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Category Archives: Reviews


I’m too lazy to blog, so there won’t be a post today. Sorry.

But here’s a post from my friend and partner Percy.

Enjoy.

sslp1 (1)

dat parental advisory label was hard earned

hallo my name is percy i will be giving you teh good review 4 today

i dont even know what aspect to approach dis album from

is messed up album

wrong and disturbing to point of non forgiving

ten again slim shaddy is messed up

i am to find it very interest when wikipedia defines genre of dis album as

“horrorcore”

if you live under a dwayne johnson,

core of horror is basically hop hip that is to bringing the nightmares

sums up album perfectly

contains promising track titles that i do not believe i having the ability to be mention

great images such as

“she beat me over the head with the remote control

opened a hole, and my whole brain fell out of my skull”

or

“and by the way, when you see my dad

tell him that I slit his throat in this dream I had”

fun for the whole family

you will feel like terrible person for laughing

despite very graphic imagery

if you are to look past

enimem has the good lyrics

very good timing of rhyming

sometimes he is to be making good flow

only to be interrupted by more violence

but without dis album

eminem would’ve just been underground famous

for da ep he made year before dis album

critics loved it and sold like hot cakes

made rolling stone top 500

but the hot cakes are just fancy saying of the pancakes

so apparently everyones is to loving the pancakes

parents and de moral peoples hated this album

for reasons i do not even have to be explaining

plus at the time it was terrible for kids to be listening

to songs that were the talking about drug overdose and suicide and bullying

in fact i do believing it still is bad

always to be thinking of the children

got in big trouble with the popos for badmouthing (in big fancy words they are to using the word “slander”)

but still everyone and they mom know chorus to “my name is”

and that is what it to be coming down to in the end

legacy dat it holds

and it holds up quite well for debut album

is not a college dropout

but at least is not a pablo honey

(Percy, Pablo Honey isn’t a rap albu–)

ALL LOOK SAME THANK YOU FOR TEH GOOD READING DRIVE SAFE

~~~P~~~

 

 

 

 



Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to the this long-overdue game review! You like my new layout? Of course you do, cuz if not I’ll have to suspend your subscription.

Sega is mainly famous for one series and one series only–Sonic the Hedgehog. Becoming the breakout series that popularized the Sega Genesis, Sonic’s fame on the Genesis in 1991 quickly propelled him into such fame that Sega humbly honored him as the company mascot. Over 20 years later, Sonic’s gotten his gloved hands on countless consoles, but recently he’s been struck with a curse. And any gamer that’s played any Sonic game from Sonic 2006 to now would easily see that curse. Y’see, when Sonic 2006 came out it was universally panned by critics. When Sonic Unleashed came out two years later, it received an average outlook with most critics siding against one another. The 2-part Sonic 4 series received equally mixed says from critics, but Sonic Colors seemed to very gradually balance the scales a bit more. And that, folks, is what lead us all the way up to this point in the curse. Can this game be enough to break Sonic’s curse, or will his future crumble faster than he can run?

As Sonic’s thirteenth console game (and his fifth within his curse), Sonic Generations had big shoes to fill. Not only did it have to balance the curse, it had to also stand out as an actually good game. And there’s one reason how Generations could just pull it off–it’s a game partially created to celebrate the Blue Blur’s twentieth anniver–sorry, “birthday”. And Sega’s decided to make that official by having Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Cream, and more of Sonic’s comrades throw him a surprise birthday party complete with a cake decorated with Sonic’s trademark insignia. Needless to say, Sonic is touched and humbled by his friends’ work, but before he can celebrate with his buddies the party is crashed by the mysterious Time Eater. Not only does it butt in on the celebration, but it vacuums everyone of Sonic’s friends throw different “time holes” to scatter them through different time periods in Sonic history.

After getting knocked out cold by the Eater, Sonic awakens in the strange “White Space” dimension where colorless and lifeless time and space winds up. Sonic manages to rescue his closest ally Tails and as they journey to save the rest of their friends they suddenly discover the younger Genesis-era versions of themselves, known respectively as “Classic Sonic” and “Classic Tails”. As the two generations of Tails come to one term that the Time Eater is using his actions to hurt time and space itself, both generations of Sonic race through time to discover and save their friends. The game’s 20-year time cycle is split into three eras: the Classic era (SonicSonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles), the Dreamcast era (Sonic Adventure 1-3), and the Modern era (Sonic HeroesSonic ColorsSonic 2006). Classic Sonic plays his game in a 2D side-scroller perspective, but his Modern equivalent prefers a 3D Unleashed-like perspective with more space.

PRESENTATION: Now, Sonic Generations is indeed one of the most innovative and unique platformers I’ve played since New Super Mario Bros Wii–but that doesn’t make it the best. Sure, the game had lots of impressive virtues–its visual perspective between Classic and Modern Sonic was a piece of stellar eye candy, classic levels like Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant felt rejuvenated and redone, the soundtrack felt joyfully nostalgic, and it served as a great homage towards old-school Sonic gamers as well as a fresh and new installment for new-school Sonic gamers. Now, there were however lots of problems with the game that keep it just inches away from perfection. Modern Sonic’s gameplay was almost the selfsame of the good levels in Unleashed, and often the same Sonic’s 3D perspective would randomly change to 2D for no reason. The abstract, vibrant, and rather psychedelic feel of the game’s vibes felt unfamiliar and rather uncalled for. To add on, beating bosses weren’t very exhilarating and were rather monotonous experiences in my book, and several challenges aren’t even fun. Especially that one where Knuckles digs for coins. Off by a centimeter, and you get nothing(8.5/10)

VISUALS: Sonic’s classic era is brought back into motion with picturesque visuals that capture the essence of old-school levels in both Classic perspective and Modern perspective. However, frame rate issues sometimes pop up unexpectedly–maybe the skill shop might freeze or whatnot–and the game’s abstract interface is disquieting and perturbing. (9/10)

SOUND: The game’s score is a three-disc romp of nostalgic remixes, and there’s great voice acting and spot-on sound effects. (10/10)

GAMEPLAY: Two Sonics are definitely better than one, which provides two equally immersive sides of Generations to dive into. The different perspectives totally shake up the playing field and make the game more interesting to play in. However, Modern Sonic gameplay is ripped straight from Unleashed, and perspectives often changed without warning. The arcade challenges are good ways to blow off steam, but can get really boring after a while. Especially that one where Knuckles digs for coins. Off by a centimeter and you get nothing. Also, the first boss fight I ever played–which was obviously against the Death Egg–felt generic and repetitive, and soon I was becoming bored and didn’t really care whether or not I won the fight. (8.5/10)

EXTRAS: When you aren’t playing levels or fighting bosses, you can unwind with arcade challenges or check out the Skill Shop. The shop is run by Omochao from Sonic Adventure, and it’s where you can purchase perks like extra lives and start boosts using points you receive after each level. It was a very helpful feat within the game, but felt rather awkward when you could suddenly unleash your goods on a level. Luckily, the game allows you to purchase the Genesis (and controller) so you can play the original Sonic(8/10)

LASTING APPEAL: In the end, Sonic Generations is a blast in terms of visuals, gameplay, and potential, bringing back nostalgic memories with small but noticeable holes in them. This should be a great experience for Sonic diehards and newcomers alike. I think the Sonic curse has finally been broken, cuz this is the best game for the Blue Blur in a long time. (8.5/10)

sonic_gens

FINAL SCORE: I give Sonic Generations 8 1/2 Classic Sonics out of 10, as well as my Sammwak Editor’s Choice Award. Since 8.5 divided by 10 is 85%, I also give Sonic Generations B.

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Well, that’s all for this week! Have a swagnificent summer and be sure to tune in for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: Think of every famous pop song from last year. Now mash them together into one epic medley. That’s pretty much how you describe Daniel Kim’s Pop Danthology 2012. It’s a combo of over fifty pop songs from 2012, using vocals from one song and instrumentals from another, all of these sounds mixing together. He put up the video last December and it has over 33 million hits! Luckily, Kim provided annotations for the vocals and instrumentals of each song, so you aren’t confused. Well, what are you waiting for? Listen to this eargasmic jam!



Hey guys it’s Sam, and this is Press Start, the only gaming blog segment where you get to hear news and reviews about games on the mainstream. Okay, that was a cocky intro, but still. Do you all remember 1st Person from last April? Yeah, this is 1st Person 2.0 with gaming news. You’re welcome. Anyway, let’s get into the action!

This was easily one of the most anticipated games of the year, as it was Naughty Dog’s big break to make a hit as big as (or even bigger than) Uncharted 3, which was one of 2011′s most critically acclaimed titles. The setup was simple: remember that fungal infection from Planet Earth that could turn ants into zombies? Well, what if that infection spread onto humans? That creates the apocalyptic scene of The Last of Us, which takes place twenty years after the fungal outbreak. The survivors of the apocalypse are in quarantined zones under the heel of the military. Within one of these zones is a black marketeer named Joel, who goes through an event that makes him vow to get a young teenager named Ellie to a resistance group called the Fireflies. They begin to trek through the fallen country while also avoiding the spreading disease and scavengers hungry for prey. It doesn’t stop there–the military won’t stop until they find and bring back Ellie.

The game was indeed a major success receiving universal acclaim, winning 25 awards after E3 ’12, a notable margin of them praising the game as the best title of the show and the most anticipated game of the show. It also received various perfect scores of 5 or 10:

  • A British film magazine called Empire gave the game a perfect 5 score, lauding it as “an easy contender for the best game of this console generation”, “gaming’s Citizen Kane moment”, and “a masterpiece that will be looked back upon favorably for decades”.
  • The official PlayStation mag also gave the game a perfect 10 score, calling it “a work of art” and “an emotionally draining, constantly compelling end of days adventure”.
  • IGN also gave the game a solid 10, praising it as “a masterpiece, PlayStation 3′s best exclusive and an absolute must-play.”
  • Destructoid also gave the game a 10 saying, “There is more to The Last of Us than just combat and ‘emotional’ story tropes… The Last of Us had achieved everything it needed to achieve in order to provide me with everything [Jim Sterling] wanted.”
  • It received a perfect five stars from Giant Bomb, Games Radar, and Joystiq.
  • Eurogamer, VideoGamer.com, Edge, and Computer & Video Games gave the game a clean 10.

So, I guess all you post-apocalyptic gamers out there need to play this game! You guys are really missing out!

Animal Crossing was released in Japan during spring 2001 as one of the Nintendo 64′s final titles, but eventually was re-released in other countries during fall 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube. The game’s setup was simple: you move into a village full of talking animals, you can interact with them (and other players via memory card), and the console’s internal clock and calendar allowed real-time gameplay complete with changing seasons and holidays. It was more recognizable on the latter console as one of the best financial and critical successes the console ever had, and its fame increased as Wild World became a DS hit, and City Folk became a Wii bestseller despite a mixed critical say. Five years later, Animal Crossing: New Leaf released with tons of new changes. You lived in a tent rather than a house that could be expanded and upgraded, customization now allows pant modification, and you can swim in the lake at the village waterfront. Oh, and you’re also the mayor. Oh, and now there are hamsters and deer.

The game became a critical success and is now the series’ highest-rated game, with a Metacritic score of 88 and a GameRankings score of 86.96%. Critics were pleased with New Leaf‘s visuals as well as proper use of the 3DS’ stereoscopic effects (oh, did I forget to say that it was a 3DS exclusive?). The game’s environment, objects, and content were noted as a major step up from City Folk. The Japanese version of the game got a near-perfect score of 39 from Famitsu magazine, but won their Platinum Award. New Leaf became the first 3DS game to pass two million sold units in under two months (in Japan), and the game has sold nearly four million copies so far, making it a great financial success. So I guess people who have been faithful to the series (or at least have a 3DS) should get this one.

71 years into the future, Paris has become Neo-Paris and the Memorize corporation has made a new brain implant called the Sensation Engine that allows 99% of the population to upload and share their memories on the net. It’s like YouTube, but strictly for memories. They can also remove unhappy or unpleasant memories too, which is pretty awesome. However, what’s not as awesome is the SensEn gives Memorize lots of surveillance-like control over Neo-Paris, and a rebellion is rising. This rebellion comes in the form of “Errorists”, rebels who strive for nothing but to see Memorize destroyed and defeated. The invention of Memorize’s SensEn has created Leapers, people who have absorbed memories like drugs to the point where their SensEn has degraded and they mutate into subhuman beings that live in the sewers! In Remember Me, you play as an Errorist named Nilin who is one of the most crucial components of the rebellion. Why, you don’t know…yet. And neither does she, considering she’s having her memory wiped by Memorize. Nilin must free her fellow Neo-Parisians from tyrannical technology while piecing together her lost past.

Remember Me slipped by with a mixed to positive say from critics. IGN’s Daniel Krupa enjoyed the game’s promise, setting, story, and memory manipulation, but was disappointed by its unappealing combat, feeble platforming, and repetitive gameplay. Tom Bramwell from Eurogamer had almost the same problems with the game but noted a frail script. Kevin VanOrd from GameSpot enjoyed Nilin as a protagonist as well as the Memory Remixes, but noted flaws in the story, world design, and camera. GameTrailer’s Justin Speer praised the game’s general scope, but said it was “underdeveloped and underutilized”. GamesRadar’s Ryan Taljonick also liked the Memory Remixes and customizable combos, but disliked the game’s linearity. Official PlayStation Magazine didn’t have much different to say. So, you may or may not enjoy Remember Me, but it might leave a lasting memory! Get it? Cuz the game’s about mem–man, you guys never appreciate my gaming humor!

Xbox One logo

Xbox One Console and Controller.png

500 gigabytes of storage? 7.1 surround sound? More entertainment oriented? We all have to agree that last month’s revealing of the Xbox One was decently impressive. It seemed like it would expand upon the 360 like the 360 expanded upon the original Xbox. But several weeks later, the console’s abrasive side began to kick in:

  • No backward compatibility (you can’t play any 360 games on it)
  • The new Kinect is downright creepy (always watching, always listening)
  • The new Kinect is a requirement to use the console (it must be on and connected nonstop)
  • The console will use its region-locking skills to lock down games “geographically” (so a person across the globe can’t play some good ole Modern Warfare cuz it’s blocked in their country, kinda like a game filter)
  • The Xbox One won’t allow game-loaning like a normal console (you either need to sign in under your buddy’s account or pay for the game full retail price)
  • You’re gonna need an Internet connection (even to play single-player games offline!)
  • The console seems to focus more on entertainment than actual games (then why does it have the honor of being a console?!)

I bet a year from now when the PS4 wins the eighth generation of video games, Microsoft will be scratching its head asking itself, “Where did we go wrong?” Anyway, the One’s list of upcoming titles seems to be a bit more promising than the One itself, so let’s take a look at some titles:

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag: Play as Connor Kenway’s grandpa Edward and embark on a swashbuckling pirate adventure! (10/29/13)
  • Battlefield 4: Blood will splatter, bullets will fire, and guards will be let down in the gruesome adventures of US Special Forces squad member Recker.  (10/29/13)
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts: Because Modern Warfare 4 wasn’t good enough, this game stars a band of elite soldiers called “Ghosts” that wage a covert war after a global power balance apocalypse. (11/5/13)
  • Destiny: After their big departure from Microsoft in 2010, Bungie teams up with Activision to create a post-apocalyptic world where you (among the final defenders of the human race) must fight aliens to prevent the obliteration of mankind. (Q3 or Q4 2013)
  • Fantasia Music Evolved: In this interactive follow-up to Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, you are the apprentice of sorcerer Yen Sid and you must generate life in desolate levels by moving rhythmically to popular licensed songs from Fun., Bruno Mars, Queen, and more. (2014)
  • FIFA 14: In this year’s FIFA instalment, new features have been added from “real ball physics” to “teammate intelligence” that might improve upon FIFA 13‘s skill games, and there’s a new global scouting network and modifications with career mode. (9/24/13)
  • Need for Speed Rivals: In this gas-burning romp you’re either a racer or a cop, and it has the aesthetics of NFS Underground plus the features of Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted. (11/19/13 for PS3 & X360; PS4 & XOne TBA)
  • Watch Dogs: This Ubisoft action-adventure/stealth game lets you play as an elite hacker that can either get and control info or destroy it wholly. You can hack phones to retrieve bank data, you can even hack traffic lights to cause crashes! (11/19/13 for PC, PS3, Wii U & X360; PS4 & XOne Q4 2013)

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Alright, that is it for this week! Make sure to tune in next Friday at 1:00 PM EST for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: Have you heard of that new Daft Punk song with Pharrell Williams, uh, “Get Lucky”? Pfff, of course you have! Have you heard that old System of a Down song called, uh, “BYOB”? Pfff, of course you have…n’t. Anyway, here’s a brief summary of the band: they’re four Armenian-American guys from Glendale, California who play alternative metal and love to scream and yell a lot. Now, what if you put these two together? Since BYOB stands for “bring your own bombs”, this mashup is called “Bring Your Own Luck”. This was originally done by this guy called DJ Lobsterdust, and the sad part is this video hasn’t even broken 6,000 hits yet! Just listen to it and tell me if it should be viral by now.

Here’s the unofficial music video for the mashup.

Here’s the official music video for “BYOB”.

Here’s an equally eargasmic mashup of “Gangnam Style” and “Cotton Eye Joe”.



Hey guys it’s Sam. To start off, I am super sorry about the delay on Monday. I got back from a weekend in Illinois and didn’t have anything scheduled for today, so I decided to postpone. I hope you’ll forgive me. Anyway, today marks the pilot of my brand new segment, Paranoid Android! What? …The heck you mean you don’t know what a paranoid android is? It’s a song by Radiohead, obviously! Haven’t you heard of OK Computer? Anyway, the meaning of the title not only is a blatant Radiohead reference, but it also ties in with the fact that these reviews come straight from an Android smart-phone. An LG Optimus Elite W powered by Virgin Mobile, to be exact. Consider this to be iNSiDE iPhone 2.0. If you don’t know what iNSiDE iPhone is, you clearly aren’t a long-time Sammwak fan. It was an old old old (like 2010 old) segment on Sammwak, one of my first, where I reviewed games I played on my brother’s fancy-schmancy iPhone. The segment was brimming with purposely awful grammar (i.e.: “rly”) and somewhat wise pro-tips, and survived a stunning eight episodes using a traditional Sammwak algorithm. Think of Paranoid Android as something short of a rebirth.

Anyway, today we’re reviewing a sequel to an old favorite of mine. An app that showed just how much the iPhone could do with its touch screen capabilities, more than Angry Birds could ever do.

When Om Nom is marveling over his candy, a time machine magically shows up and sucks in his companion of confectionery. When our little munchkin goes into the time machine, he meets several different versions of himself–his ancestors, I should say. When Om Nom and his fellow fathers get together and plot some strategic feeding techniques, Cut the Rope Time Travel is born. Now, this sequel expands greatly on the original CTR and Experiments. It does not require the reflexes of CTR, nor the intellectual mastery of Experiments–it uses a puree of the two. CTR Time Travel is such a unique entry into the series since it uses new elements that turn the tables on your side a bit. These include (but are surely not limited to) chains n’ blades, the freeze button (tap it to stop time), and rockets perfect for carrying candy and blades around. These new strategies totally change the game and make those three stars much more harder to acquire as you must feed both Om Nom and his ancestor. The game has six worlds for the six different ancestors of Om Nom:

  • The Middle Ages - The new Om Nom in this world wears a viking helmet and a traditionally long ‘do. This level focuses primarily on the use of bubbles (candy encased in these automatically rise upward), the chain-blade algorithm, and timing. They are awfully easy to begin with, but get harder as they progress and really make you think about what ropes to cut. Overall, it’s still pretty easy–a nice way to kick off the game.

  • The Renaissance - The Om Nom in this world wears a typical Italian mustache-goatee combo, and a good old feather hat. This level focuses primarily on the freeze button, as well as the occasional chain-blade and the brand-new physics of the stretched rope (you know it’s stretched when it turns red). This one is surprisingly tougher than the first world, as it requires almost nothing but sheer timing skills to get candy at the right point in frozen time and/or stop it from being shattered by spikes. No, but 2-15, the last level–that one’s a killer.

  • Pirate Ship - This ancestor of Om Nom’s wears a fancy pirate hat and a traditional pirate ‘stache. This level deals a lot with not only the freeze button and bubbles, but also the new “mini bomb”. Whenever candy touches one of these, it automatically explodes and gives the candy some big air. Also, “bouncy platforms” were introduced to give candy a little spring in their steps. The trajectory physics of this world are absolutely astounding, wired down to the very last detail. Without the advantages of matter and energy, the levels really make you think and only pass with some trial and error. Trust me, I should know.

  • Ancient Egypt - This ancestor wears nothing but a good old pharaoh hat. Anyway, this world introduces what I like to call “the flying snitch”–a candy with wings that goes wherever your regular candy goes. When a regular candy is eaten, the snitch loses its wings and its powers. If there’s one word I can use to describe this world, it has to be physics. The precise physics of this world can navigate the snitch through tricky and perilous situations–even a box outlined with spikes! This world also makes some good use of the stretched-rope physics as well, and this world also incorporates the methods of taking it slow. When flung too quickly, a snitch can easily get shattered in a line of spikes, but can make it through when navigated slowly enough.

  • Ancient Greece - This ancestor wears a crown of leaves and what looks like a medal, as if he’s an Olympian. This is probably the best of the six I’ve played. Since it is a Greek world, stone platforms are incorporated to switch between the two Om Noms. And if you think it couldn’t get better, you’re wrong! This world introduces PORTALS! Drop a candy in one portal, it comes out the other. Simple physics. Oh, and these portals come in green and blue, so they correspond depending on their colors. Precise techniques and clever physics fun are abundant in world five, and this is probably the one I had the most trouble with. Yeah, to the point where I used online cheats. Hey, don’t arrest me! This just proves that the level really gets you thinking and can only be passed by true CTR prodigies as myself.

  • The Stone Age - This ancestor is a plump caveman with a bone in his hair and a single buck tooth. The sixth and as of now final world in CTR Time Travel (because every CTR promises “new levels coming soon”) tests you the most, seeing if you’ve really picked up anything from the past five worlds. This one pulls out all the stops, incorporating rockets (used for transporting candy and blades out and about), the freeze button, portals, and the brand-new sun dial, used for adjusting things to their correct spots from portals to candies. This world is not only fun and creative, but very logical and advanced. Only true CTR masters hold the title of defeating this world, and it quite literally isn’t rocket science. Of course, I can’t say much, since I’m–er–still working on the level…

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CTR Time Travel is an innovative doozy that shines Om Nom in a new light and changes his game forever, using stellar physics and unique gaming techniques that are ultimately worth checking out. However, the game does have some downside–it has an annoying tendency to freeze at the loading screen, which not only slows down the game pace but often prohibits you from playing any longer until you reboot the phone, which we all know is no fun. Also, I find it cantankerous how once a candy leaves the screen, one of the 2 Om Noms stares at you with that awfully cute sad-look instead of enjoying their candy. It also grinds my gears that whenever I play the first world, it shows me that little intro every time. Luckily, that’s why ZeptoLab created the ability to skip with a single tap.

om_nom

I give Cut the Rope Time Travel 9 Om Noms out of 10. Well, thanks for joining me on Paranoid Android. Now if you’ll excuse me, I got another post to make.

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8)

P.S. Oh, did-ja-hear? Sammwak has its own official Google+ page! Follow it to get up-to-date breaking news about Sammwak and a special hint about the next episode! Follow us here:

https://plus.google.com/107318780574909420529/posts

Video of the Week: Alright, let’s just leave it at one this time. Two is too chaotic. This one got put up by our good friend Toby Turner back on Tuesday. In the third edition of his “Trapped in an Ad” series, Toby wakes up super-late at 1 PM and rushes against the clock while being persuaded by the voice that’s narrating his bad afternoon to eat two flavors of Limited Edition Hot Pockets: Spicy Beef Nacho and Cuban Style. If you’re a seasoned veteran, you know that Toby actually put up his own hilarious Hot Pockets “ad” which was used to advertise Hot Pockets via Facebook. How could you not, I even put it up that one time! Anyway, enjoy this video.

 



I’ve been a diehard for Cartoon Network as long as I can remember, ever since it introduced one of the biggest pieces of my brain’s nostalgia center–Tom & Jerry. When I don’t have anything to catch up with, or I do but I’m just kinda procrastinating, I usually spend my time playing their site’s games. You already know that I have some major beef with the Adventure Time games (excluding Jumping Finn, which is actually good), strong faith with the Reg Show games, and keen interests in the Gumball games. Well, take these three shows and a whole lot more, convert them to 3D, and cram them into one game. What do you get? No, not Formula Cartoon. You get this.

Finn, Dexter, and Four-Arms fight the beasts of botany in “the Field”.

FusionFall Heroes is the sequel to the well-renowned FusionFall Universe which Cartoon Network introduced back in 2009. Instead of an open-world experience where you could interact with some of your favorite characters, this is a nonstop action RPG very similar to DOTA. In FFH, you play characters such as Finn and Mordecai, and you get automatically sent into a level. Each level is different–you could be fighting the Tech Queen, while your friend could be fighting the Graveworm. Before you fight the levels’ bosses, you must go through about four waves of smaller enemies. I’ve classified my enemies into two categories:

  • The enemies that die with one hit, also known as the petite enemies
  • The enemies that take a round of hits to die, also known as the buff enemies

Anyway, if you’re not a very skilled fighter and you get major health blows, you’re in luck. At your side are medical chests (marked with red crosses) that have health boosters in the forms of breakfast foods like jellied toast, cereal, and pancakes. Also, at your side are very special chests (marked with the infinity sign) that offer special powers once opened. I call it Infinity Power since I really don’t know what the official name is. Once you consume the IP, a five-bar gauge next to your health fills. Once at least one bar is full, you can right-click to perform a special attack that takes away -266 of the enemy’s damage. If you die, you don’t need to restart your fight–you respawn automatically, which saves me a lot of stress and fury. Furthermore, there are these red barrels that explode a few seconds after being hit, which is an easy way to wipe out a pack of petites.

At the in-game store, you can also buy new characters in the forms of “eggs” using points that you receive after a fight.

Right now I’m kicking butt as Finn, and my gamer alias is “Major Zelda”. So if you see that name anywhere while you’re playing FFH, think of me. Anyway, I got hooked onto the game a few weeks ago, the first time I played it. I was bored out of my mind and probably killed an hour or so playing Heroes. What made me so addicted to the game, kept me going back for more, was that it so easy to master. A simple click of the mouse equals a swing of the sword, and that’s probably all you need to know besides that special attack. I love how something new pops up every time I play, and they always have the greatest and most unique boss fights. Albeit they’re not very hard boss fights (I mowed through two in my first sitting), they always relate to the environment you’re fighting in. For example, if you’re fighting monsters made out of auto parts in a junkyard, you’re gonna get a monster made out of cars. Most specifically, the Truckosaurus Rex. Furthermore, if you’re fighting monsters made of electronic parts in a fancy lab, you’re gonna get a giant electronic monster made of enough energy to run a parking lot of Nissan Leaves. Most specifically, the Tech Queen. I also appreciate the 3D techniques that were transcribed from Formula Cartoon.

However, its tendency to repeat levels is very annoying, and the first time I played I thought it was because I hadn’t saved. Then I realized you couldn’t save. Anyway, if I defeat the Tech Queen once, I’m not interested in defeating her five more times. Also, the game’s excitement does quickly wear off, and you find yourself very bored instead of very thrilled. Also, the game does lag sometime on me, which is no fun for an RPGamer. The game’s solo content does get a bit rusty after awhile, but it does offers a party co-op mode that I haven’t tried yet, since I have no friends to co-op with.

Well, let’s not tell sob stories and get to our chart.

 THE GOOD

  • Immersive gameplay
  • Gorgeous 3D environments ala Formula Cartoon
  • No-brainer controls
  • Medical and Infinity Chests serve as helpful aid kits
  • Ingenious boss fights

THE BAD

  • Gets tedious and boring after a while
  • Cantankerous tendency to repeat fights
  • Annoying lags that slow down battle paces
  • Offers a middling amount of content in solo mode

FINAL CONSENSUSFusionFall Heroes is very addictive and unparalleled for a Cartoon Network title, but for any ordinary browser-based RPG it has very insipid flaws such as fight repeats, lags, and conspicuous tedium. However, the game does offer enough to have you coming back for more, which says something.

FINAL SCORE: 8.3/10 (great)

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Well, with all that aside, make sure to subscribe if you’re new, and don’t forget–press the like button. Come back next Monday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: Pogo already gave us not one but two Videos of the Week last time (“Living Island” and “Roarcraft“), so it shouldn’t be a surprise I found something really good this week. This video was the third one Pogo ever released, and it was actually put up back in May 2008. It’s not really a remix of anything–it’s Bertke’s first original song. It’s called “SplurgenShitter”, and if you have any questions about the name, don’t ask me because I don’t know. Don’t ask Bertke, because he won’t tell you. Besides, it got paired up with footage of Nick dancing around wearing a Darth Vader mask and it has 1.1 million hits. Quality Internet video!

(You could also find a 4-minute version of the song on Weave and Wish, an EP Bertke released in 2009.)

Our Bonus Video of the Week is a Pogo remix of Lord of the Rings (the Frodo era, not the Bilbo era) that came out in March 2011 and has 1.9 million hits. Someone actually had the nerve to role-play as Frodo, comment on the video, and 3 weeks later it got 187 likes. A true quality Internet video.



I’ve already reviewed the first two novels in James Patterson’s bestselling Middle School series starring young troublemaker Rafe Khatchadorian. Now for some “I-don’t-mean-to-brag-but” fun facts. For his work, Patterson became the 2010 Children’s Choice Book Awards Author of the Year, and he received more than than 15,000 votes in a category shared with fellow middle-grade authors like Carl Hiaasen and Rick Riordan. His Witch & Wizard series was introduced to the biggest launch of a young-reader series in history, surpassing sales of the first Twilight, the first Wimpy Kid, and The Lightning Thief. Last year JP sold more books than Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, and John Grisham combined. He’s grossed over $3 billion in global sales, which is higher than the theatrical gross of Avatar–and that’s the highest-grossing movie ever! But Patterson stayed humble with his achievements, and last December–a mere two weeks before Christmas Eve 2012–he decided to shake things up. He released a brand new realistic fiction story that didn’t star Rafe. Yep, he incorporated an entirely new universe and one of the most unique plots I’ve ever seen. JP’s new book is totally funny–in fact, it’s so funny it even has it in the name.

What I consider to be the spiritual successor to JP’s Middle School series, I Funny is a unique story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, who he also worked with for Armageddon, a novel in JP’s Daniel X series. This book centers on Jamie Grimm, a young lad about Rafe’s age who lives in Long Island, CA–more specifically, at Long Beach. He is an aspiring stand-up comic who’s been studying the techniques of classic comedians from Homer Simpson to George Carlin and probably every comic in between. His uncle Frankie runs a local diner (kind of like Swifty’s Diner, the place Rafe’s mom works), and he has a few pals at school–Pierce, Gaynor, Gilda, and Suzie (aka “Cool Girl”). But however, just like Rafe’s relationship with Miller the Killer, Jamie’s got a big bully on his back–Stevie Kosgrov, Long Beach’s bully of the year 3 years straight. However, what’s worse about Stevie is that he’s–er, for the sake of spoilers, I’ll just skip that one.

Anyway, Jamie lives with his adoptive family which he dubbed “the Smileys”–ironically, they haven’t cracked a grin in who knows how long. This is a perfect audience for Jamie’s jokes, because if he can get them to laugh, he can get anyone to. In fact, he tries out his jokes on everyone from his classmates to the customers at Frankie’s diner! Jamie has hopes of entering and maybe even winning the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic contest. But when he goes up in front of an audience for the first time, the following events change his life forever–the most essential being meeting the girl of his dreams. Also, what makes Jamie such a character to root for is that he can’t walk, and takes his wheelchair everywhere he goes. Now, who can’t feel sympathy for that?

PRESENTATION: I Funny delivers an ingenious balance of humor and drama, the same mix that made Rafe’s first adventure a real home run. However, what makes this mix a bit more unique is that the humor and drama come in bundles, the humor is more genuine and easy to “get” (although some readers who are familiar with the comics may know some of the jokes). The drama is raw and emotional, and a few times in the story my inner self actually cried. Rarely in a book do I cry while reading it. Albeit Laura Park, JP’s long-time illustrator, draws the detailed pictures of the story, she gives I Funny its own special something, making pictures look more polished and realistic. (10/10)

STORY: Jamie tells his story with realism and cracks some jokes or introduces some scenic situations that actually make a story a bit “mushy”, just like Rafe would. However, aside from humor and drama, Jamie tells a very down-to-earth story that incorporates real-life things like bullying, friendship, a first love, and broken hearts. Jamie is a character most readers would root for, especially after all you see him go through in the book. Connections between characters are strong as well. However, there’s one thing that won’t make me give I Funny a perfect score in this category–Jamie uses Rafe’s same “fake reality” techniques to try and zest up the story. In this case, Jamie believes that most of the Long Beach community is made up of zombies, but they are shown to be more funny than freaky. The book feels a lot like Rafe had helped Jamie write it–for better and for worse. (9/10)

FUN: It’s entertaining to watch Jamie spin his tale in a way that tons of authors have done, but it’s still nonetheless very unique. It’s intriguing to picture the events that occur in the book from the factual to the fictional, and the vivid imagery–if you saw my last JGB 2.0, you’d know that was almost the exact same stanza I used for Rafe’s second adventure. I Funny and Get Me Out of Here share lots of the same jokes, sequences, and connections, which says something if JP wanted this book to stand out more. However, this book does lots of media referencing–comics like Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Yakov Smirnoff, Steve Martin, Steven Wright, and Kevin James. Speaking of Kevin James, Jamie also references his star role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop several times. References to KGB, acme (a staple in 20th century comedy like Looney Tunes), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Penn Station, The Brady BunchHarry Potter, and much more. Hey–I think all that referencing just won this book its half of a point back.  (10/10)

STYLE: Time for some restating. The humor and drama come in bundles, the humor is more genuine and easy to “get” (although some readers who are familiar with the comics may know some of the jokes). The drama is raw and emotional, and a few times in the story my inner self actually cried. Rarely in a book do I cry while reading it. Albeit Laura Park, JP’s long-time illustrator, draws the detailed pictures of the story, she gives I Funny its own special something, making pictures look more polished and realistic. (10/10)

QUANTITY/QUALITY: I Funny has a great story to tell, and it took 69 chapters to tell it! In fact, the book begins with Jamie choking onstage (forgetting his setups and such), and then it flashes back a while. JP managed to tell enough story and pack in enough element, characterization and such, to meet up to that point in the book, which actually doesn’t come until very late. It’s great how you get to know people like Pierce, Gaynor, Gilda, and Cool Girl, and how they interact with Jamie. How their relationship with him changes as the book progresses and you begin to relate to Jamie more. This is the kind of feeling that I got when I reached the dramatic climax of Middle School, Worst Years of My Life where everything kinda reached its summit. (10/10)

FINAL VERDICTI Funny packs the same wallops of humor and drama that Rafe would, but the humor is more authentic and the drama is more raw and tearjerking–never has Patterson told such a dynamic story that has the powerful plot lines that really make this  the third hit of JP’s threepeat. (10/10)

FINAL SCORE59 out of 60 –> 98% –> A+

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Check out some vids from JP’s official YouTube channel!

Ah, what a day. Well, make sure to tune in next week for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

Videos of the Week: Check out these mind-blowing Nick mixes from my ole buddy Nick Bertke, aka “Pogo”. For y’all who don’t know who he is, he is literally the greatest mashup artist on Earth. He’s made groundbreaking remixes of Harry PotterDexterUpToy StoryMonsters, IncWilly Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryMary PoppinsSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the list goes on folks. Tragically, last Thursday Nick put up a 3-minute video explaining how and why he is no longer allowed to enter the USA for the next decade. I mean, the poor lad got sent to the big house for 3 weeks! Never would I think of Pogo as an inmate. Anyway, here’s the video…

…and to cheer you up, here are two amazing Pogo mixes you can jam to. The first one is an iCarly remix, made in honor of the series ending after five years of being one of Nick’s greatest hits. The music in the mix ranges from all of the show’s seasons, and you may be able to pick out some episodes. The second one is a SpongeBob remix, which also ranges from all of the show’s seasons, and you may also be able to pick out some episodes. ENJOY!



As you can tell, this is no longer the Jolly Good Bookie I’ve been using for a few years–this is JGB 2.0. I got rid of that annoying Common Sense chart and replaced it with a more simplistic chart designed after IGN’s. Also, all reviewed books will get graded on a scale from E to A+. Anyway, on a completely different note, back in December I reviewed Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, a novel by James Patterson who is famous for writing Witch & Wizard and Maximum Ride. Here are some of my most acclaiming snippets from the post:

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“…one of the greatest school stories I’ve ever read…”

“…thorough, fleshed comedy with sincere, heart melting drama…”

“Patterson is clearly a unique writer as he actually manages to give us those pangs that make us feel like we’re on the verge of tears…”

“…makes a joke out of middle school in a way that is rare for most favored kids’ authors…”

“…a book that you can’t find around the corner.”

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Now, three months later, I’ve read the sequel to this book and now hold the answer to this burning question: “Will Rafe’s second adventure build upon the first, build alongside the first, or build away from the first?”

rafe_msgmoh

Released last May, almost a year after the original bestseller, Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! is Rafe Khatchadorian’s second middle school adventure written by the well-renowned James Patterson and the not-nearly-as-popular Chris Tebbetts, alongside the book’s illustrator Laura Park. Anyway, if you read Rafe’s first novel, you’d know that his story isn’t as stereotypical and cheesy as most school stories are–his is deeper, more realistic, better to relate to. This sequel doesn’t pick up where Worst Years of My Life left off–it travels forward in time to the seventh grade. Now, for the sake of non-spoilers, let’s just say Rafe doesn’t hold a very great status at Hills Valley anymore. Now, after the fiery death of Swifty’s Diner, he’s moved on to a new life in a new city, now having been accepted to a fancy art school known as Cathedral Academy. But Rafe’s plans of living a worry-free life are down the drain–he has to keep his grades afloat, or else he won’t get accepted back into Cathedral for eighth grade. For Rafe’s first art project, he needs to turn his life into a work of art to show who he is. Instead of doing that, he teams up with his good pal Leo the Silent and creates his second mission, Operation: Get A Life. From playing poker to visiting an art museum, Rafe’s gonna have to learn the art of trying something new. But when Get A Life unravels secrets about the side of the Khatchadorians Rafe’s never known, his life takes a big detour…

rafe_sky-is-falling

PRESENTATION: Just like its predecessor, Get Me Out of Here is realistic and down-to-earth, with Rafe’s incredibly descriptive and always hilarious drawings put in alongside the story. Nothing has really changed since the original, which is kinda bad since the book needs to have some uniqueness. (9/10)

STORY: Rafe tells his story clearly and deeply, although he has high tendencies to exaggerate story elements like turning his teachers into monsters or going hang-gliding with Leo the Silent. This was kind of like in the original Dork Diaries when Nikki had an excruciatingly high tendency to say things in her head. This is a very annoying flaw, but otherwise the book’s storytelling ability is proficient. (8.5/10)

FUN: It’s entertaining to watch Rafe spin his tale in a way that tons of authors have done, but it’s still nonetheless very unique. It’s intriguing to picture the events that occur in the book from the factual to the fictional, and the vivid imagery makes the book feel less like something an artificial intelligence like Siri would cough up. (Not that I’m saying Siri would ever cough up such a thing.) (10/10)

STYLE: Rafe’s detailed pictures go great with his bubbly storyli–okay, now I think I’m just restating the same main idea. (10/10)

QUANTITY/QUALITY: This category just asks a book, “How much story do you have, and is all that story told well?” In this case, the story is abundant and told extremely well, although it’s almost as immersive as it could’ve been whatsoever. But hey–I’ve said too much good about the book to start getting bad. But speaking of which, the book kinda does get confusing with all these new elements added to Rafe’s persona, and I was wondering if James Patterson wrote the right story a few chapters in. But as soon as I saw Rafe pull an unsuccessful prank, I knew I was back in business. Thank gosh. (9/10)

FINAL VERDICT: Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! may be an unexpected new leaf for some old fans of Rafe, but they’ll appreciate the same deep storyline and playful imagery that was incorporated in Rafe’s first adventure. It’s an ingenious novel that will keep readers hooked and have them hungry for the next installment in Rafe’s middle school adventures. (9.5/10)

FINAL SCORE: 56 out of 60, which equals a 93% score which gets this book an A.

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But the post doesn’t end there. Check out some juicy news about James Patterson’s plans for the future!

As you can see here, Mr. Patterson has already gotten the next two Middle School novels up for release later this year. The first book, My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, tells the story from Georgia’s perspective instead of Rafe’s! Georgia plans to excel at all the spots Rafe failed at HVMS, and she makes a bet with Rafe that she’ll become just as famous as him. However, G may have bitten off more than she can chew–Rafe’s troublesome acts at the school left a big impression on the school, and no one’s even bothering to give G a second glance. However, things go from bad to worse when Rafe furtively signs up his band to play at the school dance! (Since when was Rafe in a band like Big Nate?) G refuses to make an ignominious impression on her crush as well as the school’s clique, but she’s determined to win her bet and prove Rafe wrong at all costs, even if it means putting her HVMS rep on the line. Will she succeed, or will Rafe win? Check out My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar to find out when it hits stores next Monday.

The next book, How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, is indeed the third Middle School novel first foreshadowed by Rafe himself at the end of Get Me Out of Here. Rafe is stoked for a fun 3-month stay at summer camp–until he realizes that it’s a summer school camp. Luckily, Rafe manages to befriend his cabinmates and bunkmate, as well as a boy nicknamed Booger Eater. Rafe soon finds out that there’s more to BE than meets the eye, and maybe he’s just the guy you want to know when the Cool Cabin kids attack. Wow, this plot is very similar to Fred 3: Camp Fred, with the whole “good camp vs. lame camp” concept. This book will take a longer wait–it won’t come out until June, which is rather convenient.

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We all know that James Patterson’s revered sci-fi adventure saga, Maximum Ride, came to an end when Nevermore came out last year. However, besides the manga series being still alive, Patterson knows the canon is not yet dead. And he’s deciding to honor one of his greatest hits with one of the biggest blowouts an author can produce–Maximum Ride movie. That’s right, the flock, the Erasers, and the School are all coming to the big screen. News about a Max Ride movie began spreading as far back as fall 2007, and James Patterson would be the movie’s executive producer. Steven Paul is also a producer alongside Avi Arad, who has worked on films like Spider-Man and X-Men. Apparently, Arad got so full of himself he planned out a second movie as well. (If you’ve seen Anthony Horowitz’s scrapped plans for an Alex Rider film series, you know that pride like this is dangerous.)

Columbia Pictures bought screen rights to the movie in 2008, and the film was expected to release 2 years later. Twilight‘s director Catherine Hardwicke had planned to direct, and in 2010 she had requested that the movie script be rewritten to include more action. (Oh, gosh.) This delayed the movie’s release to this year. In February 2011, Maximum Ride‘s Facebook page asked fans who they’d want to play Max, and also stated that the movie would be released in 3D. Unfortunately, by last year Hardwicke dropped out, and Patterson said he was “very hopeful as opposed to mildly depressed.” Sadly, the movie is as of now cancelled, but we can only hope that by 2014 Patterson can get his chin back up.

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Ah, so much info, my brain is hurting! Well, as my cerebellum cools down, let’s call it a week. But make sure to stay tuned for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Stay tuned for more James Patterson books, too!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

Videos of the Week: The channel of the week award goes to TomSka for his latest episode of his gut-busting asdfmovie series. “asdfmovie5″ back from May was kind of a letdown in my book–all of the skits were new, and not once did the I Like Trains Kid appear! Anyway, this new video is hilarious, and it’s really put Tom’s random humor skills to work. Hey–at least Mine Turtle shows up again and makes me realize that Tom has found a new running gag for his videos.



WARNING: This game review is made for the best use and comprehension of all Xbox owners, as that is the version I had played of this game. If you own the PS3 or PS Vita port of this game, you will likely not find much pro-tips in this. 

Hey guys it’s Sam, and y’all know what this is–the first Sammwak post of the 2013 season! Let’s start things off right and make this a post that we’ll never forget, eh?

Define the term “crossover“; according to my Google Dictionary, it is “a point or place of crossing from one side to the other”. A notorious type of crossover is the intercompany crossover, where comic characters published from one company meet characters published by another. This has been done frequently by companies like Marvel and DC Universe, but this is the true epitome of those crossovers: a crossover game series. The Marvel vs. Capcom saga first debuted in 1996-’98 (it was first released for arcades in ’96, then the Sega Saturn in ’97, and finally the PlayStation in ’98) with X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and the rest is core history. But don’t you remember how Super Street Fighter IV amazingly rebalanced Street Fighter IV–after having already blown the fighting genre out of the water? Well, MvC‘s decided to follow in its footsteps–but is it for better or for worse?

File:UMvC3 Cover.jpg

Nova unleashes his Super Nova attack, his most effective and devastating attack on the move list. But poor Phoenix…didn’t even have a jury to help him!

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a crossover brawler released just 3/4 of the year after the original MvC 3, and is its standalone update. I say “standalone” because all this was actually planned to be MvC 3 DLC, but after the events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake-tsunami, scheduling was disrupted and it eventually turned out as its own game. It rebalances the title much like SSF4 did for its original: it gave off new characters, new stages, and a bit of tweaking. The game works largely similar to the original: you fight against an opponent (CPU or human) surrounded with goofy comic book effects upon every painful impact. You may actually see sound effects printed onto the screen, like “THWOKK!!” and “SLAM”. When the face of death rears its ugly head, you can always jump out and be replaced by another “assist” fighter–y’see, you fight in teams of three. When a fighter is killed, they are deemed “down” and the first assist on the list is sent out. When a second fighter is down, the last man standing is sent on a long haul–this is where your X Factor really comes in handy. The Factor is a technique that increases speed and damage, which gains more power if one or both of your assists are down. This is respectively known as a Level 2 or 3 X Factor. There is also a power bar that your character has; this is your Hyper Combo bar. Successfully landed hits fill the bar, and eventually you will fill the bar entirely and level up. This keeps going until you hit the “maximum” at level 5. Once you reach Level 1-3, you can perform those levels’ Hyper Combos. They are named after the amount of bars it takes to perform the move, with Level 3 Combos being the biggest and baddest of the bunch. They’re basically like the Ultra Combos of U MvC 3

There are also specific in-game modes that you can indulge in:

  • Arcade Mode - The game’s story mode, to say the least. You fight against five CPU trios until you get to the final boss: Galactus. The thing about Galactus is–he makes you look like a fly.

I mean, the guy’s hard to beat, but it’s not impossible. A few quick one-twos, proper methods and strategy, and a whole lot of hope are the three keys that will unlock Galactus’ ultimate defeat. But there’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders; in the Olympics, you’d fight for your country. In this, you’d fight for your world. Yep–if you fail your mission you will be “world KO’ed” and you get to witness Galactus smash the Earth like a swatter against a housefly. (Awkwardly, after that point the game asks whether or not you want to continue.) But luckily, you can actually see how it’s like to be the final boss in the arcade’s Galactus Mode! (For Xbox owners, when selecting Arcade, press LB + Back + A all at the same time to unlock G Mode.) Once you defeat those five trios, you will destroy the world (which is ironically a good thing in this case) and unlock Galactus’ ending if you did this for the first time. Here are all the Xbox controls for this mode (I dubbed some of the moves myself, so at least try to imagine how painful they’d feel):

  • X = Hand Dust
  • Y = Palm Smash
  • A or RT = One Finger Snap Back
  • B = Mini Planet Destroyer
  • Down + Any Attack = Fist Smash
  • Forward + Any Attack = Sweeper Punch
  • Up + Any Attack = Finger Laser
  • Back + Any Attack = Eye Lasers
  • Roll Back + Any Attack = Grab
  • LT or Roll Forward + RT = Multi Finger Laser
  • Roll Back + RT = Full Screen Finger/Eye Lasers
  • Roll Forward + A = Ultimate Planet Destroyer (this will automatically KO the active opponent, although it takes several seconds to charge up)
  • Heroes & Heralds - The first thing you need to worry about in H&H is whether or not you’re going to be a hero or a herald. If you’re a hero, you will fight to save the Earth. If you’re a herald, you will fight to attack the Earth. Y’see, all heralds are official property of Galactus. Now it all makes sense, doesn’t it? Anyway, you will fight across a number of stages starting at 0%. Beat someone, and the percentage goes up. Get to 100%, unlock a bonus level. Beat the bonus level, win a valuable ability card. Ability cards show off abilities that prove to be very useful, and these include: turning invisible while dashing, getting health back upon landing a 30-hit combo, stuff like that. But if you get beat, you actually lose percentage. So make sure you end up on the winner’s side. Oh, and I almost forgot–heralds get to be completely chrome! No, not Google Chrome. They have, like, silver bodies.
  • Missions - The game also has a training mode that allows you to hone your skills in several missions with every single character. Obviously, the fighters are divided into their respective sides of Marvel or Capcom. With each fighter, you will likely see a row of faded icons. Those are missions you have yet to complete; completed missions will bring the icon to full resolution. Stumped on one mission? You can always skip to the next. Tongue-tied over controls? You can always check the mission objective. What happens if you complete all the missions?–then don’t consider visiting me for a match!
  • Training Mode - Like with any game, UMvC3 comes with a training mode that allows you to fight against a “training dummy” of your choice in a surrounding of your choice. But the biggest diversity of this mode is that you can actually tinker with the settings. Change the placing of the lifebars. Give yourself infinite X Factor. Even take out health regeneration to make this into a “real fight”. Whatever floats your boat or tickles your peach, bro.

Considering that Deadpool and Spider-Man may be Marvel’s only heroes with red and black on ‘em, they might as well bond.

Now, Ultimate MvC3 has the fast-paced action, the cutting-edge visuals, the razor-sharp controls, the unlimited opportunities, and some sprinkles of laughs that most fighting games need. Like with titles including Street Fighter, you can alter the language settings to make every word a character utters in Japanese. This is just an example of the lack of limits the game thrives in–unfortunately, as comical as it is, it does take its powers a bit too far. There’s not much differentiation between game modes, and–like with the original–replays are still non-included. Missions are honestly kind of lackluster in the key tools that will make or break the talent of a player, and will likely just lead to some frustration with missions. Maybe some hair-pulling, but mostly frustration. It’s also not your most squeaky-clean fighting game–like in literally any fighter, females are decked up in skimpy outfits, with the exception of one character that is literally butt-naked on screen. Some unexpected swearing levels occur, and all the game’s bangs and pows can lead to action that can cover the entire screen, which is both a blessing and a curse. The missions also seem well-nigh impossible in later stages, jumping difficulties way faster than we can comprehend them. Much like in gameplay like, what, Diddy Kong Racing, the premises of the game can get quickly old. It’s really the humor, characters, and styling that forms the soft, gooey center of the game. Everything else–well, I hope you haven’t broken your sweet teeth.

 0 out of 5 – Educational value – The game is meant to entertain, not educate.

 0 out of 5 – Positive messages – Not much positive messaging–unless you believe violence actually is the answer.

1 out of 5 – Positive role models – Some of the femme fatales talk about maintaining “strong womanhood” and refusing to let male characters discount them due to their gender–but then again, have you seen what these people are wearing?

 2 out of 5 – Ease of play – The controls are easy to grasp–if they just made the learning curve a bit less steep. In Street Fighter, you were treated to easy controls like “roll-forward/back” motions, or “Z” or “circle” motions. In this world, they break literally everything down. You might be taught how to do a Hadoken by it saying (down, down-at-a-right-angle, forward), but you realize you’re just rolling forward when you do the move! And how about those people who have literally way too many moves? Moves branching from other moves that themselves branched from other moves, it’s all just a big mind game. Sometimes, specific combos must be performed through an arduous series of button-pressing.

3 out of 5 – Violence – As this is a fighting game, yes it does carry a lot of pows and ows. But this game specializes in weaponry-of-choice like guns, blades, explosives, and fireballs, but not a single drop of blood is spilled. And it might be a bit worse considering these battles are 3-on-3. Even worse than “a bit worse”, all three fighters on a team can combine for one “Crossover Combination” on this one unlucky victim. As I’ve said, the action can get so out of hand that you can even lose track of the characters. But it doesn’t really leave as much marks as series like Mortal Kombat did–instead, defeated players are deemed “down”, not dead. Even more violence is depicted, shown, and foreshadowed in characters’ endings.

 3 3/4 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Females wear some of the skimpiest in-game clothing you’ll find around, and you might see a lot of cleavage. But there’s one character known as Felicia (from Darkstalkers) that is practically the reason behind the game’s “partial nudity” label. If you were to see her, you would see that she was literally in the buff–except for some white skintight material that keeps only her most sensitive parts covered. But despite this most of her “junk in the trunk” is visible. And get this–she’s forty years old in human years! Also, a female character named Morrigan is shown pole-dancing for Wolverine in his ending.

2 3/4 out of 5 - Language – Definitely more crass than your typical fighter. “Damn”, “hell”, “b*tch”, and “a*s” are the four most commonly uttered words you’ll find in the “trash talking” that occurs before the fight. Some characters continue to utter these words in situations like a missed throw.

4 out of 5 – Product Placement – This game is a Marvel-Capcom crossover with tons of characters, some you may not have even known existed. If you were to learn about them in their bios, you’d actually be able to see their origins of comics or games.

0 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – This aspect is not featured in-game.

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Play-Again Ratio: A (4 points)

Smarts: C+ (2.5 points)

Fun: A- (4 points)

Style: B (3 points)

Humor: A (4 points)

Entertainment: A (4 points)

FINAL SCORE: 21.5 out of 30 (Well Done), 3.5 stars out of 5, 79% out of 100%

CONSENSUS: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has the roster, the action, the controls, and the excitement that any standard fighter would, but the biggest problems with the game is that it plays dirty and it plays hooky with the typical rulebook–which differentiates it from the rest both for better and for worse.

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Well, I guess that’s for the kickoff of season ’13 here on Sammwak. Comment me any games that got you putting your game face on, and you could be responsible for our next review! If you prefer putting in more nostalgic and old-school games, I suggest you hop on over to 2S2M for that–we already just kicked off our new old-school game reviewing series, Insert Coin! Check out our series premiere here where I review one of history’s most timeless games–Ocarina of Time!

http://2sam2mwak.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/insert-coin-ocarina-of-time/

Stay button-pressing America,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: I don’t know if any of you have heard about this, but there’s a new show on Cartoon Network that’s gonna be hitting the primetime in exactly three weeks. It’s called Nick Cannon’s Incredible Crew, or just Incredible Crew for short. If you missed the one-hour series preview back on the 31st –aka “Incredible Crew Year’s Eve”–you’re not out of luck. I got a special treat for you that wasn’t in the preview at all, and it’s directly from the official cartoonnetwork channel. It stars Crew member Jeremy Shada–who’s also done work on the Network as the voice of Adventure Time‘s Finn–in a sweet 2-minute music video about his after-school trip with his mom to run errands at the bank, salon, and to pick up his little sister at ballet. All this is interpreted in a sweet rap that is catchy, innovative, and vibrant. And you ain’t seen nothing yet from Incredible Crew, so check out the series premiere on January 24th at 8/7c–only on Cartoon Network!



Hey guys it’s Sam from the future, and I just want to apologize once again for the whole malware alert fiasco on Google Chrome. I made edits on most of the gaming sections of the post and it is now 100% officially available for all to see. I know this may have come up a bit late, and I can’t wish you a merry Christmas now, but definitely have a happy new year! See you in a few, America!

~S~ 8-) (Sent from the future on 12/29/12)

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Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to our third annual Sammwak Christmas/New Year special! But let’s start out with the Christmas half. There’s that one month of the year where the snow falls and temperature drops, but cheer rises. Yep, it’s the month of December, which means the month of Christmas. Most people believe the 24th and 25th are the two days where you hope Santa Claus will come and make your entire year worthwhile, but that’s not even the true meaning of it. It’s actually just a big birthday party for Jesus Christ, as the holiday is actually the “season finale” for Advent, as well as the beginning of the 12 days of Christmastide. (Yeah, I spelled it right, it’s not “Christmastime”.) But anyway, let’s get our party pumping with a nice spin on our trademark Christmas carol…”(Sammwak Wants You To) Deck the Halls 2012″!

Deck the halls with seas of presents,

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

‘Tis the season to be goody,

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Santa’s coming, so please be good, or he’ll give you a big lump of coal!

One day a year is this jolly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-LA!

Oh, I also planned to have some SpongeBob in there, so here ya go.

Oh, and here’s a cool song my English Plus class listened to the other day. Here’s the lyrics if you want to partake in a Minecraft Christmas Sing-Along! And since it’ll take too long to go through every word in the entire song, let’s do just the 12th day and work our way down the list of items.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Steve gave to me,

twelve iron shovels,

eleven tasty cookies,

ten dancing zombies,

nine little saplings,

eight shiny diamonds,

seven golden apples,

six Ender chests,

FIVE GOLDEN PANTS!

four tasty cakes,

three anvils,

two diamond picks,

and a Creeper hissing at me!

Now for some tips to throw a great Christmas party!

  • Book a date. As December moves, people get busier by the second, so it’s good to have a date ready.
  • Send out invitations in late November or early December. This way you can drain out how many people to expect, and remember that this is RSVP only.
  • Plan your eateries in advance. Are you gonna host a relaxed buffet, or a more sit-down meal? Scrawl down your ideas on the shopping list and stick to them. Prepare as much as possible the day before the party, and make things easy and simple—-the last thing you’d want to do is be slaving your own self in the kitchen while guests are having a good time. Some good recommendations to fulfill hungers are cookies, cookies, and more cookies.
  • Welcome guests upon arrival. Be sure to make your guests feel good, and greet them at the door. Take their coats and escort them to the party area. Make introductions if guests aren’t acquainted with one another and strike the conversation. Arrange drinks to hand out to your guests, and the real icebreaker comes for shy guests.
  • Play music. The perfect formula to setting moods fast. Be sure to cook up a few CDs beforehand, but play it at a sustainable volume, since people will want to chat.
  • Host games (optional decision). The most classic party games in the book, like charades, are perfect for Christmas parties. More sophisticated get-togethers can host adult games, but just in case, have plenty of writing utensils, papers, and balloons.
  • Have fun! Don’t feel uncomfortable at the party. Your guests will be looking at you to set the mood, you being the host/hostess. If you lead the way of a fun time, all will follow.
  • Give the kids something to enjoy! Especially if you have children at your party, let them have friends invited. Give the kids something to do that will keep them entertained for a sustainable duration, so keep them busy.

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If you prefer some “picks for popcorn” to satisfy your yuletide needs, check out some of my most favored holiday flick picks!

Golden Tomato Award winner for Best-Reviewed Animated Film of 2011

“…a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength” – Rotten Tomatoes

“Fabulous, funny holiday movie about the Christmas spirit” – Common Sense Media

In her film directing debut, Sarah Smith gives us arguably one of the best–if not the best–Christmas film released to theaters in years. The story revolves around Santa Claus’s titular yet maladroit son Arthur Christmas as he gets caught in the middle of yet another gift-giving spree on Christmas Eve. However, not even Santa’s high-tech ship has delivered every present that needed to be delivered, as Arthur realizes that one girl’s present has been left behind. In one of the wildest, riskiest, and craziest journeys yet, Arthur and his comrades must race against the clock to deliver the lone present and save Christmas. The film ended up grossing almost $150 million–$50 million more than the film’s actual budget. But hey, don’t be nervous because it didn’t win commercially. Grab your family and friends and check out how it can  really bring the “tide” back into “yuletide”…

2010 Kids Choice Award winner for Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie (Jim Carrey)

2010 Kids Choice Award nominee for Favorite Animated Movie

36th Saturn Award nominee for Best Animated Feature

Common Sense Media Editor’s Pick

“…dazzling special effects…an array of fine performances from Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman” – Rotten Tomatoes

“an exhilarating visual experience” – The Chicago Sun-Times

“a marvelous and touching yuletide toy of a movie” – Entertainment Weekly

From the director from some of history’s most groundbreaking films–Forrest Gump,the Back to the Future trilogy, and The Polar Express–comes one of the most unique animated holiday films of all time. Presented completely in motion-capture animation, Robert Zemeckis’ take on A Christmas Carolstars, as always, the cold and gluttonous Ebenezer Scrooge. In 1843, Scrooge shows true hatred for everything related to Christmas or even happiness itself, refusing to attend his nephew’s Christmas party and forcing his employee Bob Cratchit to beg to take the day off. That night, Scrooge gets an unexpected visit by the spirit of his former partner-in-business Jacob Marley whom had passed a week prior on Xmas Eve, now having to carry heavy chains forged from his greed throughout his afterlife. Marley gives off a premonition that Scrooge will be haunted by three spirits that will guide him to finally repent and prevent an even worse fate than himself. Indeed, Scrooge is haunted by the three ghosts Marley had foretold–the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. Through the spirits Scrooge witnesses visions of how he became the man he is now, the ways he will corrupt others, and–if he really doesn’t cooperate–even his own fate…

1995 Kids Choice Award nominee for Favorite Movie Actor (Tim Allen)

“…firmly rooted in the sort of good old-fashioned holiday spirit missing from too many modern yuletide films” – Rotten Tomatoes

“Heartwarming family tale for both kids and adults” – Common Sense Media

Imagine this: one night you cause Santa Claus to fall from your rooftop to his demise and you and your son must finish St. Nick’s gift deliveries, then you travel to the North Pole where you realize–much to your surprise–that you must actually become the real Santa Claus himself and, under the power of the Santa Clause, convince his loved ones that he truly is Father Christmas himself. But you’re not impersonating Santa, you’re slowly becoming him–you’re growing white hairs, you’re adding weight, etc. Well, that’s basically the entire concept of The Santa Clause. In director John Pasquin’s first collab with Allen since his days on TV with Home Improvement, this fictitious fantasia hosts Allen’s first real primetime trip to the big screen after working a minor role in 1989′s Tropical Snow and is sure to be a family hit for both the hilarity and the heart-warming it has to offer. And if you don’t think so, then ho ho ho boy, you’ve got some work to do! (Bonus: If you want to, consider the movie’s two sequels Santa Clause 2 and Santa Clause 3.)

Title-holder of history’s highest-grossing comedy film as of 2009

1990 Oscar nominee for Best Original Score (composed by John Williams) and Best Original Song (“Somewhere In My Memory”)

1991 Kids Choice Award winner for Favorite Movie

“a good-natured, albeit unrealistic, family film that both kids and adults will enjoy” – Common Sense Media

This is easily the most classic yuletide comedy in the book, the one movie that skyrocketed star Macaulay Culkin’s film career, and one that will always live in my heart. In this hilarious hijink, the McCallister family is preparing to spend their Christmas in Paris, but forget one tiny detail: Kevin, whom is one of the two sons. Now home alone, Kevin finds himself to experience true freedom by pigging out and watching mature films, but after an unexpected visit by the Chicago Police Department Kevin gets an even worse scenario where his house is under the besiege of two dangerous thieves…dangerously dull, that is. Once Kevin realizes he has to defend his home if he wants to emerge as the victor of the fight, he begins organizing an increasingly clever series of booby traps that the burglars mindlessly continue to fall victim to. That’s pretty much the entire film, but that premise alone–and how the film’s director, also responsible for Gremlins and Mrs. Doubtfire, pulled it off–grossed the movie an overall revenue of almost $500 million! No wonder it’s the highest-grossing comedy of all time!

2004 ASCAP Award winner for Top Box Office Films

2004 Golden Trailer winner for Best Comedy

2004 Blimp Award nominee for Favorite Movie

2004 MTV Movie Award nominee for Best Comedic Performance (Will Ferrell)

2004 PFCS Award nominee for Best Live Action Family Film and Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music

2004 Teen Choice Award nominee for Choice Movie Actor (Will Ferrell) and Choice Movie – Comedy

2005 Golden Satellite Award nominee for Best Youth DVD

Common Sense Media Editor’s Pick

“A movie full of Yuletide cheer…a spirited, good-natured family comedy…benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers” – Rotten Tomatoes

“Peppy holiday favorite for both kids and parents” – Common Sense Media

In Will Ferrell’s first primetime starring role for a family film, he portrays Buddy, a man raised among Santa’s elves whom discovers that in actuality he is the son of a father named Walter who likes in NYC and is on Santa’s naughty list. Ditching the North Pole to find his dad, Buddy only incorporates what he’s learned among the elves and elflike, which makes Buddy a snowflake decoration master and gives him expectations to the best from everyone. Which, in case you’re wondering, aren’t really crucial skills in the Big Apple. Buddy’s dad, who’s in the publishing industry, is slipping on thin ice because he needs to find a successful children’s book by Christmas Eve. Despite being skeptical that Buddy is his son, after a DNA test Walter finally accepts Buddy and brings him home to meet Walter’s wife and second son. However at Gimbel’s, Buddy stumbles across a pretty lass named Jovie. On his way to saving the holidays and creating happy endings for all from the North Pole to NYC, Buddy gets lots of opportunities to do idiotically fun activities as he experiences what the Big Apple has to offer, as well as getting more in touch with Jovie and her family.

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That’s enough movies for one special! Now, in reference to this year’s Halloween special, let’s tune in some of your favorite TV show’s efforts in making their viewers’ Christmases a very merry and holly jolly one! But before I tell you that, I need to tell you about the campaigning some of my fave channels have been doing. Cartoon Network has definitely got in the habit, changing their trademark jingle to fit the yuletide mood and even hosting the Naughty Or Nice Christmas event:

And Disney XD has also gotten in a yuletide mood, introducing their new “Shiver-Vision” campaign to support them kinda like how Disney Channel’s “Monstober” campaign kicks in for Halloween.

Now, let’s get to that TV!

Oh, Christmas Nuts!” from Kickin’ It - Yep, even the Wasabi Warriors celebrate Christmas. But Jack, Milton, and Jerry are more interested in getting presents from Santa than unlocking the true yuletide spirit, so Rudy makes the trio volunteer at “Santa’s village” for activities like gift-wrapping and the snowball toss. However, their intentions backfire when they are framed for stealing a bag of gifts from the village and become “the kids who stole Christmas”, becoming banned from the mall and the dojo. The three desperately attempt to show their innocence, targeting an elf named Tinsel, when they discover a shocking secret about the village’s wrapping paper that might just prove they’re not guilty. In the meantime, Eddie and Kim participate in the ultimate “fight before Christmas” by showing off their window displays in a contest full of envy and competition.

The Christmas Special” by Regular Show - For this simplistically titled half-hour holiday special, you might be wondering, “What’s the park doing to celebrate Christmastime?” Well, of course throwing a huge Christmas party! Unfortunately, at the same time Santa himself is getting himself in a lot of trouble. One of his own elves, Quillgin, has betrayed him and now they are fighting to what seems to be the death over a gift box. The clash ends suddenly when Quillgin fires three bullets into Santa and causes him to fall out of his sleigh, taking the box with him. He ends up making a crash landing in Skips’ garage, where Mordo and Rigs discover him while going out to get more drinks for the party. After being skeptical Santa proves to them he is not a scam by reciting the two’s Christmas wishes about invisibility cloaks, and he informs them about his purpose and why the gift box is so important. When opened, the box grants its bearers with what they want most–and it accepts anything, even the worst of occurrences. Worse yet, the gift can only be destroyed when thrown into a pit of lava, which means nothing like a chainsaw or a hammer can even dent it. The pair, now having gotten the rest of their comrades into believing their story, travel with Santa to East Pines to drop off the box in an abandoned mineshaft. However, when Rigby commits an act of vandalism by playing with the park’s snowman, they are held as captors by none other than their worst enemy–Gene. Initially Gene does not believe them, stating that they’re trying to pull a yuletide prank because Benson was mad about the quality of his sweater, but after discovering the box’s true powers he gives in. Gene manages to give the gang a ride to the mineshaft on snowmobiles, and warns the gang about a series of booby traps before heading away. It turns out that before they can get to the pit, they must go through three trials that are not as treacherous as the last…

Christmas” from The Amazing World of Gumball - As the series’ first episode to have a name without “the” in it, Elmore’s Christmas special is obviously a very special one. In what seems to be a reference to The Santa Clause, the Wattersons accidentally hit a filthy bum whom apparently looked strikingly like Santa. When they rush the stranger to the hospital, Richard worries that he will be on the naughty list and decides to do a few impromptu deeds that only manage to wreck the hospital. After Richard’s hospital havoc, the doctor finally gives the family the diagnosis of the situation: the stranger has no ID, no memory, clearly no chances of being Santa, but he does have one thing–he must be cared for by those who caused pain to him in the first place. The family definitely goes overboard with their planning, as Richard surrenders everything he owns to “Santa”, Nicole goes out of her way to ensure that everything “Santa”‘s  filthy fingers touch will be put in their place, and the family even takes “Santa” to the mall and replaces him with the mall Santa…

It’s A SpongeBob Christmas!” from SpongeBob – Remember back in 2000, during SpongeBob‘s second season, when “Christmas Who?” came out and literally redefined Nick’s ways to make a Christmas special? Well twelve years have passed since that, and seemingly to celebrate the success of the original SpongeBob Christmas special, Nick came back with something even bigger. And by big, we mean they took Bikini Bottom, turned it into stop motion inspired by the timeless Rankin/Bass specials, and added several songs to the mix. Yep, that’s a true SpongeBob Christmas. And this Christmastime definitely differs from the rest, as Plankton has his biggest scheme yet to both ruin the happiest day of the year for Bikini Bottom and all its Bikini Bottomites, as well as make himself look good for Santa to put on his nice list and deliver to him what he desires most–the secret Krabby Patty formula. And how does such an evil mastermind do that? Well, after thirteen years of failure Plankton has definitely taken notes, as his new plan is creating…fruitcakes? But these aren’t just any fruitcakes, these are fruitcakes laced with jerktonium, an element “fresh from the periodic table” as “Jt” that can make any consumer become the meanest and nastiest jerk of all. Pretty soon, Plankton spreads his baked horrors across the city and slowly turns everyone Bikini Bottomite around into a jerk. Every single one except SpongeBob. Apparently, his yuletide love is so strong not even jerktonium can reach his heart, so thanks to this Plankton has created a Plan B that will take SpongeBob’s Christmas cheer and crush it–a metallic Sponge-Bot that will impersonate the real being. With SpongeBob curious as to how the city’s gone mad–literally–he visits a cranky Sandy where he finally discovers the secret to the fruitcake’s power…

Note: This episode contains one major error–when in Sandy’s treedome SpongeBob does not wear his water helmet and is perfectly fine in air for some reason–the stop motion likely made it tough to create a helmet for his head, let alone having it stay on.

A Fairly Odd Christmas” from The Fairly OddParents - Now, this isn’t exactly what you’d call a TV episode, but rather a TV movie. But I still consider this a Christmas special, and it still technically is in the show’s canon. In this riveting holiday Odd Movie sequel to Grow Up, Timmy Turner, Timmy is traveling round the world with his girlfriend Tootie and his fairies. While on this magical trek the foursome are granting wishes for the people they meet, but Santa discovers that with these granted wishes Timmy’s customers automatically get removed from Santa’s nice list. After confrontation with a pair of elves, Santa directly explains to Timmy the true meaning behind “with great power comes great responsibility”. But at that very moment an elf informs Santa that the gift wrapping machine has broken, and when Timmy unwittingly decides to grant Santa’s wish, his fairy magic malfunctions and turns into a blast that sends Santa sailing into the machine. Worse yet, he suffered a blow to the head on the way in, and he has suffered brain damage. Luckily, Timmy’s beefcake companion Jorgen arrives and tells him–once again foreshadowing The Santa Clause–that he must become Santa since all godchildren must take the place of a holiday icon they have been damaged to the point where they can’t do their job. Unfortunately, Timmy can’t become Santa due to being on his naughty list, and Timmy’s fairy friends can’t do squat about it since the planet’s magnetic polarity at the North Pole invalidates this type of magic…

Note: This is Drake Bell’s second starring role to a Nick show’s Christmas special in the form of a TV movie. The first was Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh.

Mr. Claus” and “Mr. Elf” from Mr. Young - If you couldn’t already infer, this is indeed another reference to The Santa Clause. After Derby’s planned prank goes wrong, Santa ends up falling from his sleigh on Christmas Eve and his hard landing knocks out his memory! So now Adam, Derby, Ivy, Echo, and Slab must deliver the rest of Santa’s gifts to the entire world in just one sleigh! Unfortunately, upon coming back they discover something shocking about Santa that changes the entire Christmas for them. As for “Mr. Elf”, Santa is also a centric character in this episode as Adam takes a reindeer to the North and convinces Santa to automate the work, but now must care for all the unemployed elves. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but then again this episode has only aired in Canada…

Silent Punch, Deadly Punch” from Randy Cunningham - Norrisville’s favorite ninja is back to kick some yuletide butt, and he is looking for the Skunk Pine so his smoke bombs can be restocked. When Randy does find the Pine, it is stolen by Hannibal McFist to use as a Christmas tree for a party at McFist Industries. After discovering that Howard is also at Hannibal’s party when his company was bought by his industries, Randy disguises as a ninja Santa to infiltrate the party and restock his bombs. Even if it means fighting robo-elves and a robo-snowman…

Generic Holiday Special” and “Orange Carol” from Annoying Orange - Yep, Nerville and his flock of fruits have definitely got their hands full of yuletide spirit. But they have so much of it, they couldn’t cram it all into one episode–they had to knife chop it into two! Their first episode was the show’s first “generic holiday special”, highlighting things like how the Easter Bunny makes his eggs (ewww), Passion Fruit’s plan to outdo Orange’s “new friend”, as well as some celebrity appearances. And not celebrity appearances as big as the Rock Candy Monster (although he does nonetheless appear), these are actual celebrities–people like “Weird Al” Yankovic, Bret Michaels, and Alice Cooper, to be exact! Oh, there’s also famous vegetable guitarist Squash in there. But as for “Orange Carol”, it sounds pretty much 100% as it seems–Orange’s levels of annoyance have slowly begun to upset his fruity friends as they go Christmas caroling, and even Nerville has been infuriated to the point where he bans Orange from the group of carolers. But as he naps, he is visited by three spirits who will one way or another show him the errors of his ways. The first spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Past (aka Midget Apple), who shows him how annoying he’s been for the past few Christmases. The second spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Present (aka Pear), who shows him how his friends are doing without him around. And the third and final spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Future (aka Marshmallow), who shows him how corrupted his future will be if he continues to be so annoying…

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But of course, I’d be a cold-blooded and cold-hearted blogger if I didn’t talk about the tragedy that occurred exactly a week ago. All was well on the 14th of December for Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Almost 500 kids had enrolled in the school between kindergarten and fourth grade, and it seemed to be a pretty basic day…or so everyone thought. At exactly 9:35 in the morning, 20-year old Adam P. Lanza had just committed matricide and was driving his mom’s car to Sandy Hook, where he broke through a glass door at the front of the school. Sporting apparel fresh out of Battlefield, Lanza spent the 14 minutes he was inside the school shooting every child and teacher in sight. Lanza ended up robbing the lives of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook before committing suicide with a headshot as soon as police authorities arrived. Add all that up with Lanza’s mother, and a total of 28 people lost their lives0 in the shooting. Despite the number the Sandy Hook shooting ranks as the second-deadliest shooting in America (behind the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007) as well as the second-deadliest mass murder at an elementary school in the US (behind the 1927 Bath School bombings). Enough gruesome details, let’s just dive into “moment of silence mode” to honor and remember those who were put to rest last Friday. Yes, from bystanders to heroes.

  • Charlotte Bacon (6)
  • Daniel Barden (7)
  • Olivia Engel (6)
  • Josephine Gay (7)
  • Dylan Hockley (6)
  • Madeleine Hsu (6)
  • Catherine Hubbard (6)
  • Chase Kowalski (7)
  • Jesse Lewis (6)
  • Ana Marquez-Greene (6)
  • James Mattioli (6)
  • Grace McDonnell (6)
  • Emilie Parker (6)
  • Jack Pinto (6)
  • Noah Pozner (6)
  • Caroline Previdi (6)
  • Jessica Rekos (6)
  • Avielle Richman (6)
  • Benjamin Wheeler (6)
  • Allison Wyatt (6)
  • Rachel D’Avino (29, teacher’s aid)
  • Dawn Hochsprung (47, principal)
  • Anne Marie Murphy (52, teacher’s aid)
  • Lauren Rousseau (30, teacher)
  • Mary Sherlach (56, school psychologist)
  • Victoria Leigh Soto (27, teacher)
  • Nancy Lanza (52, Lanza’s mother/killed at home)

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

- Barack Obama in one of his many speeches addressing the Sandy Hook shooting

As you can see in my little blockquote, the shooting has triggered swarms of shock, surprise, and most of all grief across the country and even most of the world. It has gotten tons of reactions from people who took the gratitude to remember those who were put to the big nap in this tragedy. Smosh didn’t even release their usual Friday video one week because of the shooting! Luckily, I think all this was satisfied when practically all the artists and coaches on The Voice banded together to sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with an array of lit candles organized to set the mood. Each artist and coach held a card which bore the name of a young victim in the shooting and their age. Here, it makes a lot more sense if you see it for yourself. (By the way this has over 4.4 million hits, so consider it viral.)

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And since you know how much of a Jolly Good Bookie I am–that’s right, I am the Bookie–let’s count down this year’s best and worst books of the year!

As I said before, and will say again, I’d be daft if I didn’t mention the first three Sisters Grimm books as some of my books of the year. I don’t know how Michael Buckley pulls it off, whether or not he has some sort of “magic touch” when it comes to writing. He has the humor, adventure, action, surprises, excitement, charm, awesomeness, character, fantasy incorporation, and about a million other things that made the original Sisters Grimm trilogy nothing less than a flawless hit. (Wow, I think someone would ought to say this about Ocarina of Time.) When I first read Fairy-Tale Detectives, all I recognized Buckley for was his NERDS series, which I had eventually gotten quite fond of. But as I read the book, it slowly changed my perspective of the fantasy genre itself, and when I put the book down I was almost itching to get the sequel. A few weeks or months later (remember people, this is an entire school grade ago, so I can’t recall much detail) I eventually got the second installment via “on-hold” and read that through like I’d read the first one. In a rather dimwitted act, I got so antsy for that book that I checked out both the third and fourth installments to try and hold me off. Unfortunately, I didn’t read a chapter of either books since I knew it wouldn’t make any sense, and simply refused to treat a series like this. Luckily when I read the third book, it blew its previous installments out of the water. And to this day, although I’m still waiting for my time with the fourth installment to come–I keep having dreams about it–let’s just honor the original trilogy in the meantime. Especially with our Fantasy Books of the Year honor.

Now, I bet you’re wondering, “Oh, of course Sam would put City of Ember as one of the top books.” Well, actually, I’ve got a pattern going on. I list a good book, and then I list a bad book. And as I already listed Sisters Grimm as a good book, then City of Ember inevitably has to be the bad book. Now I bet you’re shocked, flabbergasted, thinking I’m all hypocritical. But actually, City of Ember only messes up on the small problems that predictably grow bigger throughout the story. Speaking of story, the book’s storyline isn’t half bad: in a post-apocalyptic world, the city of Ember has reached its 240th year of existence and seems to be in more eroding condition each year. The lightbulbs that serve as the city’s only light source are beginning to die out, resulting in blackouts that terrify the entire city, but two kids will get to the bottom of it. Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet, to be exact. On Assignment Day–it’s sort of like a holiday where each young Emberite (I know it’s not a word, but it sounds right) receives a job requiring work around the city–Lina is given the dreaded job of Pipeworks laborer. Doon, however, gets the best job of all–the messenger–and shockingly turns it down. Eventually Doon convinces Lina to swap jobs with him, as Doon is interested in the Pipeworks due to them bearing Ember’s generator. Seems cool, huh? Not when awkward storyline and clunky perspective and dialogue get in the way. These are basically what makes City of Ember that much farther away from its true goal, and this is kind of sad to say. Ember had a great storyline and plenty of potential, but its problems in general prose is what corrupted the book. And it got turned into one of the most mediocre movies of 2008, as well as one of the year’s biggest box office failures. That’s corruption itself. Let’s give this book a Sci-Fi Miss of the Year honor just to accentuate the book’s imperfections.

You’ve probably never heard of this book. And that’s what makes it that much better. Paul Feig’s groundbreaking children’s literature debut, Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut!, practically takes modern science fiction and gives it his own unique twist. And as he was the true main man behind the notorious Nickelodeon show Freaks and Geeks, it wasn’t a surprise Feig didn’t back down in humor. In fact, all of Feig’s charm, adventure, action, and prose skills were conglomerated in this one novel, and it had an equally impressive storyline to go with it. You see–well, let’s just use the description I had in our last INSANE.

” As the titular star of the book, Ignatius “Iggy” MacFarland, achieves both. The premise of the story revolves around Iggy being the center of lots of teases and laughs from the meaner kids at his school (an example being “Piggy MacFartland”), and when he reaches the last straw he decides to do something that even Neil Armstrong considers bizarre. (Or should I say, considered, due to Neil’s passing earlier this year in August. Long live the man who showed us that it was possible to literally moonwalk. :cry: ) Iggy actually builds a rocket ship that he plans to launch to send him (and his friends Gary and Ivan) into outer space to another planet. Iggy has the metaphor that hopefully the extraterrestrials will be more nice to him, but when something horrible happens with his ship–with him inside–he is somehow blasted to…well, not outer space, but a parallel reality or “frequency” known as Lesterville. (And here’s where the science fiction comes in…)

At this twisted dystopian version of the real world, Iggy discovers a strange race of humans and their even stranger language (made up of the mere “puh” and “pah”), and discovers that the entire frequency is ruled by a man known as Chester Arthur–Iggy’s English teacher! He has now become the frequency’s dictator/president, and literally every brand in sight has been affected with Arthur’s name. Arthur Potter by J.K. Arthling, Artbucks, Art Wars: The Artpire Strikes Back, Art of the Rings, The Artfather Parts I and II, even Spider-Art, for Art’s sake! (Oh great, now they got me doing it.) In this frequency, Iggy meets Karen (another Earthling) who becomes his companion in solving the mystery of Lesterville and defeating this version of Mr. Arthur–and hopefully they can return home with their skins. Oh, there’s also a flying fairy-like girl in the story named Foo, which you could consider his second companion.”

I finished it a while ago, and it turned out to be one of the greatest sci-fi novels I’ve read since War of the Worlds. So with all this smashed together, it’s not a big mystery why I should give this my Sci-Fi Book of the Year honor.

Now, Dan Gutman’s always had a special place in the book section of my heart. From his Million DollarWeird School, and Homework Machine sagas to some of his standalones like Getting Air and Get Rich Quick Club, he’s always nourished his abilities with humor to fuel his prose. But this–I think he was still experimenting his writing skills with this one. I’m not saying that to insult the book, this is actually his second sci-fi book (after They Came from Centerfield, which is actually Gutman’s fiction debut) and arguably his most creative and unique one yet. It basically revolves around a boy named Lucas “Yip” Turner, named after George Lucas and nicknamed after Yip Harburg (responsible for the music from Wizard of Oz). Yip’s family is engulfed in film special effects–his father is a modern VFX expert while his grandpa is a more old-school junkie in horror film effects. One day, Mr. Turner introduces brand-new software that can create virtual actors to take the places of stunt doubles (known as “vactors”), so Yip and his sister create a vactor of their own. This vactor goes by the name of “Victor” (get it?), and he is pretty much intellectually, physically, mentally, and emotionally perfect. To sum all this up, Victor fulfills the book’s title of being “virtually perfect”. However, Yip makes a deal with Vic–if Yip could let Vic break the barriers of cyberspace and enter the real world, Vic could let Yip break the barriers of the real world and enter cyberspace. However, Yip realizes that the software–and Vic–have bugs, and soon Vic turns against his owner. Which is actually one of the most humdrum plots I’ve seen this year.

This is basically the exact same plot as the DCOM Pixel Perfect (see the similarities already?), except it’s put in a book. “Unfortunately, there were lots of bumps in the book, from prose to premises. And not even its endless consumerism mentioning can stop VIRTUALLY PERFECT from several death-defying imperfections.” That was my Google Books review, by the way. And I think you can tell that this is our Sci-Fi Flop of the Year already.

Historical Fiction Book of the Year. Nuff said.

Take the Boxcar Children‘s humor and character and smash it together with X-Men‘s heroism and action, and and what do you get? Booklist‘s formula for the kickoff to James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment. If you paid attention during my Middle School, Worst  Years of My Life review a few Fridays ago, you would know that James Patterson writes much more fantastical series. Witch & Wizard focuses mostly on fantasy, while Maximum Ride is Patterson’s taste of science fiction. Anyway, the book revolves around the flock. Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel to be exact. Anyway, these six kids all share an amazing yet at the same time dark secret–as babies they were the test subjects of genetic experimentation, and because of that they became 98% human and 2% bird/avian! And with that 2% avian came their own pair of wings which actually allow them to fly! Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t spend the entire 400 pages with these kids frolicking and partaking in aerial mischief–they’re actually the prey of a fierce manhunt formed by the Erasers, a wolflike species which loves eating up winged kids like the flock for dinner. In fact, the Erasers had abducted the former youngest flock member, Ari, and turned him against his own relatives! The actual plot of the book mainly consists of the Eraser-flock battle, from the Erasers kidnapping Angel to a final subway fight with Ari to serve as the finale of the novel. And in case you didn’t know, that’s what makes the novel so exciting to read and picture [using Dav Pilkey's imagination theory]. Here’s what I had to say about the book in my Google Books review:

“James Patterson proves that his history of action and mystery writing from the 1990s is still intact with this engrossing read. THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT impeccably mixes Patterson’s trademark charm, humor, and action to make for one of the best sci-fi adventures in the past decade. Definitely a recommendation for people who love unique science fiction or don’t like science fiction at all, and for those who are skeptical about the series they can start off with the manga books.”

You don’t even have to read the book for the first hundred pages to see why it’s my Book of the Year.

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We’ve been through movies, we’ve been through TV, we’ve even been through the Sandy Hook sho–oh, what’s that? You want me to talk about video games now? If you say so! Here’s a highlight retrospective of what’s been happening through the fourth and final quarter of the gaming season!

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One of the most anticipated games of the year, Assassin’s Creed III, became Ubisoft’s biggest launching success yet. Its pre-order numbers alone drove both Brotherhood and Revelations‘ ratings into the ground, becoming the company’s most pre-ordered game ever. In its opening week the game topped the UK charts as the bestselling game of the week, boasting the best sales the series has ever seen to date. In fact, AC3 was actually the UK’s second biggest launch of the year only behind FIFA 13, doubling the launching week sales of AC2 and beating Revelations by over 100,000 copies! 3.5 million copies of the game were sold in the game’s first week of release! At the night of this year’s Spike VGAs, it received six award nominations: Game of the Year, Best Xbox 360 Game, Best PS3 Game, Best Action-Adventure Game, Best Graphics, and Character of the Year for Connor Kenway. It also was the centerpiece of plenty of critical acclaim from some of the biggest reviewers out there:

“A resonant story, compelling exploration, and tense oceanic battles make Assassin’s Creed III a rousing success” – GameSpot

“…delivers everything the series has promised, and throws in a little more for good measure” – Game Informer magazine

“…newly refined gameplay and incredibly rich setting are captivating stuff…” – Official Xbox Magazine

“…an impressive adventure that succeeds in most of what it attempts.” – IGN

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Of course, one of the year’s biggest anticipations finally unraveled itself last month, as Nintendo’s entry into the eighth generation of gaming and the first 8th-gen console to date. It already has the pride of its big brothers, the Wii, SNES, and NES, and I believe that it builds much more upon that. It indeed was the Wii U, formerly codenamed as “Project Café”, that I’m talking about. Just a few weeks ago this console finally hit the primetime, boasting jaw-dropping prices of over $300. Surprisingly, the console has already sold over 400,000 units as of December 1! I don’t know whether it’s the console’s backward compatibility with the Wii, or its new services like the Nintendo Network, or even the console-controller design that makes the Wii U so popular. In fact, maybe it’s merely just the games it has to offer! In fact, the Wii U showed both its upsides and downsides with select games that it had on its launch list, and I’m just about to tell you what those games were…

  • New Super Mario Bros. U, the first Mario game for the Wii U or in HD, was  arguably the console’s biggest hit. It was the center of lots of critical acclaim, getting compliments like it being “a great excuse for families to gather round the TV”, “an enticing glimpse of Mario’s HD future”, and that it was “an impressive step in the right direction.” To add to that, it even got luck at this year’s Spike VGAs when it was awarded with the Best Wii/Wii U Game award! And who else to accept the award like the big boss of Nintendo himself, Shigeru Miyamoto? Currently, the game has sold more than 200,000 units with an attachment rate of approximately 60%.
  • On the other hand, the console’s pioneering survival horror ZombiU didn’t do as good. And I could easily tell why–its London zombie apocalypse premise seemed pretty generic and cheesy to me. And to believe this game was supposed to bring back honor and homage to Zombi, Ubisoft’s first-ever game for consoles like the Commodore 64. The game only proceeded to get a mixed share of reviews overall. Reviewers like Eurogamer praised the game for displaying “the success or otherwise of ZombiU could be defining for the Wii U”. Reviewers like Game Informer and IGN strongly criticized the game for having “a clunky control scheme and annoying melee combat” as well as being “sloppy and poorly executed”. Now, if I were to be the tiebreaker of this skirmish, I’d say that the game isn’t an Operation Raccoon City kind of game, nor is it a Left 4 Dead or Walking Dead kind of game.
  • The Wii U’s pack-in game, Nintendo Land, managed to be a hit with most of the game critics out there. Nintendo Land, intended to create a carnival or theme park atmosphere, consisted of twelve minigames/”attractions” that each had roots of an old Nintendo game. Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion, and Pikmin were just some of the games that were rooted into the attractions. The game was created mainly to display the quality and functionality of the Wii U and its GamePad, just like how Wii Sports displayed the abilities of the Wii. And look where that game is now–it’s the most bestselling game in history! Now, since Nintendo Land likely couldn’t achieve a prestigious honor like that, it got its run to glory started with plenty of positive reviews. GameSpot gave the game an 8/10 score and said the game had “plenty of family-friendly fun and [made] great use of the Wii U’s capabilities.” IGN was even more positive about the game, giving it an 8.7/10 score–making the game an Editor’s Choice pick–calling the title “the cream of the mini-game crop” and praising its variety and content. GamesMaster gave the game 86% and said it was “an essential purchase for party lovers that whets the Nintendo appetite.” To me, it looks like Wii Sports has met its match. No, seriously, that’s straight from IGN.
  • The Wii U’s first primetime enhanced game, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, made the game look even better than it already is. It’s already won many prestigious titles, awards, honors, and accolades–in fact, so many that it had to release a Game of the Year edition! So how else to praise a good game by enhancing it exclusively on one console to make it even better? And that’s what Armored Edition‘s sole purpose was to do. One of GameSpot’s editors, Carolyn Petit, praised the game from its atmospheric open world to its amazing senses of combat, but only had two problems with the game–BAT mode, as well as the Wii U-specific settings and properties that put “a few chinks in the Caped Crusader’s costume”. IGN, once again, praised the game for the same fields that GameSpot did, and also criticized the game in the same fields that GameSpot did, but this time the game got off the hook with a 9.5/10 score! In fact, Armored Edition is one of the most praised Wii U games out there right now, so it’s definitely worth a glance or two.

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This month, Spike hosted its 10th-anniversary Video Game Awards. They got so in the mood that they actually renamed the award show VGA 10 for any purpose involving the anniversary. For his fourth time yet Samuel L. Jackson returned as the show’s host, the show had a first for presenting awards via Xbox Live, and also users could “play” the show while it aired. Audience members and users with Xbox Smartglass got an incomparable 2nd-screen experience that had real-time updates along with the show. And to add to that, Entertainment Weekly and the Spike VGAs banded together to make the show’s first “Entertainment Weekly and Spike VGA Best Game of the Decade” award. That is, in case you’re curious, a very prestigious honor. Many games that won’t be hitting retail until 2013 were debuted at the show in their exclusive world premieres, including South Park: The Stick of Truth, BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington (the game’s first DLC pack). Wolfgang Gartner, Tenacious D, Linkin Park, and the Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla. For those who want the results of the show and couldn’t see them live, here they are now:

Game of the Year Nominees:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Dishonored
  • Journey
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Walking Dead

Game of the Year Winner: The Walking Dead

Studio of the Year Nominees:

  • 343 Industries for Halo 4
  • Arkane Studios for Dishonored
  • Gearbox Software for Borderlands 2
  • Telltale Games for The Walking Dead

Studio of the Year Winner: Telltale Games

Character of the Year Nominees:

  • Connor Kenway for Assassin’s Creed III
  • Commander Shepard for Mass Effect 3
  • Master Chief for Halo 4
  • Raul Menendez for Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Claptrap for Borderlands 2

Character of the Year Winner: Claptrap

Entertainment Weekly and Spike VGA Best Game of the Decade Nominees:

  • Batman: Arkham City
  • BioShock
  • Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Portal
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Shadow of the Colossus
  • Half-Life 2
  • Wii Sports
  • World of Warcraft

Best Game of the Decade Winner: Half-Life 2

Best Xbox 360 Game Nominees:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Borderlands 2
  • Dishonored
  • Halo 4

Best Xbox 360 Game Winner: Halo 4

Best PS3 Game Nominees:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Journey
  • Borderlands 2
  • Dishonored

Best PS3 Game Winner; Journey

Best Wii/Wii U Game Nominees:

  • The Last Story (Wii)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
  • New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
  • ZombiU (Wii U)

Best Wii/Wii U Game Winner: New Super Mario Bros. U(by a landslide, I believe neutral)

Best PC Game Nominees:

  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • Diablo III
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Torchlight II

Best PC Game Winner: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Best Shooter Nominees:

  • Borderlands 2
  • Max Payne 3
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Halo 4

Best Shooter Winner: Borderlands 2

Best Action-Adventure Game Nominees:

  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Darksiders II
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Dishonored

Best Action-Adventure Game Winner: Dishonored

Best RPG Nominees:

  • Diablo III
  • Torchlight II
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Best RPG Winner: Mass Effect 3

Best Multiplayer Game Nominees:

  • Borderlands 2
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Halo 4
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Best Multiplayer Game Winner: Borderlands 2

Best Individual Sports Game Nominees:

  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
  • WWE ’13
  • SSX

Best Individual Sports Game Winner: SSX

Best Team Sports Game Nominees:

  • Madden NFL 13
  • NHL 13
  • NBA 2K13
  • FIFA 13

Best Team Sports Game Winner: NBA 2K13

Best Driving Game Nominees:

  • DiRT: Showdown
  • F1 2012
  • Forza Horizon
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Best Driving Game Winner: Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Best Song in a Game Nominees:

  • “Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park for Medal of Honor: Warfighter
  • “I Didn’t Ask for This” by Austin Wintory for Journey
  • “Tears” by Health for Max Payne 3
  • “Cities” by Beck for Sound Shapes

Best Song in a Game Winner: “Cities” by Beck

Best Original Score Nominees:

  • Journey by Austin Wintory
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II by Jack Wall
  • Halo 4 by Neil Davidge
  • Max Payne 3 by Health

Best Original Score Winner: Journey by Austin Wintory

Best Graphics Nominees:

  • Halo 4
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Dishonored
  • Journey

Best Graphics Winner: Halo 4

Best Indie Game Nominees:

  • Fez
  • Journey
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Dust: An Elysian Trail

Best Indie Game Winner: Journey

Best Fighting Game Nominees:

  • Dead or Alive 5
  • Persona 4 Arena
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Best Fighting Game Winner: Persona 4 Arena

Best Handheld/Mobile Game Nominees:

  • Gravity Rush (handheld)
  • Sound Shapes (handheld)
  • LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (handheld)
  • New Super Mario Bros. 2 (handheld)

Best Handheld/Mobile Game Winner: Sound Shapes

Best Performance by a Human Female Nominees:

  • Jen Taylor as Cortana in Halo 4
  • Emma Stone as Amanda Cartwright for Sleeping Dogs
  • Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard (female) for Mass Effect 3
  • Melissa Hutchison as Clementine for The Walking Dead

Best Performance by a Human Female Winner: Melissa Hutchison as Clementine

Best Performance by a Human Male Nominees:

  • Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack for Borderlands 2
  • Dave Fennoy as Lee for The Walking Dead
  • James McCaffrey as Max Payne for Max Payne 3
  • Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker for Spec Ops: The Line

Best Performance by a Human Male Winner: Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack

Best Adapted Video Game Nominees:

  • The Walking Dead
  • Disney Epic Mickey 2
  • Lego Batman 2
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Best Adapted Video Game Winner: The Walking Dead

Best DLC Nominees:

  • Mass Effect 3: Leviathan
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
  • Portal 2 – Perpetual Testing Initiative
  • Borderlands 2: Mechromancer Pack

Best DLC Winner: Skyrim – Dawnguard

Best Downloadable Game Nominees:

  • Fez
  • The Walking Dead
  • Journey
  • Sound Shapes

Best Downloadable Game Winner: The Walking Dead

Best Social Game Nominees:

  • Draw Something
  • You Don’t Know Jack
  • SimCity Social
  • Marvel: Avengers Alliance

Best Social Game Winner: You Don’t Know Jack

Most Anticipated Game Nominees:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Tomb Raider
  • BioShock Infinite
  • The Last of Us
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth

Most Anticipated Game Winner: Grand Theft Auto V

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Pretty cool, huh? Unfortunately, this time of year isn’t all for fun and yuletide cheer. I think I’ve made it quite clear on both my blogs that I was a fan of two magazines. One was Game Informer. The other introduced me to reading game magazines themselves (the first actual mag I read was Nick Mag) and did it in such a unique and creative way. Sure, it was centric around just one company, but still. And, of course, that magazine was Nintendo Power. Since summer 1988 it’s been the one, only, and official Nintendo magazine for all Nintendo diehards’ gaming needs. Unfortunately, this August Nintendo revealed heartbreaking news–since they couldn’t renew their licensing agreement with Future Publishing, the magazine would not be making it to 2013.

Oh, come on Peach, don’t be sad. There are plenty of other Nintendo magazines out there!…I think. But then again, this is pretty much the only Nintendo magazine worth caring about. I can’t believe that this mag has to celebrate its 25th anniversary releasing its final issue! Most game series’ 25th anniversaries are times of celebration, but–sorry, I got a bit emotional there. Let’s not waste time trying to force me to give the saddest yuletide speech and let’s take a look at NP‘s final issue’s cover, and how it so gracefully reflects that of the first:

issue

Let’s all “get the power, Nintendo Power” one last time as this great big ship sails into the sunset…or at least, that’s how the magazine described it. :cry:

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Now, in the same fashion as last year, let’s get more into the “new year” spirit by introducing something that I’ve never really done before–our Channels of the Year. Not just videos of the week, but in my opinion are the channels that have brought the biggest and best stuff to their home pages for the entire year of 2012. And in addition to that, this might get you anticipated for those of 2013! Now, without further ado, here are the best channels of 2012!

You probably should’ve seen this coming, but indeed Tobuscus ranks among the best channels I’ve seen this year. As the fifteenth highest-subscribed YouTube channel of all time, Tobuscus just keeps getting better and better every year, even if it’s his vlogs we’re talking about! Toby already made a smash at VidCon 2012 (the audience actually sang “Dramatic Song” with him! :D) and got a smash for real in his infamous iPhone 5 breaking. His Minecraft song “I Can Swing My Sword!”, after two thirds of the year, became Toby’s second most-viewed video in history with over 20 million hits! (His literal Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood trailer still leads by five million hits.) Not even that, but I also got in touch with Toby more personally at his official Google+! I know for a fact that under all those pictures he takes of him and his fans, he will always be a humble YouTuber. After all, he does have over 500 million video views. So let’s give him the Veteran of the Year Award.

This is definitely one of the newer channels that I’ve been attracted to: Jacksfilms. Much like Toby, his highest video is at over 20 million hits, but he definitely doesn’t have as much subscribers. In fact, he’s only the 378th highest-subscribed channel. That makes me believes that Jacksfilms definitely wins the Underdog of the Year Award in my book. Jack Douglass, the man behind Jacksfilms, does lots of things from his notorious Your Grammar Sucks series to lots of multi million viewed sketch compilations and parodies. He is one third of the “Sideburns Crew” alongside Toby and fellow YouTuber Sean Klitzner, who collaborate in a number of videos. The most-viewed video involving one of these collabs was “TOBJACKSCUS” which got just over 1 million hits since its launch in May 2011. Some of Jack’s parodies also consist of him merely voicing over other commercials like the ShamWow and Snuggie commercials–ironically and coincidentally, these parodies are his top 2 most viewed videos of all time. Sure, Jack doesn’t impress me with every video he releases, but with the videos he does release with impression comes lots of interest. And it’s pretty cool if you’re friends with almost 20,000 people on YouTube.

The fan art Pewdie.
The real Pewdie.

This is probably one of the most famous YouTube channels out there, let alone within the top-10 most subscribed range, and one of those rare channels that manage to bring something great to the table every single dinner. That was a metaphorical statement, but you know what I mean. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known by his YouTube alias PewDiePie or Pewdie, is a 23-year old YouTuber from Sweden who partakes in playing various video games and uploading his reactions to the web for all to see. Some of these games include Cry of Fear, Happy Wheels, PaRappa the Rapper, Shadow of the Colossus, Just Dance, and–easily his most famous one–Amnesia: The Dark Descent. He is the tenth-most subscribed YouTuber of all time, with over 3 million subscribers for his channel, making his channel one of the few fastest-growing ones on YouTube itself. Because of this, Felix definitely deserves a Man of the House Award. He also calls his subscribers “bros” or “the bro army”, which is accentuated by his tendency to perform a viewer-interactive “brofist” at the end of each video. I mainly take pleasure in watching most of the gaming montages he makes, as well as his Happy Wheels and Amnesia videos as standalones. I love PewDiePie so much because he portrays a very humorous but down-to-earth character that is fueled by curiosity and exaggerated human emotions like fear or sorrow. His real-life persona compared to the kind of persona that he portrays in fan art is very intriguing to witness. Speaking of character, sometimes in the games he plays he gives names and life to certain inanimate objects, and here are some of them:

  • Stephano - Arguably Felix’s primary companion while playing Amnesia. Stephano is a golden statue that Felix has speak in a French accent, and he also carries lots of leadership in his attitude and occasionally yells at Felix for being scared or not noticing a blindsighted clue. Stephano was apparently “born” and his birthday is on August 17, 2011, but I can likely infer that day was the first day he starred in a PewDiePie video. Felix usually sets Stephano down every now and then, but then promptly comes back to get him again. Some of Stephano’s trademark phrases are “Allos Pewdie!”, “You found meh!”, “This way, Pewdes”, or “Follow me, Pewd.” He can also hoarsely whisper whenever he is dropped by surprise or when Felix gets startled.
  • Gonzalez - The evil twin of Stephano, except he is bronze instead of gold which makes him easy to differentiate from Stephano. He often tries to trick Felix into believing he is Stephano, gives him good counsel, and is possibly related to Gonzales from the game Facade (another PewDiePie-played title).
  • Piggeh - Likely Felix’s secondary companion in Amnesia, Piggeh is a dead pig that has a birthday two days after Stephano’s, which somehow makes him older than Piggeh. Piggeh’s usual catchphrase is “I’m pumped!” and his humor is very creepy and satirical with a very wide topic range. He has very fluid movement whenever he is carried by Felix, and often says “You thought I’m a pig? No, I’m a snake.” because of this.
  • Jennifer - A rock that Felix sometimes comes across in Amnesia, and is often criticized for her weight due to being large when discovered. Jennifer actually loves Felix but is almost always rejected by him when he says “You’re too fat, Jennifer” or “I know, you’ve told me 1,000 times already”. Jennifer is one of PewDiePie fangirls’ most sympathized characters as her striving to finally win Felix’s heart seems to be very realistic–for a rock. Currently she does not appear in many videos except when Felix gets a rock thrown at him or is being chased by a rock.
  • Barrels - In Amnesia, barrels are Felix’s mortal enemy. When encountering a barrel or a number of barrels, he usually shouts “Barrels!!!” and proceeds to throw them around. Sometimes he yells at barrels in Swedish (most notably in Cry of Fear) and often comments about its look or what it says on it. One of Felix’s lesser-used companions, Mayo, actually works for the said barrels and Gonzalez often foreshadows that he is in league with the barrels.
  • Vespa - Also known as the Segway in Happy Wheels. When playing as the “Segway Guy” character in the game, he will usually refer to the Segway or any used vehicle as “Vespa”. Through Felix, Segway Guy seems to have emotional attachments or attractions to Vespa sometimes wanting to kiss it or cuddle with it. When he plays as the “Moped Couple” characters the moped is also considered “Vespa”.
  • Farsa/Farsha - What reads of all train destinations in Cry of Fear, and is mainly the moniker he gives to the in-game train(s). Farsa barely shows up but unfortunately committed suicide near the game’s end by driving off a cliff.

Sure, they’re only the 135th most subscribed channel of all time, but they’ve been among the prime YouTube channels to successfully make the Internet-to-TV transition that so many channels have failed to make properly. They are the comedy, filmmaking, music, and advertising duo of Rhett J. McLaughlin and Charles L. “Link” Neal, better known by their combined YouTube alias RhettAndLink. Ever since 2006, a year after YouTube was first born, these two have been working their butts off to make videos for our amusement and pleasure. But they’ve actually been pals since the first grade. On the first day of school in the said grade, the pair were forced to stay inside during recess as a punishment from writing bad words on the desks. When they were assigned to silently color pictures of unicorns, their companionship really sparked. They wrote their first screenplay, Gutless Wonders, at age 14. Coincidentally, they were Wolfpack roomies at the NCSU, where they studied engineering. Some filmmaking lessons and low-budget DIY productions later, they became Rhett and Link itself. But in the first year Rhett and Link became YouTubers (or, as they call themselves, “Internetainers”) they never got a single multi-million hit video. The highest they ever got was 100,000 with their song about velcro. The next year, however, their drive-thru rap video became their first video to exceed a million hits with 3.2 million views. Through 2007 lots of ups and downs went through the channel, with their BBQ song becoming their next multi-million hit and then their “worst commercial ever” becoming the next. You can clearly see that Rhett and Link have not always had it as easy as other more famous YouTubers like Nigahiga or Smosh. But today, they’ve gotten much more innovation, effort, and creativity woven into their videos, their success had led to a clothing line that accompanies their videos, and they have been sponsored by and working with a lot more YouTubers like Orabrush, Tobuscus, MysteryGuitarMan, etc. Because of all this, they definitely deserve an Innovation Constipation of the Year Award and a Diamond Award for being so unique. Some of their most famous videos include:

  • 2 Guys 600 Pillows” or “My Favorite Pillow” – Write a heartwarming song about one’s long-lived affection and feelings for one another. Take six hundred pillows, do crazy things with them, put in lots of backwards video editing and lots of backwards speaking, and even throw in a sponsor from SleepBetter.org, and you have Rhett and Link’s 2011 Webby Award-winning hit of 2010. To add to that, Rhett and Link were nice enough to throw in a bonus video highlighting most of the original video’s secrets as well as throwing in some extra goodies as well.
  • Epic Rap Battle” – The same year “2 Guys 600 Pillows” came out, the pair had also made a rap song made trying to get a restaurant waitress’ attention and affection. Like most of the channel’s songs, the rap contained lots of bizarre things about Rhett and Link that wouldn’t really occur in real life. Here are some examples right here. On the way to work, Rhett carpools a group of third graders and teaches them multiplication tables. Link can apparently speak sentences like “The square root of raspberry should be legalized” in Morse code. Rhett has his own yoga meditation DVD called Mind Reps. Link successfully performed the Heimlich on a horse choking on beef jerky, and it eventually went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Well, you see what I’m trying to say here? And coincidentally, back in September the two released what seems to be a sequel to the video, now centric to their masculinity and manliness, which was entitled “Epic Rap Battle of Manliness“. (And for those of you who are curious and/or skeptical, Rhett and Link were indeed in an Epic Rap Battle of History in case you mistook this one for it. They played the Wright brothers going up against the Mario brothers.)
  • 5-Word Songs” – Occasionally, the two might run out of song ideas and ask their fans what they think they should make a song out of. But here’s the rule–it can not be any more or any less than five words long. Currently there are two ideas that have been found and successfully made into songs: “rub some bacon on it”, and “Nilla Wafer top hat time”. Combined the two have over 3.1 million hits.
  • Good Mythical Morning” – Well, I have two things to say about this that differentiate it from the rest of their videos. 1. This is actually on Rhett and Link’s second channel, RhettAndLink2. And 2. This is not one video, it’s actually an entire show. As the title suggests, Good Mythical Morning (often abbreviated as GMM) is a show that runs every morning on every weekday, from Monday to Friday. Some of the topics discussed on the show include the greatest movie quotes of all time, the strangest name a human can receive, stuff you didn’t know about The Avengers, tips on bear attack and quicksand survival, what makes fire ants special, and if Furbies can really learn anything. It is one of Rhett and Link’s most famous series and their only regularly-airing show to date.
  • Dope Zebra” – What do you do if you take a zebra costume, put two people inside that know how to dance, and make that zebra do the most dope moves around? That’s pretty much the story behind Dope Zebra. Since its release a while ago it has 5.1 million hits, making for one of the channel’s biggest hits. But in a full background story on the video and its conception on an episode of Good Mythical Morning, it was told that the Dope Zebra had arguably become the two’s most famous video character yet. Not only did it get both Dope Zebra and Rhett & Link in the music video for LMFAO’s “Sorry for Party Rocking”, they also appeared on America’s Got Talent! Needless to say, the threesome were buzzed with the dreaded triple X before the Dope Zebra could even lift his hind legs off the ground, but luckily Rhett and Link did not expect to pass to the Vegas round, nor did they actually want to. How modest of them.

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Now let’s accentuate our new year celebration by nutshelling all the games you might want to check out!

  • After the first leg of Rayman’s rebirth plan (Rayman Origins) became a success, our limbless lad can continue his new console experimentation with the upcoming Wii U-exclusive Rayman Legends
  • After Lara Croft, one of gaming’s most famous heroines, disappeared from the limelight following 2010′s Guardian of Light, the Crystal Dynamics-Square Enix team reunites once more to bring us Lara’s first series reboot, Tomb Raider
  • After stellar success with the Sims 3 saga, Maxis has finally decided to revive the true genesis of the Sim world in the PC & Mac exclusive SimCity
  • One of the most popular FPS series in history, BioShock, gets a complete makeover from characters to setting in the 20th century-era BioShock Infinite
  • Isaac Clarke’s necromorph-filled bad day continues into a new installment, but now Sgt. John Carver gets to share the pain with him to stop the scourge permanently in Dead Space 3
  • In the city of Los Santos within San Andreas, three equally troubled men’s stories will intertwine in the pursuit of the “almighty dollar” in Grand Theft Auto V
  • Kratos still hasn’t made ends meet for Ares, the god of war, and now he’s on an ancient-Greek quest to defeat the Fury threesome to sever all ties in God of War: Ascension
  • Picking up where the first installment left off, the Palanai island in the Banoi archipelago has become the source of a zombie outbreak, and now after an unsuccessful escape our four survivors must relive their undead nightmare in Dead Island: Riptide
  • 20 years after millions within the human population have ceased from a cordyceps-type fungus, a black-marketeer named Joel and a young girl named Ellie make a dangerous and Infected-filled trek across post-apocalyptic America in The Last of Us
  • Epic Games reveals their newest in the Unreal Engine series, Unreal Engine 4, in an open world survival-of-the-fittest monster adventure known as Fortnite
  • Nintendo’s famous rural village full of personified animals has taken the big jump to the 3DS, and while Japan has already gotten their share us Americans and Europeans will have to wait a bit longer for Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Marvel’s ever-so-famous “merc with a mouth” is smashing through the 4th wall from Marvel vs. Capcom and into his own game known merely as Deadpool
  • After Skyrim and its DLC Dawnguard changed the perspective of the RPG genre forever, Bethesda plans to make the breakthrough accessible for PCs and Macs everywhere in Elder Scrolls Online
  • Luigi made a smash hit on the GameCube as the fourth Ghostbuster, and now he’s been sent on another spine-tingling mission from Professor Gadd to punish all the spirit scamps out there in the newly-named Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
  • After Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe collided in the greatly disappointing Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, NetherRealm and Warner Bros have teamed up once more in the 100% superhero-centric Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • One of TV’s most raunchy and beloved shows takes LARPing to an all-time extreme for not just consoles, not just computers, but clouds as well in the hopeful and hilarious RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth

(Now let’s talk about movies…well, it won’t be much of a time saver to explain every single movie, let’s just nutshell a few that’ll be coming in 2013.)

  • The director of the original Spider-Man trilogy brings us a story about the Land of Oz older than the groundbreaking 1939 film or even the 1900 book, portraying James Franco as the new Wizard of Oz in Oz: The Great and Powerful
  • The director of Space Chimps teams up with the co-director of How To Train Your Dragon to create a story about a family of cavemen and cavewomen as a disaster leads to them journeying to find new shelter in The Croods
  • After the weight of An Unexpected Journey was finally lifted off Peter Jackson’s shoulders, he only had to enhance the LOTR world in preparation for the second installment in the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug
  • One of Disney-Pixar’s most notorious films, Monsters, Inc, gets its well-deserved backdrop explaining everything from their first meet in college (even monsters have to go to school) to putting their bitter rivalry behind them in the prequel Monsters University
  • Gru, the three orphans, and his ever-so-lovable minions will be returning through a storyline that will seemingly be incorporating aliens into the plot lines in Despicable Me 2
  • The second “true blue” film of the trilogy chronicles Gargamel as he creates evil Smurf-like creatures called Naughties, and furthermore kidnaps Smurfette and takes her to Paris where he will use the Eiffel tower as an energy-generating antenna powered by Smurf essence, so the remaining gang must travel back to the human world and regain help from Pat and Grace in The Smurfs 2
  • Having shaken off the food storm that almost ate the world, Flint and friends are forced to flee from town where Flint accepts an offer from his idol Chester V to join the Live Corp Company in cleaning up the island, but he realizes that his FLDSMDFR is still alive and is now creating mutated food beasts in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2(formerly subtitled Revenge of the Leftovers)…
  • After starring in one of Martin Scorsese’s most successful movies, Hugo, Asa Butterfield has decided to reload and star in another film from the director of X-Men Origins: Wolverine which takes on yet another classic book but of way bigger proportions, Ender’s Game
  • When Anna is cursed by her sister, the Snow Queen Elsa, she must reverse the curse by surviving a trek across an icy landscape, but luckily she is joined by outdoorsman Kristoff as well as his one-antlered reindeer and a snowman, which may give her hope to finally melt Elsa’s heart in Frozen
  • After Katniss and Peeta manage to survive the 74th annual Hunger Games, they try to forget their time in the battlefield but are only reminded by it when rebellion is simmering across the districts, and while she and Peeta embark on the Victors Tour of all twelve districts President Snow is only crafting a 75th Hunger Games will be a much bigger and bolder affair in Catching Fire

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Surprisingly, Austin & Ally and Jessie even had their own plans set out for the new year! Actually, they did their first collab over it! And that created the one-hour crossover special “Austin & Jessie & Ally All-Star New Year’s Eve“/”Big Dreams and Big Apples“! I can’t believe they actually went through all the trouble to make this special, so say kudos to them as I explain the crossover’s plot:

To wrap up 2012 with a bang, Austin has got himself a gig in Times Square to play on New Year’s Eve in front of billions of people! Unfortunately, Sheri, Trish’s phone AI–think of “her” as a less-intelligent Siri–has mixed up Times Square with Tim’s Square Pizza! (But hey, it’s the best square pizza in Miami.) Luckily, the dilemma is erased when Sheri manages to book Austin, Ally, Trish, and Dez for the next flight to Times Square! Unfortunately, Sheri mixes the 1:00 pm flight with the 1:00 am flight, and now they’re really stuck. On the other side of the east coast, Emma is ecstatic to find out that Austin will be playing in Times Square, as she is an eccentric fangirl, and begs Jessie to take her. Despite initial rejection, she eventually gets convinced when she realizes that Ryan Seacrest would be there. (Ugh, media these days.) Austin, Ally, Trish, and Dez manage to get a taxi there, but cannot afford the ride and must hoof it to the Square. When they get there, they realize that full capacity has been reached and no other person can be let in, but Jessie uses her riches to hitch a helicopter to ride them. Unfortunately, Bertram has allowed Luke and Ravi to attend the concert as well, and worse yet they’ve abandoned Zuri! And I think you may already know by now that Zuri loves shiny things, and–well–the Times Square ball is pretty shiny…(and that’s only part one…)

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I think that’s a pretty good way to wrap up the year, so I’m Sammwak saying “ho ho ho” right before you go. :D

See you in 2013, America,

~S~ 8-)

And here’s for our super-special honor-filled and totally clean Videos of the Year! (Luckily, I managed to narrow down my choices so I didn’t have a list that went on for infinity. Enjoy! :D)

(Believe it or not, “TNT” is actually the fourth most-viewed gaming video of all time according to the YouTube charts. As the top three above it are all Angry Birds-related/themed, consider this the most bestselling gaming video of all time that isn’t Angry Birds-related. Shockingly, “TNT” actually beat out the official Minecraft trailer itself!)

If you want a more general video, here’s one that takes the most viral videos and stars 2012′s YouTube season had to offer and conglomerates them all into one amazing “Gangnam Style”-themed medley song/video. Can you name all the YouTubers in this video? If you think you can, comment me in the section below and get a secret prize…



Menacing 8th graders who embark in daily manhunts for fresh cold cuts. 7th graders who are just as threatening just to get vengeance to what happened to them as 6th graders. And then are the real 6th graders who have to have their innocent bodies, minds, and souls mangled day after day. At least, that’s how most people think of middle school. Especially the protagonist of today’s book. The actual Google Dictionary definition of a middle school itself “a school intermediate between an elementary school and a high school, typically for children in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades”. A fearful environment for the squeamish and scared, but an interesting and rather intriguing environment for the brave and bold. And the main character of this story has just gotten his rank as the eldest knocked back down to the youngest. And even in school years it’s hard to climb that ladder.

Likely if you broke a rule or two in elementary school, you were likely punished through the step system, from assertive reminders to expulsion, although this was rarely common. However, in middle school that’s completely common–in fact, according to my school’s code of conduct, any form of assault, arson, illegal substance transferring or selling (aka drug dealing), sexual harassment, and vandalism are just some of the ways that you could get a one-way ticket to Expelville! But in this school, the only way to follow the rules…are to break them. In Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life by James Patterson, also the author of Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard, Patterson finally takes the route of a realistic fiction story in his most innovative concept yet. Well, you may be considering this ironic, but wouldn’t you find normality innovative when you write about kids with wings and magical powers? Anyway, the story revolves around Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian, a young kid who’s just been enrolled in Hills Valley Middle School, the former site of what Rafe believes was a prison for Pilgrims and is now a prison for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. (By the way, Khatchadorian is pronounced “Catch a door, Ian!”) But much like in series like Wimpy Kid and Big Nate Rafe finds himself trouble in the first few days of mid school. First off, he becomes the new victim of Miller the Killer, he has to face “Dragon Lady” Donatello every single day, and then there’s Jeanne Galletta whom is Rafe’s second-closest thing on the lines of a friend. Only behind his partner-in-crime, Leonardo the Silent. And he already has enough problems at home; there’s his “grizzly” stepfather Bear (his real name’s Carl), his tattletale sister Georgia, and then there’s his mom. There’s nothing wrong with Mrs. Khatchadorian, it’s just that she has to do all the work while Bear just catches up on football pregame shows. But there’s one way that Rafe discovered that will truly make his mark in HVMS history–making a little project known as Operation RAFE (short for Rules Aren’t For Everyone) and breaking every rule in Hills Valley’s despotic code of conduct before he loses his “three lives”:

  • Talking in class – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Running in the hall – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.

(Sure, running in the hall is as bad as talking. Surerolleyes)

  • Tardy for class – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Gum in class – 5,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • No electronics – 7,500 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Fighting – 25,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Skipping class – 20,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Minor dress code defying – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Major dress code defying – 20,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • Cussing – 20,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • School property destruction – 35,000 points with witnesses required only afterward.
  • Messing with fire alarms – 50,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
  • School property theft – 40,000 points with 4 witnesses required.

And then there are the bonus points available…

  • Jeanne sees it – 5,000-infinite points
  • Sent to vice principal’s office – 20,000 points
  • Sent to actual principal’s office – 30,000 points
  • Detention – 50,000 points
  • Talking way out of principal’s/VP’s office or detention – 100,000 points!!!

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Now Middle School, The Worst Years Of My Life is actually one of the greatest school stories I’ve ever read. It does something that neither Wimpy Kid nor Big Nate nor Dork Diaries nor [insert school story series here] can do. It mixes thorough, fleshed comedy with sincere, heart melting drama. Because the deal with the series I mentioned is that it focuses too much on how good its jokes are than paying attention to its heart. Patterson is clearly a unique writer as he actually manages to give us those pangs that make us feel like we’re on the verge of tears, and he creates Rafe to greatly exemplify this. However, the book’s only fatal flaw is its jagged transitions between home and school scenarios, but it is something that will go over most readers’ heads. As for the book’s own comedy, it is just as incomparable as its drama. With hundreds of illustrations to go with or display gut-busting humor, the story makes a joke out of middle school in a way that is rare for most favored kids’ authors. And add up all this together, and you get a book that you can’t find around the corner. Chart, please.

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 1 1/4 out of 5 – Educational value – The Shakespearean meter and rhyme is briefly discussed. The book also partially acts a survival guide towards middle school.

 4 1/2 out of 5 – Positive messages – Rafe has a hard life at both school and at home, but he never loses his prospect that one day he will be of great value. Leo is a good character that both helps Rafe with his plot and becomes the assertive head of it. This shows that sometimes you need to put certain people in their place, and you can’t merely give everybody the same exact perspective. At the story’s epic climax, Rafe also discovers that some people aren’t who they seem to be, and in their true form they can have unexpected abilities. Not that I’m saying they have powers. Operation RAFE also dictates that sometimes you have to be bold and stand up for yourself, even if it means some repercussions.

4 out of 5 – Positive role models – Despite Rafe’s image throughout the book as a rule-breaking and rebellious troublemaker, Rafe is an endearing, trustworthy, heartfelt, compassionate, and kind character outside of Operation RAFE–even towards annoying little Georgia. Despite not saying much, Leo is also a good character that serves as a good companion to Rafe and his scheme. Even Bear himself, one the book’s main “antagonists”, shows care and lookout whenever danger or injury is present. Jeanne is a nice girl who likes to say things to people without directly offending them, and she is also a very willing character in the story.

 4 out of 5 – Ease of read – Middle School is definitely one of those school stories that makes it mark in my mind and my heart, being able to mix its unique senses of comedy with perfectly sincere drama and heartfelt moments, and with the character that it puts in, this book is easily one of the best realistic fiction novels I’ve ever read. Definitely a recommendation as some sort of survival guide to middle schoolers or soon-to-be middle schoolers. However, the book’s big transition flaw does take away a lot from it.

4 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – Miller the Killer and Bear definitely provide the two biggest sources of violence in the story. Miller frequently pushes, pummels, and picks on Rafe throughout the story, even going as far as to rob him of his Operation RAFE notebook! An illustration in the story depicts Miller towering over Rafe, whom is seen as “dead meat”. In the same illustration, Miller sports a bloody knife tattoo on most of his forearm. Rafe describes his relationship with Miller as “[selling his] soul to the school bully, one dollar at a time” since Miller had been forcing cash out of Rafe to give him back the notebook a page at a time. One dollar’s worth one page, if you didn’t already calculate. Bear is even ruder to Rafe acting as his own at-home Miller, frequently criticizing and yelling at the rest of the family. In pictures Bear is depicted as a live bear in “hibernation” on the couch. In the book’s tearjerking climax–spoiler alert!–Bear gets into yet another heated argument with Mrs. Khatchadorian, but goes far enough to shove her down the house’s front steps, hurting her wrist and likely breaking her heart. At this point, Rafe decides to jump in and save the day by yelling in Bear’s face. Bear eventually winds up in the back of a police cruiser, but is not arrested. Later near the book’s finale, Mrs. Khatchadorian reminisces a sad memory about how Rafe had actually had a brother back in the day, but a bad case of meningitis claimed him at a young age. (Kinda like how my brother got malaria as a kid–or so my dad says–but he’s still alive now, healthier than ever. My brother, I mean. My dad’s alive, too.) ***Spoiler alert ends here.*** Georgia and Rafe also get in heated arguments, mainly concerning Rafe’s school rebellion. A rather far-fetched illustration also shows Rafe’s bedroom, which appears to be a ragged and torn-apart place with liquid dripping from the ceiling and a raccoon as his “roommate”. In the picture, he is conversing with a rat about what fraction of a blanket he received. Rafe is wearing his blanket half like a straitjacket, and he seems very deranged and insane. Many illustrations depict Rafe’s teachers as demonic, monstrous, and vile creatures, most notoriously “Dragon Lady” Donatello, whom Rafe uses to make stories of him as a knight facing off against this “dragon”.

 1 1/2 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Rafe has a crush on Jeanne throughout the story, whom happens to be HVMS’s most popular female student. One of the rules Rafe breaks in the dress code is the clothes-size rule, and he breaks it (on Halloween, matter of fact) by showing up to school sagging. Georgia later references this as Rafe being “naked” at school.

1 out of 5 - Language – “Shut up” is said once or twice, alongside “dead meat” and Miller’s other bully-like insults.

2 out of 5 – Product Placement – One of the most centric elements of the story is an energy drink known as Zoom, which Rafe describes as “chocolate and Coke mixed together, and it has about eight cups of caffeine in every can”. As part of Operation RAFE, Rafe eats a Snickers bar in the school library. 

1 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – Bear is a heavy drinker of Zoom and keeps a stash of it in the garage, which Rafe secretly steals from and sells to students at school like drugs, to make savings to pay back Miller.

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Entertainment: A+ (5 points)

Fun: A+ (5 points)

Smarts: A (4 points)

Style: A+ (5 points)

Read-Again Ratio: A (4 points)

Humor: A+ (5 points)

FINAL SCORE: 28 out of 30 (mrgreen), 5 stars out of 5, 93% out of 100% (that’s actually an accurate calculation of 28 divided by 30 mrgreen)

CONSENSUS: Middle School, The Worst Years Of My Life has the unique sense of comedy and sincere drama that makes for one of the greatest realistic fiction titles of all time, showing both the upsides and downsides of middle school in Patterson’s own memorable and innovative way. Also for good use as a survival guide to middle school itself.

PRICE: On Amazon, the book costs $8 regular, $4 used, and $3.44 new. The Kindle edition costs $6. For those who say that hearing > reading, the unabridged audiobook version costs $10 regular, $6.23 used, and $5 new. At B&N, the book costs the same $8 regular, $5 used, and $4.49 new. The Nook Book edition is free. Does that help?

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Subscribe, like, rate, comment, share, Press This, reblog, and stay tuned for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy America,

~S~ cool

Video of the Week: Now I know all this likely took a lot of effort to read through, so here’s some relaxing music to help you regather your cerebral elements and chill out for a bit. By the way, this song is called “Gentle Breeze” by Manabu Namiki, and it’s from the OST for Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2. (It’s a 2008 medical sim game for the Nintendo DS.) This video, since its release in summer 2009, has over 80,000 hits with almost a thousand likes. Eh, I’d rather not keep rambling about the video–after all, it’s supposed to be chill-out music.



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