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Donkey Kong Country (SNES)



As a kid we had Donkey Kong Countries 2 and 3, but not the original. So, I don't have the nostalgia for this one that I have for the other two.

Yeah, this was definitely an unrefined start to the series. The actual platforming is fine, except for the snow stages that make the controls crap and then dump so many snow particles on screen you can't see what the hell you're doing. But I only got 68% and don't feel at all compelled to scavenge for bonus rooms. The only reason to do them here is for the extra lives and working towards the 101% completion for a slightly different ending, like I give a crap what Cranky thinks about my performance. And you might call this nitpicky (I wouldn't), but the camera doesn't follow the characters as well as in 2 and 3, especially when they're in air, leading to more than a few leaps of faith.

The only animal buddy worth a damn is Enguarde. Maybe Rambi's problem is just that he shows up in, what, three stages? But Espresso can't even damage anything, and hopping on Winky is a death wish (at least they learned something from players throwing themselves into pits with him and gave Rattler in DKC2 the ability to air-jump after walking off a platform). Oh, remember when I bitched about Glimmer's Galleon's flashing screen? I had totally forgotten that was a holdover from Squwak's level here, only with the shit factor cranked up to 11 by setting it underwater.

And forget Dumb Drum, all the bosses in this game are pretty worthless except maybe K. Rool. Still, "walk back and forth and maybe do a hop" Gnawty at least needs to be smashed in the back by a gorilla to go down while Squirt is beaten by sptting water in his eyes, so maybe he just feels like the most underwhelming boss in the series.

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Duke Nukem Forever (PC)



I did not follow the thirteen year development of this game, and in fact the only other Duke Nukem game I've really played was the one on Game Boy Color (which I think was a remake of Duke Nukem II?). And I went in mentally prepared for the game to be rubbish, so Duke Nukem Forever had no ability to betray or disappoint me.

Enrage and disgust, though, that's another story.

The actual shooty-bang-bang isn't the worst FPSing out there. Enemies took way more shots to kill than they should have, especially given the limited weaponry Duke can carry (those fat bastards in the hoverchairs were especially bad), but I guess it... functioned? And a couple of the boss battles had interesting ideas behind them, like how for the first half of the final boss you have to kill his chronies to get rocket launchers to damage the boss (then it gives you a rapid missile launcher and a crate to refill it as many times as you want, and the boss goes to shit).

Everything else this game does made me want to sit it in a chair and slap it. Why do developers still not understand that platforming from a first person perspective does not work because you can't see your feet? I'm pretty sure nobody bought a Duke Nukem game to plod around a room looking for barrels to throw into a cargo container in some vague semblance of a physics puzzle. There's two lengthy vehicle sections with horrible steering, and I swear that 4x4 road trip through the desert takes up a fourth of the entire game (if not, then by fuck it feels like it). The alien hive level is too dark to see anything without night vision, but those glowing pill bugs you need to push into holes to advance will blind you with it. The only two types of "humor" this game comprehends are pop culture references and rampant misogyny. And there's one level where Duke hallucinates being in a strip club and has to find a bag of popcorn, a condom, and a vibrator in exchange for a lap dance. The entire time I was in that stage I felt like my Auron and Balthier Play Arts were judging me (Papyrus turned to Sans and asked what a vibrator was, whereupon Sans spit ketchup out all over the table).

And for the sake of argument, let's pretend vapid pop culture references aren't the movie theater candy of humor (I admit I got a chuckle out of one towards the end of the game, where after getting to the top of a staircase a Pig Cop was throwing barrels down Duke says he was hoping it'd be a monkey). I'm pretty sure that by the tenth time Duke shouts "The good, the bad, I'm the guy with the gun!" even somebody who thought that was totally hilarious the first time would want him to shut the hell up.

Speaking of which, why did it take me so long to get the... whatever you call it. "Joke"? Reference? Slur? behind "Pig Cop"?

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Blaster Master Zero (3DS)



I would like to credit Blaster Master Zero for accomplishing two things I didn't think were possible: it made me nostalgic for fucking Overdrive, and want to punch Jason in the throat.

The preview screenshots I saw of this game led me to believe it was going to be a remake of the first one. And while the first level is indeed laid out the same as Blaster Master's first area, from the second level on it's all new. Except I would have preferred a remake to what Zero actually is.

For starters, the game seems to have forgotten it's called Blaster Master not Sit Around Twiddling Your Thumbs Master. Area 2's dungeons are full of acid that floods the rooms then ebbs away, as you slowly make your way between safe spots. Area 3 makes you constantly attach SOPHIA to these treadmills and drive in place to lower walls. Many rooms in the Area 4 dungeons have a tidal wave that comes through every ten seconds, so you spend about half of your time in them on high ground waiting for the water to pass.

Plus, Jason is a sluggish SOB in this game. Not only do the dungeons feel like they take forever to traverse, the bosses are either braindead because you bust in there with the Lv.8 gun and rip them apart, or hand you your ass because they're way more agile than Jason can deal with. Oh, and grenades are limited in this game.

Then area 7 comes along and introduces two words that don't belong anywhere near Blaster Master: STEALTH MECHANICS. You have to hide behind walls to avoid spotlights as SOPHIA, and the Jason dungeons have you tediously following conga lines of robots. In theory you can kill these enemies, but as soon as you alert one all the others in the room dogpile you and they're tanky as fuck. At least their pathfinding is trash, so if you can trap them on the other side of a wall or gap in the floor and you have the maxed out gun, you're golden.

Do you remember at the end of Area 4, where you had to climb that giant ladder, then go down a series of platforms to unlock the second door? In Meta Fight, there was only one sliver of ladder near the bottom of the cliff, and you were supposed to jump off the ledge and grab the ladder to survive the fall (though most people take a bullet and hug the wall so Kane trips the lock as he smashes into the ground). Zero just loves that trick, and Jason's ladder grabbing detection leaves something to be desired. Most of my deaths in this game were to broken shins.

And despite being on hardware hundreds, if not thousands of times more powerful, the graphics are flatter than the NES game's, with much of the scenery consisting of huge areas of solid color. And the "soundtrack" is absolute garbage; the only area that even has what could charitably be called music is the first. The rest is electronic noise blaring in a vague semblance of rhythm. Seriously guys, Enemy Below replicated the soundtrack closer than this, and that was for the fucking Game Boy.

In what seems to be the game's only inspiration from Blaster Master 2, each area has multiple bosses. But several of them are just gauntlets of common enemies, and only the main boss of an area drops an ability upgrade to progress in the game; the rest drop extra weapons for Jason and the tank, and maybe a health up or two. And one of those weapons is a giant fuckoff mortar shell that destroys spikes, most obstacles, and yourself if you're not careful. Because fuck level structure, right?

So once I got all the health bonuses I stopped caring about the optional dungeons, only to beat the Area 8 boss and get a bad ending. Turns out Zero has a ninth area that you're sent to when you beat the Area 8 boss with all the powerups. And can you guess which dumb idea from Blasting Again it carries over? If you guessed "boss rehash" help yourself a cookie. And yes, that includes some of the fucking gauntlet bosses. Also, I spent half an hour running back and forth through the area, trying to figure out how to make a transparent, flickering door on the ceiling corporeal because I'd cleared all the dungeons I could get to and it was still unusable. To stabilize it, you have to go into the submenu and turn on the game's hint system. No, not for the hint on how to stabilize it, the door just becomes stable once you turn on the hint system. Because fuck you.

Blaster Master may have had a stupid story, but it knew its story was stupid and gave it a coloring book so it would stay out of your way until the ending. Zero makes the same mistake as Blasting Again and tries to make you take a game about a kid chasing his pet frog seriously. Actually, Zero seems to be trying to rewrite the events of the first game to fit in with the novel and Blasting Again (the strongest weapon is even called the "Acceleration Blast"), except it doesn't even do THAT right because they made Eve an android instead an alien. So unless she's got some Armitage III thing going, she's not having Jason's kids.

Oh yeah, Fred's also an android, is from Eve's world, and doesn't get irradiated into a giant. He just jumps down a wormhole and Jason... tracks his signal? I guess.

And Overdrive at least had Alexander keep his mouth shut. Zero has Jason and Eve constantly spouting off such asinine drivel that it actually made me miss Roddy and Elfie.

Eve: "I can't let you endanger yourself further!"
Jason: "No way, we're in this together!"
Eve: "But it'll be really, really dangerous!"
Jason: "And that's why I can't let you go it alone!"
Eve: "You found Fred, go home and be safe!"
Jason: "I'm not bailing on you, and that's final!"

And this is how all their conversations play out.

I'd honestly rather play Blaster Master Boy than this. Boy at least has some memorable boss battles and catchy music.

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Captain America: Civil War (PG-13)



If Age of Ultron bored the hell out of me, this one confused the hell out of me.

As with the comics a mishap with some superheroes causes the world to demand legislation regarding them, but instead of a group of C-rate heroes and villains nobody's heard about blowing up a city, some of the Avenger's were trying to stop the theft of a bioweapon and a suicide bomber takes out part of a building where Wakandan ambassadors just happened to be meeting. Then the government comes in and beats the Avengers over the head with the destruction their battles with Loki and Ultron caused. This is something that's never sat well with me, when a superhero movies decides to make collateral damage porn a serious plot point. And what the hell did they want the Avengers to do, let Loki and the Chitauri have their way with the Earth?

The film expects you to root for Cap because this is a Captain America film rather than an Avengers one, and he was the hero in the original Civil War comic. Except he's kind of a dumbass in this version, and doesn't seem to care about the rights superheros have to privacy so much as what'll happen to Bucky, who's still fighting decades of Hydra programming. So the battle with him and Iron Man isn't so much "Neutral Good vs. Lawful Neutral" as "Two different flavors of stupid having a slapfight."

But it was tolerable, until we get to the big superhero vs. superhero battle in the airport and fucking Spider-Man shows up to spout obnixious quips (boy, this is the month of "characters who can't shut the hell up pissing me off", huh?). And when he starts binding giant Ant Man's legs and says "Hey, remember that really old movie about space battles, and they're on an ice planet fighting those giant walking tanks? You know, the one that just happens be owned by the same parent company as Marvel now?" I wanted to tear the disc out of the player and bite it in half.

By the end everything's fallen apart as it's revealed the entire film was some embittered guy who may or may not be a previously existing Marvel villain's scheme to tear the Avengers apart, presumably after digging some notes out of the Riddler's trash after he discarded them for being too convoluted. Was that really the most efficient way to show Iron Man a video of who killed his parents, buddy? Maybe he wanted to get the Avengers to slap each other around a bit and weaken their bond then have that video be the final nail in the coffin, but this plan could have gone wrong at several points; Cap and Bucky could have been caught in the apartment, Black Panther could have caught Bucky on the freeway, Black Widow could have decided not to help Cap and Bucky steal the plane, Ross could have jailed Stark. And was Scarlet Witch losing control of the bomb on that particular section of that particular building part of the plan? How about the bioweapon theft? Or was that a red herring that got tossed into a pit along with the other five Winter Soldiers?

I enjoyed these Marvel superhero films more back when they had some levity (Spider-Man saying stupid shit doesn't count). Since Winter Soldier, though, they've been taking themselves more and more seriously, which just makes the flawed writing stand out more.

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Sam & Max: Surfing the Highway (Steve Purcell)



I've had this book since I played the first TellTale Sam and Max game back in 2008, but only ever read the first story. And all I remembered of it was a guy spontaneously combusting at the end.

It was weird hopping into a comic slightly older than I am armed only with the knowledge from video games made within the last decade. So when Sam and Max decide to go see "Ma and Pa" in the corner marker, I was all "Wait, I thought Bosco owned the corner market?" And there's a chapter where they drive to the moon which reminded me of the final episode from Sam and Max Season One. Heck, I'm pretty sure the chapter about the manatee-napping pirates was the inspiration for Sam and Max Hit the Road (but take that with a grain of salt because I haven't really played that one).

Other than that, I'm not sure how one goes about reviewing these 150 pages of insanity; one chapter Sam and Max are on the moon dodging 50-foot cockroaches, next they're purging a demon from the cereal isle of the local supermarket. It's almost like Weird Al music in comic form.

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Rick & Morty Season One (TV DVD)



Time to finally see what this Wubba Lubba Dub Dub shit is all about.

The first episode was rough. First it made me physically sick how Rick delivered half his lines through belches (which he still does from time to time in later episodes, but it's not nearly as common). And the story didn't even make any sense; Rick and Morty go to another dimension for some seeds, but the battery on Rick's portal gun dies and because the seeds are contraband he has Morty smuggle them up his butt through a transdimensional airport. Why not just leave the seeds, take the dimensional shuttle thing, recharge the gun, then come back for them? "It's a joke" doesn't mean you can say and do whatever without putting any thought behind it. Then the episode ends on a bunch of noise.

It does get better afterwards. It makes me think of a more vulgar Futurama, being a science fiction comedy about a group of characters traveling to insane worlds, or having science mishaps raise hell in their own. Heck, there's even an episode about a dog's unconditional love for its owner. Just imagine Farnsworth and Bender smashed into one character, and a lot more swearing and monsters with testicles hanging off their faces.

I can see why it wouldn't be somebody's cup of tea, though. Sometimes it veers a bit too close to the "too cruel to be funny" threshold. And it can get pretty damn gross. In one episode Rick injects Morty into a homeless person he built an amusement park inside of and it turns into Jurassic Park with manifestations of diseases instead of dinosaurs. In another, Rick turns everyone in the world into Tetsuo blobs. But I think it's pretty silly to say anybody who doesn't like the show "isn't smart enough for it" when there's an episode that ends with the family watching television from a dimension of hamster people who live in human butts.

And no, I won't be storming into any McDonald's to yell about Szechuan sauce, don't worry.

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