Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Joe’s Thanksgiving: Good warming zombie killing family goodness


Well since everyone else is going to post about Thanksgiving I may as well throw my gravy-stained hat into the ring. Fine by me, since my Thanksgiving ROCKED!!!:D
I spend the holiday as well as the day before and after down in Riverton Utah at my mom’s house with her, her boyfriend Bill and my younger brother Josh. Making the journey with me was Mr. X-Box 360, and our favorite zombie genocide games, the Left 4 Dead series. I know you’re expecting some spiritual thing about gratitude or the pilgrims, but no I’m going to gush about zombies. (okay, there’s a spiritual thing at the end, but till then…)
To anyone not familiar with the games, Left 4 Dead is essentially you and three other people, either AI or co-op friends, getting from point A to point B with about a thousand zombies in the middle. You get guns, bombs, and in Left 4 Dead 2, a selection of melee weapons including my favorite, the chainsaw. There’s no story, barely any characterization, just gooey zombie fun. It was the first game I got when I bought a 360 a few years ago and it’s been a favorite since, with my brother and I’s favorite catch phrase being “It’s not called “Wait around for your buddies!””
Like in a real zombie apocalypse, the idea is to run. And if someone gets left behind, tough.
This became especially poignant for me this weekend when my brother and I were nearing the completion of a level. At the end of every level there’s a safe room, complete with a reinforced door which upon closing will declare victory for whoever is still alive. The problem is in order for the game to end all the surviving humans, AI included, have to be inside. Right before reaching the door, we were attacked by a particularly large hoard of zombies, complete with all the annoying little special zombies that like to throw you around like a chew toy before killing you. My brother was playing the big black guy Coach, and I had the little redneck dude I always play because he brings me fond memories of my mission. The girl, Rochelle, was fine inside the shelter, but the swindler character Nick had been knocked down just outside and was being assaulted. With another hoard on the way I knew there was no way we could go up and do the little button combo to get him back up, so I made a survivalist decision. I ran outside the protective shelter and shotgunned the poor AI right in the head, then ran back in with my brother shooting zombies around me so we could close the door. He re-spawned with us on the next level and I could swear there was an awkward tension in the air between us.
Nick got payback though. Several levels ahead Rochelle had bit the dust as me, my brother and Nick sprinted towards the helicopters. Unfortunately, I ran into a nasty little hoard right as my shotgun ran out of bullets. I started hopelessly swinging with the bat as the hoard grew bigger and bigger and started discussing wine options. The following is the dialogue between my brother and I while we slammed buttons on the controller:
Josh: Keep running we’re almost there!
Me: I can’t I’m surrounded! Go on without me!
Josh: You don’t have to tell me twice!
Me: Wait! It was a figure of speech! Come back and carry me!
Josh: Sorry I can’t hear you over the rescue chopper’s blades!
Then they blew up the bridge I was on and Nick and Josh survived. Nick I’m sure was laughing. Smug series of 0s and 1s…
Now you’d picture our mom was probably off somewhere annoyed that her sons were playing video games on Thanksgiving, but nothing could be further from the truth. She could hear our laughter and screams from upstairs, and was thrilled to have the familiar sounds of her family ringing through the house. That’s what I love about my family. Throughout the weekend we played video games, discussed zombies, super heroes, and our favorite ghost shows. I’m grateful for a family who accepts me for who I am and shares my interests with me. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Magical Break

As I've stated before, I'm a big fan of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering (or MTG for short).

Well, this past weekend, I got to play a LOT of MTG. There was a four-player game with my wife, Stephen, and my friend Bill that we played on Thanksgiving. When Mary plays Magic, it makes me happy since she's putting time in a hobby of mine, one of my favorite hobbies, at that.

I like playing random Duel Decks, which involves taking the 16 (out of 20) Duel Decks that I own and rolling to decide which deck a player uses. We added the four Planechase decks (borrowed from Andrew) as well as the Planechase cards for a variation to the game.

Gotta say, it was a long, but fun game. Of course, my kids needed attention from time-to-time. As the game continued, there came different times when one of us could have been taken out, but it didn't happen as it was good to keep in the competition. However, there came a turn when Mary played an enchantment that was able to remove some of our creatures.



 Then...with that enchantment, she played a sorcery that caused her to lose her 7 or 8 creatures and replace them with 4/4 creatures, thus doing 4 damage per creature. She killed all three opponents in one turn.

And with that, the game was done.

I got to play a few games with Stephen over the break, which was nice since I don't feel like I get to play enough. I can't remember too much from them, except our last one-on-one battle. But that was more of a standstill.

On Saturday, Mary, Stephen, and I played a 3-player Planechase with Random Duel Decks. For the fourth time (so it seemed) for the break, I ended up with the Demonic deck, while Stephen had its Divine enemy. Mary had the white/green Aura deck from Planechase. We started off here:

And hated it until we finally left. Then, at every turn, the creatures kept leaving the battlefield. That was until Mary rolled the planar dice and took us to this place:


And then it was on. We had a bunch of creatures able to attack on the battlefield. And I was scared of all of them. I couldn't decide which creature I feared more between these two:




Stephen had Reya, while Mary had Krond. Both were scary. Thankfully, Mary killed Stephen's Reya and Stephen attacked Mary, taking her down to 11 life. At the beginning of my turn, Stephen had two creatures (one was Mary's he'd 'stolen'). I had like six mostly flying from Orzhova's trigger still. I drew Corrupt.

With that (and 12 swamps) I was able to kill Mary. And with my six creatures (four flying), I was able to kill Stephen. That was twice in the weekend where the game came down to one lucky draw in a multiplayer game where, at the beginning of the turn, all players had still been active.

Magic is an awesome game. A player can be on the verge of losing, draw one card, and take control (and a win). I'm absolutely addicted to the game, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving

Today is a special holiday in the United States called Thanksgiving.  It holds a special place in my heart this year because I have found there hasn't been room for all the blessings in my life.  I have so much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving has always been a great time for nerds.  Why?  Well, there's Black Friday the day after to get all of your nerd gear.  There's the break from school/work to play endless hours in video games.  With the Christmas season upon us, there's lots of time devoted to looking at catalogs and making wish lists.

Video games are nice.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote a love letter of my rekindled understanding of how important play is when there's so much stress and work in my life.  But really, as much as I love games and the time off, that's not really what I'm the most thankful for.

When I think of my favorite memories of Dungeons and Dragons, playing Left 4 Dead, playing Magic, or enjoying my fall break, it is the faces of loved ones I immediately see.  Yes, it's cool when a character crits and slays the giant spider in one turn.  There's a bit of awesome in the moment a Hunter get's mowed down just as he's about to pounce a player.  I always remember the gasp around the table when I summon that 12/12 creature.  But in the end, I will always remember these moments of who I'm with.

So what is it about the Thanksgiving and Christmas season that's so great for geeks?  Community.

I cannot adequately express the love and gratitude I have for the Mormon Geeks contributing authors.  T.J. is my best friend.  I find support and comfort from him that is really quite rare for me to find anywhere else.  Joe is also a close friend and is always there to support me when I'm having trouble.  He can always make me laugh.  Andrew's authenticity is something I always learn from.

Geeks need each other.  Really, I think everyone needs community but especially geeks.  Growing up I always felt like a fish out of water in the church.  The other guys in my quorums were always more interested in sports and looked liked deer in the headlights when I talked about Dungeons & Dragons.  There were some great boys and young men in my quorums but they weren't quite like the friends I have today.

I'm also thankful for my trials.  I'm thankful to know what it's like to move every 3 years and have your heart break when you say goodbye to your friends.  I'm thankful to know what loneliness feels like.  I'm thankful to have been in awful, unhealthy, codependent relationships--and even more thankful that they ended.  I'm thankful to know the frustrations of rising insurance rates, car payments, and traffic tickets.  I'm thankful to have experienced childhood trauma.

Why would anyone be thankful for trials like these?  Well, I know that these trials helped me appreciate the blessings in my life more.  And not only that, but the hard experiences in my life taught me to preserve the wonderful things I have now.  I couldn't have the healthy friendships I have now if I hadn't learned from unhealthy relationships in the past.  Knowing what loneliness feels like has helps me appreciate the time I spend with family and friends.  It's also given me time to see and appreciate me individually and be a best friend to myself.  Moving around so much allowed me to build solid friendships with my siblings and parents.

But the biggest and most wonderful blessing that I can think of is becoming best friends with my savior, Jesus Christ.  How could I really feel the power of the atonement without having the experience of heart ache and feeling lost?  No trial goes wasted.  Our hardships can bring so many blessings to our life if we allow Him to make it so.

Something I started doing was expressing my thankfulness for everything in prayer.  I started expressing gratitude for stuff like speeding tickets.  I was afraid to do this because I expected, "Oh, you like that?  Ok, well here are some more trials for you."  Yikes, just because I'm thankful for it doesn't mean I want more of it.  As scary as it was, it definitely had an impact on my life.

We talk about having the Christmas spirit all year round.  What about the Thanksgiving spirit?  It says in Alma 34:38,
"...live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you."
If we want or need more blessings from our Heavenly Father, expressing gratitude to Him will help us first recognize how many blessings are already in our life.  Stuff is great but all it is is stuff.  What I love about this holiday is the beautiful reminder of what's really important to me.

Thanks for reading and for allowing me to share my feelings on Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the song!
-Stephen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lost Shores madness

Only a brief blog post from me this week.  I'm exhausted from playing the new Guild Wars 2 content, and work is pretty crazy right now (deadlines are coming up!).

Last weekend, Guild Wars 2 released some new content called 'The Lost Shores'.  Apparently a group called the Consortium discovered a new island in the Sea of Sorrows.  One of the representatives went to see what they could take from the area.  Unfortunately, the person somehow triggered an attack by the race called the 'Karka'.

In the first event, Karka attacked Lion's Arch (one of the major cities in the game).  They destroyed a lighthouse and basically caused a lot of havoc in the area.  Karka are a very dangerous and powerful race o crab like monsters.  The hatchilngs explode and latch onto players.  Young have a powerful ranged attack.  Veteran and champion karka (basically older ones) have powerful armor that must be destroyed before they can be killed.  They also can dodge attacks, roll over players, and fire off blasts of acid and glue.  I've seen three of the large champion karka take out a group of about 40 players in a matter of minutes.

In the second phase of the release, players banded together to drive back an Ancient karka that was terrorizing the area.  Armed with special guns that sprayed corrosive acid, players were able to defeat the creature (which was resistant to normal attacks).

After the ancient karka was defeated, players discovered a whole new island called Southsun Cove.  The new area was a tropical island inhabited by karka and other new, dangerous creatures.  It also had passion fruit.  As a personal miff, the passion fruit was harvested from bushes.  When I went to Brazil on my mission, I saw passion fruit growing on vines!  As part of the second phase of the rekease, players helped to establish a foothold on the island.

Us pummeling some veteran karka moments before they pummeled us
The third and final phase was pretty crazy.  First off, players helped escort explosives experts.  The experts planted bombs in a giant karka nesting area.  Then, another ancient karka area appeared, and players had to drive it back to its nesting area.  To do this, players had to defeat massive waves of the giant karka reinforcements, batter down giant trees onto the ancient karka, and other things.  At one point, we had to attack a rock wall to trigger a rockslide.  In another, we had to destroy nests, then place boulders from the nests in geysers that would then launch the boulders at the ancient karka.  Sadly, I had to leave to do home teaching for the latter half of the event.  Eventually, the ancient karka found it's demise at the bottom of the nest near a pool of lava.


My character vainly tries to fireball the Ancient Karka

Fighting off waves of Karka reinforcements

Dancing on the corpse!



Future posts will have more information on the new content with this event, including the Fractal dungeon and the new jumping puzzle!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Alexis Carrington, A Different Kind of Catwoman

Something that I am going to do is create a cast of characters from popular TV shows (and maybe movies) to recreate the villains for Batman. Why? First, I really like saying "what if So-and-so was on Such-and-such-tv-show?" It's a fun geeky game. And second, I couldn't find any other way to write this fanboy post that Joe challenged me to do and tie it to Mormon Geeks.

Welcome to April 20, 1981. It is over 8 months before the oldest Mormon Geek is actually born. It is an age when prime time soap operas are popular. Enter Vincent Duke and Aaron Spelling's new hit Dynasty. Like CBS's Dallas, ABC's Dynasty is about a wealthy oil tycoon (Blake Carrington), a new-to-the-riches bride (Crystal Jennings), the tycoon's kids (Stephen and Fallon), his friends (Jeff Colby and technically Claudia Blaisdel), and of course, his enemies (Cecil Colby and Matthew Blaisdel).

Now, this isn't the date of its premier. No, it's the date of its first season finale. Blake is on trial for murder and the prosecutors bring in a surprise character witness. The episode (and season) ends with a thin woman dressed in black and white (if it'd been polka dots, she'd have been Cruella De Vil) walking into the courtroom being revealed as Blake Carrington's ex-wife.



Fast-forward a few months (and a few casting calls) and Joan Collins is portraying one of the most memorable villains in the 80s. Now, there are no superheroes on a soap opera (there are evil twins, people who just won't die, and an unending supply of money). On the other hand, there are super villains (who have used money to their advantage) and Alexis Carrington was one of them.

If Alexis Carrington lived in Gotham she'd have been Catwoman...well...probably Cougarwoman, but you get the picture. Alexis Carrington wanted money...all of it. And she had very good methods of doing so. Where Catwoman would steal, Alexis would manipulate. Put Alexis in Gotham City and Bruce Wayne would be broke, outed out as Batman, and living with Dick Grayson in a small, run-down apartment in Metropolis wishing to be as cool as Superman.


Now here we have the beautiful Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV show. Now de-age Alexis a bit, put the ears and faux-leather on her and boom, instant Catwoman. (If I knew how to photoshop, I would do what I can to make that happen.)

So, Joe and I have a few things in common. We're both fairly short. Neither of us will be mistaken as being anorexic. We love Carrie Underwood and Catwoman. And by all means, we both think Alexis Carrington is awesome. Yes, Joe told me that since I'm being authentic here about liking a prime-time soap opera character, that he willingly will admit it too.

Tune in next time. Same Bat blog. Roughly the same Bat time...I have no idea which villain I'd do. Any suggestions?

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I HATE Wolverine

He looks like he forgot what he was going to say
I know what you’re going to say: “Joe! Having a psychotic rant about why Kingdom Hearts is dead is one thing, but are you really going to go after everyone’s favorite misunderstood psychopath?” The answer is Yes, yes I am.
So as I’ve stated several times I’m a DC fan, but one part of Marvel I’ve always found fascinating was the struggle of the X-Men. I got into it mainly with the Ultimate series back in 2000 but since I’ve delved into the adventures of the students of Xavier and I’ve loved nearly everything I’ve ever read.
Everything except Wolverine.
Let me start off with this: HE TRIES TOO HARD! When he’s not in uniform (I’ll get to that in a minute) he’s a motorcycle riding cigar smoking cowboy who has a possible alcohol problem. They’ve done everything to make this guy cool from his out of place Japanese samurai piece in his backstory to the endless scenes with him breaking the fourth wall and popping his claws. I swear sometimes he sheathes them just so he can unsheathe them again when another bad guy walks up. And tell me how many times we’ve seen this: Wolverine in a bar smoking a cigar with a beer playing pool against a bunch of hicks who then make fun of his stupid haircut or how short he is and he procedes to beat everyone in the establishment to death with his pool cue. Even the movies found an excuse to stick him in a bar (which apparently has no drinking age) and get him into a bar fight. This is the kind of behavior I would expect from Homer Simpson or Stan’s dad from South Park.
Why do his boots have ears?
As for his costume, his little super hero outfit has got to be the stupidest costume I’ve ever seen. Here’s a guy who’s all but invincible with unbreakable caws trained in stealth and covert ops and they stuck him in bright yellow with sky blue briefs. I’d buy the idea that it’d give the bad guys a target to shoot at when his X-Men teammates were around, but he showed up to the team wearing this nonsense (Granted, his origins he wears a dark orange thing but whatever). And where on Earth did he get this thing? I always see him running out of Weapon X in a diaper or less, it’s hard for me to imagine a confused and newly created Wolverine stopping off at JoAnn’s fabric for a few yards of material. Let me ask you this too, does he honestly want to be taken seriously in that mask with the ears? Batman barely pulls that off!
How much does she spend on nail polish?
They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps and I’d say that’s true in this case. Analyzing Wolverine’s romantic interests we come across a girlfriend from his Japanese days named Yuri Cho (A name which he dramatically says every 5 seconds in the 90’s cartoon) who ends up being a psychopath with a complicated relationship with her manicurist, and Jean Grey, who not only is spoken for but is also possessed by an all-powerful evil space-bird. Seriously, why do people fight over this woman? I know I’m getting off topic, but are there really no better women on the X-Men then the space-bird woman? Anyway, for some unexplained reason Wolverine also pines for the affections of Jean Grey, despite she already being spoken for by the world’s blandest super hero, Cyclops. I know it’s supposed to add some element of drama but all it does is take away from the overall struggle the X-Men deal with, not to mention takes pages away from more interesting characters, like anyone else.
Because every man wants an insane pyro...
Besides everything else, Wolverine is just a psycho. A lot of people make a comparison between him and Batman as them both being anti-heroes, but the difference is that Batman may be a dark brooding anti-hero, but Wolverine to date has killed more minions than a decent sized natural disaster. The only reason I think he even hangs out with the good guys is because the bad guys have more minions for him to dice up. I’m sure if Magnito, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister and that guy who keeps building the sentinels were all killed Wolverine would just turn around and slaughter his teammates next. And how does Xavier allow this guy on the team? It’s going to be pretty awkward when he’s finally awarded the Nobel Peace prize for uniting Mutants and humans and someone brings up Wolverine.
Me and my cool Canadian friend Nathan. 
Like I said in the beginning, Wolverine just tries way too hard to be liked. Instead of making a consistent character with a focused background he’s just a mess of storylines, cliché’s and useless overmasculinity.  Someone once told me he’s trying to make up for being Canadian, but I know plenty of cooler Canadians than this guy! Nathan Fillian is a cooler Canadian! Michael J. Fox is a cooler Canadian! My buddy Nate Maguire is a cooler Canadian! Wolverine is just a loser who’s overcompensating for being a short, angry, hairy man. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Having fun with Faster Than Light

I am quite the consumer of YouTube videos.  Just a few weeks ago, one of the channels I follow started to put up videos about a gamed called FTL: Faster Than Light.  I decided to take a peek and the game did look rather interesting to me.  Last Friday, when the internet wasn't working so well, I decided to simply purchase the game.  I was very glad I did!


The premise of FTL is simple: you are a lone ship from the Federation.  You have valuable data about a rebel fleet that needs to be taken partway across the galaxy.  Throughout the game, you are being chased by a rebel fleet.  You also encounter things like enemy ships, stores, giant alien spiders, strange six-legged animals, mercenaries, ion storms, and so on and so forth.  The game offers a variety of weapons from lasers to beams to missiles to bombs.  Ships can also be equipped with things like cloaking devices and teleporters.  The game feels like a managing game, trying to balance power usage and what all the crew members are doing.  Overall, I found the game to be very entertaining.  I was finally able to beat it on easy after about 15 or so tries.  The final 'encounter' in the game was rather difficult but rewarding.

On completely unrelated news, Guild Wars 2 is getting more end game content!  They are putting in a new 'tier' of items called Ascended.  Also, they are introducing a new condition to the game called Agony.  Agony will slowly tick away a certain percentage of a character's life per second.  It can't be removed through normal means making it a very deadly condition to be afflicted with.  I think that is very cool thematically.  In Guild Wars, there were enemies that would inflict a condition called Spectral Agony that would do something very similar.  Players could get their armor 'infused' to protect against it.  In Guild Wars 2, there will also be infusions that will provide protection against Agony.  Also, Guild Wars 2 is released new end game content this weekend.  In Guild Wars 2 fashion, they are doing it with a 3 day series of events!  After the Halloween event, I'm pretty excited to see how this goes down.

Also, Guild Wars 2 is doing an 'invite friends to play' weekend.  I still have 2 more invitations to give out.  They will let you play from November 15-18 for free.  I'd recommend at least trying the game out to see how it is.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Rekindled Love of Video Games

Dear World,

I've been busy.  Really busy.  I've been all work and no play.  I've been spending countless hours drawing, editing video, and studying french.  It's worn me out and I think I've been trying to run faster then I have strength.


The other day I did something I hadn't done in a long time.  I played video games.  I opened up my roommate's Nintendo Wii and played Super Mario Galaxy 2.  Suddenly I was no longer worrying about crazy animated sequences, french grammar, or sequences of digital video strung together.  The stress went away!

Amazing!  This has helped me realize that I need play.  Sometimes sleep just isn't enough of a recharge that you need.  I know I've felt guilty for even touching a game controller just to relax and get away from the world.  What I'm being reminded of right now is that video games are okay so long as it doesn't take away from my other responsibilities.

So, World, I recommend that you do watch how much time you spend on video games but I also recommend that you take care of yourself.  Work can wear me out.  We deserve a recharge from time to time.  Who better to help you with that then Master Chief, Link, Ezio, Mario, and friends?

-Stephen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Finishing a game

I came up with the best New Year's resolution 10 some odd months ago: finish as many video games I already owned in a year. Like many gamers I follow the proud tradition of picking up a video game, playing 2-5 hours of it, then shelving it for later. There's some stat floating around that only 20% of people actually sit down and finish a video game, so I felt good finally being in the minority, even if it was only for a few games. I did discover a few things about some of the games I played and video games in general I would now like to share.

1: Red Dead Redemption: Proof that psychotics existed in every time period.
Growing up with a grandfather who loved Clint Eastwood and John Wayne films, I was excited to try Rockstar's cowboy sandbox, Red Dead Redemption. I was especially excited when the DLC Undead Nightmare came out, meaning I could be a cowboy in a western zombie apocalypse. The sad thing was, I couldn't sit through the game long enough to get to the DLC. First I must say that the scenery is amazing, the combat system is absolute perfection, and I found myself developing a man-crush for the game's hero John Marsden, due to his well developed character and amazing dialogue. It was the other characters I had issues with. I get the concept of making a bad guy bad, but the things the bad guys, and even some of John's allies did in this game I can't even talk about on this blog! I was absolutely appalled. While it did make it more satisfying when I got to put hot iron to some of these freaks's heads, the fact that some of these people are supposed to be allies made me wonder if John knew how to make proper friends.  To where I got to the game had shown me 5 or 6 despicable people I wouldn't give the time of day to, with whom I was supposed to get buddy-buddy with. I get trying to make the sometimes silly and overdramatized western stories believable, but I highly doubt the wild west was really full of sex addicts and sociopaths. To make matters worse I could get through entire comic books in the time it took to ride that stupid horse from one quest to the next. I may pick this one back up later and just skip to the zombie fun, but for now I'm not in the mood for more human horrors.

2: Batman expects too much out of people
Probably my favorite game to beat this year was Batman: Arkham City. While the story took a dive into the nonsensical at times, it could be explained that most of the people we were working with were psychotic. I'll let Arkham City get away with this and not Red Dead because A: the Batman cannon already has Gotham's main export established as being psychotics, and B: for as gritty as Arkham is the villains would probably be offended by the stuff Red Dead's people keep doing. The problem for me came with the end game content, when the game wanted me to run around town collecting 100 some odd Riddler trophies and clues, which are almost impossible to get. I consider myself pretty good at video games, but when Batman jumps on to things not made of hardened criminal with the grace and dignity of a fat kid into a pool, doing timed precision jumping puzzles off walls is just a bit much. And while combat was entertaining when all I was required to do was beat convicts with other convicts, making us try and use finesse to complete some of the ridiculous challenge rooms is like asking the guy working the grill at McDonald's to bust out a Filet Minion at the last minute.
A side note: The DLC, Harley Quinn's Revenge, was incredibly entertaining for me, especially since I am a huge fanboy for Joker's favorite hench-girl.

3: Story writers really have trouble after the 5 hour mark
As I said in my "What is too much?" piece, video games have a portion control problem. With the average video game being about 20 hours, it's not surprising that the story starts to slouch near the middle. Some examples of this would be Saints Row the Third, when about halfway through reason is exchanged for balloons full of Agent Orange, and LA Noir, where after a very exciting story about a serial killer you get dumped off in Nobody Cares land for the rest of the game. Even with the critically acclaimed Assassin's Creed 2, which I'm currently about halfway through has this problem. I currently have no idea who I'm killing, just that somehow some cowled man called Mistro is organizing old men to do evil deeds to mimic Captain Planet villains, meaning just evil to be evil. Some picked back up in the end, Asylum's climax was thrilling and shocking, Skyrim ends with a lovely romp through Valhalla, and Lego Batman 2 even left room for a sequel that looks like it could be a lot of fun. But in all these games, there was a point in the middle I just wanted to skip to the end.

Highlights:
I know I've complained a lot in this post, but let me end with a few highlights from some of the games I've played thus far, and to say that overall it was a fun experience to focus on one game at a time, and that though the year isn't over, if I have to kill one more defenseless evil old man with wrist blades I'm going to scream so I'm switching to Dragon Age Origin for a bit.

*Batman vs Mr. Freeze
Arkham City had so many villains it was hard to find unique levels for all of them. Before Harley Quinn's Revenge, my favorite was the battle with Mr. Freeze. The level was challenging but not impossible, and had my heart rate up so high I was sure Freeze would pick it up.


*Burt Reynolds in Saints Row the Third
Saints Row games are like Grand Theft Auto as written by Bugs Bunny, goofy gory dirty little stories about modern cops and robbers. The third's story took a dive off a cliff, and a few of the glitches made the replay value jump right after the story, but the addition of the legendary Burt Reynolds playing himself in the plot was a fantastic treat.

*Hogwarts in Lego Harry Potter
Every Lego video game has added something new to the formula. This time around it was the massive interactive castle full of secrets and adventures. It made the running from one level to the next an absolute joy, as I learned new spells and unlocked more collectibles like a magpie with a hoarding problem.

*Shazam in Lego Batman 2
Shazam, or his proper name Captain Marvel, is another one of those characters that I go totally fanboy over. Not many people know much about him, and that's probably for another blog, but I'll just say that he's beaten up Superman a couple times and he can do stuff with lightning. He's part of a DLC with Lego Batman 2 and while I was disappointed that they did NOTHING with another favorite of mine Zatanna, I was ecstatic with using the Captain. Reason being he has this power where he shoots lightning out of his chest that blows up nearly anything it touches. It's highly entertaining and looks spectacular.

*The Assassins tombs form Assassin's Creed 2
So when you're not killing things or collecting Renascence art, occasionally you find these tombs of assassins that came before you. These are basically large obstacle courses through massive play areas where you have to jump, climb and swing your way to the assassins little goody room. It's an incredibly fun escape that makes full use of the free running engine, without being completely impossible to accomplish.

What games have you finished lately?
-JOE