conveniently grouped complete plans for the space station on board, right?

The highway looks unsafe to me.

He discovers that there's an automatic payment system in place, which eases his travel considerably.

Notice that, as he mentioned, everybody has a number but no name.

FYI, the left poster says "(URA)NUS/ORMATUN/URY HILS" (huh?) while the right says "SEE MARS/MARSPOR(T HO)TEL." You're welcome.

He boards the passenger rocket. It's a fairly cool one.

He is forced to evade some guards and such, and comes upon the plans, all in the "proper" office.

Note the completely wonky description of what things do, and further that apparently, a formula that would presumably be reasonably common knowledge is put in with the "classified" papers.

However, he gets caught before escaping. Somehow, they think he's going to steal their papers (ahahahahaha-they still have paper) and don't notice his miniaturized watch, which they presumably would have had a better version of.

He decides to try to bluff his way out, and the future people being idiots...

...he succeeds.

Sadly, he actually points out the aforementioned possible use for the time machine without seeming to realize it.

They take him to the ship, he gets them to let him in it and close it up, and he goes home, albeit with a passenger. He and the doctor send the passenger back to the future, but then the doctor dies of sudden heart failure.

And so...

...Yeah, who could have imagined that?

This story rattles back between just stupid and stupid funny like it's stuck on the tail of a venomous snake.

-Signing off.