Happy new year, merry late Christmas, happy really late Thanksgiving, and happy super late Halloween. Yeah, I’ve been kind of disappearing when it comes to blogging recently, but I just haven’t had the time to get on posting when I start having the craving to make comics and I have to get my creativity flowing and it just takes a while. Luckily, I’m back in time for the break of 2014, and let’s see what it has to offer.
Let’s look at some movies.
- Ride Along – What you’d get if you took Friday, turned it into another cheesy action comedy, and replaced Chris Tucker with Kevin Hart. (1/17/14)
- I, Frankenstein – Rebooting the story of Frankenstein for a new generation, and now we have Harvey Dent as Frankenstein. (1/24/14)
- The Lego Movie – You don’t need to check your monitor, this actually exists. And the trailer looks surprisingly epic. And the roster is pretty impressive–if you consider Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, and Jonah Hill to collectively be “impressive”. (2/7/14)
- Muppets Most Wanted – The Muppets go touring in Europe, and the most wanted criminal in the world happens to look just like Kermit. You can connect the dots. (3/21/14)
- Divergent – The movie of the book. It’s the future, Chicago is split into five factions, Tris takes a test, she doesn’t fit into a faction cuz she’s Divergent, she discovers something sinister happening in her utopian society, blah blah blah. It has a budget bigger than that of The Hunger Games, so it better be worth its hype. (3/21/14)
- Noah – Basically, when God was unsatisfied with the world and tried to bring apocalypse to it and Noah built that ark for all that animals: the movie. Just as it was told in the Bible. Oh, and Emma Watson shows up. (3/28/14)
- Rio 2 – Apparently people liked that movie, and it looks like the same movie except it’s in the Amazon and we learn that Jewel has a dad and–incoming narrative hook–his habitat is in danger! “Le gasp” indeed. (4/11/14)
- The Amazing Spider Man 2 – Electro and the Rhino. The only new things about this sequel. (5/2/14)
- Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return – This movie tries to add something new to something that’s already perfect. Five new characters (a giant talking marshmallow, a china doll, a “tree-turned tugboat”, and an owl), and the biggest threat is that some Jester is going to turn iconic Ozzians (that’s what it’s called right?) into marionettes. Really? (5/9/14)
- Godzilla – Finally, something that looks good. Godzilla ’98 was the Razzie-winning black sheep of the series (the only thing it got right was its visuals, and I think they screwed even that up), but luckily this cream looks big enough and strong enough to cover that nasty zit. Anyway, this movie is Godzilla vs. malevolent creatures “bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance”. Does this mean another Pacific Rim, or is this a metaphor saying that it’s Godzilla vs the real monsters–us? (5/16/14, which is two months earlier than Japan. Oh, the irony.)
- Maleficent – A Sleeping Beauty prequel-reboot combo through the eyes of the bad guy. This is new. And what’s this, they cast Angelina Jolie as Maleficent? And what’s this…they made Sleeping Beauty a teenager? Uh… (5/30/14)
- The Fault In Our Stars – The classic love story between a teen girl with thyroid cancer and an ex-basketball player who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma gets adapted to the big screen. It’s a freaking maple tree, it looks so sappy. (6/6/14)
- How To Train Your Dragon 2 – I didn’t know you could Neville Longbottom so much in four years. (That’s right, it’s a verb now describing drastic changes in courage and heroism over time.) Anyway, Hiccup took a few levels in badbutt and new adventures with him and Toothless await. (6/13/14)
- Transformers: Age of Extinction – It’s an entirely new arc and it stars an entirely new cast, so can you blame me for throwing it under the bus immediately? If it grosses over a billion, I will lose faith in the sci-fi action genre forever. (6/27/14)
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Caesar and his boys vs. the survivors of the virus. The prize? Supremacy as the dominant species of the world. (7/11/14)
- The Boxtrolls – From the guys who brought you those scary stop-motion movies (Paranorman and Coraline) comes another seemingly-not-scary stop-motion movie where underground trash collectors called Boxtrolls who raised an orphan who now has to save them from an exterminator. What. (9/26/14)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – I don’t even have to explain this. If you said you didn’t read that book as a kid, I wouldn’t believe you for a second. (10/10/14)
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Katniss leads the districts in a rebellion against the Capitol and has to make a lot of crucial decisions as the war of fate escalates quickly with horrific consequences. (11/21/14)
- Home – I can’t believe what I’m about to type. They made a movie on The True Meaning of Smekday with Sheldon Cooper, Rihanna, Steve Martin, and they even got J.Lo! No, the real J.Lo! Words cannot express my elation. (11/26/14)
- Exodus – Basically when all the Jews left Egypt and Moses led them: the movie. Just as recalled in the Bible (or The Prince of Egypt). In this case, all the Jews leave Egypt and Christian Bale leads them. Uh… (12/12/14)
- The Hobbit: There and Back Again – Didn’t think the end of the Bilbo arc would be so near, would it? (12/17/14)
Most anticipated: Home (Mockingjay P1 was a close second)
Now, some video games.
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – Basically Tomb Raider for next-gen consoles. (1/28/14; PS4, XBO)
- Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z – 2012’s DBZ for Kinect was an embarrassment to the game series, so Namco Bandai wants to try to redeem themselves. If you liked Zenkai Battle Royale, the game mechanics aren’t too different. With a redundant name like that, it could very much be digging its own grave. (1/28/14; PS3, X360, Vita)
- Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – This game picks up where XIII-2 left off and ties up the loose ends of XIII‘s story, part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries later to feature the mobile Agito as well as FFXV. (2/11/14; PS3, X360)
- Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare – This is the strangest art shift I’ve ever seen in anything. Looks to be an interesting shooter. (2/18/14; XBO, X360)
- Thief – Master thief Garrett popularized the stealth genre just as well as Solid Snake could, and now he’s getting a reboot. However, it risks mimicking the already successful Dishonored, so let’s hope it has some fresh tricks up their sleeve. (2/25/14; PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
- South Park: The Stick of Truth – South Park has already made a huge mark on American animated television, helping codify the raunchy, off-color adult humor that we see in most animated sitcoms. Among many people, I first got a taste of the game via Game Informer, and it seems to be the RPG of the year…if it doesn’t get delayed again. (3/4/14; PC, PS3, X360)
- Titanfall – Fast-paced action, cloud services, and robots. It’s not surprising that the game had a huge splash at E3 and won sixty awards at the show! People are already saying it’ll be the next big landmark in the FPS genre, and be the secret weapon for the One. Wait…it’s multiplayer-only? Uh… (3/11/14; PC, X360, XBO)
- Dark Souls II – Dark Souls did pretty good a couple years ago, and this sequel appears to be just as hard. The game boasts a juicier graphics engine and better AI, and it might not even have an easy mode. So if you don’t like hard games, step away. But if you like challenges, be my guest. (3/11/14; PC, PS3, X360)
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – To hold you off until Phantom Pain, Konami has the first half of the MGSV arc for you. This picks up where Peace Walker left off, chronologically one year later and nine years before Phantom Pain. (3/18/14; PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
- Infamous: Second Son – The One has Killer Instinct, and the PS4’s trying to combat that with the new Infamous, with a new character and new twists on old powers. (3/21/14; PS4)
- Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Apparently now Diablo‘s getting into the expansion pack game like Warcraft, and here’s the first of what could be a plentiful add-on series. (3/25/14; PC, Mac, PS4)
- Destiny – Bungie’s first post-Halo game, and my most anticipated game of the year. (Plus it’s on 360, so there’s non need to upgrade!) A prosperous period of advancement has screeched to a halt with the Collapse, after which mankind could face extinction. You are one of the survivors, the Guardians of the City, and you must protect the little remains of humanity from demolition. (9/9/14; X360, XBO, PS3, PS4)
- Sunset Overdrive – The game’s bouncy visuals and enthralling gameplay put it really high on my most-anticipated list–actually, it’s bested only by Destiny. It’s like Viewtiful Joe in 3D as a shooter. There’s gonna be ziplines and wall-running and even some acrobatics, so I expect some Mirror’s Edge thrown in the puree as well. It’s also gonna be using Microsoft’s cloud services a lot, but I’m not a cloud gamer. Still excited. (sometime; XBO)
- The Sims 4 – The Sims 3 and its umpteen expansion packs was one of the defining parts of my childhood, so I expect The Sims 4 to be way better. The PC sales of the past three games have been staggering, and I expect nothing less than true brilliance, whether it be better graphics or better mechanics. However, you do need an account on Origin (think EA’s take on Steam) and Internet access as the game initially installs. Kind of chips at my hopes, but it still looks awesome. (Q3/Q4; PC, Mac)
- Watch Dogs – I’ve heard about this game for a while, and my thoughts of it have whittled down to “Dishonored with a hacker and none of the cool super powers.” There’s also some parkour promised to show up, and some cover-based TPS stuff too (Hitman much?). And for a game that has five collector’s editions (special, Vigilante, Uplay Exclusive, Limited, and Dedsec), it seems like it’ll match the hype pretty well. (Q2; PC, PS3, PS4, WiiU, X360, XBO)
Most anticipated: Destiny (Sunset Overdrive was a close second)
Now, some upcoming books.
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs – In the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob and his Welsh homies go to London where all those creepy children are at. Miss P’s bro Caul is able to steal the kids’ “abilities”. Cue another fight for survival. (1/14/14; 352 pgs)
- Sorry You’re Lost by Matt Blackstone – Denny “Donuts” Murphy has just suffered the passing of his mom, and to cope with that he becomes a class clown. But in Donuts’ core is a happy place where his mother still lives and his dad doesn’t watch TV all day. Donut and his buddy try to score dates for the year-end dance, a mission in which Donuts learns some important morals that could change him for the better. (1/21/14, 320 pgs)
- Almost Super by Marion Jensen – Each leap year at an exact time, each 12+-year old member of the Baileys gets a superpower. The two newest recipients, Rafter and Benny, get let down with suckish powers. The big bad of the story ends up sparking a war between her family and the Baileys. To be honest, I lost them at “superpower”. (1/21/14; 256 pgs)
- Cress by Marissa Meyer – In the third entry of the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and her band of misfits are still plotting to overthrow Queen Levana. Their best hope is to go to Cress, an OP hacker who ironically is searching for them (eeeeviiillll). Stuff happens. (2/4/14; 560 pgs)
- Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis – In the sequel to Mistakes Were Made, there’s a school competition to find a globe for a cash prize, but someone’s trying to hijack. It’s up to Timmy and his polar-bear partner Total and his new eccentric ally Great-Aunt Colander to find an end to the madness. (2/25/14; 288 pgs)
- Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber and Andy Rash – A boy finds out his dad is a superspy that is trapped inside a game, so he has to use his gaming skills to enter the game and rescue him. To be honest, I lost them at “superspy”. (3/11/14, 224 pgs)
- Sean Rosen Is Not For Sale by Jeff Baron – Y’know Sean, that guy who’s trying to pitch a movie idea to Hollywood? Alright, so now not only is he working on his script, but he has school, track, dog-walking, podcasts, and keeping his secret from his parents, all while a private detective has been sent to find out about Sean. To be honest, I lost them at “podcasts”. (3/18/14; 384 pgs)
- The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey – It just sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Wait until you hear the plot. Alright, so a girl and her bro are chasing her mongoose through a library when they get into the janitor’s closet and fall into a secret pathway to the HQ of a society of…y’know. There’s a betrayal, she and her pals take the blame, and they need to clear their names. To be honest, I lost them at “mongoose”. (4/1/14; 384 pgs)
- Poached by Stuart Gibbs – In the sequel to Belly Up, a horrible prank set up by a school bully leaves a koala missing. Teddy gets thrown under the bus since he’s the only one coming and going on camera, and he needs to find the real culprit and fast, because juvie is calling his name. (4/8/14; 336 pgs)
- Renegade by Debra Driza – That android Mila I was talking about meets a boy who joins her to find some guy who knows about her past but people are looking for her. Basically, it’s the same book with some boy. (5/13/14; 448 pgs)
- The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – The fifth and final installment of Heroes of Olympus. Many are either fighting their emotions of seeing it go or complaining loudly about how they have to wait a year to see how it all ends.
Mother Earth“Gaea” is still a strong foe and her giants must be stopped before the Feast of Spes where she plans to kill two demigods to receive (title) to awaken. To be honest, I lost them at “Gaea”. (10/7/14; 608 pgs)
Most anticipated: I don’t even know.
Well, I think I did pretty good to sum up the year! Leave anything you think I missed in the comments. Here’s to a great new year that’s bound to be full of awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Video of the Week: “Why I love my Honda VT750” by Nick Bertke aka Pogo, the guy whose mixes I’ve been uploading and gushing about to a fault. In this video, he drives around on his motorcycle, talks about it, admires the vista, and explains why the original Star Wars trilogy will always be superior to the new trilogy. All while we get to see some beautiful Australian scenery.
Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is an eighth grader at Daniel Landry Middle School, assigned with writing an essay with a minimum of five pages about the true meaning of Smekday. If her essay is chosen from thousands of entries, it will be buried in a time capsule to be opened a century into the future. It all began when we found out that there was intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Life of extraterrestrial proportions. Anarchy spreads like wildfire following the visitors’ arrival, discussing plans of renaming Earth to Smekland (to honor Captain Smek) and forcing the entire American population into one state.
If there’s someone who has a lot to tell about their experience, it’s Tip. First of all, her mother just isn’t herself lately. Maybe it has something to do with that strange glowing mole on the back of her neck. Then there’s a friendly visitor who becomes Tip’s friend, dubbing itself “J.Lo”. (I’m dead serious.) But the invasion quickly gives way to a cross-country adventure as J.Lo, Tip, and her cat Pig travel to find Tip’s mom at the Happy Mouse Kingdom. Along the way, they make friends including Chief Shouting Bear, Vicki Lightbody, and the Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov (BOOB). The trio is going to need all the gas in their hovercar if they’re gonna cook up a plan to save the country, maybe even the world.
I think I came across this when I was looking for a good science-fiction book to feast my eyes on. The premise seemed promising and I quickly found myself wanting to read it. My English teacher had the book in his class library, and I found myself plowing through the book a little bit each day during our equivalent of study hall. I was more than elated finding the book at our school library, and days later I’d read the book cover to cover. All the time, all the hours I spent reading this story was definitely worth it. This is the best science fiction book I’ve read since Maximum Ride, and I can tell you why.
- An exquisite sense of humor – Smekday has the freshest gags I’ve heard in a while, and it’s a good reality check compared to the book’s sci-fi intensity. Rex has a gift for proper comic timing that will leave the reader thoroughly amused.
- It’s part-graphic novel – Smekday tells us of the history of the Boov and the Nimrogs (plus other educational nuggets) via comics. It’s a nice art shift that goes beyond the pictures and newspaper clippings.
- GIRL POWER! – Tip is a very empowering character that’s strong and sassy, and knows when and how to speak her mind. She’s like the Spice Girls smashed altogether into a little girl. Boys will hardly feel alienated with the BOOB as well.
- Additional pictures to deepen the experience – Polaroids taken by Tip, newspaper clippings, Tip’s drawings, all of these show up in the book and add some sort of depth to the story so you know what’s happening.
- A really shocking ending – Trust me, you will not see it coming even if you read all the exposition and context there is to read.
- Vivid writing and dialogue – Through Tip’s eyes, it feels like you’re actually there. It’s always fun to picture what’s happening in your mind, from the little things to the more climactic events. Rex has the ability to turn a good laugh into a shocking tragedy with just a few sentences, and this shows as the book nears to its unexpected conclusion.
- Lovable characters – J.Lo has been an adored character by lots of those who read the book. I mean, it’s hard not to love an alien who’s willing to make a car be able to fly, and then later unknowingly eat a urinal cake. Tip’s characterization is more evident since, well, she’s the one telling the story.
- A unique structure – The book is split into thirds. Two thirds are written in essay form, and the third is the longest part of the novel as Tip convinces herself to come flat-out and finish what she started. “Odd”, I believe, is the wrong adjective to use. Well, when’s the last time you read a book like that?
- The community loves it – Many people call Smekday one of their favorite books they’ve ever read, and they give away five-star scores like candy. And this book deserves it, since…well, I’ve already gone into detail. Check out snippets of some Goodreads community reviews:
“…loved the cat, loved Gratuity, loved everything about this book.” – Kaethe
“…Adam Rex’s delicious banquet of pop cultureskewers dipped in saucy social commentary and served alongside a heaping helping of warm, filling comfort food…” – Stephen
“Adam Rex rules.” – Ceridwen
“Pretty much my favorite children’s book of the past few years…” – Paul
“…one of the funniest, constantly entertaining books I’ve read in a long time…” – Chris
Not convinced? Tip and J.Lo have a couple reasons of their own.
“BOOB is an…acronym.” […] “Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov. It stands for that.”
“Shouldn’t it be B-O-A-O-B, then?”
“We really wanted it to be BOOB,” said Marcos, and at the younger boys giggled again. (126)
“Waitaminute,” I said. “BOOB?”
“It’s the name of our club,” said boy number two.
“Are you guys from Florida or something?”
“No,” said Beardo. “Why?”
Both boys shouted over each other.
“It stands for–”
“Backyard telescope Ob…Observation of–”
“Of Occupations by Boov!”
“I don’t know why I ask,” I said, “but shouldn’t your acronym be like, BTOOB or something?”
“BOOB sounds better,” they said.
Boys. Honestly. (225)
The True Meaning of Smekday is a gem among sci-fi books, with vivid writing and fast-paced action, all boiled down to a dramatic finale. Easily one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I hope I’ll see a story like Smekday in the not-too-distant future, if not a direct sequel. I’ll even accept a spiritual successor. But this is not the last I’ll see from Adam Rex. It’s like an alien-infused Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for kids. Yeah, it’s that good. Not only that, but there’s going to be a movie based off of the book. The name? Home (formerly Happy Smekday!). You’d think that maybe it would be called The True Meaning of Smekday, or even Smekday, but they settled with Home. You’ll never guess who’s playing the two main roles. Rihanna and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. (It took me way too long to realize they’re just doing voices.) The movie doesn’t arrive until next November.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★
If you liked The True Meaning of Smekday, check out:
- Cosmic by Frank C. Boyce
- Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
- Aliens on Vacation by Clete B. Smith
- Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing this! Well, you know the algorithm–tune in, well, whenever for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Be sure to Like this post, and if you’re new don’t forget to abduct that subscribe button! You can also find Sammwak on Google+ where you can get more news and stuff there!
This is where I usually put my video of the week, but I know that you probably don’t know that I have a YouTube channel. Check out my crap-res gaming videos of me playing games on old Nintendo consoles with the power of emulators. I don’t intend for these to catch fire very quickly, but they’re just out there. I think I got the mic working on this one. The computer fan’s a pain in the behind, and I can’t afford to shut it up, so try to bear with it.
In 2000, EA Sports Big was born to honor the unrealistic genre that is “extreme sports”, and to test it out they created the SSX (Snowboard Supercross) series, a saga of critically acclaimed extreme snowboarding games. The series debuted as a PS2 exclusive, but eventually grew to adapt to the original Xbox and the GameCube, among other consoles. SSX Tricky, the second in the series, was one of my all-time favorite PS2 games growing up. I was nothing less than ecstatic in 2010 when I found news about a new SSX in the works. My elation was replaced with horror when I realized that the series was taking an unexpected detour into an abyss shrouded with darkness and ambiguity. However, EA Sports brought the game back on track, and the final result is the new SSX, the most realistic game the series–maybe even the genre–has ever seen.
“Defy reality. Own the planet.”
Famous biker Zoe Payne, snowboarding legend Mac Fraser, and surfing icon Tane Mumea (he’s new) have co-founded Team SSX. Instead of Snowboard Supercross, the letters stand for Snowboarding, Surfing, and Motocross, birthed by the three best riders snow, sea, and dirt have ever known. They’ve searched the planet to make a team of the nine best riders on Earth. However, member Griff Simmons (from SSX 3) has ditched the team, and most of the team funds have followed. Turning to their fans for help, Team SSX plans to raise funds with the power of live-streaming by conquering the nine deadliest descents in the world! Unfortunately, Griff plans on defeating the descents first, sparking a race across the globe to see who will “own the planet” first. The game’s ravishing visuals make each descent much more lifelike and much more deadly. Here are the nine mountains you plan on defeating:
- Mount Robson, USA – The reason Robson represents America as a deadly descent is its merciless array of trees that have been strewn around the course. Well-timed jumps and maneuvers are key to making it to the bottom with as little damage as possible. Gear will be needed to take on this descent, as it gives you a layer of protection if you run into any trees.
- Fitz Roy, South America – The reason Fitz Roy represents Patagonia as a deadly descent is the enemy that is gravity. It will be impossible to clear a jump without a wingsuit, as it will be needed to give you some air before landing. However, your wingsuit isn’t too sturdy, so you have to make a quick landing before lining up your next jump.
- Mount Belukha East, Russia – The reason Belukha represents Siberia as a deadly descent is its endless supply of ice that can get up to six feet thick; it’s just as unforgiving as it sounds and looks, but luckily you’ll have a pair of ice axes to aid you on your path. You’ll also be iceboarding on the side of a cliff, so it’s best to stay as near to the mountainside as possible.
- Mount McKinley/Denali, USA – The reason McKinley (known in the game as Denali) also represents America as a deadly descent is its ever-so-exciting avalanche that you have to outrun all the way to the bottom of the course while avoiding crevasses and not sticking too close to the avalanche. Boost is key to outrunning the snowy beast, as it will give you a distance advantage as well as a time advantage.
- Mount Slaughter, Antarctica – According to the game, no snowboarding trip around the world would be complete without a stop at the coldest and most desolate place on Earth. Obviously, your main enemy is the piercing cold in an area where the sunshine is everyone’s best bud. Luckily, you will be equipped with a solar panel while also keeping an eye out for any light patches that can regenerate your health, because shade and tunnels are your worst enemy.
- Mount Everest, Himalayas – The tallest mountain on Earth is also one of the most dangerous descents you’ll be conquering. As in real life, up in the mountains thin air is a killer, so you’ll be provided with an oxygen tank consisting of the freshest gas your mates could find. Even then, you’re not very safe, as your oxygen is–wait for it–limited. You’ll have to get out there as quick as possible before you run out of oxygen. When you start to see blackness around the corners of your TV, that means you’re gonna black out in a couple of seconds–a perfect opportunity to use some of that good O2.
- Mount Blanco, Alps – No, not that small hill in Texas, an actual mountain where your one enemy is rocks. But not in avalanche form–just plain rocks. You can easily jump over the rocks and make small movements to avoid them, but don’t overdo it–you might run into the side of the canyon. I recommend you use armor to increase your survival chances, and around here speed literally kills, so I suggest taking it as slow as possible.
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – (Ah, Tanzania. My true non-American home.) “But, Sam! Kilimanjaro’s a volcano, not a mountain!” Exactly, my dear reader. You’re actually going to be riding inside the volcano, but don’t fear eruptions; I just hope you’re not afraid of the dark, because that is your main enemy for this descent. Luckily, you’ll be provided with a headlamp to provide some light, but don’t be planning on tricking a lot–where your head goes, the lamp goes. So if you’re in the middle of a gnarly tweak, you might not notice that menacing wall in front of you.
- Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand – You’ve fought through trees, rocks, and darkness, but that’s just the tip of this game’s iceberg (sorry). Because this time your enemy is–the notorious whiteout. The granddaddy of all snowstorms and blizzards. You won’t be able to see your trembling hand in front of your terrified face without pulse goggles, but all they do is help you see through snow. They won’t help you differentiate safe terrain from lethal chasms, so keep an eye out for flares that will help you down the mountain and avoid taking bad jumps. (These flares can also give you some Tricky meter boost. Why they give you some boost, I don’t know.)
The game starts by automatically launching you into story mode, as you are unable to go anywhere else. You can either use the button controls or the right-stick controls, and both work quite well. A majority of Tricky‘s best mechanics return in this game: tweaking your tricks as well as the famous Tricky meter. Land tricks to boost your meter, and if you want to you can deplete it by using it as a speed boost. If you land enough tricks you are temporarily put into Tricky mode. Tricks get Über makeovers, are worth more points, and earn you letters once landed. Once you earn your Y you don’t receive infinite boost and the ability to perform as many Über tricks as you want–you get into Super Tricky mode, allowing you to perform even crazier tricks as well as the granddaddy of them all–the signature trick.
Old school gamers can change the controls to “classic” in the game settings, although I have no clue what difference it makes since it’s been years since I’ve played Tricky. When you get far enough in story mode, you can unlock two modes: one of them being Explore, where you can free-ride. While in that mode, you can buy people for 10,000 to 50,000 credits. Credits are the game’s currency, earned by competing in events–whether you win or lose, you’re still probably gonna walk away with a couple thousand. Speaking of which, you can also get geo-tags via completing select events or by buying them. You can place them in spots while rewinding, and they’re worth varying amounts of XP and credits. A player has exactly a day to obtain the geo-tag before its lifespan runs out.
At each descent, you compete in two events as descent training before the real deal: Race It (qualify in the top three to advance) and Trick It (try to earn more points than your opponents). Each mode delivers a new strategy to the tables; in races, you need to find the fastest routes, but you need to locate big air in trick runs. Then there’s Survive It, where it all comes down to. Each descent features a number of paths, hidden obstacles, and dangerous chasms, so elite precision is mandatory to getting the best scores on the more challenging descents–or you know, just surviving. But this game is only for people who know what they’re doing and what they’re up against; the AI is
punishing challenging, and death traps are just waiting for you to run into them.
The one other thing I hate about the game is its lack of traditional simultaneous multiplayer. Yes, SSX is a single-player experience, and that sucks! The closest thing to multiplayer in this game is Global Events, a challenge series open to every player across the globe, or just you and your friends. EA has challenges going nonstop, and you can just come to try and beat a high score or a time. While you’re racing, people may just show up alongside you and turn this into a simultaneous event. There are some custom events where you can invite just your friends, which is probably the closest Global Events get to “multiplayer.” Besides GE, RiderNet (SSX’s AutoLog) keeps track of your progress and informs you on what hijinks your buds are up to.
But what’s a sports game without a stellar soundtrack? (I’ve played FIFA for 4 years; I should know.) SSX‘s music includes Foster the People, The Naked and Famous, Flux Pavilion, Camo & Krooked, DJ Shadow, and the three bosses of dubstep: Nero, Noisia, and Skrillex. Too bad the only time your characters speak are if they’re in the middle of a gnarly trick or bailing.
Once you get far enough in story mode, you can unlock two modes, one of them being Explore. If you press a certain button to select the track you want to ride in Explore, you can go into free-ride mode, where you can simply cruise your way down without a Tricky meter to distract you. But you can still do Über tricks; a blue flash on the screen means you’ve hit Tricky, and an orange means you’ve hit Super. In the game, you can earn badges and achievements while ‘boarding a track, and you can use RiderNet to check out your goods and remember just how great you are at this game. If you’re not doing story mode, checking out Global Events or RiderNet, or exploring, you might be checking out the DLC.
Electronic Arts has announced DLC characters that are already on the market: real-life pro snowboarder Travis Rice, and our old pal Eddie! The bro with the ‘fro appears in his own DLC pack, Mt. Eddie, which also brings the exuberant and colorful feels of Tricky to the new SSX. If it didn’t feel nostalgic enough, classic skins have been added for characters like Elise and Moby! Could it get any better than that? Oh, but it doesn’t stop there: the pack features the return of 7 characters in their original appearances. To be specific, Elise, Eddie, Kaori, Mac, Moby, Psymon, and Zoe. As in Tricky, each ‘boarder comes with alternate outfits and their own board. For just $5.99, you can give your SSX experience a nostalgic retro makeover.
For PS3 players, Mount Fuji is automatically installed into the game, allowing you to snow-surf down another mountain. I wouldn’t look at it as a descent, though. Luckily, Xbox 360 users won’t be left out in the cold (sorry again)–Mt. Fuji comes in the Mt. Fuji & Friends DLC pack, which comes with Eddie and Travis, as well character-specific Ultimate level snowboards that’ll make that high score more visible with perks for Eddie, Zoe, Mac, Kaori, and Elise. There’s also a bonus Geo-Tag. Xbox.com describes the pack as a “mountain of content”, and why not buy it? It’s absolutely free!
In the end, SSX is an extraordinary and over-the-top snowboarding game that brings some new and some old to the table, using its gorgeous visuals and challenging gameplay as a great filter.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★
IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:
(Click on the pictures to be transported to their GameStop articles!)
(What do you want to see from me, I’m not a big snowboarding gamer!)
Well, that was quite the doozy! Be sure to tune in next Friday at 1:00 PM ET for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Oh, and have a rad summer while it lasts!
Video of the Week: “Honest Commercials” by nigahiga. It’s been out for just nine days and it’s already passed 1.5 million hits and been featured on the Smosh Pit. Tune in and see what you’ve been missing.
The nostalgic gremlin inside me is at it again, so I’ve decide to sate him with this week’s post: a glimpse at what my childhood was like. I never quite open up to my readers quite like this, and over 100,000 of you have bothered to show up at my site to read my posts, and sixteen of you have made it a weekly basis! So consider this a big thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me. Now, don’t expect this to be a tell-all about myself–I still shall keep personal information at bay.
But in 2008, my horizon changed completely thanks to three shows: Total Drama Island, Chowder, and Flapjack. Yes, if it wasn’t for these shows, I probably never would’ve become the Cartoon Network fan I am today. And you can assure yourself that I just ate the next two Total Drama seasons up, because I did. Then there’s Disney Channel. I fondly remember watching Kim Possible, The Emperor’s New School, The Replacements, Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Jonas, the list goes on.
Another favored horror series of mine back in the day is the Chillers saga by Johnathan Rand. Now, Rand is working on two Chillers series: Michigan Chillers and American Chillers. As the titles imply, events within a Michigan Chillers book take place in the good ole Great Lakes State. But American Chillers books can happen anywhere in the fifty states. These books, to be honest, were awfully similar to Goosebumps, but they have covered more subjects that are common in horror literature: werewolves, aliens, zombies, ghosts, vampires, the list goes on. But then the new Chillers came and vacuums are coming to life and crickets are gaining a craving for human meat. But who am I to complain and criticize, old Chillers was the shiz back in the day. Heck, it gave me the inspiration to become a horror author–I’m not saying I am a horror author, I’m still working on it.
Never would I find a series quite like Captain Underpants, where a vile school principal could turn into a superhero who wore nothing but underwear and a cape. But the book I remember the fondest would probably be the third one–that’s where the game changed completely! But as a blogger, I shan’t spoil it for you. This series may have also given me the inspiration to become a comic writer, which is how many people remembered me by. I have to devote a lot of my childhood to Pilkey on this one.
- Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel – A 2-time Newbery Honor-winning children’s book series starring a frog and a toad whose friendship take them on many adventures. Easy-to-read vocabulary, imaginative illustrations, and a great moral made this series an instant classic for me.
- Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark – A classic children’s book series starring a group of anthropomorphic animals, but the spotlight is on a young turtle boy named Franklin. See as he learns the virtues of friendship and love as he goes through countless scenarios: a bad day, a thunderstorm, the first day of schol, etc.
- Ready, Freddy! by Abby Klein and John McKinley – First grade is nothing short of a jungle for Freddy Thresher, first grader and amateur shark enthusiast. Read along as he deals with Max the bully, the talent show, show-and-tell competition, homework problems, bedroom horrors, and more. The series has almost 30 installments, so if you like the first book (Tooth Trouble) you can mow down the rest.
- Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus – 90s kids may remember this one, but I remember it from my elementary school days. It stars a kindergartner named Junie B Jones as she embarks on school misadventures from facing the “stupid smelly bus” to facing the monster living under her bed. Eventually she 1-ups to first grade, where she remains to this day.
- Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca – Jack and Annie are siblings that live in the fictional Frog Creek, PA. They have a tree house that can magically whisk them into any time or place, from the prehistoric era to San-Fran in the middle of that gnarly quake. They are also assisted on their missions by Morgan le Fay. Like Junie B Jones, the series 1-ups and goes from “Morgan Missions” to “Merlin Missions”, where they remain to this day.
Another great game I had was SSX Tricky, the first and greatest sports game I’ve ever played. My version of the game concept was simple: once you have some big air, Über Trick out to score as many points as you can before landing. When you’re not tricking out, you might be racing against competitive AI or helping upgrade your characters, unlocking boards, costumes, etc. I know the game like the back of my hand, and so do my siblings, who are equally good at it. (I think this game was the one thing we could bond over besides TV shows.) The game also had the best soundtrack:
I might as well recall another game that, while not as legendary as these other two games, was definitely a decent time-killer: Tony Hawk’s Project 8. I can just recall the game’s lenient physics that could allow you to perform a perfect half-pipe transfer or do a clean ollie over a fence. When I wasn’t skating, I sure as heck was bailing or unsuccessfully trying to perform rad tricks. The soundtrack for the game wasn’t half bad, but there’s only two songs I remember fondly: “Gone Daddy Gone” (Gnarls Barkley) and “Smack” (Ugly Duckling).
Oh, and one last thing. I also remember playing lots of music games back in the day: I had the Guitar Hero/Guitar Hero II dual pack, so I had two times the rock-star goodness in one 2-disc case. We also had the first two Rock Band games–no, not in a dual pack. Luckily, our Guitar Hero guitars worked with the game, and the only thing that was new were the drums and mic. Oh yeah, then there was that time where I may have broken the drum pad, but luckily lots of people face the same problem.
Oh, TMI? Sorry about that, I just had a lot to say. Oh yeah, and Lilly from Hannah Montana was in it OKAY I’M DONE! Then Spy Kids 3 came out, and that was an awesome movie too with the video game universe, but then Spy Kids 4 came out. Yeah, we don’t talk about that movie, it’s hard to even call it a Spy Kids movie. That’s why I look at the series as a trilogy with an extremely bad movie. Oh, and there was also Sharkboy and Lavagirl with the gosh-awful VFX, but the chance of it winning kids over is 9:1.
I think that’s all I have to say about my childhood! Hungry for more nostalgia? Check out The 90s Are All That on TeenNick every night from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am ET! (I was not paid to say that.) Besides that, tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Video of the Week: “(Parody) Everything Wrong With Equestria Girls in 7 Minutes or Less” by LittleshyFiM. It’s a hilarious parody of CinemaSins, so I recommend you check them out too. Am I the only one who didn’t know this movie existed until now?!
Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to another episode of Game Face! Now take Street Fighter IV, MK 2011, MK vs DCU, and all of the DC Universe characters you can think of, and puree it all in the most pretentious blender you can find at your local supermarket. Pour it in the most posh glass you can find in your house and garnish with a curly straw, and you have Injustice Gods Among Us. This fighting game from the makers of the latest Mortal Kombat game pits the heroes and villains of the DC Universe against one another, but it goes far beyond just over-the-top action.
The game’s plot is the size of a doorstop, and there’s a lot to be understood to fully grasp the meaning of the game. Heck, the entire thing takes place in a parallel universe! It all starts when Joker dastardly and maliciously deceives Superman into believing his wife Lois Lane is a villain named Doomsday, causing him to kill both her and her unborn son who she was apparently preggers with. Not only that, but Kal-El ends up destroying the rest of Metropolis in a single nuclear boom! (Apparently the nuclear bomb was connected with Lois’ heartbeat. What.) Overcome with guilt and fueled by rage, Superman does the one thing Batman wouldn’t–straight up murder Joker in cold blood!
But the Man of Steel will never forgive himself for what Joker made him do, so he seizes the control of several planets across the globe, establishing a new world order as the High Councilor for the lone goal of world peace. Sounds corny, doesn’t it? But if you aren’t with Superman, you sure as heck are against him. The heroes of the earth, from Aquaman to Wonder Woman, are faced with a choice between Superman’s Regime or Batman’s Insurgency. War ends up breaking out between the forces, one that’ll threaten the survival of all of mankind.
I mean, seriously, a bomb linked with a human’s heartbeat? Injustice‘s story really starts to cave in on itself just to find reasons why a pair of heroes should be beating the crap out of each other.
The best way to begin playing the game is to check out its tutorial, which shows you pretty much everything you need to know about the game, from special moves to bounce cancels. Now once you put that to use, you’ll see the same fighting style of Mortal Kombat 2011–well, actually, they’re the exact same controls. Heck, there are even some moves straight out of X-Ray Mode! However, what makes the game the most unique from MK 2011 is its interactive fighting style; “the world is your weapon,” says the back of the game case. And indeed it is; for example, in the Batcave someone can send you hurtling into the Bat Computer, or press a nearby button to blast you with rockets. Or in Atlantis, someone can turn a valve and blast you with an unblockable burst of water. However, many of the game’s heavier-built players can destroy these helpful objects almost effortlessly. A stone tablet that Batman can use as a jumping pad, Superman will simply crush. This will definitely be the birth of many Injustice trolls.
Injustice also has “level transitions”, which you can perform on characters by doing a select attack near one of a level’s ends. Your opponent will be painfully sent to the lower level, and if you choose you can painfully send them back to the upper level. However, while the game’s transitions can be over-the-top, the game’s laws of physics are very lenient and unrealistic (but still over-the-top). You can take a good long fall through several building floors, get hurtled into space, be inside a crashing helicopter, and more. And you’ll surely survive through all of it like it’s nothing.
The game is also unique for its Character Powers: whether it’s flight, healing, or just a temporary strength boost, these Powers are exclusive to each character. Another new part of the game is the Clashes: it can immediately interrupt a combo, allowing both players to secretly gamble some or all of their super meter (which can be saved up to perform a Super Move). It is only available when its starter has at least half of their meter full, and is only available once. There are also no rounds in Injustice–just two health bars. If one player has both of their bars emptied, the match automatically ends and the other player is declared the winner. The matches are also timed, and I’m not a fan of timed matches. I like Super Street Fighter IV, where you can set match times to infinite.
But hey, at least Injustice gives you a quick reference of your special moves whenever you pause.
Winning matches will increase your XP, and enough XP allows you to level up, unlocking content from music to concept art. And if you aren’t fighting, you could take a visit to STAR Labs to do character-specific missions that I have yet to unearth. If that wasn’t enough, you could waste a couple of minutes customizing your “hero card” and your “portrait” that comes with your Injustice in-game account. Besides that there are some half-decent mini games: shoot arrows from Green Arrow’s POV, use your eye lasers to destroy entire cars as Superman, the list goes on. However, I don’t enjoy how Superman is willingly incinerating vehicles with people inside. I mean, whatever happened to defending the world?
Oh, and also, if you consider a spinoff comic series as an extra, I should note the Injustice comic by Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack, as well as the Injustice action figure line.
In the end, Injustice Gods Among Us is a shockingly derivative fighting game that doubles as a big love letter to the fan base of the DC Universe, fueled by enjoyable over-the-top action and a thin story that most people will give no heed. (And it should stay that way.)
FINAL SCORE: ★★★
IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:
(Click on the pictures to be transported to their GameStop articles!)
Well, that was fun! Be sure to tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Oh, and have a radical summer!
Video of the Week: “About Pogo (Nick Bertke)” by Fagottron aka Pogo. You’ve seen some of his amazing videos since they’ve been past Videos of the Week, but learn the story of Pogo in just 9 minutes!
“I love making music. I think it’s the ultimate way to express myself. I can’t imagine how else I would connect with myself and the world around me.” (Poetry.)