Just Shoot Me! Seasons One and Two (TV DVD)

Okay, I'll admit my experience with this show is limited to these two box sets (and since there was a five year wait between the two sets, I'll probably we waiting a long time for season four), but Just Shoot Me did seem to get into its stride pretty quick. Maybe not right away. How Maya lost her previous job is pretty hilarious, but the next few episodes where the Blush staff tries to adapt to her are a little rocky. But the show comes together at the Maya-Nina bonding episode and the set remains pretty consistent from then on, ending on a high note with everyone telling their stories of how they came to work on Blush magazine.

Now, the biggest thing change between the seasons is Maya's a lot bitcher in season one and early season two than she is in season three. True, she was quite vocal on magazines like Cosmo and Blush degrading women in season three, but she had other personality traits than FEMINIST!! and at least you got one great joke out of it in the Femmy award episode. Her tirades here made me want to hide my face in my hands. And while her speaking her mind lands her the butt of two jokes on this set, neither time was as funny and in fact the end of the fasion designer episode was retarded. She gradually tones down to her season three level. Also, the ending of "The Walk" might be a little sappy for some palates, and Elliot smashing Finch's ceramic kitten horrified me more than it probably should have.

And another tidbit for Arrested Development fans. Remember Tobias as Elliot's brother in season three? In season two Maya's mother is Lucille, although I'm ashamed to admit I did not at all recognize her.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)

As the page count of these books is increasing, I'm finding myself less and less forgiving of Rowling's writing, and Goblet of Fire was rife with absurdities. Okay, in putting up the age barrier around the Goblet of Fire, it seriously didn't occur to anyone that younger students could hand a piece of parchment with their name on it to an older student to put in the goblet? Or that somebody could put somebody else's name in without their knowing for shits and giggles if they happened to be chosen? Also, Hermione's subplot with her house elf rights program annoyed me to hell and back. It'll go onto the sidelines just long enough for you to forget it, when suddenly Rowling will remember, oh yeah! Hermione's got a stick up her bum about the house elves this year! And shove it back in your face.


Rolan's Curse 2 (Game Boy)

A fairly decent little action RPG for the Game Boy, but there were a number of things holding this game back from really being good, probably caused by the limitations of the Game Boy. Combat was a little cluttered, most of it felt like sidequests to power up the party members you might replace anyway, leveling by finding and collecting icons is a little weird. But the biggest problem I had was a lot of bosses are so large and move so fast, or have attacks that are so hard to dodge you're practically forced to mindlessly pound them while drip-feeding yourself healing items. The final boss is especially guilty of this; he doesn't move but he takes up at least half the battlefield, throws huge, fast projectiles with little time between volleys, and takes a bajillion hits to kill so if you were to try to beat him legitimately it'd only take you an eternity.


Back to the Future: The Game (PC, T)

I like Sam & Max and I love Back to the Future, so maybe I just expected too much from this. Yes, the story is hilarious and the characters are well-rounded and interesting. The game balances the fan bone-throwing with jokes that stand on their own, and it's all topped off with an ending that's the greatest stupid thing I've seen all year. On the flip side, some threads don't make sense, like Doc vanishing at the end of episode 2, and it's never explained where the DeLorean came from in the first place.

But the game aspect is rather lacking. The puzzles are mostly either easy or needlessly time consuming, like the one where you have to keep walking back and forth across a room to change out a song and then talk to a policeman. And the final episode feels like it ends three times. I was also expecting something like in Sam & Max where you rode the car to different areas, only here you'd take the DeLorean to different times. Major waste of the Back to the Future license there, TellTale.


Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy)

Have I been spoiled on Metroid games because of Super? I was not fond of this game at all. The screen felt like it was too small for what they were doing, which mainly reduces the strategy for all metroids sans the queen to ramboing their asses. Shamelessly repeated rooms made navigating the game needlessly confusing; there was one area, either the zone where the Omega metroids start popping up or the one just before it, where I was running around trying to find the last metroid. I'd keep going into this hall with a bunch of floating spike blocks you had to Space Jump through, and leaving because I'd been through it and killed the metroid on the other end before. Finally gave up and checked a map at GameFAQs and realized there were TWO hallways that looked like that. And I can't believe how unresponsive the Space Jump and Screw Attack are - every time I used it there was this dread in the back of my head that Samus wasn't going to jump when I pressed the button or she'd decide to randomly unravel herself at the apex of a spin, and I'd fall down several screens or into whatever spike hazard I was trying to hover over. Because that would always happen.

And except for the central tunnel area and when you get the baby metroid, the soundtrack was either nonexistent or irritating.


Rolan's Curse (Game Boy)

Hoo boy, this game made me feel like taking back every negative thing I said about Rolan's Curse 2. The game screws up right out of the gate when you find that when you turn, the knight takes a step in that direction. See the wizard in this image? He's to the upper-right of the knight if you're not sure where he is. If he didn't vanish from time to time, there'd be no way for me to hit him without getting hit, and there's many times you're in a situation like this with an enemy that doesn't vanish. And even when it's not forcing you to kamikaze an enemy, it's just annoying. True, Rolan's Curse 2 was touchy about turning without moving, but you could still do it.

Item management is nonexistent. It's like Wizards & Warriors, in that when you pick up an item, it automatically takes the place of whichever button it's assigned to. To switch between the wand and sword, you have to find enemies who'll drop them. And say you got a Magic Axe (or pickaxe as the sprite totally is) in the item slot? That's great, it's the best A-button item there is, although the Potion of Life ain't bad either. But if you pick up the orb, ring, or shield, all of which are so bloody useless I never bothered to find out what they're really called, it replaces whatever you had before and if you want to break down walls or skinny trees you have to kill enemies and open chests until you get another axe.

The game recycles screens constantly - every cave starts out with the same vaguely backwards-N pathway and most with the same "take the long way to the exit if you don't have an axe" screen (I say "most" because the final dungeon, which is a whopping three screens including the aforementioned N-tunnel, is the only exception). Rolan's Curse 2 also had a better soundtrack. Not the best I've heard, but some tunes were fairly decent like the ruins. All of 1's songs were either annoying (the beach area) or unfinished (which might be how I'd generously describe the whole game).

And just to mention it, the first time I fought the second boss, the thing that kinda looks like a space ship, I got hit with a really weird glitch. I got killed by it, and right after I respawned outside the boss's doorway, I heard the boss's death cry and couldn't move for a bit. Then the knight held his sword up, and then the ending text started rolling. It held on one screen, and didn't advance me. I thought "Wait, what? Was that it, or did the game bug up on me?" So I put in the password I took down just before the boss's dungeon (which was actually the only password I'd taken down up to that point), went back through and beat it again, then the game moved me into a third area. I wonder if I killed the boss just as it killed me, which caused the game to spaz out.

Considering how much Rolan's Curse 2 improved upon this, maybe if they'd done a Rolan's Curse 3 they could have made something good.


Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy)

Definitely a step in the right direction for Kirby, if not *quite* there yet. Plus, unlike Kirby's Adventure it gives you a reason to go find the extras, rather than expecting you to do it to increase your completion percent. Still, I find myself appending the best things I can say about the game with "for a Kirby game". Finding the last couple of rainbow shards required a lot of thought and cunning "for a Kirby game." The final boss is pretty hard "for a Kirby game." I've heard some people say it's hard even for a non-Kirby boss. It's a decent fight, but I think that's a little generous, unless you didn't figure out the easy way to deal with his first form.


Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law Vol. 2 (TV DVD)

I want to like Harvey Birdman, but I just can't. I got a couple of laughs out of this season, usually lines that come out of nowhere like Mentok clearing Morocco Mole as long as he promises to stay off his lawn, but most of the time the show just bores or irritates me, and ruins whatever it might have had going with the kind of edgy "ironic" humor where Wally Gator is a redneck that you'd expect from webcomics. The very first episode has this painfully drawn out scene of the Jetsons, finding Harvey doesn't have a conveyor belt floor, struggling to cross the room on foot, and that was a pretty good example of what the show had to offer. Other times it's just creepy, like Phil hitting on his own daughter, the Droopy episode where men are getting breast implants, or Reducto inflating Black Vulcan's girlfriend's ass. I guess if I want court room comedy, I'll stick to Phoenix Wright.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)

This pissed me off even harder than Goblet of Fire. It's like Rowling heard the complaints about how flat her characters were, and how everyone from Slytherin house could be summed up as "rich bastard" (Malfoy) or "dumb bastard" (Crabbe and Goyle) or "ugly bastard" (Pansy) or "major bastard" (Snape). So to make it clear to everyone that the bastards weren't all confined to Slytherin house, she made everyone start acting like a bastard. Harry's temper tantrums got old fast, and the key to annoying characters like Umbridge is that you should be able to convey they're annoying without them actually irritating the reader. I also really hated the detail of her collection of kitten plates, but that's just me sick of "evil people love cats" stereotype.

When they're not being angst-filled pricks to each other, our three main heroes spend most of the book saying and doing stupid things that get them waist-deep in trouble, only to be pulled out by the deus ex machinas that get tossed their way. The one that sticks out in my mind the most is when Harry and Hermione are surrounded by centaurs in the woods (although the events that got them there were one of the few instances of a character being halfway intelligent) only for Hermione to say something incredibly retarded that get the centaurs ready to fill them with arrows like big fleshy pin cushions, only to be saved when Grawp conveniently breaks his bonds and shows up. And if Harry had just remembered the stupid package Sirius gave him, the entire last chunk of the book wouldn't have happened.

Rowling's writing is also getting very lazy. We all know Ron's going to win the Quidditch cup for Gryffindor, but just how's he going to do it? Eh, he conveniently saved the day while Harry and Hermione were off with Hagrid in the woods. How did Dumbledore finally beat Voldemort in the Ministry? Who knows, Harry passed out during the fight. How did Dumbledore get Umbridge back from the centaurs? The book itself admits nobody knows, and he just did, so shut up and stop asking so many questions. I realize this isn't new. I forgot to mention in the Prisoner of Azkaban quickie that line about how Harry didn't remember how he snuck into the candy store and back to Hogwarts, and how convenient that was, but it's getting more obvious.

And finally, what the hell was up with Hermione knitting the hats for the house elves? Her house elf rights tirade was probably the worst thing about Goblet of Fire, and it comes back making even less sense than before. Yes, the elves are set free when they're given clothes, but first, they have to be given clothes by their master, whom I imagine would be Dumbledore for the elves working at Hogwarts, not just anybody, otherwise Dobby wouldn't have needed Harry to trick Lucius into giving him a sock and could have just asked Harry for a piece of clothing back in Chamber of Secrets. Second, they need to be handed the clothing, not find it laying around, otherwise Dobby could have raided one of the Malfoy's dressers for freedom.

The only positives are the antics of the Weasley twins, and the expansion of Neville as a character, both at St. Mungoe's and getting to see him kick some ass at the Ministry. Maybe the reason Rowling hates Neville so much is she resents him for being ten times the character her little Mary-Sue is.