God, I love this game.
Edit: This is my 400th post. Yay.
(insert unnecessarily long paragraph about the essence of game music)
- “Leaving Earth” from Mass Effect 3 – After having Jack Wall as composer for the first two Mass Effect games, for the third game an entirely new composing team led by Clint Mansell (who’s done scoring work on Black Swan, among others) was introduced. The majority of people were polarized, thinking that Mansell’s work would be inferior to Wall’s legacy. Then came this. A brass-knuckled wallop of raw emotion right into the haters’ faces. Or their ears, I suppose.
- “Adventure” from Fez – This game was one of the biggest indie hits since Minecraft became an overnight cultural phenomenon. Never have I listened to a chiptune song that has made my heart feel so nostalgic and warm. Now I feel like snuggling up in bed with a teddy bear, a turkey sandwich, and a warm glass of milk, while watching the sun set.
- “Mice on Venus” from Minecraft – What a convenient transition. This song actually took me–heck, the prospect of Minecraft having an OST took me by surprise. There’s nothing playing for the majority of the game, so when my friend and I played the Xbox edition, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the tracks. This is probably one of my favorites. It (or something like it) would be playing while the sun rose and it was the most amazing feeling of my life.
- “Simian Segue” from Donkey Kong Country – As I’ve said before, this is my favorite game on the Super Nintendo and one of my favorite games of all time. It’s not just the gameplay and the visuals (even though they’re both stellar), but the soundtrack by Dave Wise is killer. And here we have the absolute most infectious menu music of all time. Sure, compared to the atmospheric qualities of “Jungle Groove” (the iconic de facto theme song for the series) it’s just decent, but this song is bound to get your head bobbing, or your toes tapping, or something.
- “Prince Fleaswallow” from Parappa the Rapper – A quirky rhythm and nonsensical lines like “I’ve been working here since my mama was a baby” add to the surreal charm that this game provided. Probably when I go to a flea market now, this song will be echoing in the back of my head. It also goes without mentioning that it really sounds like this guy’s on…something. What does he sell again?
- “The Concept of Love” from Jet Set Radio Future – All I can say about this song is that it just embodies the feeling of rebellion, and gets stuck in your head really quickly. The grit that you can just feel throughout the song is a perfect accompaniment to the high-speed action within the game.
- “Fiesta de los Muertos” from Rayman Legends – This is one of the greatest games I’ve played in months, considering my gaming schedule went from regular and finely stretched to compressed into little clumps. And I spent one of those little clumps playing this game. Much like Dave Wise as mentioned above, Christophe Heral (who composed this game) knows what he’s doing when it comes to setting the proper music for the proper times. While the music’s awesome on its own, playing the level that it corresponds with and listening to it makes the experience five times better. Still a great song, though.
- “Peril” from Halo 2 – This song’s been with me for a while, despite me having no memory of playing the actual game. When I uploaded this some time ago on my Tumblr, I described it as something along these lines. “This song is playing while I’m smoking a cigar, gunning someone down with one hand and slitting another’s throat with the other. In slow motion. In a burning building.”
- “Sign of the Colossus” from Shadow of the Colossus – Even to this day, this game is highly acclaimed and revered for its powers to bind gameplay and music to create groundbreaking aesthetics never seen before in any prior gaming experiences. From the instruments that jump in and fade out ominously to the excellently jarring piano, this song could probably epitomize the game. That is, if every track didn’t stand out on its own already.
- “Mine, Windbag, and Mine” from Bastion – A highlight off of a critically acclaimed OST. A very vast soundscape that starts out mellow and acoustic but then gets energetic, building up steadily and getting gradually more awesome as the song continues. The appropriate sound effects of metallic clangs in the background add to the atmosphere.
So those were some tracks.
I hope you liked them.
Until next time.
(jumps into unknown abyss)
If you’ve been following me and my good friend the Jolly Good Bookie on Google+, you would already know of some grim news I must tell you. The Bookie found out that he wasn’t a real person and was just something I created for my own benefits, so he quit. That’s right, the JGB is no longer associated with Sammwak. Looks like I’m going to have to grab the reins and introduce something new. I know I haven’t made a review in a while–heck, I haven’t made a post in a while ever since school clogged my schedule. First off, I’m sorry. Secondly, I want to try something new. Once a month, I’ll release several reviews crammed into one post, alongside some news and upcoming titles in the bookverse. Welcome to BookBuzz.
Fast food has received lots of osmosis in the pop culture of America. With thousands of restaurants around the country that serve millions (if not billions) of people and then plague televisions with their commercials, it’s very hard to avoid the growing phenomenon of unhealthy deliciousness. Some people love its taste, others hate its effect. But have you ever stopped to wonder how all of this came to be? In the novel Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, you find out just that. The matter is broken down simplistically to give you a history lesson and a behind-the-scenes look at big fast food brands and what dark secrets they’re hiding from the public. In this book, you will learn about…
- How the hamburger was invented
- How McDonald’s was born
- How McDonald’s inspired the birth of tons of restaurants in its wake
- How chickens are slaughtered
- How fries are made
- Why meat grinding is a more dangerous job than you think
- What E.coli is and how lethal it can be
- And much much more!
Chew is one of the few novels that actually gives me information and not trivia. As the tagline says, this book taught me “everything you don’t want to know about fast food”. And after reading it, I frankly did not want to know this about fast food. The writing provides an honest and fascinating undertone as the book changes subjects, and it doesn’t feel droned. They didn’t just copy and paste their research, do a little paraphrasing, and publish it. Never once was it not interesting, and it was sapid enough to the point where I’d actually want to keep reading. Few nonfiction books can pull that sensation out of me. Definitely a book you should read if you’re addicted to fast food or if you’re in an on-off relationship with it, like me.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★
“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” Thus begins the most heartwarming story of the year. Now, before I even tell you what the book is about, look at the author of it. Katherine Applegate. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Now, take away the “therine”. Now you have KA Applegate. Yes, that KA Applegate. The lady who spent the 90s writing Animorphs went on to win the Newbery Medal. Wow.
Anyway, The One and Only Ivan is about the titular Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has grown to living a life of people watching him all the time, and never once does he ever think about his old life in the jungle. His thoughts are about shows he’s seen and his friends Stella (an elderly elephant) and Bob (a stray dog). Above all, Ivan has a penchant for art and is always thinking about how he can capture the taste of fruit with crayons and an open imagination. Then as a baby elephant named Rudy is added to the Exit 8 crew, the tides begin to change, and Ivan must make sure the tides go in the right directions as he becomes a papa wolf for little Rudy.
As you can tell, Ivan is a very heartfelt novel that comes from a unique perspective. Never did you think a simian Shakespeare could swing in with such an amazing story. His streams of narration can hook a reader from page one and keep them there as the story unfolds in the next hundreds of pages to follow. Definitely a book that I did not see coming from the lady who wrote Animorphs, and definitely one that deserves the Newbery. Not only is it beautiful, but it also has its moments of humor. Ivan chucking “me-balls” of poop at people he hates will never not be amusing.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★
James Patterson has a knack for just the right type of comedy — with the just right amount of heartwarming goodness. Whether it comes in a huge twist or a very subtle reveal, James does it right. And it’s epitomized in the first two volumes of the misadventures of Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian (pronounced “catch a door, Ian”). I mean, they were masterpieces! I’d love to go into detail, but I’ve already done that in some other reviews. Now, a big change is coming to Patterson’s third middle school story–Georgia’s taking the wheel. Yep, lil’ G has her own story to share in Middle School: My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar. And what a story it is.
G is starting middle school at Hills Village, the same place where Rafe left one heck of a mark. She plans to excel in all the fields her brother failed to clear the name of the Khatchadorians for good! G got so cocky, she even bet Rafe that she’d become popular. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as everyone’s now adapted to make school a living hell for anyone with the last name of Khatchadorian. Plus, there’s the Princess Patrol, a trio of snooty mean girls who rule the school and look devilishly good doing it. They’ve got their crosshairs on G and are willing to bully her every time the chance comes.
In the wake of her troubles, G is also crushing on an adorkable boy named Sam (no, not me) and befriending a loud-talking girl named Rhonda. Out of school — get this — G plays electric guitar for a band called The Awesomes. (Rafe doesn’t think they live up to their name. Why? Because he’s Rafe.) But Rafe’s not quite done yet. He wants to make his burden of the bet a lot lighter and plans to humiliate G in the worst ways. But could G actually be able to fight her odds and emerge on top?
When I finished My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, I was disappointed if anything. Why?
- I finished the book the same day I started it. (I took a few days separately to read through Rafe’s books.)
- I don’t think the book’s name is very appropriate. The Worst Years of My Life makes sense because Rafe explains why middle school was the worst years of his life. Get Me Out of Here makes sense because Rafe wants to get out of here and explains why. G does nothing to explain why her brother is a big, fat liar beyond one page; she’s too busy telling her story.
- It has the most predictable setup of all time to the most generic ending of all time. I mean, you know the ending before it’s even close to arriving, it’s so foreseeable.
- Rhonda is so annoying.
On the bright side, the book still have traditional Patterson gags and charm, and the climax is absolutely jaw-dropping. In Patterson’s trademark fashion, I did not see that one coming. Even though the story’s flaws are mortal in the end, it’s still a decent read to hold us by for Rafe’s next adventure.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★
The Scholastic Graphix graphic novel lineup is full of great authors. Jeff Smith (Bone), Raina Telgemeier (Smile/Drama), Doug TenNapel (Bad Island/Cardboard), among others. But a name like Kazu Kibuishi caught my eye as early as the fifth grade. I was a huge Bone fanboy at this time so I pushed the book aside. But after reading and reviewing all nine books in the series, I decided to give the first installment, The Stonekeeper, a try. Kibuishi is now on my “graphic novel authors to watch” list, because that book was grandiose.
Our story ironically begins with a bang as the main characters–Emily and her little brother Navin–are involved in a tragic car accident that kills their father. Two years later, Emily’s mom is struggling to raise her kids by herself, so she moves them into a spacious old house inherited from Emily’s great-grandpa Silas. As Emily explores her new home, she finds a stone amulet that warns her that her family’s in danger. Before she even knows what the amulet’s capable of, Emily and Navin are thrown into a mission to rescue their mother in a subterranean world full of friends and foes.
This book’s storytelling is absolutely pristine even in the limits of 192 pages; and the story’s emotions whiplash from exciting action to tearjerking drama within pages. Emily and Navin are ordinary children that you can feel for as they embark on a journey of such proportions. Also, the illustrations are crisp and beautiful and impeccably follow along the storyline. That being said, the story arc is very simplistic with not enough rising and falling actions to fill in the holes before and after the climax. It’s a book that I blazed through while at the same time understanding what was going on, and that sort of let me down. But The Stonekeeper‘s “and the adventure continues” ending paves the way to a lot of sequels I need to plow through.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★
Remember back in May 2012 when I made a review for the last Bone book, saying that JGB Bone was coming to an end? Well, I forgot about one spinoff book (and the handbook and the prequel and the Quest for the Spark series): Bone Tall Tales featuring Tom Sniegoski. In this book, campfire myths from our old smoking pal Smiley are used to answer questions like how Boneville was made, and how the Bones got lost in the valleys.
The book was only 128 pages, so it didn’t take me that long to finish. I was very disappointed. The book is nothing but mildly entertaining stories that give me some exposition and context about the Bones, but I wanted more. More story, more action, more laughs, more pages, more Bone that I expected out of this! And to think I was so excited to read this book. Hopefully Quest for the Spark will be a saving grace, because Jeff Smith is dangling off the edge off of my “graphic novel authors to watch” list.
FINAL SCORE: ★★
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 (Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles), the Dreamcast era (Sonic Adventure 1-3), and the Modern era (Sonic Heroes, Sonic Colors, Sonic 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)
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 a B.
Well, that’s all for this week! Have a swagnificent summer and be sure to tune in for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
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!
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)
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!
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.
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 Bunch, Harry 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 VERDICT: I 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 SCORE: 59 out of 60 –> 98% –> A+
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,
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 Potter, Dexter, Up, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mary Poppins, Snow 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!
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.
- 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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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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Stay classy America,
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.