“It’s easy to lose your soul in high school.”
Maggie has been home schooled for years now, but now she’s a big girl. She’s going to make the transition from home school to public school as she goes into the ninth grade. She has three brothers that’s been watching over her for as long as she can remember, but Maggie just feels like she won’t be able to fit in. Maggie’s life has been stalked by a gray cloud of sorrow ever since her mom hit the road. Maggie’s never had any friends outside of family, but luckily she makes two friends, Lucy and Alistair. They eat lunch with her and take her on their adventures around town, but there’s one big secret she has.
MAGGIE IS HAUNTED.
Why she’s haunted, she doesn’t know. What it’ll take to free the spirit, she has to know. School hassles mixed with a harrowing haunting has Maggie’s hands way full. But in the end, she learns to see her brothers through a different perspective and learns the true story behind her sidekick in spirit.
I came across this on Common Sense Media, and it looked like a good read. It said something about “a ghostly twist”, so that hooked my attention. Some time later, the book shows up at the school libe and I decide to check it out. Ladies and gentlemen, I finished that book the same day. Doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment for a graphic novel, but still. I’ve read all nine Bone books, and each one took me a couple days to read to capture everything on the page. With this book, I could burn through it like I did The Tale of Desperaux. But we’re not here to talk about adequate graphic novel lengths, we’re here to talk about Friends With Boys. You have to understand that this is the full-length print debut of Faith Erin Hicks, author of another graphic novel called Zombies Calling. That sounds way more interesting than this. I was disappointed when I’d closed the book. Unsatisfied, like I was missing the main entree and being given just the sides.
If I got this and saw that Jeff Smith or Doug TenNapel had written this, I’d be highly disappointed. But I have to lay off a bit of my flak since Hicks is a pawn at this game of chess. But I’m the chess-master. I know what and when things are coming. But I didn’t expect most of the things that occurred, but for all the wrong reasons. Friends with Boys, even on my belittled standards, was very mediocre. Maggie and her friends are lovable characters, I get that. It has all of the bullying and bad words of high school, and then it has a ghost. That’s how you describe the book in one sentence. The other thing I hate is that the ghost is mute. Maggie should’ve actually taken the time to talk to her and have her tell her story instead of having some boring exposition do it for her. That would’ve made her a much better character. I also would’ve preferred the ghost to be Maggie’s age, but that’s an unimportant complaint–also, it’s not my call.
Another pet peeve I have is that everyone seems to understand what Maggie’s going through. Imagine if someone said to you, “I’m haunted by a ghost.” Would you respond with “I completely understand”, or think that they’re sliding down the slippery slope of sanity? If you chose answer A, you’re just like the characters in this book. I loathe you for that. I know that other people have much warmer thoughts for this book, but I think I’ve just wiped Hicks off of my “graphic-novel-authors-to-watch” list. The only thing I’ll acclaim the book for is that it has darn good illustrations. Friends with Boys just fell flat in my opinion.
Friends with Boys may be appealing illustration-wise, but it’s just a series of misguided plot lines and stale gags with little action. Hollow, but not with enough flaws to get you to shut the book. There are certainly better graphic novels out there, but I might be willing to give Hicks a second chance if she does release again in the not-too-distant future. But for now, she hasn’t hit that sweet chord yet.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★
If you liked Friends With Boys, check out:
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier
- Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap and Mari Araki
- Same Difference by Derek K. Kim
- American Born Chinese by Gene L. Yang
- Brain Camp by Susan Kim
- Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
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 haunt that subscribe button! You can also find Sammwak on Google+ where you can get more news and stuff there! You can also share it to your pals on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, and more!
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the greatest video game ever made…now, let’s see how that holds up when I play it. This is just the beginning of a series that is currently six episodes long. The computer fan is still annoying as ever, and there’s also a watermark. This was the most primitive stuff I could find before upgrading to what I used in my Donkey Kong 64 video (which you can find in last week’s post). But nonetheless, enjoy, and if you like this one, knock yourself out with the other five.
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.
*blah blah blah blah you already know what’s gonna happen* Spoiler Alert Seal *blah blah*.
There are two very prestigious book awards in America, let alone the globe. One of them is the Newbery Medal, successfully proposed as the first-ever book award in history. The Newbery is only given to books with “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”. And this was probably the first award I ever heard of where the losers get awards too–they become Newbery Honor books. First awarded to Hendrik Willem van Loon’s The Story of Mankind (1921), the Newbery has clearly been known as an author’s biggest bragging right of their career. But take it too far and you’ll end up playing yourself a mind game. And the 1999 Newbery winner, to be specific, was a book that I believe won as an underdog–Louis Sachar’s Holes. And for any of you who have read the book, you might have believed that the story of Camp Green Lake ended right then and there. Well, you are wrong.
“Small steps, ’cause I don’t know where I’m goin’. Small steps, I just take it day to day. Small steps, somehow get myself together, then maybe I’ll discover who I am along the way…”
Considered the sequel/follow-up to Holes (remember America, Stanley Yelnats’ Survival Guide was not a main entry–I’m not sure if you can even count it), Small Steps was released in January 2006 and continues the story of the [not-so] happy campers from Camp Green Lake. But this time, the story doesn’t revolve around Stanley–it revolves around two of his comrades. More specifically, Armpit and X-Ray. If you want to know how they got the names, here’s the story: Armpit’s actual name is Theodore, but something horrible happened within the first week at Green Lake. He had suffered a scorpion sting with pain that traveled up his arm and settled in his pit. He made the fatal mistake of complaining about his pit pain, and although the pain eventually disappeared the name stuck. And as for X-Ray–it’s merely his name, Rex, in pig Latin. Now, Armpit was released from camp two years ago, and has finally gotten the time to relax in his home down south in Texas with his disabled 10-year old neighbor Ginny. Y’see, Ginny was born with cerebral palsy. It’s a condition from impaired muscle coordination or equally worrisome disabilities caused by pre-birth/at-birth brain damage. She was actually born with mild brain hemorrhaging. Anyway, Armpit and Ginny are learning to take small steps, and seem to be on the right path until X-Ray steps into the picture. And not only that, but he’s got a fresh-and-off-the-griddle moneymaking scheme. The plan? Ticket scalping for an upcoming concert by pop star Kaira DeLeon. (Don’t Google her, she’s not real. :-?) Also known as selling counterfeit or bootlegged tickets, which is illegal. So now Armpit’s life has just gone out of control, but “only one thing is certain: he’ll never be the same again.” Will Armpit get a brush with his goals, a brush with fame via Kaira, or get a brush with a lot of police brutality–and possibly even death?
Now, Small Steps really surprised me. It was a lot raunchier and mature than your average sequel, definitely invading edgier territories. And I really couldn’t keep track of everything that was happening, forgetting who people are, even blanking out on whole scenarios. But the thing that convinced me that I did myself a good deed was the heart that the book had. It had lots of positive messages and modeling, and to me it had those debonair touches that made for a truly magical read. But I do have to warn you that this book literally is not for the faint of heart; I’m not just saying that because I just reviewed an equally wild book two weeks ago. But in the end, Small Steps wins me over with its hilarity, heart, and horrors, but could adjust a few corks and screws if I ever see another Holes sequel.
4 1/4 out of 5 – Educational value – The book is mainly prosperous on its entertainment factor, but Holes fans will definitely appeal to this sequel and get them thinking about the book’s bigger proposals. And at the end of the book, the storyline is stretched in the Readers Circle add-ons. Questions concerning the book’s plot element, even an interview with Sachar himself.
3 out of 5 – Positive messages – Armpit may not be a choice perfectionist, but ultimately he has the heart to figure things out in time to act on it. The core plot is also very touching with its idea of “small steps” that you can take every day and eventually meet your goal with. X-Ray may technically serve as the antagonist of the book, but he is helpful for his friend as well.
4 out of 5 – Positive role models – Armpit does go with X-Ray’s plan to scalp tickets and then lie to the cops, but he spends most of the following actions allowing himself to rehabilitate, allowing readers to easily root for him. In the end X-Ray does truly regret his plan. Armpit helping Ginny, even taking her leukemia-infected pet to class (as part of an election campaign for some sort of “pet president”) for her, is probably one of the most affectionate and compassionate parts of the book. Armpit shares something short of a relationship with Kaira, but ultimately decides to drop the idea of any further affection due to his connection with his real life.
3 out of 5 – Ease of read – Small Steps is a great Holes sequel, but its sex appeal and moderate violence may be too much for its young diehards to handle. But its real icky, sticky, ooey, gooey center is its big heart and all the positive messages and models that make it up. So I guess you could say people at the faint of heart will have to take “small steps” to gain the courage to read the book.
4 out of 5 – Violence – And a surprising amount at that. One of the most worrisome moments of the book is when Armpit is apprehended by some officers at the Kaira DeLeon concert, playing with the nerves of his arms and pressing his face against the floor. And while all this is happening, Ginny is actually having a seizure. (She later notes this as her body going into “red alert”, based off Kaira’s biggest hit, “Red Alert!”) When Kaira learns about this during a concert break, she refers to X-Ray as “some low-life ticket scalper”. When anyone actually ridicules Ginny for her condition, she always tells them that she had brain hemorrhaging at birth. Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you that Ginny’s the neighborhood laughingstock yet, did I? X-Ray reveals to Armpit that he had made the scalped counterfeit tickets himself. Armpit is
interrogated questioned by Debbie Newberg of the Austin Police Department, forcing him to divert suspicion by making up a fake “part-Iranian” suspect known as Habib. When a student puts up his pig as part of his election campaign, he states that it would bring world peace or else at least everyone would get a ham sandwich, foreshadowing that the pig would kill himself for his people. Armpit also gets in a scuffle with a pair of ticket sellers, only letting him loose if he coughed up a love letter Kaira had written him. This leads to Armpit talking with Kaira in “the Golden Gate city” about having to sell her love letter, so he ends up coffee-splashed when he asks Kaira to write another version for sale. This states that Kaira believes Armpit does not humanly care about her and only likes her for her money. Jerome Paisley (aka “El Genius”, or “Doofus” by Kaira) plans to murder her own stepdaughter/managee and frame Armpit for the kill. This leads to a climactic brawl which results in Armpit receiving a broken arm, Kaira’s bodyguard Fred receiving a tummy stab, and “Genius” behind bars. Kaira then returns to her singing career, albeit she sings very weakly now after taking a hit from Doofus.
3 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Walking towards what she believes is the bathroom, she gets caught by Doofus with her top unbuttoned and open. Armpit and Kaira share a real mouth-to-mouth kiss. X-Ray hoots at a girl wearing a bikini top. At Kaira’s concert, she informs her audience about her virginity. Needless to say, the crowd goes wild. Ginny calls Armpit “pretty pretty”, which is humorous since Ginny is technically calling Pit a girl, since “girls are pretty and boys are handsome”.
2 out of 5 - Language – The moderately salty epithets and expletives of “hell”, “damn”, and “shut up”. When X-Ray hoots at the girl, she responds wordlessly by promptly flipping him off. The “bird” is also mentioned when Kaira tries to guess Armpit’s nickname, and she guesses Finger and believes that he is the middle finger. During a call Kaira jokingly calls Armpit “delusional” over what he thought the lyrics to “Damsel in Distress” went like: “Save me, Armpit! A damsel in distress.”
2 out of 5 – Product Placement – Kaira DeLeon, despite being fictitious, does get a lot of notable mentioning in the book. Some of her songs include “Red Alert!”, “Damsel in Distress”, “Imperfection”, “Small Steps”, and one unofficial song she frequently sings called “Billy Boy” (named after one of her fans). She also works on a song and sings lyrics that call Britney Spears “old and gray”. Small Steps also branches out from the hit novel Holes.
3 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – X-Ray sells parsley like marijuana, Armpit’s parents ask for urine samples believing their son is using drugs, an ex-ball player associated with Kaira takes steroids, band members drink and smoke frequently. Armpit is mainly attacked at the concert since the officers thought that Ginny was having a seizure due to being drugged up by Pit.
Entertainment: A (4 points)
Fun: A (4 points)
Smarts: B+ (3.5 points)
Style: A- (4 points)
Read-Again Ratio: A (4 points)
Humor: A+ (5 points)
FINAL SCORE: 24.5 out of 30 (:-?), 4 stars out of 5, 83% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: Small Steps may have lots of heart and the messages and models that make it up, and the humor and charm you’d expect from Sachar or a similar artist, but it’s the easy stuff like the “oomph” and maturity level that the book slips on.
Small Steps: Great, but not perfect. Anyway, that’s it for a day here at Sammwak! Come back or check your email to see if I’ve made a new post, but for now you know what to do. Subscribe, like, comment, follow me @ G+, Press This, reblog, do anything, and then git outta here.
Stay classy America,
~S~ 8-) (Or M-Say, if you prefer pig Latin. :D)
Video of the Week: Now if you’ve really been keeping track of things the past few weeks, you’ve been laughing your head off at entries from Swoozie’s Cheating in School series. Well, I’ve decided to put the next video on hold, but for now here’s something equally funny. It’s also based off a true story, and since January last year it’s got over 3.2 million hits with over 40k likes, it is Swoozie’s “Confessions of a Disney Employee“. Yup, Adande “Swoozie” Thorne himself worked at MGM. And now you can know what happened in that part of his life, from the Disney snitches all the way to a few rebelliously pulled strings that led to one of the greatest times of his life…
Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to the second episode of our game reviewing segment, Get Ur Game Face On. Anyway, there are a lot of unknown companies that one day have their names known by 5% of people, and the next day having their names known as the people that gave us the amazing game [please insert amazing game title]. And that’s what happened with lots of companies we now know. Take Bethesda, for example. With the dwindling of games like Brink and RAGE, it was almost certified that Bethesda would begin crippling from the game world, and taking all of their series with them. That is, until they introduced the worldwide phenomenon known as Skyrim. See what I mean? THQ (short for Toy Headquarters. Now you know.) already got a start, giving us pretty much the entire anthology of SpongeBob games. But maybe our porous pal needed a break. So they gave us the first De Blob in ’08. And this is its ’11 sequel.
In 2008, the original De Blob met favorably received success, or (as THQ president & CEO Brian Farrell calls it) “broad, critical acclaim.” But the demands rose too high, and they were too big to maintain. So THQ could most likely do nothing but bring out the only weapon in a wave of fiscal demands: a sequel. Instantly the wave died down and THQ could breath a bit easier. That sequel, as I said and will say again, was De Blob 2, also known previously as De Blob: The Underground. Instead of being a Wii exclusive, it (like the forthcoming Epic Mickey sequel) was also available for the Xbox and PS3 as well, alongside the Nintendo DS and 3DS. It was developed by the now inactive Blue Tongue Entertainment, or by Halfbrick Studios (the same buddies that gave us the Fruit Ninja saga) for the DS version, and published by THQ and Syfy Kids (yes, I hasten to add this, but that actually does exist!).
In this game, you basically pick up where the original adventure left off: giving color and happiness with a vengeance (as the antagonistic INKT Corp. has outlawed all the fun and color) to the monochromatic Manhattan parody Chroma City, as a Blob. But not just any Blob. The Caesar of color, the superhero of the spectrum, the rivet of the rainbow, the—oh, you know what I mean. But not alone, with his trusty robo-sidekick Pinky. You can turn into different colors by jumping into different pools of colored paint, or by slamming into different-colored Paintbots, allowing you to make the world literally your canvas & easel. But there are some obstacles in your way, such as surfaces that automatically strip you of your wet, colorful goodness, as well as ink that acts as deadly poison to our hippie of a hero.
Definitely one of the most feel-good games of the year, De Blob 2‘s infectious vibe is only cramped up by one thing: frustration, and frustration under more than one circumstance. You sometimes have no clue what to do, and how to do it, leaving you helplessly struggling for a solution. Repetitive level design occurs repeatedly for a great level of annoyance, and you honestly don’t want to fail root & branch. That’s usually something you always hear in games, but this is a special emphasis; failure results in having to replay long sections or entire levels, putting a chockful of work into the toilet. The targeting system of the game can be a pro various times in the game, but other times when you’re brawling against diverse enemy armies, it’s definitely a con trying to decipher. You should never trust De Blob 2‘s saving system, and even I have examples. Sometimes when I exit a session of De Blob-ing, and come back to that session, I have to redo entire—oh, wait, I already told you about this. But on the bright side, painting the city is more fun that it looks like, and great visuals and tunes make a joyous atmosphere to roam in. Cutscenes are smart and amusingly entertaining, and there is simple fun in the game’s combat. And, of course, there are plenty of cheesily great win quotes in the game like, “Blobberific!” Y’know what, let’s roll the chart.
2 3/4 out of 5 – Educational value – There are puzzle aspects to many of the levels, requiring a great amount of logic and thinking, but the intention of the game is definitely entertainment over education.
3 1/2 out of 5 – Positive messages – Blob is a compassionate hero, determined to bring color (and freedom, and peace, and justice, and—) back to a world ruled by a monochromatic black-and-white tyrant and its corporation. Certain story moments, though, pose moral questions to players, asking them to choose between going after an escaping villain or rescuing innocents.
3 out of 5 – Positive role models – Blob and Pinky are self-sacrificing heroes who value the freedom of their people. Players could choose to make Blob a bit more callous in his pursuit of the baddies if they opt to follow the villains rather than save the innocents at certain points of the game.
4 out of 5 – Ease of play – Controls work very smoothly. If the camera seems problematic at first, know that you can adjust the inversion of the camera functionality; it’s very likely you can find a setting that will be comfortable for your personal style of play, where you prefer going down to go up, or prefer going down to go down. The game offers only two levels of difficulty that sound equally simple: easy and normal.
2 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – Blob fights enemy robots at times with a jump-and-smash ability (or Pinky can zap them with paint). Defeated enemies disappear in a burst of ink. Obviously enough, ink is very poisonous to Blob, and you can surely die if you stay in too long or do not meet a body of water soon enough. Blob can use his jump-and-smash combo to smash into things with violent slams. Overall, the violence is cartoonishly executed, made more for quirks.
Play-Again Ratio: B- (3 points)
Smarts: B+ (3.5 points)
Fun: B (3 points)
Style: A (4 points)
Humor: A (4 points)
Entertainment: A (4 points)
FINAL SCORE: 21.5 out of 30 (well, that was unexpected), 3 stars out of 5, 69% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: De Blob 2 is a funky-fresh sequel with the same infectious vibe as its predecessor, but monotony and other frustrations get the upper hand of the game and ruin its jam to the point where the game is only fun to play for about ten minutes, if not longer.
PRICE: Have it your way, but here’s the pricing for the game. On the Xbox 360, the game costs $16, but new copies are $9, and used ones are $6. Own a Nintendo DS? You can buy the game for only $9, with new copies being $5, and used ones being $3. Fan of the PS3? It costs yet again $16, but new copies are $9, and used ones are $7. Wii junkie? The game costs $13, with $7 for a new copy, and $2 for a used. At GameStop, the game costs $20 new, and $18 pre-owned on the Xbox. On the Wii, the game costs $20, but pre-owned versions are only $15. The same thing applies for the PS3 and DS versions as well.
Subscribe, like, rate, comment, reblog, share, please check out that adorable SpongeBob gif at the top of the sidebar, and stay tuned for a brand new post next Monday! Oh, and please consider the following: Wii Play Games could be back on the radar, it’s already at about 20 hits about now and it’s possible that it could be back in the hypes to raise the bar! If you want to revive WPG, go to wiiplaygames.wordpress.com and subscribe, enough subscriptions will make me considering a new post! Now, go go go!
– Sam :D
p.s. Would You Rather o’ the Week: Would you rather…wear only Gap clothing for the rest of your life, or wear only New Balance shoes for the rest of your life?
p.p.s. Random Video o’ the Week: I’m too exhausted to say more, so check out this hot jam. It’s Basement Jaxx and Robyn. C’mon, you know you want to. It’s got really good reception.
Hey guys it’s Sam, and I don’t have time to watch a lot of movies on my own time, but I do watch a lot of movies as a class. And one of those was what our class finished in—what seems to be a questionable spot—Spanish class. So yes, the movie was in Spanish, but with English subtitles. And this is a movie I honestly question sometimes about the horrible cases of negativity it received (but then again, the director’s past movies have apparently been bad as well). It’s a rather “true blue” movie that splits two worlds conjoined by one adventure…this movie is The Smurfs, or Los Pitufos in Spanish.
You may know The Smurfs (based off of the Belgian comic series of the same name, alongside its eponymous TV show) as the competition against Cowboys vs. Aliens, both of the movies releasing on the same day. You might remember how the true blue flick lost by just $0.8 million! You might remember how critics and audiences had different perspectives of the movie in negative and positive ways. But we’re here to learn about what I had to say about it. Let’s start off with the story: Papa, Grouchy, Brainy, Clumsy, Gutsy, and Smurfette end up, in a pursuit from evil wizard Gargamel and also via vortex technology, in the human world (more specifically, the Big Apple) apart from their rightful Smurf home. They then must find a way to get back home while still avoiding Gargamel and they run into humans in the process. These humans are Patrick and Grace Winslow, a husband-and-wife couple with a basset hound named Elway. These two merge and learn the benefits of teamwork, leadership, and bravery on the Smurfs’ wild adventure.
The movie actually wasn’t half bad. I don’t know why critics had their usual lip to set on the movie, since it was polar opposite of what it critically received. The movie was inspiring, adventurous (you know I love a good cliffhanger and hero-gets-tortured and beat-up-the-bad-guy scene), epic, and actually quite funny. To add into that, the movie was also full of great messages like leadership and teamwork and putting others first. And for a movie about a bunch of three-apples-high little blue dwarfs running around the NYC looking like obnoxious Na’vi offspring dwarfs (no offense), that’s saying something.
1 3/4 out of 5 – Educational value – The movie is meant for amusement only, but the Smurfs do teach kids about teamwork, while Papa Smurf and the Winslows teach about the importance of putting family first.
3 out of 5 – Positive messages – The Smurfs offer positive messages about cooperation, teamwork, and family togetherness. Clumsy Smurf’s transformation into a fearless hero in the end (spoiler alert) is a great lesson that none of us is just “one thing,” even if that’s what we’re most known for by our friends and family.
2 1/2 out of 5 – Positive role models – Grace is kind and helpful, even though the Smurfs frighten her at first. Papa always thinks of his fellow Smurfs first, and then himself. The other Smurfs are optimistic and sweet, and Patrick even learns fatherly duties from Papa Smurf.
3 3/4 out of 5 – Ease of view – The Smurfs is a great movie that teaches kids about what it feels like to work as a team and put others before you, although not all the spots of the movie are bright ones. Despite getting the critical hammer lowered on it, and despite losing a rather fierce competition, The Smurfs is a cleverly plotted flick that mixes humor, adventure, and good messages all in one great combo.
4 out of 5 – Violence – Gallons of pratfall and cartoonish violence, but it does get more serious in the clutches of Gargamel, the film’s villain who is always trying to capture the Smurfs. Gargamel’s cat Azrael almost always gets thrown into danger’s path, with his master asking “Are you dead?” to see if he made it. The Smurfs and Gargamel end up in a cat-and-mouse pursuing in a shop, and they find each other once more in the climax’s epic battle which results in some injuries, but blood and/or death is out of the question. Azrael coughs up a clump of Smurfette’s hair in a graphic style that may disturb some viewers. Papa Smurf “takes one for the team” and stays behind to be captured by Gargamel and have “essence” extracted from him in a rather torturous scene. Gargamel also uses wand magic to capture Smurfs and flash a spell into the sky Voldemort-style. He also gets hit by a bus, but does not die. A sequence that might frighten the very young occurs in which Gargamel terrorizes Smurf Village and destroys many upon many of Smurf homes. A vision predicts that Clumsy will mess everything up by failing to catch a wand.
1 3/4 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – The Winslows show affection—holding hands, embracing, and finally kissing (twice)—in short-and-sweet manners. Smurfette stands over a subway grate Marilyn Manson-style, but her “brothers” are more interested in the breeze, one even flashing his butt as an “enchanted forest.” One Smurf flashes his boxers before jumping into the portal back home. Grace is pregnant.
2 out of 5 - Language – The word “smurf” is used frequently as a substitute for many other words (like how Finn and Jake use this same formula for the word “math”), the results including “Smurf off”, “You smurfin’ crossed the wrong smurf”, and “Smurf me”, among other clean words like “smurfabunga” and “hypersmurfilating”. Real live words that rank on the colorful-language list include “oh my God” and briefly “d-mn”.
3 1/2 out of 5 – Product Placement – It’s not a surprise that the consumerism levels are literally flowing through the roofs, with appearances like the Blue Man Group, NBC’s Community (it’s true), Samsung Blu-Ray, Apple Inc., M&M’s, Aerosmith Guitar Hero, CBGB, Bluetooths, FAO Schwarz, ALEX toys, Madame Alexander dolls, and references to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” (which is coincidental due to the fact that Katy provides the voice of Smurfette) and Braveheart.
Smarts: B+ (3.5 points)
See-Again Ratio: A- (4 points)
Fun: A (4 points)
Entertainment: A (4 points)
Humor: A (4 points)
Style: B (3 points)
FINAL SCORE: 26.5 out of 30 (I did not see that coming), 3 stars out of 5, 77% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: It may not shine as brightly as advertised, but The Smurfs is a diverse movie with the humor, adventure, and positive messages to make it worthwhile, but it honestly can’t be saved from its sometimes blunt expectations.
PRICE: You sure you wanna go all true and all blue? See what I did there, I made the word blue. Anyway, The Smurfs costs $20 with a 44% savings addition. Too outrageous for you? $8.50 is the narrowed-down new price, while $7 is the used price. Take your pick, and if you can’t, go to Blockbuster where you can buy the movie new for $24, or have it for a solid 7 days with the weekly rental price of $5. And if you can’t accept that, well…I don’t think you can trust me anymore, can you?
Like, rate, comment, and sing that Smurf song to the subscribe button until it explodes of annoyance overload! And stay tuned for more awesome stuff on Sammwak! Can you believe it? It’s already Valentine’s Day! <3 Sorry for a little late delay, but you know what that meant: more awesomeness!
It’s been a long time since an online game as addictive & immersive as Glitch reared its angelic head. But now, finally, another one of those games has been shared with the public world, one just as beautiful, diverse, and fluid as Glitch, one that definitely builds upon its predecessor. The “threequel” of a wildly successful and silly online game saga, this game has taken its fancy-pant-wearing hero to newly epic proportions never seen before in his history. What’s all the hub-bub about? In this gripping episode, you’re going to find out.
If you remember one of my old posts back in 2010’s days, you’d remember the time when I excitedly blabbed about the announcement of the upcoming World 3 (or at least, all we have of it, the real release date is TBA) in the Fancy Pants Adventures trilogy, the obvious follower of World 2. I rambled on about its debuts of distinguishable toppings to the sundae, including swimming and water-related levels, the introduction of Fancy Pants Man’s sister and her cat, pencil combat, and lots more. Now, you can’t believe the excitement I had when right here, right now, the sneak peek, the closest we can get to World 3, has come, and it’s not just the most beautiful game in the trilogy. It’s one of the most breathtaking online games I’ve ever played, hands down, deal is done. If you think Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the best adventurer’s game you’ve played, wait till you see this.
Fancy Pants Man clearly proves that stunning visuals, marvelous gameplay, catchy tunes, and proficient, solid distinguishes really do add up for one of the best experiences you’ve seen. Enemies have a bit more smarts in the game now: the gun-wielding rat (or, as I like to call him, the “gunmouse” *ba dum CRASH*) can now aim his gun in different directions, a new miner headlight-bearing spider is smart enough to safely land on surfaces below him, blabbity blabbity bloo. I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you about my favorite part of this game: the swimming levels. Whether it’s for a task or just a visit to the wonderland of wetness, the swimming levels are by far the most beautiful aspects of the game, mixed with its equally beauteous music. I kept repeating quotes like “It’s so beautiful”, “I feel like I’m gonna cry”, or “(too sucked in to say much)” while I was swimming through the waters. You could also do lots of stuff like “surf” on the surface of the water, push off of undersea surfaces and fly gracefully into the water, and more. If this is how Michael Phelps practiced for the Olympics, it’s no surprise he’s a multi-gold-medalist. Definitely a game I’m proud to have on my Chrome homepage, and definitely one I’ll come back to and enjoy all over again.
1 out of 5 – Educational value – Your brain does get tested a bit in timed challenges, and maybe getting from place to place requires a bit of logic, but the game is mainly an entertainer, not an educator.
2 3/4 out of 5 – Positive messages – Fancy Pants Man has had a past of heroism, dueling against agitated penguins and bunnies, all for a good cause that some things are worth journeying and fighting for, like peace and love, or an ice cream cone. The new introduction of multiplayer on the consoles are definitely worth saying that “Four is better than two, let alone two being better than one.”
5 out of 5 – Ease of play – The controls are easy to grasp: left and right to move, down to duck, and S to jump. Jump onto a wall to begin wall-climbing, and with just enough momentum, speed, and time you might end up wall-jumping from building to building (Jump & direction to do so). These controls work well and are etched into the game appropriately.
3 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – There are rats that wield pistols that will attempt to shoot at Fancy Pants Man (but the fired “bullets” look more like balls of scribble), as well as spiders that will attempt to cause harm to our hero. FP Man can retaliate by jumping onto them, making them now able to kick, which is what he can also do to snails. When FP Man loses his health, he will fall to the ground, and his angelic soul will rise.
2 out of 5 – Product Placement – World 3 is the third of a very successful and popular online game trilogy called Fancy Pants Adventures made by Brad Borne (who also went on to make Mirror’s Edge 2D), and you can find the games pretty much anywhere from Armor Games to Newgrounds.
Whatever I just mentioned above.
Little to strive for means that you’re just running around for nothing.
Fun: A+ (5 pts)
Entertainment: A+ (5 pts)
Style: A+ (5 pts)
Smarts: A (4.5 pts)
Play-Again Ratio: A+ (5 pts)
Gameplay: A+ (5 pts)
FINAL SCORE: 29.5 out of 30 (you’ve gotta be kidding me), 5 stars out of 5, 94% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: A beautiful, fluid, and atmospheric entry into the series, the World 3 sneak peek is not just the most immersive, beautiful, and solid entry into the series; it’s simply one of the most breathtaking online games created.
Now, as the title says, we’re not finished quite yet. Fancy Pants Man may have embarked on a beauteous journey, but that doesn’t mean his minutes in heaven are over. Fancy Pants Man is going predictably where no online game hero has gone before; the PlayStation Network and the Xbox Live Arcade. It may not be World 3 (perhaps the origin of a devolution), but the console game will include a 2-4 player mode, pencil combat just as World 3 promised, and a fresh batch of new levels, as well as the ones from World 1 and 2. Similar to Limbo, the console version’s story will be about FP Man’s journey through pirates and pencils in order to save his pirate-kidnapped sister. There might also be, according to footage, a “king of the hill” mode in the game, and if you still don’t believe me, check out this trailer.
Now are you excited? The game is actually out as we speak, rated E for mild cartoon violence, and the full game costs a whopping price of 800 Microsoft points, while the trial is free, but not real. Almost 20,000 people have given it a 4-star rating on Xbox.com, and 600 people have taken the time to Like on Facebook. And remember the game’s catchy motto: “Run fast, run fancy.”
Subscribe, rate, like, com—oh, come on, do I really have to tell you what to do every time? This blog’s been alive for almost 2 years!
– Sam :D
p.s. Giants or Patriots? The Super Bowl’s only two days away!
#1 bestselling game for the Kinect? Who gives a fudge muffin? “Kinect interprets all your moves”? Epic lie. Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you there. Hey guys it’s Sam, and I’m about to review one of my Christmas presents that I received. One that’ll definitely put some sweat on your brow, one that’ll definitely teach you the rules of sporting, and one that you can crumple to the floor in seas of laughter with. Indeed, it is Kinect Sports, a game as smashing as its spikes in volleyball.
One of the two Kinect games released exactly on the debuting date of its console (the other being the pack-in Kinect Adventures), Kinect Sports has a simple 3-million-unit selling plot: you engage in six sports: track & field (shown above in the hurdling quarter of the sport), bowling, boxing, ping pong (titled in-game as table tennis), soccer, and beach volleyball under the sun. The controls differ depending on the sport, like for instance you can swing your arm back and forward to bowl a ball, or you can constantly swipe your arm to return ping-pong shots. Displaying an impressive interface and a good sporting variety, not only is this game a blast, but it’s a hardcore exercise. Every time I play this game and feel my forehead, it’s sopping wet. At the very start of the game, you also get a chance to stay and warm up the crowd if you want. All the “best bits” or best moments of your sporting time will end up as a video compilation accessible for sharing online.
It’s nothing to worry about when you look over the E10+ rating of the game despite some pretty intense boxing, but it all breaks down in cartoony matters. If you can do the motion in real life, you can do it in the game. The controls are darn easy if not slightly unresponsive (and by slightly, I mean 35% of the time), and the way you can level up after winning a game is definitely something worth striving for, worth the time, achievements, and gamer points. If you’re not following me, I’ll review each and every sport.
Select a ball: Move arm out to the left or right (depending on your dominant hand)
Bowl a ball: Swing your arm back, then forward
Bowling has been praised as arguably the sport you’ll keep coming back to the most. Taking place at Neon Lanes, you will go up against either a real or CPU opponent bowler for 10 tries in one game. Nonetheless, the bowler with the most points at the end of the game wins hands-down. Bowling is somewhat the funniest sport there is, since there are abilities to break a hole into the alley (which will actually give you an achievement), and even toss the ball into the crowd by accident if you’re not ready. If you want to add some extra spin into your bowl, swing your arm out further during your bowl.
This is one of my favorite sports of the game. Why? The controls actually manage to regularly register, and it’s a good split against fun, humor, and strangely-felt nostalgia. Was I the only one who felt nostalgic playing a couple rounds? It was as nostalgic as this sport’s final rating, a 9.2 out of 10.
Serve ball: Throw the ball up, and use other hand to slam it into play
Spike: (Only possible during Jump indicator) Jump and slam ball
Defend: Use head, feet, or arms to block the ball
Ah, nothing like a piping hot session of NBA Jam-inspired beach volleyball under the sun. The game takes place at Waveside, where your avatar and teammate earn chances to be paparazzi magnets as well as your avatar getting the honor of picking up the volleyball. This is the sport with the most demerits, all blamed on the near-unresponsive controls. The second or third time around, this sport was impossible to complete, and I ended up losing about 2-7 (yes, 7 is the maximum before victory). I’m not saying the Rare-Microsoft team did a bad job of crafting the sport’s experience (although I deeply boo Rare for abandoning Nintendo and its plans), but all I’m saying is that the sport was a bit…well…off. There’s a lot of excitement in the sport with sweat streaming down your brow as you can finally admit that “the next point wins”, but the bits of nostalgia scattered in the sport like bacon on salad sets it up for a 8.3 score out of 10.
Serve ball: Similar to volleyball
Simple strike: Swing your arm from back to forward
Backhand strike: Swing your arm across yourself, and swipe it back
Pinging the pong has never been so entertaining in this game of table tennis. With simple, helpful controls, this game is an engaging, tense, and fun way to burn calories quick. The sport takes place at the Blade Center, where you walk into play with a screaming crowd supporting you, as you muster enough strength to shake hands with your opponent and warm up the crowd. There are two ways to fail in this sport: Miss a shot or shoot one off the table. Easy as that. The controls never bother to troll you by failing to respond, and the only times I got agitated were against my own reflexes. Just another tip: if you want to smash a hit off the table (hopefully), wait for the ball to trail white, wavy lines behind it. If your ball is in this state, then your next hit is ensured to be a smash. Similar to volleyball, you can also ace your opponent by scoring a point without the opponent even touching the ball. The maximum amount of points required for victory is 11, but when you know your pong-pinging, it’ll go by a lot quicker than it sounds. Nonetheless, ping-pong smashes itself into a 9.3 score out of 10.
Sprint: Run in place, with knees lifted
Throw discus/javelin: Swipe your arm
Jump hurdles: Jump in place (when hurdle becomes green)
Track and field may be the most sequenced and advertised of the sports, as well as one of the most unresponsive. You are pitted up against 7 CPU opponents, and there are four sequences: sprint, javelin, long jump, discus, and hurdles. What makes the game so challenging is yet again, its unresponsive controls. Your player might occasionally slow down on the track even when you’re lifting your knees as high as you can, and javelin and discus throws go a lot lower than what should be accepted. Set these “minor” issues aside, and track and field is nonetheless one of the most engaging sports of the roster. The nostalgia just kindles as soon as the FIFA-like announcers state a new record has aroused. Instant replays, possibly of “world” records, are the most entertaining of the entire bunch, featuring slow-mo shots of events while famed songs play in the background, such as the classic “Chariots of Fire”. Each sequence is simple and easy without much hassle (save for what I just pointed out above), and track & field long jumps its way into the 8-point distance with a 8.8 score out of 10.
Punch: Punch high or low
Block: Hold hands in front of face or on chest
The nostalgia will definitely feel near in a “friendly” match of boxing. Taking place at Tornado Gardens (I don’t get it), your avatar will be shown dressed in the traditional boxing gear, while the ref talks over the rules of a fair fight, and so on, and so forth. Boxing is arguably the most violent aspect of Kinect Sports alone, and it makes you feel as if you really are there with its 1st-person views. Upon getting hit, your vision will blur and the crowd will muffle, just like the real thing! This serving of Punch-Out!!-styled boxing will definitely have you on the edge of your seats even if you’re standing up! You can either knock down your opponent by depleting their health bar (which engages into the tense counting sequence), or automatically K.O. them for the win. My hits sometimes don’t register (then again, I was swinging my arm in an arc), but look past that, and your great boxing game question will be answered. To make a long story short, boxing slugs its way into a 8.6 score out of 10.
Block: Step into the indicated path of the passed ball
Pass: Kick in the direction of the arrow you want to shoot with, leading to the person you want to shoot to
Style shot: Head or kick the ball
Shoot: Give it a good kick!
Soccer, also known as football in the achievements as well as England (real football would go onto Season Two), is definitely the most educational of the six, taking place in Lotus Park. Teaching you teamwork, defense, and stylizing your shots, soccer may not be the genius of perfect controls (nuff said), but it’ll definitely leave a drop of knowledge on your brow. And maybe, some drops of sweat. Your avatar will start out catering to a snapping camera’s needs, before the field scatters and things go into business. The FIFA-like announcers of track & field arguably return in this sport, and if you’ve visited the world of FIFA alone, this nostalgia trip shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Successful goals will result in replays with the ball sometimes even shooting directly at the camera. And all of the success is tracked by a scoreboard, which gives you approximately 3 minutes to strain your stuff. I’ve said enough, so soccer makes the goal and scores an 8.2 out of 10 score.
4 out of 5 – Ease of play – If you can do it in real life, you can do it in the game. Playing volleyball requires you to jump up and spike an imaginary ball, bowling has you toss a ball down an alley, and track & field has you run on the spot and jump to hop over hurdles. It’s very easy to pick up this game — but choosing an event might be a bit hard.
2 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – The most violent of the mix goes to the boxing, featuring a hardcore battle in a first-person perspective. You may feel a bit violent throwing punches in the air and beating up an invisible opponent, but the avatars are all predictably safe under their [head]gear. Upon a hit, your vision gets blurry and the sound of the crowd is muffled.
5 out of 5 – Product Placement – Besides being one of the “buddying” games of the successful Kinect, the game has a lot of advertisement hidden in sports. Names include T-Mobile, Samsung, Xbox 360 (duh) and Xbox LIVE, Microsoft, among others. Plenty of famous songs play during in-sport replays, like Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” (no lie), Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl”, James Brown’s “I Feel Good”, Vangelis’s “Chariots of Fire”, and lots more.
Fun: A (5 pts)
Style: A (5 pts)
Entertainment: A+ (5 pts)
Gameplay: B (3 pts)
Smarts: B (3 pts)
Play-Again Ratio: A (4 pts)
FINAL SCORE: 25 out of 30 (hot dog!), 4 stars out of 5, 87% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: What’s a good workout, a good game, a good laugh fest, and a good time with friends and family besides some issues? Kinect Sports, that’s what.
RENT, BUY, OR SKIP?: Buy it with all your power! But if you’ve had enough of some Kinect games’ tomfoolery (Adrenalin Misfits, Deca Sports Freedom, etc.) you may want to consider renting it and taking a good look at it.
PRICE: Kinect Sports sells for $44.99 pre-owned, and $49.99 new. One version at Amazon sells for a regular price of 49 dollars (with a freaking 2% of the savings), but the game is used for $22, and almost $37 new.
Well, that’s another wild winter break day for Sammwak! Keep on commenting, keep on rating, keep on liking (for all bloggers), and surely keep on subscribing! I bet by the peak of 2013, we’ll already have 100,000 hits if we can get almost 50,000 in under a year! But anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get back to my work so I can get Season Two a-rolling!
Your blogger, brother, and friend,