Category Archives: movies

Joe Danger 2, a colorful crash course in prodigious puns

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To my honest surprise, I enjoyed Trials Evolution despite having no appreciation or interest in all things motorcycle riders traversing over obstacles. In my youth, I did do some light biking with friends, but it was mostly bunny hops over curbs or riding on the back pegs for a period of time. Nothing crazy or life-threatening. I could also ride handless down a hill, but those skills have certainly vanished since that lifetime. If Trials Evolution is all broken necks and flailing limbs, then Joe Danger 2: The Movie is bouncy castles and winky faces. That’s not a bad thing.

Joe Danger 2: The Movie was recently given out to PlayStation Plus subscribers for free, and so I immediately downloaded and then forgot about it. No time, people. I have no time for racing platformers. Well, maybe I do, considering this write-up. Anyways, the plot, which should really just be called “its reason for existence,” is as follows: Joe has gained favor with a movie director in Hollywood and has been hired to perform all the stunts on set. The movie consists entirely of cliché action stunts, such as chase scenes on mini carts, skis, and police bikes, and obstacle courses with jetpacks and tricycles and other crazy things. And so you go through a number of movie scenarios, each with their own specific missions, trying to earn stars and complete tasks to move on to the next theatrical adventure. Pretty straightforward stuff.

For some reason, I was not expecting puns. At least not this many. Joe Danger 2: The Movie is crazy in love with puns, as they should be. As we all should be.  Here’s a sampling of some movie level names: Lord of the Springs, Gulp Fiction, Das Boost, Temple of Boom, Dr. Snow, A View to Chill, Coldfinger, Doom Raider, Indiana Bones, and so on. I love them. I genuinely do, and for me, they help transform a rather by-the-books racing platforming game–collect items like stars/bananas/the letters to spell DANGER, do specific tasks like 100% combos, finish the level, and move on–into something quite endearing.

Getting through the levels is rather easy. In truth, I could blow through this game in one or two sittings, but I’m instead taking my time and trying to complete some of the side missions within each level. This is where the game can become a bit more like Trials Evolution, close to the point of frustrating. Physics and time limits and hidden paths/items are all constraints that make finishing a level and doing other stuff a struggle. Thankfully, the puns, colorful commentary from the director, and bright look to the game keep things from becoming too dark.

The next movie level Joe Danger must perform in is called Eggstinction, set in prehistoric times. I fully expect to drown in dinosaur-based puns.

Welcome to Jurassic Park: The Game

If you know me well enough, or have had the golden opportunity to hang out with my wife Tara, then chances are you know how obsessed we are with Jurassic Park. Not the film series, but the first film–in truth, the only film. Actually, I’m also extremely fond of Michael Crichton’s novel, where it all began, as it was one of the first books I read as a youngling; I think I last reread it a few years ago and it still managed to impress. But you’d really know how dino crazy we are because when a perfect spot opens up for a Jurassic Park quote, we fill it, and we fill it fast. Occasionally, we don’t even need a reason. She likes these zingers:

  • “Maybe it’s the power trying to come back on?”
  • “Mr. Hammond, the phones are working.”

I usually go with:

  • “Hold on to your butts.”

What then follows is us reenacting about every other line of dialogue from the film and then a heavy sadness as we don’t actually own a copy and can’t watch the glorious gem at any given point. These days, you have to buy a box set of all three films, and that’s not up our alley. Anyways, we love Jurassic Park, and so when in GameStop the other day we saw Jurassic Park: The Game for relatively cheap and picked it up. I’ve had some experience with other works from Telltale Games and enjoyed what they did there, but I did head back to Isla Nublar with trepidation.

It’s an adventure game akin to Heavy Rain more than an adventure game akin to Back to the Future: The Game. The action scenes are all about Quick Time Events (QTE), and the rest of the playing involves looking around scenes, talking to whoever is with you, and figuring out the right combination of actions. So far, from what I can tell, the story is split between Gerry Harding and his daughter and the mysterious Nima Cruz who is trying to find Nedry’s Barbasol can of dino DNA, and there are constant nods to the movie, which is always great. Sadly, the game looks pretty terrible, but not enough to scare us away immediately.

Just getting started with these, many of which are awesomely named:


Welcome to Jurassic Park (20G): Escaped the jungle.


I’m a Hacker (20G): Showed your jungle hacking chops.


The First Dinosaurs on our Tour (20G): Survived the two-crested lizard.

Looking forward to playing more, but just like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7, this is a game best played with a partner, and so I will wait until Tara has some more free time. Right now, she’s hard at work on a short comic that I wrote, and we will hopefully be able to share it with the universe very soon. Sorry, no, it’s not about dinosaurs. This time.

Be like Bolton, and get back to the good part!

In honor of today’s big Purchase of the Month–that’d be LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, not Brink, which is getting horrible review scores–I give you Michael Bolton crooning over Jack Sparrow’s fantastical adventures:

“Big sexy hook” doesn’t even begin to describe this work of art.

Living the LEGO life of a pirate

The demo for LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game begins with a young Elizabeth Swan punching a parrot in its face. It’s pure zaniness, but that’s what these LEGO games have always been about–retellings with a special touch. If you’re not laughing, you’re not having fun.

I started to play this demo by myself, but when Tara saw what I was doing, she quickly grabbed another controller and joined in on the fun. We’ve always enjoyed playing the LEGO games together, especially LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which was very close to us in terms of interests. Here’s a comic I did many moons ago about our time with LEGO Batman (the weakest of all the LEGO titles actually):

Much of the demo for LEGO Pirates (I’m shortening the title from now on) is actually cutscenes, setting the story up and giving Tara and I many reasons to giggle. The entire game will cover all four movies. We’re playing the first level of the Curse of the Black Pearl, which has Jack Sparrow arriving in town and getting locked up, Elizabeth accidentally summoning those cursed pirates and getting herself kidnapped, and Will Turner slowly becoming allies with a wanted criminal.

The first playable part of the demo is inside Will Turner’s workshop. One player controls Will, and the other controls, um, some guy I can’t remember the name of. His partner? Together, we broke items, collected studs, fed a carrot to a donkey, and repaired a machine, which revealed where Jack Sparrow was hiding. Then it was time for a sword-fight high up in the rafters, and even though I was just mashing the attack button, the swords clinked and clanked and swung wildly, giving the impression of a real duel to the death.

The next area has us controlling Will and Jack, trying to break our way out of jail. This involves using a dog and sniffing out keys. Once we’re done this area, we’re outside in the shiny, bright sunshine, attempting to get to the docks to steal a ship. Tara takes control of Jack and the laughs hit a high when he hops on top of a barrel and begins rolling around with it. We get to do some combat with some soldiers, and then we’re over by a ship, trying to figure out how to commandeer it. Staying in the water too long gets you eaten by a shark. After solving the rather simple puzzles and zip-lining over onto the ship, the demo ends, leaving us wanting more.

However, after playing the main part of the demo, you can go back and do “free play” on the first level, which just gave us an excuse to try out some other fun characters and explore a few locked areas. Tara ran me over several times with a donkey, and then we were officially done for the night.

So, the gameplay is exactly what we’ve all come to expect. For some, that might seem like a downer. However, it’s still the sort of gameplay I like, as it is not too intense for co-op play, and just enough of a collectathon for my OCD. Granted, there are not as many memorable characters to unlock in LEGO Pirates as there were in LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter, but I think it’ll still be a blast to control Bootstrap Bill.

The full retail version releases tomorrow, and I’m gonna get that booty faster than you can say, “Oh, barnacles!”

Five things make a post, or it’s time to Ragnarök!

5. The next Assassin’s Creed game has been revealed, and it’s titled Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Please note that it, like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, is missing a number in it. What does that mean? ::shrugs:: The newest game is rumored to be the last for Italian superstar Ezio, bringing his journey full circle to line up with Altair and Desmond. And the multiplayer aspect is coming back, too, which I think is fantastic. I never expected myself to become so interested in this series after its lukewarm first game experience, but here I am, waiting and wondering. Comes out this November, probably right around the same time as TES V: Skyrim, just to mess with me.

4. The Arbiter, upgraded to level 3 and rocking a tingling Shock Omega mod, is currently my weapon of choice in Ratchet: Deadlocked. This thing is just a beast, taking out dropships in two shots. Mmm:

3. As much as I adore Norse mythology, I’m not interested in the slightest over this new movie Thor. I mean, if I want to look at cheese, I’ll open my refrigerator. That said, there’s a browser-based game called Thor: Bring the Thunder! and it looks simply gorgeous. Colorful 16-bit sprites in what one could describe as Mega Man with a lightning-fused hammer. However, I think a better title would’ve been Thor: Time to Ragnarök!

2. I downloaded two demos on the Xbox 360 yesterday: LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean and Red Faction: Armageddon. Unfortunately, due to time restraints and the constant distraction that is Netflix, I’ve not been able to try either of these yet, but will most likely give ‘em a run over the weekend. Not expecting much from the latest Red Faction title, but I do love me some LEGO action. Hope it’s as fun as the movies were (well, the first movie at least).

1. I finally earned the highest amount of G in the latest bazaar in Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar. This meant selling everything I had in my bag, including a huge piece of gold I was lucky enough to find attached to my body after jumping into the river seven times. I was so excited for this as I knew that the highest seller won a prize from the mayor. Maybe it was a trophy? Or a huge bag of gold? Or his daughter’s hand in marriage? No. No, it wasn’t any of those. I won a bottle of milk. Ffffffffffffff.

And that, dear Grinding Down readers, has certainly been a post.

Chomping and wall-jumping my way to fun in Monster Tale

My current stats for Monster Tale say that I’ve now played the game for three hours and five minutes, clearing 28.4% of everything. I think this is an excellent stopping point to hand out some free impressions about Ellie’s journey into the unknown. To start—it’s super fun. The story is light and bouncy, and kind of reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoon plotline: a bunch of kids leave home to become rulers of a foreign realm where they also enslave monsters to do their evil work. Enter Ellie, a young, spritely girl who stumbles upon a magical band (the thing you wear on your arm, not the thing you pay too much to see perform badly live) and an egg which hatches into a powerful monster. Jealous of her connection to Chomp, these unmanaged kids seek to steal back what they believe is rightfully theirs.

Much like how Shadow Complex was done in honor of Super Metroid, Monster Tale feels to be honoring the same game, as well as the Castlevania titles for the Nintendo DS. The overall aesthetic is friendly, with bright colors and cuddly enemy lifeforms, and I simply love that the save rooms are in libraries, and that to save you press up on the D-pad. It feels so good to save. Ellie can use either a melee attack or shoot balls of energy from her band; I’ve found that melee is most often the way to go, and the better your combo for killing, the greater your monetary reward is. Or sometimes you’ll get a slice of cold pizza. Win-win, really.

The platforming…it’s solid, but a little slow to start with. Thank goodness for the wall-jump ability, which makes backtracking and traveling in general smoother. You travel left and right, up and down, and there’s definitely obvious sections that will be accessed later after you’ve acquired the right ability. The usual platforming pitfalls prevail, too, with ledges that vanish upon touch, ones that bounce her high into the air, and others that move back and forth.

Chomp’s a nice addition to the party. He mostly attacks enemies on the top DS screen, and regains health on the bottom one, as well as devours food, kicks soccer balls, and learns new skills. The eating animations for him are made of pure smiles. So far, he’s learned several forms to evolve into, and the one I’m currently upgrading is called Wrecker, which means he enjoys exploding, meat, and exercise. That might sound silly until I tell you that his previous form loved ice cream. And here’s where it gets really RPG-like; each Chomp form levels up on its own, gaining stats from whatever you have him eat or how he attacks enemies; players can switch between forms on the fly, too, without the fear of losing all that hard-earned experience.

My only irks so far is that, on occasion, Ellie will roll forward when I actually want her to jump down to the ledge below. Also, the noise that plays when text scrolls along—does that have a name?—is annoying and not needed. Remember, silence is golden.

Boss battles are good, but I’m worried they are all gonna be too much alike, wherein Ellie fights one of the kids and a monster they control. Doesn’t take long to learn the patterns, and the toughest parts is just keeping Ellie’s health up as there’s no way to replenish it during a battle sequence. Regardless, I’m looking forward to giving Priscilla a smackdown. She reminds me of Darla Dimple from that 1997 classic Cats Don’t Dance.

But yeah, almost one-third of my way through Monster Tale and loving it immensely. It’s definitely proof that this pre-3DS system still has a lot to say. Stay tuned for more coverage.

For some strange reason, Netflix is coming to the Nintendo 3DS

Let’s clear this up at the beginning: I’m a huge fan of Netflix, and I’ve only had the service for about two months now. It’s wonderful and stocked with stuff to watch, and Tara and I use it more for TV shows than actual movies, but it works when we need it, perfect for background noise, and I’ve yet to have any kind of problems streaming media. For the first month free and then $8.00 every month thereafter, it’s a strong package, hard not to want.

That said, the fact that, according to this report from Kotaku, Netflix is going to be available on the Nintendo 3DS makes me laugh. And not like “ha ha I’m so happy I’m giggling” but rather “ha ha did you see that idiot stick his tongue to the frozen pole hee.” Sure, portable Netflix sounds dreamy, but considering the weak battery life of the Nintendo 3DS, as well as the teeny tiny screens and limited audio (unless using headphones), I can’t see much use for it. Oh sure, it’s biggest billing for the 3DS will be streaming 3D programming, but considering one has to hold the device in such a precise manner to get the full 3D effect, would someone really want to hold it like so for 30 minutes? An hour? A twelve-hour Lord of the Rings marathon? Methinksnot.

Sorry, Netflix. You can just stay on my Xbox 360 for now.

Games Completed in 2011, #7 – Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game

I grew up on a decent diet of beat-em-up titles, such as Streets of Rage 3, Double Dragon, and Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. This genre was perfect for me at the time, a boy not very interested in reading or learning about stats, as well as a kid often mooching off friends’ systems on the weekends, and brawlers like such were made for two players. Beat-em-ups are as simple as their namesake, and all I knew was that there were some bad guys that needed beating up and mashing the buttons often worked well. Good enough for me, and–many, many years later–good enough for Scott Pilgrim.

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game is, besides a mouthful, a downloadable 2D side-scrolling brawler. It’s based way more on the book series that inspired the movie than the movie itself, which is a golden surprise to many, I’m sure. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series is brimming with videogame tropes and nods, even more that Edgar Wright could fit into the theatrical release, and a good number of these references make their way into the game. And what a game it is. First, we have sprites and animations done by the legendary Paul Robertson; second, we have a bouncy, chiptastic soundtrack from Anamanaguchi; and third, we have a strangely fun mix of River City Ransom and The Simpsons Arcade Game.

SPVTWTG is also extremely difficult. I think that should be evident from the fact that I downloaded this around the time the movie dropped (early Fall 2010), and only got around to finishing off Gideon last week…on the EASIEST difficulty. The game starts out really hard, gets easier once you’ve gotten some EXP and food to go, and then gets hard in a cruel way for the final boss battle. Some of the designs in here are pretty retro, like having to start an entire level over again if you lose all your lives. It’s not enjoyable, but it makes sense.

SPVTWTG, like many brawlers, features co-op play. This is good and bad, and I’m speaking from experience here, as playing with a second character does not necessarily make things easier. Why? Well, Scott can punch Kim or accidentally pick her up or have to constantly reanimate her fallen body. It can be a distraction, and yet it can also be a blessing, but the majority of time the two characters end up hurting each other more than helping. We can also blame the lackluster d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller, which doesn’t make manuevering like sailing on butter. Because of this, the final boss level became extra frustrating, and I eventually had to tackle it solo (sorry, Tara!) after I had leveled Scott up as far as he could go and discovered the secret code for the Sword of Love.

I still don’t understand or love the RPG elements here. Gut Points and Heart Points and shopping for EXP instead of getting it from kicking evil henchmen’s asses. It’s a little odd, and sadly encourages grinding for coins. Thankfully, the punching and kicking and throwing and hyper combos are a lot of fun, and the enemy designs extremely varied. I personally loved all the crazy robots in the Techno Base level, even if I was sick of fighting them at that point.

So, I’ve beaten this once, with Scott. Supposedly, if you complete the game with the remaining characters (Kim, Ramona, Steven) you’ll unlock Nega-Scott as a striker. Don’t know if that’s enough incentive for me to try again, especially considering how long it took me to do this one time. We’ll see…

Stop dreaming about the Inception videogame spin-off

…cause it might be happening. And that just really puts a damper on a great thing, an original and wonderful IP that is now on its way down the ; they can’t just let things be. Here’s what Inception filmmaker Christopher Nolan had to say about it all during a press conference celebrating the movie’s debut in Italy:

“We are looking at doing is developing a videogame based on the world of the film, which has all kinds of ideas that you can’t fit into a feature film. That’s something we’ve been talking about and are looking at doing long term, in a couple of years.”

Hmm. Sounds like to me that someone dove deep into his dreams and planted this idea there to grow slowly and carefully. ::ahem cough:: Cobb ::cough cough:: Right. Well, I don’t want this to happen, and here’s why: it works better as a movie than a videogame. Sure, you can see aspects here and there where it is obvious to do something videogame-like; for instance, the dreams within a dream within a dream all feature unique, starkingly different landscapes, and that’s what videogame developers excel at, creating a snow world and then a fire world and a lush jungle world. Heck, Ariadne’s job would be more or less Little Big Planet, which already exists, so go play that. Then the bulk of action feels like a third-person cover-based shooter, but it could also dabble in Metal Gear Solid stealth. See, there’s just too much to pull from, and no clear direction or idea as to how an Inception videogame should be created. The only glimmer of hope here is that it won’t be a rushed licensed game pushed down the factory line to get it out on time to coincide with the movie’s release date. Something good could be done, but it just doesn’t need to. The movie–and the world(s) within–was more than enough.

Besides, didn’t they already make an Inception videogame?

Methinkstheydid.