Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Lego Movie


Boy, I have not seen such positive reviews for a movie since Toy Story 3. Last check, 4 negative reviews out of 110. One really has to ask: How the hell did a Lego movie get such a high rating?

Well, let me tell you a little bit about Lego Politics. Yes, such a thing exists.

You see, originally, Lego had no sets. It was just a big box of colorful bricks that you built with. Over the years they obviously added sets, which came with instructions. Slowly over time, the only Legos available were sets which came with instructions. You couldn't go out and get that one piece you needed, or get a massive box of an assortment of them, you had to get a set, and cannibalize pieces from it.
Now of course, the sets built to instructions are pretty damn cool; I should know, I have tubs FILLED with Bionicle pieces, and have 3 dozen displayed on my shelves. But, those who recall the times where there were no instructions believe a lot of the creativity has been lost in Lego...
And they are kinda right, more often kids just treat Legos as yet another action figure, and find the instructions merely the precursor to having fun. The Lego sets having such strange pieces doesn't help matters, a factor which has gotten worse with the technic series Hero Factory, featuring such specialized pieces that make them just action figures with little interaction with regular Legos. But, my opinion on Bionicle's predecessor aside, this obviously doesn't preclude people from building what they want from the Legos; though it does make one not want to disassemble something they put together via the instructions.

This argument between instructions and creativity is the first conflict in the movie. I can't really do this conflict justice in a non-visual medium though, so I won't stick to this very long...
Basically, this comes in 3 arguments:
1. The instructions allow you to build something interesting and practical, but may be boring.
2. Pure creativity allows you to build something very cool, but impractical.
3. Using instructions as a springboard for creative ideas can create awesome and practical creations.
All three basically extend to forms of art. Following strict adherence to rules and lessons you've been taught will create technically good artwork, but is dis-interesting. Going completely free-form with no lessons, while unique and interesting, may not actually work. Taking in lessons, but breaking and following the rules as long as it is interesting, creates something even greater.
Again, I can't explain it that well in text, I'd require video for it... Maybe when the movie comes out on DVD I'll show ya.

Then there is a second bit of Lego Politics in the movie, which is the more obvious plotline:
Legos are a toy, VS Legos are an art
The whole main conflict of the movie is that Lord Business hates chaos, and is thus endeavoring to glue everyone into place. This desire does actually occur with adult collectors; they will glue together their sets so that they don't come apart. Which of course is completely acceptable, and understandable...
Except they are also a toy, something to be played with and enjoy.
This one bit of politics I shall leave as is for now... Going further would be spoilers.
I shall come back to it however in this video review half a year from now (Or more... Frozen came out in November, and still has regular showings in theatres. It may take until November for them to release the DVDs...)

But, as is my name sake (which I have been ignoring for a while), there are some things to fix.
Largely, I have no problem with the characters, the jokes, the plot, or anything at all... There are just some minor things...

Emmett, the main character, acts like an idiot far too often. Some bits of it I am okay with (his most original idea is a double decker couch. It sort of works for Lego figures, but you can imagine the problems as a human), but when he absolutely embarrasses himself, or is just doing something even he should know is stupid, just annoys me. At one point he gives a speech that amounts to: I suck. Really, even Tyrion Lanister's speech was light-years better than his.
"Those are brave men outside those gates... Lets go kill them."
But those are thankfully isolated incidences that pass by quickly, that unfortunately bring the plot to a halt.

Other than that, it was a fantastic story.
And now I kinda want a stuffed unikitty...

It is just so Adorable!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Wicked 2: Icy Boogaloo

... I'd say something witty, but that sums it up. Frozen is Wicked. Elsa, the queen with ice powers, is Elphaba, in both character and voice. Anna is basically a depowered Good Witch... The songs resemble songs form Wicked, (Let it Go = Defying Gravity), they even have their own version of the munchkins.

Don't think that I'm saying Disney is just copying Wicked, I only just now noticed the similarities, and find it more amusing than annoying.

Frozen is another great movie by Disney, who have officially hit their stride again. Go see it.

I can nary think of anything negative about the film... Maybe a few minor gripes, but nothing that detracts from the film. Even the comedy relief character Olaf isn't annoying, and is even useful in the film, with some decent gags.

The only other thing of note here is that it seems like Disney tried to avert as many tropes as possible in this film, or at the very least toy around with them, which lies in stark contrast to their older works. It works well to the film's advantage, though it made predicting a couple twists easier since they went a little too heavy on it... But that could just be because I'm crazy and read TVtropes to relax.

It is somewhat hard to place where all my favorite animated movies would go in a list now... I'm gonna have to figure out some kind of system...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mass Effect 2: Log 2

- Begin Log 2 -

Hoo boy this game picks up in speed after a bit.
It'd be shorter simply to list what happened, then possibly going into detail.

  1. Recruited Tali'zora Vas Normandy, an engineer
  2. recruited Grunt, a Krogen tank-bred warrior
  3. Recruited Thane, an assassin
  4. Got the loyalty of all but my newest crew member Thane.

Three bullet points, that took me about 12 more hours this weekend.
Don't get me wrong, it's fun, but time consuming. It takes half an hour to do a mission, and half an hour to do side stuff to prep for it. And I did a lot of missions...

I'll say it again incase it wasn't clear in the first log: I do not like Cerberus, the organization you work for in the game. Not only are they in a very dark gray area of morality, it feels like the game is trying to say they are the good guys, when I emphatically disagree.
Want to know my morality within the game? It's rather simple: Don't risk lives unnecessarily, look for peace rather than a fight at all times, and humans are boring so go with the aliens. That and take the paragon option all the time; but that's usually because it falls within that paradigm. I will sometimes take the "renegade" option (not actually red text, just the one that gives points) when it actually does fall under the purview... such as telling Tali that I will help her reclaim her homeworld from the Geth.
(Geth are robots with AI for those not knowledgeable about the Mass Effect world. Though I am somewhat curious if we can negotiate with them...)
But anyway, back to Cerberus. seems like every time I turn around they're doing something shifty. Sending me and my team into an obvious trap just to get some data on the collectors, hiding information from crew members, and running a facility where they kidnap children to experiment on them to enhance biotic powers.

As a side note, I have a series in the works that has a major plot revolving around an institution that kidnaps and tortures children to advance their abilities in controlling light and darkness. Has nothing to do with the Mass Effect story, and the people that come out of it are very different from Jack.

Anyway, dislike for Cerberus aside, I know I only have two more people to recruit before my team is full (minus a DLC character...). Once my team is complete, everyone is loyal, all my upgrades are full, and my level is maxed, I will then be ready for whatever waits for em in the "suicide mission."
I'm hoping to bring everyone back alive, even Thane who is technically dying already.

But, before that, there is the obvious mini-mission within the series... the romance subplot.
      In Mass Effect, you cna forma relationship with one of your crew members. Men can romance Miranda and Tali, while women can romance Garrus and Jacob.
     Since my character is a woman, and I find Garrus to be badass, I went with pursuing him. No offense to Jacob, I just find humans boring. That and he's Cerberus, and me no-likey Cerberus.
Garrus is fun to talk to and romance; he's so calm and happy on the battlefield, but even mention sexy-times and he becomes a stuttering nervous mess. Much more interesting character. That and he also has a list of fun places to fight in, which includes antique stores. He's fun.
     The only other option I might've gone with is Mordin, because I like motor-mouthes. And he sings a variation of "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General."
He is not allowed to die. Ever.

There are still a number of missions to do before the game is over... But I'm thinking I'll do two play throughs. Next time with an infiltrator class. I may also do a more "Captains Log" style posting about their adventures...

But, this is it until I play another round.

- End Log 2 -

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mass Effect 2: Log 1

- Begin Log 1 -

Well, here's something that may surprise some people...
I have never played any game in the Mass Effect series before. I've heard it's a great series, but I never had any interest. I'm not a fan of shooters, and it was practically impossible to avoid hearing about the ending of Mass Effect 3 there was so much hate surrounding it.
So, I don't like shooters, I've never played any of the games before, and I know how it all ends. Why am I playing this game?

Because Steam had it on sale this weekend. For 5 bucks.
I figured "Eh, why not?" and went ahead and bought it. I know a number of people who loved the series, who fully recommend it, so why not give it a try? I mean, I rather enjoyed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and that was a shooter in the same vein as this, and it was also critically acclaimed. 5 bucks for hours of gameplay, I can work with that.

I've logged 12 hours in it, since I started playing Saturday afternoon.
Now, that's not nearly as much as Pokemon was after a couple days of having it, but the circumstances for the two differ... Mostly in the fact Pokemon came during my school break. It's not a quality problem at all, it's just the timing, and the fact Pokemon is portable.
But I'm getting off track...
I decided to do a series of logs on the game. Similar to vlogs, but in text form. (Which technically is a blog, but log sounds better, and makes the fact it's purely text obvious) This will have my thoughts on sections I've completed, as well as possible predictions, some minor confusion, and just generally anything you'd get out of a lets play... but in text form, with more thought behind it.

Going into the game, I knew a few things:

1. The choice system
     You have complete control over what your character says and does. Your choices affect the ending of the game, as well as your relationship with crew members. You also get two different morality choices; Paragon, and Renegade. Paragon is basically playing as white knight, helping people and protecting the innocent and refusing to give up one's morals. Renegade is the bad cop; a lot of bad ass actions, but poor people skills.

2. 50% of the crew
     I knew about Tali, the girl in the suit with the high-tech gas mask. Pretty much impossible to avoid learning about her. I also knew a couple things about the Asari (matriarchal race of bi-sexual "women." They basically look like the many aliens James Kirk would bang). And I knew about the Krogans and their sterility plague the genophage.

3. The Reapers
     Blame pop-culture osmosis and late-arrival spoiler, I know all about the reapers. Basically they're Daleks, but much less cool.

But beyond that, these are my first impressions.

Now, I actually ran through the intro to the game twice; once without the Origins DLC, and once with. The first time through, I knew bugger all about anything. Who anyone was, or why anything was happening. So, I went ahead and installed the Dark Horse Mass Effect: Origins interactive comic.
The comic basically re-tells the story of Mass Effect 1, and gives you some choices to alter the story, as well as introduce characters. It is basically creating a mass effect 1 save to transfer over.

The intro is simple; the ship is attacked, and the crew must abandon ship. Shepard (last name of the main character, because no one in video game sis researching the ability to name a character, and actually have someone call them by name outside of text) goes to the bridge to retrieve the pilot. She (I went with the female option, because male Shepard seems very dull to me) manages to get him to an escape pod, but before she can get in too, another laser strikes the ship, cutting it to pieces, and sending Shepard out into space, where she suffocates, and plummets down towards a nearby planet.

Two years later, she is brought back to life by a group called Cerberus (after a sequence that looks almost exactly like the one in Deus Ex: Human Revolution). Cerberus is apparently a pro-human organization. Not anti-alien, just pro-human. However, Shepard apparently fought them in Mass Effect 1, so they aren't really to be trusted. I went with the soldier class, mostly just because I'm not very good with shooters, and I didn't really want anything extremely complicated on my first go-through.

After a couple disinteresting battles, I end up on Omega, which is basically Tatoooine without the sand, and the Hutt was removed from power by someone who looks like a hand maiden. Here, I picked up Mordin Solus, who quickly became my favorite person to talk to. I just love smart motor-mouths for some reason. He was on Omega working on a cure for a plague that was infesting a neighborhood; turned out the source was a group of bat-people called the Vorcha, which are in league with the collectors (the ones that attacked the ship in the beginning), who are in turn in league with the Reapers. 6 Degrees of reapers!~
After combating the plague and recruiting Mordin, I then went to recruit "Archangel" A mercenary Turian (think part raptor and part bike helmet) holed up in a building, with mercenary groups beating down his door. Having gone through the Origins DLC, I knew the Turian to be Garrus, a former crew member. And he is awesome.
Leading up to recruiting Garrus though, you are able to sabotage the mercenary's attack capabilities... One is to make a large mech attack the mercenaries instead, and another is to disable an attack copter. I switched the allegiance of the mech, but I couldn't disable the chopper...
Well, I could, but that involved a renegade action. I figured I'd deal with the chopper when it came. However, in a moment that I had initially believed to be a very great player punch, when the chopper arrives, it blasts Garrus, severely wounding him. It really made me wish I had disabled the copter, maybe then he wouldn't have been ambushed and scarred..
Until I looked up online that the chopper attacks regardless. So great, it's a purely gameplay driven effect in making the chopper weaker and easier to fight... Would've been so much better as a flat player punch that can be changed with just one bad deed. But I guess the conversations with him would need to be dramatically different...

Anyway, after picking up Garrus, I went and got Jack, who is basically River Tam from Firefly, but bald and with a lot of tattoos. She did not particularly want to join, and would only do so if Cerberus gave her all their information on her. I have zero qualms with that, I am looking for any excuse to completely cut ties with Cerberus if I can, and I want the information they have too. I look forward to unlocking the blocks on the AI's information so I can learn everything about Cerberus. Sure they revived Shepard, but they are looking to use her (or him) as an icon for the organization, to make it appear "not as bad."

After picking up Jack, I ventured to the Citadel (think Corussant from Star Wars). For two reasons, one to pick up some higher-end rations at the request of the cook, and to speak to the ambassador for the humans. During that meeting, there was a meeting with the council (pretty much what it says on the tin; a group of ambassadors from several alien races). The council wanted to know why I was with Cerberus... I told them I wasn't with them, and I accepted the reinstatement as a Spectre (special ops, allowed to do whatever is necessary to get the job done). However, they told me I'd be fine as long as I stayed within the Terminus systems...

... What are the Terminus systems? Is it the galaxy I'm currently in? Will I get in trouble if I go to the other side of the galaxy? But the normandy crash int he beginning was on the other side, so is it a part of the Terminus systems? Is it even possible for me to leave the terminus systems? Obviously it must be since they have to tell me not to leave them, but just how limiting is that? Am I just going to have to break that clause immediately just to continue? Bureaucracy really sucks when things are unclear...

And, apart from doing some planetary scans and gathering materials, that's where I left off.

I don't know when I'll have the time to play again, but I shall try and make another log when I do.

- End Log 1 -

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Stanley Parable


Follow the loverly yellow adventure line™ through the halls~


     The Stanley Parable is an Indie game that has its roots as a Half-Life 2 mod. The entire thing is a parody and deconstruction of tropes surrounding video games, form the illusion of choice to the innate beliefs of gamers. This game does mess with your head, though not as much as a game like Antichamber.
      What's the plot? Move forward. The plot does not move forward if you don't. It's where you move forward to that determines the plot.

     But, the game starts as thus: Stanley is a boring average joe, working at a company where his job is to press buttons as he is told to do so.
     Now, that's sounds like the first clue in a Doctor Who mystery, where it turns out each button press is a piece of code that would murder anyone who saw two of the sequence in the same proximity, thus necessitating multiple people, and seemingly random button presses. You know, like Monty Python's funniest joke in the world.
     But one day, Stanley discovers that the orders have stopped, and that everyone in the office has disappeared. So he heads off to investigate.
Or stay in his room, if you elect so.

     That is the bread and butter of this game: choices leading to an ending. You are presented a number of them throughout the story. Choosing the right ones will lead to a happy ending, while choosing the wrong ones will give a bad ending. Sometimes. It depends on your view. and your stamina. This game is incredibly short, and impossibly long. I'll explain...

     If you just want one ending, the game lasts about 5-10 minutes. If you want to see them all... It will take more than 4 hours. Even with speed running, it will take at least four hours to get every ending. Why? because one ending requires you to press a button for two hours, and you are then given another button to press in addition to it for another two hours, and then you get another ending. FUN!

     Needless to say, I have not even bothered with that ending. It could impart the knowledge of the universe and grant super powers and I would not care enough to press two buttons for FOUR HOURS.
That is where the game is impossibly long. If you are going for every single ending possible. You don't get anything for it; no achievement, no trophy... You simply get to experience it.
And it is AMAZING.
     I spent three hours in the game experiencing a lot of the endings myself, and despite how cynical it all is, it is quite fun.

     Oh, you're wondering how it is cynical? Well, there is a narrator narrating the story, and talking to Stanley, or about Stanley... Believe it or not, the "good" ending (and the only one with an achievement) is found by following what he says. It is not even possible to progress in one spot without the narrator giving information Stanley would not know. All that the Stanley Parable is, relies on this narrator. He is the one giving a story to your decisions, and allowing you to make decisions... Unless of course, he gets tired of it and simply puts you on a railroad.

Or in one case, an adventure line™.


     The game is more of an experience than anything else. But it is more than just a movie, because you do have some choice about the outcome, even if you didn't know what that choice was.

     There is only one thing I can say I am sad about the game: it is too short. I do want more options, and more endings, and more paths. I want the game to have many more branching paths, so more possible endings come about.
      I hope this game gets a sequel... Actually, the game could work on mobile devices, given its very simple control scheme. Maybe they could look into that market as well, and use subsequent funds to make more games.

For story, I give the game a 9/10.
For gameplay, a 6/10. It is just too short, and you realize very quickly how few routes there are, and how you don't even need to be methodical about the endings.
Averaged score: 7.5/10. It has a great and fun story, but that unfortunately left me wanting more, with no way to satisfy it...

Though I do love the Confusion ending.
Because of this music:


This has been Fixer Sue.