The Curse of the Romany Wolves (S. Jones Rogan (Author), Christian Slade (Illustrator))
A pretty standard adventure book for kids that falls apart towards the end. I'm pretty sure the book never explained where Penhaligon and the ferret captain knew each other before, and throwing out the doll never amounts to anything. And really, nobody thought to try that alternative key ingredient to the Wolf Fever cure before?
Also, the golden rule of illustrations is that they also shouldn't spoil the text you're about to read.
Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo Vol. 1: Bo-nafide Protector (TV DVD)
You might be wondering why I bothered with this considering I really didn't like the manga. Well, I'd actually had this DVD sitting around since long before I read the manga. And actually, it wasn't half bad for what it was. It's still incredibly off the wall and random, but either they toned the insanity down just enough or whatever Yoshio Sawai was doing just works better in animation than on paper, as it's hilarious insane instead of migrane-inducing-I-can't-figure-out-WTF-is-going-on insane.
Doom 3 (PC, M)
It's Doom boiled down to stale, modern conventions. Most of Doom 3 is spent running through gray base corridors with increasing amounts of blood on the walls. Two-thirds through you *finally* get a change of scenery when you find yourself in the standard "lava-and-skulls" Hell (Painkiller still holds my favorite rendition of Hell in a video game, trashing this cliche for something a little more appealingly screwed up), and then some Hell-infected gray base corridors, then ending the game at some ancient ruins. It doesn't help that they turned the classic Doom monsters into generic horror monsters, and the kickass soundtrack is totally gone.
This game is also very dark. I don't mean atmospherically, I mean visually. I don't think I could have played this at all on my previous monitor, which was a tad burned in. But you can just press the F key to turn on your flashlight, right? Sure, except when your marine is using the flashlight, he puts his gun away. Basically, you have to choose between being able to see the enemies, and being able to shoot at them. Plus, somebody got the brilliant idea to have the camera shake when you get hit, so if you're getting wailed on by an enemy in the dark, well, let's just say you better be abusing saves.
There's also a little problem with the tone of the game. Okay, Doom always had the gore and horror elements, but the series also had a sense of humor about itself, ranging from comments about avenging your pet bunny to that absurd comic book. Doom 3 tries to scrap all that and present itself as straight faced horror. This doesn't work, people. It didn't work for Transformers, it didn't work for Blaster Master, it doesn't work for Doom. No matter how well you make the transition to gritty seriousness, the first thing everybody's going to think when they see the Cyberdemon is "You are HUGE! That means you have HUGE GUTS! RIP AND TEAR!" And the game isn't even that scary. Gory, yes, but having a monster silenty sneak up on you from behind and start tearing your spinal column out isn't scary, it's just a dick move. And opening a door to have a crouching imp on the other side suddenly lunge at you didn't need to happen more than once; it made me jump the first time, but by the fourth time it was just pissing me off. Plus, Doom 3 can't help falling into old habits and making a joke every now and then, like a zombie sitting on a toilet, or somebody's lunch bag in one of the storage lockers with a bunch of plasma cells, which just makes things even more incongruous.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl)
I really hope the movie took some liberties with the source material, because this was just so pointless. Three farmers team up to kill a fox, and said fox digs underground to raid their pantries and put on a feast for his friends. That's it.
Super Princess Peach (DS, E)
I'd like to just point you toward Sweetbee's Ten-Second Review of this game and move on to the next quickie, but I suffered through this game and you're coming with me, pal.
I'm guessing the people behind this game were huge fans of Yoshi's Story, which would explain why they didn't seem to know shit about basic game design. Even if you couldn't refill your health at any time with one tap, or the game did more than slap you on the wrist for falling down a pit, the game would still be so insultingly easy as to be completely boring. And like Yoshi's Story, cheap gimmick and shallow minigame sections pepper the stages, you can find yourself running in circles around the stages and not even realize it, and a lot of emphasis is put on breaking game flow to pick shit up and either throw or swallow it. To pick up an enemy, you step on them once, then press a button to pick them up... or you can just press another button and pick them up right away, and since some enemies can't be stepped on there's really no reason to use the former method. Although there is something I don't remember in Yoshi's Story; three of four times in the game you're put into a room with a bunch of doors or pipes with only one going to the next part of the game and the rest leading to a door or pipe at at the start of the room. There's no puzzle or trick to finding out which one to go down, you just have to try them all until the game lets you advance, and the pipe ones were especially infuriating because you had to wait for Peach to fall down a longass tunnel to reach each pipe. And then there's those cutscenes after the bosses with Perry's mysterious past, which apparently even the development staff didn't give a shit about because no closure is ever given on that subplot.
When I was searching for screenshots, I read that in order to take on the final boss you have to find all three Toads in all the levels. I'd already done that along the way (and there were only a handful of levels that I didn't get them in the first time around), but if I had gotten to the final boss and had the game tell me to go back and find that one Toad I missed for no reason I could have seen myself ripping this game out of the DS and moving on to something more worth my time, like playing through Phantasy Star III three more times.
After you beat the game all the previous levels will have new puzzle pieces, music cubes, and minigame levels where all the Toads were, and new levels open up when you refight the bosses. Said bosses are supposed to be harder, but the only two I noticed any difference in was the giant Wiggler, who now just barely stays on his back long enough for you to stomp his randomly chosen weak segment which doesn't make him any harder it just makes him take forever to kill, and Bowser who takes twice as many hits to kill and breaths fire twice when that phase of his pattern comes up. Basically, it wants you to replay the entire fucking game, and I'm still not sure what enticed me to do it. And when you do find all the trinkets, solve the asinine jigsaw puzzles, and play all the shitty minigames, the game gives you an infinite vibe gague. This was never useful, and certainly not after you've done everything there is to in the game. There isn't even an optional boss like Demon's Crest, there's nothing left to do with this game besides leave it to rot at the bottom of your closet.
I also cannot shake the feeling that this game was made with girls in mind. Because everybody knows girls don't play video games, so if they are going to play one they want it to be easy as a Bake Oven and edgy as a powderpuff. If the developers seriously thought that, then they obviously know as much about girls as they do about making video games.
For Your Eyes Only (PG-13)
It's a good thing James Bond doesn't take itself seriously, because otherwise I'd be throwing a fit over this movie. Namely, Bond tasting raw opium without burning his tongue off, the Severus Snape guy going after Bond on the cliffs without informing anyone else, and that the fate of the macguffin renders whole last half hour kinda pointless aside from some bad guys deaths. As is, it's a fairly amusing movie with plenty of action, humor, and chase scenes to go around.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
Everything I said about Sorcerer's Stone applies here; the world of Harry Potter is as intriguing as before, but the characterization is still crap on a stick.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, E)
It has all the camera and control problems from Galaxy 1, and for every step forward in game design they took a step back. They took out those retarded manta ray surfing levels, then replaced them with retarded buzzard gliding levels. They let you play as Luigi from time to time, then make you ride 3D Yoshi from time to time. They take out the hub and replace it with a level select like in traditional Mario Bros. games so you don't have to run around trying to find which observatory had the level you want, then practically make you play all the galaxies in order. All in all, if you liked Mario Galaxy this is sure to please you, but if you weren't crazy about it this won't blow your mind.
Just Shoot Me! The Complete Third Season (TV DVD)
My first taste of the workplace sitcom genre, and it couldn't have been much sweeter. Just Shoot Me! is laugh out loud funny and populated with a colorful cast who all get their chances at being both the asshole and the hero, sometimes both at the same time. Memorable moments include the Christmas special which parodies everything from Charlie Brown to Dr. Seuss, Nina inadvertently crushing a bunch of first graders' dreams, Finch's elaborate prank to get back at Nina for moving his soda only to get his comuppance at the end, and the ending of "The Odd Couple" delivering on Finch's girlfriend mispronouncing "wookie" for the rest of the episode.
Just Shoot Me! may not be for everyone. This being a show about the staff of a dumb woman's magazine (think Cosmo), expect some material that isn't appropriate for the wee ones. There's plenty of sex talk and girls in revealing clothing, I'll leave you to guess what kinds of Woodies and Buzzes the "Toy Story" episode is about, and at one point David Spade plants his face smack in a French maid's cleavage, although overall I don't think the show went *that* far beyond what you'd see on, say, Seinfeld, and the aforementioned sex toys are never actually shown. And for those who like their sitcoms to stay down the earth, the show can get pretty bizzare. Everyone in New York dropping what they're doing to help Finch achieve "every man's dream" in "Two Girls for Every Boy" is the best example of this.
On the down side, I found the ending of "Slow Donnie" a little hard to swallow - why would Donnie break the act he'd been doing for years just to explain to somebody how pneumatic tubes work? And the drill seargent in "Shaking Private Trainer" is irritating. The ending of "Steamed" was also pretty annoying, and I had a nerdrage in "Toy Story" when Maya talks about buying cartridges for Elliot's Playstation.
And hey, there's also a variety of guest stars on the show. Kelsey Grammer narrates "How the Finch Stole Christmas", "The List" left me terrified of Mark Hamill (no, seriously), I spent most "Slow Donnie" episode to figure out where I'd seen Donnie before only to look him up and find out he was Tobias on Arrested Development, and I felt a bit proud of myself that I recognized the film producer in "Shaking Private Trainer" as Alex Rocco instead of Roger Meyers Jr. despite never having seen the actor himself before (which is funny, because whenever I hear Kelsey Grammer the name that comes to mind is Sideshow Bob).
The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod 1: Eighth Grade Bites (Heather Brewer)
I'm sure as far as modern vampire books go this blows Twilight completely out of the water, but that's not saying much. And "vampires invented Playstation" made me want to murder somebody.
Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X (PSP, E)
Since all I really care to say about X mode is "stick with the SNES version" and "who's bright idea was it to have X shout the name of the special weapon every time he fires one?" (and I suppose that the voices in general added nothing to the game) I guess I'll talk about Vile mode. He plays different enough from X to add more freshness to the game than X mode from the SNES version, but that's not saying a lot, and the only hurdle I had was not being able to shock the armor off Armored Armadillo. You also don't get to play the entire game. It ends where you'd fight Vile on X mode, against a tag-team of X and Zero. Well, yeah, I guess officially X and Zero did defeat Vile together and Vile never got to take on Sigma, but officially he also didn't take on any of the boss mavericks . If you're going to let me play through a non-canon alternate version of a game with a character with a different play style (and in fact, I'm pretty sure the whole damn game is a non-canon alternate version), let me play through the game.
Vile also spends the entire game acting like a whiny teenager. I mean it, his entire reason for fighting half the bosses is "Because I hate you!", and at one point he actually says "You don't know me!"
MDK2 (PC, T)
The Dreamcast version still reigns supreme, but this is a pretty good alternative. Okay, I had to almost completely reconfigure the controls, but after that it's pretty much the same action-packed, out to kick your ass game as before, and the extra clarity of the PC monitor from the TV screen makes this game look even more awesome, and even allowed me to pick up on things I never noticed on the Dreamcast. The PC version also lacks the glowing targets and arrows on some boss battles and the cable pulses on the bombs in level 6, and has the barrier around the cooling tower in level 8 (which I always liked because it looked like acid rain and in fact I originally thought that's what it was) which are major points in its favor.
However, there are still a few things about this port that keep me from calling it a perfect substitue to the Dreamcast version. Mainly, the PC version doesn't use checkpoints, and instead lets you save whenever, wherever you want. You can use this to cheat your way through, among other things, the bomb puzzles, some tricky jumps like scaling the cooling tower, and having to replay the beginning of the final level every time Zizzy kicks your ass. Then there's several minor things, like an odd glitch where the voices sometimes go out. Past the opening cinema this didn't happen too often, but every single time I started a new game some of the voice over wouldn't play, ranging from one line over the comic book to everything between the first few lines and Kurt diving out the bay doors. There's also something funny with some skies in this version and I don't remember any of them looking like that on the Dreamcast. But if you're somehow unable to play the Dreamcast version, or just find it far more convenient to download the game from Steam or GOG.com since I'm sure most computers today can run it, this is definitely a good alternative and heads and tails above the PS2 version (and I don't want to know how screwed up the WiiWare version is). Just make sure to play it on Hard.
On a side note, what is with Steam's page for this game? None of that stuff depicted in the screenshots exists in the final game. Was it too much trouble for you guys to get pictures from the final product?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
I'm starting to wonder if Rowling is familiar with Final Fantasy 7. She'll establish at the start and try her best to make you believe it, like Harry's godfather betrayed his parents, then at the end the book she'll will throw all that in the garbage and give you pages upon pages of characters explaining what REALLY happened. It's not worth trying to solve the mystery of these books yourself because by Rowling's logic the real culprit could be Sir Cadogan, or Dudley recruited by Voldemort, or an illusionary Daffy Duck conjured by an enchanted Warner Bros. film reel, or whoever else Rowling thinks will blow your mind the hardest.
The Cricket in Times Square (George Selden (Author), Garth Williams (Illustrator))
This book did so little for me I can't even think anything to say about it, except maybe that the matchsticks lighting when the mouse knocked the box over was absolute bullshit. I should probably start reviewing young children's books like I do manga and just talk about what I feel like talking about.