We mustn’t dwell. No, not today. We can’t. Not on Rex Manning day!

It’s April 8th so it’s once again time to celebrate the “voice of a Generation!” Rex Manning and his smash hit “Say No More!” Word is he’ll be stopping by the local Empire Records to sign autographs for his loving fans!

Hope nothing else goes wrong today!

First Impressions: Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories

As a long time fan of the game (having beaten the first game on PS2, PS3 and more recently PS4) I have wanted to play through all of the games, and with the release of the Kingdom Hearts All in One package for the PS4, I have the opportunity to do just that.

I’ve already experienced Kingdom Hearts 1,2 and the “cut-scene only” games (the oddly named Re:Coded and 358/2 Days) as they have been previously released on the PS3 as the “Final Mix” but I never got around to playing Chain of Memories until today.

I have some thoughts.

The gameplay so far is nearly the same: go to an area (in this case rooms) filled with Heartless, whack ’em with the keyblade and move on.

What doesn’t make sense is you aren’t just running around madly pressing “X” like the first Kingdom Hearts. In this game you have a deck of cards that you use and cycle through to deal out damage (you see what I did there? I’m hilarious).

The card mechanic is… well interesting. I still haven’t figured out how the hell it’s actually supposed to work other than you target an enemy, they deal their card and you’re supposed to throw out a higher numbered card (like playing War). At least that’s what I’ve gathered so far.

What doesn’t makes sense about this game mechanic is that the enemies are still running around like the previous Kingdom Hearts game while I’m moving around AND messing with the card mechanic.

So I just end up pressing “X” like crazy anyway, and running through my hand of cards, then healing because it’s my last card in the hand, then focusing to get a new hand.

All while heartless are still moving around and hitting me.

Personal opinion but I think the card mechanic would work better in a turn-based fight, rather than the hack and slash style I’m used to having played Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 before.

I can already tell that this game is going to be more of a chore to grind if I have to find specific cards to unlock doors (a problem I’ve already run into less than an hour into the game). So we’ll see if this is one I finish or if I’m just going to skip to the next game and just try to figure out the storyline through a YouTube video.

Super Mario Bros. 35

Nintendo dropped its latest in the Battle Royale game style that’s been popular lately. Based slightly off of the Tetris 99 concept, Super Mario Bros 35 pits you against 34 other players online, simultaneously running through the original Super Mario Bros levels to become the best of the best.

You run through the levels, grabbing coins and power ups as well as killing enemies as you would normally. The difference in this game is that when you kill an enemy on your screen, you send their “ghost” to an opponent’s screen, trying to keep them from reaching the end goal.

An added bonus of defeating a goomba on your screen is that it adds extra time to your counter, keeping you in the game a little longer as you try to knock out other players. Similarly to the Tetris 99 style, you are given four options for battling your opponents. This allows you to target opponents with specific circumstances such as “most coins, attackers, least time, or even random.

As you collect coins you can spend 20 of them on a roulette question block that will give you one of the following power-ups: 1 mushroom, a fire flower, a star, or a Pow (that will clear every enemy on the screen at once). Grabbing coins as you run becomes useful in the end game as your screen will fill up with enemies and the roulette will become more useful.

As you progress through the game and complete more matches you are given daily tasks to complete that will give you coins to spend outside of the matches. These coins will allow you to buy a power-up that you will receive at the start of the match. Personally I go with the fire flower and try to hold on to it as long as I can.

After playing for about an hour and a half I was able to rack up three wins by utilizing the following strategy: Don’t worry about speed-running through the levels. Take your time and focus more on grabbing powerups such as the mushroom or fire flower and 1-ups. Coins are useful for the roulette but try to hold on to them until you are in the top ten unless you have to spend them to stay alive. Kill as many enemies as you can, and focus on sending them to the person with the least time. Also, try to keep on a loop of familiar levels, so you know exactly where all the power ups are going to be, or you can set up a chain of attacks to kill the most enemies.

There may be a point where the music will speed up, meaning you are probably the person with the least amount of time left on the counter, but try not to focus on that. Rather, keep to the plan of killing enemies to send to your opponents, and spending coins for more power ups as needed.

This is so far my favorite “Battle Royale” style game and that’s not just because I’ve managed to score three wins the first few hours of playing, but because it takes the Mario 1 game everyone knows and adds a new twist by making you compete with 34 other live players.

The game is free to download and play, so long as you have an active Nintendo Online subscription. Though this game is being advertised as a limited time release, I hope that just means it’s free to play until the March 31st deadline.

I also wouldn’t mind it being updated to add additional Mario levels outside of Super Mario Bros (Mario 1). It would be interesting to see the game played out across the rest of the NES Mario catalogue.

Arrival (2016)

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) team up to translate coded messages that are received when 12 mysterious “crescent moon” ships arrive at different locations across the world. Are the new visitors friendly, or do they have a more dastardly plan for Earth?

Based off the story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, this was a movie similar in some ways to “Contact” where aliens and humans attempt to communicate to find out if the aliens are here to help or destroy us. Though the story is science fiction it does a very good job of being believable, and firmly grounded in the reality of current technology as well as the growing human fear of extinction from an invading force (human or not).

Overall I really liked this movie, the way the storyline was nonlinear, but not too confusing as it jumped around to different parts of the story. I really enjoyed the performance of both Adams and Renner while they try their hardest to communicate with the new visitors as well as the 11 other countries around the world to crack the code.

The visuals in this movie definitely made it more entertaining to watch and the plot was captivating, though it was a little frightening how close to reality some plot points were, with people doing or saying things out of fear which could make a tense situation much worse. The story was pretty believable as far as how different people on different sides of the fence would have wanted to handle the situation of a new visitor to earth, as far as the contrasting opinions of handling the new information with “kid gloves” or a more aggressive approach.

This was a movie that I actually wanted to see more of by the time the credits rolled, because it was engaging enough that you really wanted to see the story to the very end, even if not all of the pieces of the puzzle fit nicely and you left still a little confused about what you just saw.

The Running Man (1987)

The opening narration appears in big block letters on the screen: “By 2017 the world economy has collapsed. Food, natural resources and oil are in short supply. A police state, divided into paramilitary zones, rules with an iron hand.”

Then the movie opens as Arnold is in command of an attack helicopter of the city of Bakersfield, with a riot over the lack of food takes place in a crowded intersection below.

Arnold is issued an order to open fire on the unarmed citizens, and when he disobeys, finds himself in deep trouble, eventually leading to him being on the world’s most popular game show “The Running Man” where prisoners compete for their lives against deadly stalkers and traps. Through a series of fights and cheesy quips from our hero, he aims to escape the deadly game and come back to exact his revenge on a host that wrongfully put him there.

The Running Man was based off of a Stephen King novel that was turned into an action movie with Arnold at the starring role, presumably to carry on his persona as a beastly action hero. It’s going to be more of Arnold beating down the baddies in the far off future date of 2017, something that can both be laughable in actual year 2017 because of how technology really advanced, as well as a little scary given the current fear of ACTUALLY running low on natural resources.

This movie is full on 80’s style, from the big teased out hair, the tight ADIDAS spandex bodysuits that both the contestants in “The Running Man” game show as well as the Dance Squad (that performs choreography by Paula Abdul) wear throughout the movie, the music, the effects and even the props. This movie just screams “cheesy 80 action flick” but it is still an enjoyable watch the entire time. Arnold doesn’t disappoint when he makes bad puns after putting down another villain who’s name is appropriate to their killing device.

My only problem with the movie is that the opening narration card makes it seem like this is going to be an “Arnold takes on the corrupt government” type movie, but really all he does is take on a game show. Now granted, the game show does seem to play around with human lives the way you’d expect in a semi-futuristic movie where the world leaders “rule with an iron fist,” but once The Running Man (Hosted by Richard Dawson) is bested, then what? Never mind that we’re still oppressed and starving while living in filth, we fixed the evil game show… and now don’t have ANY entertainment.

It’s very obvious from watching this movie that it inspired a lot of media that came after to do the “deadly game of wits and survival” trope, and I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure this movie didn’t start that trope anyway, since Predator (June 1987) came out before this one (November 1987).

This movie did end up being the basis for the real life game show “American Gladiator,” which is not surprising since this movie does have some things in common with the actual show, though to my knowledge American Gladiator 1: didn’t ever kill any of the contestants, and 2: didn’t have a home game. Overall I had a good time with this movie, and if you enjoy 80’s action movies that can get a little silly (don’t they all?) I believe you will too.

Firewatch

You are Henry, a man in his late thirties that has taken a job as a Firewatch in Wyoming in the late 80’s. What starts off as a calm and lonely job trying to keep the forest from burning down will soon turn into a mysterious game of conspiracy.

When you start the game, you are first greeted with a few lines of text and are given the option to react in one of two ways. This serves as the intro to the game as well as giving some background to the storyline. The choices don’t really matter much outside of developing a bit of background to your character and while it ultimately doesn’t affect the story overall, it does introduce you to Firewatch’s version of the choice system that you will be using for the rest of the game.

When you take over your character Henry, you suddenly find yourself walking through Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming towards your watch tower where you are immediately introduced to Delilah over a walkie talkie. She is your “boss” and will give you objectives to complete as you play through the game. They start off simply enough, such as “check the phone lines” or “look into a pillar of smoke out in the forest” but will soon evolve into much, much more.

You and Delilah talk exclusively over the Walkie Talkies but you develop a kinship for each other as the game progresses, trading quips and sarcasm back and forth while keeping an eye on the forest. She asks you about your life and you two will develop a relationship based off of your conversations and reactions.

While the game is short (around four hours of actual play time), it keeps you intrigued by adding more and more elements to the overall puzzle of the story. The game relies heavily on the script and voice acting of the two main characters (yourself and Delilah) and is a fantastic game to play.

I really enjoyed the look of the game, the setting is beautiful and fun to explore. The map itself isn’t terribly large, and you do have the option of running so it doesn’t necessarily take forever to get around. That being said one of my only real frustrations about playing the game was that it can sometimes be hard to find where you’re supposed to go as the game doesn’t have any sort of mini map or GUI. This is meant to keep you immersed in the game, and you can easily pull out a map and compass, which you will need to do often.

There have actually been several websites or postings where people have created their own fan-made maps that you can print out while playing the game, one of which can found here on the game developer’s website

Red State

The movie starts off with three friends, who like most High School boys, are preoccupied with one thing: Scoring. But unlike American Pie, or other teen dramas/comedies that we’ve seen so far, they don’t do it by making a pact, or buying hookers, no! This is the 21st Century we’re talking about! So of course, they use an online dating site to try and find a person with loose morals to help them with their dirty little needs.

Once the boys learn of potential group sex with a woman he met online that happens to live nearby, they steal a car and head on their way.

Unfortunately, after that THINGS TURN VERY ADULT, and they find themselves right in the middle of a Fundamentalist cult religion lead by Reverend Abin Cooper and his small flock of sheep in a very rural area.

There are some laughs, though as Smith uses his characters to poke fun at the sign waving, funeral protesting members of the real-life Westboro Baptist Church. In the fictional world of Red State, Westboro is more of a satirical spin on the far-end of the spectrum (basing the church on the real-life churches of Westboro, as well as borrowing from the Waco Texas tragedies from the 90’s), with a “God Hates Fags” attitude that makes the movie more of a non-slasher horror flick that seems to defy genres and give a few of the brainwashed members more of a human side (as though they haven’t quite decided if they want to “drink the Kool-Aid” but would rather run for the hills when the proverbial shit hits the fan).

The film does jump genres as it will have parts that will make you laugh, as well as some action, and an unsettling bit of horror as you realize that this group doesn’t settle for just picketing and demonstrating, but will actually carry out what they consider God’s will in cleansing the world of the unrighteous.

There is a heavy bit of preaching thrown in to show just how convinced the members are that they are right in their beliefs and that the rest of the world needs to join them or face the consequences.

While most of the cast are actors that have not been in too many other films, Kevin Smith was able to pull in Michael Parks (Kill Bill, From Dusk To Dawn), Stephen Root (who played Milton in Office Space), John Goodman (from The Big Lebowski, Monster’s Inc., and Roseanne) as well as Kevin Pollack (Whole Nine Yards, The Usual Suspects). There are not going to be many familiar actors from the Askew-niverse in this flick, though you may recognize Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Kevin’s Wife) and Ralph Garman (Sharktopus, Hollywood Babble-On, KROQ DJ) both playing members of the Cooper church.

While the tagline of the film is “Fear God,” Smith eloquently summed up the film in a different light during the Q&A after the screening: “Don’t fear God, fear His followers.”

This film was able to scare me more than most horror movies have that I’ve seen for the fact that it wasn’t an edge of the seat thriller, but it was more like an up and down rollercoaster ride, where you think the film is going one way right before it switches gears and goes another. I was able to get into this one more because you see that there isn’t a clearly-defined “monster” in the film, and it actually changes from one character to another once you see the other side of the curtain. There isn’t a high body count, unneeded explosions or extremely graphic depictions that you will see in an action movie, but there is a shootout and a chase. You also see the actors portraying different attitudes that seem to shift throughout the film, going one way and then the next, depending on the scene. There isn’t a clearly marked theme saying “this is the bad guy, this is the good guy,” at one part the church members are just following orders, and then a few of them will show they have a human side that isn’t completely insane and that they may have some second thoughts about the third-generation religion they belong to. There are even parts where you will feel bad for both the people inside and out of the group because of difficult decisions they have to make.

This film is highly recommended because it does discuss some theology like Smith’s earlier Dogma (while not going into comedic depth and analyzing parts of the Christian religion), this one seems to focus more on the religious nuts that are in the extreme ends of a widely practiced religion, and showing it in perhaps a different light. As Kevin said during the Q&A, the Westboro Baptist Church is a small group and don’t share the same values as most other branches of Christianity, but because they happen to be more vocal about their views than other churches, other parts of the world may assume that all Christians are that way, unfortunately the same thing happened with the Muslims during the terrorist attacks from the last few decades. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but because most people only connect that faith with a group that is more vocal and extreme, that’s what people think all Muslims are like.

For those that aren’t able to catch the flick during its tour (or more specifically were not in attendance at tonight’s showing, Kevin himself has offered up a live bootleg snippet of the film, which shows the sermon that Cooper gives to his followers, late at night in their small church in Cooper’s Dell.

Mario 64 on Super Mario 3D All Stars: First Impression

I’ve been slowly working through the new Nintendo Switch release of the Mario 3D All Stars collection (which includes a Remaster of Mario 64, Mario Sunshine and Mario Galaxy) since its release last Friday and so far it’s been a walk down memory lane!

I’ve been able to complete most of the stars in the levels without having to consult any sort of guide, even though this is really the first time I’ve played this game since the days of the original Nintendo 64 release. Well, actually I played and completed the DS version, but that also added some things here and there so I don’t really consider that a true remaster. More of a remake.

Anyway, it’s been a blast to jump back into Peach’s castle walls and relive the nostalgia of running, jumping, climbing, swimming and backflipping my way to 120 stars and three Bowser defeats to complete the castle and release Peach from captivity!

That being said, I do have some notes:

Maybe it’s me or I am mis-remembering my original playthrough of the game, since I was in middle school at the time of the original release in the late 90’s… but it just feels like the Joycon controls aren’t always as quick to take inputs as the original N64 controller.

There will be times that I want to do a quick trick to jump up to a higher platform, so I will run and then immediately about-face while hitting jump, expecting Mario to side-flip up to where I want him to go, but instead he’ll just about face run then jump up regularly.

This also makes walking along thin platforms that are suspended high up above the ground more challenging as it seems like the joycon joystick wants to make Mario run when you want him to walk or even tip toe. So I fell more than once. Another time I noticed the joycon seemed a little overzealous in the movement was when I was aiming the canon. It’s hard to make small adjustments to the angle when your joycon thinks you want to move further than you do.

Other than some joycon issues, I’m enjoying playing through the original Mario 64 on the Switch! It’s nice to be able to go back and relive my experience playing through the game, exploring the castle and trying to remember where everything is without having to consult a guide!

I, like most others that have been talking about this game are hoping that the limited run of the 3D All Stars lays the groundwork for “new” titles to be released on the Nintendo Online apps alongside the existing catalogue of NES and SNES games. Is a N64 app in the works? I hope so!

Pokemon Go boils down my favorite part of the Pokemon games

I’ve been playing Pokemon Go since the day after it launched. Why the day after? Because when I and everyone else on the planet tried to download the app on launch day, the servers couldn’t handle the load and many had problems getting the app to download, let alone let them sign in or register. I was one of the unfortunate few that had to wait to start “Collecting Them All,” but once I got in, I excitedly started experiencing what would become my favorite iteration of the Pokemon franchise.

Now, I am a “gen-wunner” as Pokemon Red/Blue came out when I was in middle school. I had a subscription to Nintendo Power and it had teased this new gameboy game that was all about collecting, leveling, evolving and fighting these weird animals known as Pokemon.

I was hooked as soon as I heard about it. I collected all six of the Pokemon Power magazine inserts that were a strategy guide inside the back of that month’s Nintendo Power, and served as my guide through the Kanto Region. I knew EXACTLY what I needed to do to finish the game and beat the Elite Four for the first time.

Once I became the new Crowned champion of the Kanto region, I along with all of my friends of the Pokemon series began working on completing the Pokedex, battling and trading. It was amazing and a bit of nostalgia that I fondly look back on.

I dabbled in the Pokemon trading card game, and played a bit of Pokemon Pinball, Pokemon Stadium for the Nintendo 64, and Pokemon Gold. But nothing else seemed to match the fun I had working on Pokemon Blue.

While I enjoyed Pokemon Blue, I got maybe halfway or 1/3rd of the way through the original Gold Storyline, and having 251 Pokemon to catch in the updated dex seemed like a large undertaking for young me.

My classmates and I would have lunchtime battles and trade Pokemon, but I never really cared about whether I won or lost. My team was good enough to finish the game and the Elite Four, but I was constantly losing to my friends that had figured out the best movesets, stats and levels for their six pokemon, where as I was just happy to have level 100’s and a nearly 100% complete pokedex.

Fast forward to 2016 and Pokemon Go is the new hotness. For a brief time (the summer of 2016) you could go anywhere and find groups of people of all ages hanging out on street corners staring at their phones, charging cables attached and a backup battery in their back pocket. Everyone was OBSESSSED with catching Pokemon and you could just camp a Pokestop or make a small circuit of stops to refresh your Pokeball count and items. Walking wasn’t actually necessary back then, so it wasn’t uncommon to see people hanging out downtown for hours, regardless of time.

Of course I was obsessed with playing the game. I worked in a retail job at the time so I was able to stay out late hanging out with my friends playing PoGo. Someone would often but in and say “THERE’S A LAPRAS THE NEXT STREET OVER” and we’d all run over to get it before it disappeared.

The longer I played the game the more I realized I liked just catching Pokemon, and completing the dex more than anything else.

The gym update had come out, Shiny Pokemon were added to the game, PVP battles had been released and most recently Team Rocket had taken over stops, but I still found myself only wanting to have a 100% complete dex. I didn’t care about owning all the gyms. I didn’t care about being at the level cap (I’m about 2/3rds of the way to level 40 which is the level cap currently, and I’ve heard rumors that may change too). I didn’t care about beating Giovanni or the Rocket Grunts as much as I wanted to get their shadow pokemon.

All I really cared about was catching pokemon, going to Community Days and catching shinies. Well, and completing the research which would unlock special pokemon or more shinies.

So it got me to realize I love the Pokemon series, but I would rather “Catch Em All” than “become the very best, like no one ever was.”

So if you see me out and about playing pokemon: I’ll be your friend if I have open spots on my list, but I’m not going to want to 1v1 you bro.

Solipskier

Editor’s note: this review was originally written in 2010

This simple yet addictive flash game-turned app comes from the minds of Mikengreg Games. The concept seems simple enough, use your finger to draw a slope for the Solipskier to ski down. You can make jumps, go through tunnels, and avoid “Red lines” (that are instant Game Overs). What makes the game so difficult and addictive is that no two games are ever the same!

The objective in this game is to go the longest you can without dying, while speeding down ramps, slaloming through tunnels and… well jumping jumps. This is all done in combination to make your score as high as possible before the inevitable crash. What makes it difficult is that the higher the combo is, the faster your Slolipskier will go. Oh yeah, and there’s also very little reaction time in between tunnels, jumps and so forth.

Despite the simple graphics for the game, you’ll be yelling “OMGRAINBOWS!” when you get the combo, “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” when you’re flying 1200km in the air, and “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!” when you accidentally go through the forced-ledge jump instead of over it.

There is a free to play version of the game here which I HIGHLY recommend playing. Once you’ve played it through a few times, you will instantly be hooked, and will play until you realize you’ve let hours go by without quitting.

The high energy music, awesome sound effects and challenging (but never the same) run that you control will guarantee that you’ll play the game over and over and over again. Unfortunately there is no Yeti that will devour you after you’ve run the course long enough… I’m hoping for that in a future update.

The app is $0.99 and can be downloaded on iPhone or Android