Futurama Vol. 5 (TV DVD)

I was not impressed with the four Futurama movies, and after hearing about an episode where Leela bonks Zapp Brannigan in front of Fry I had no interest in the new episodes. Then I saw this set on Christmas clearance and thought, what the hell. It was actually a bit better than I was expecting. In context Leela banging Zapp wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be, but the first few episodes felt less like Futurama and more like South Park wearing a Futurama disguise what with the cruder humor and pop culture lampooning, which I guess sort of makes sense since the show moved to Comedy Central. Although my tendency to forget the movies ever happened let to one odd moment where Leela was dumping Nibber's dropping into a vat of magma, and I thought "Wait, why she's throwing out a perfectly good hunk of starship fuel? ... oh, right."

It got back to feeling more like Futurama a few episodes in with the Bender and Hermes episode (although I think somebody, in writing that stuff about Bender not caring about death because his backup unit will just download him to a new body, forgot that Fry met Bender at a suicide booth), and much of this was actually on par with the original seasons. High points include the mindswap episode and Deliveryboy Man (who was bitten by a radioactive Superman), but there'd still be the occasional dick or poop joke to remind me what channel the show was on now.

Besides the aforementioned South Park nonsense, the resolution of the time travel episode was painfully predictable (though they did get in a big surprise beforehand), and I didn't care much for the holiday episode that ended the set. But those seem kind of petty because man, fuck that cat episode. Comparing cats to supervillains is not funny or original, people, knock it off. But that's not even the half of it. Tell me if this sounds familiar - cats are really advanced space aliens who came to earth ages ago, and they enslave humans by being cute. If you're thinking "Wasn't that also the plot of an episode of Garfield and Friends?" you are absolutely right.

Massive nerdrage: In the commentary for Lrrrenconcilable Ndndifferences, they ask Maurice LaMarche if he's ever done Orson Wells, not as an impression but as Orson Wells before. And while Maurice was misunderstanding the question and listing off the characters he'd done using his Wells voice, I was throwing a shitfit at the TV yelling "THE CRITIC!" as if yelling loud enough would make Maurice hear me two years in the past and however many miles away. And I was really glad I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture before watching the commentary for In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela.


Samurai Pizza Cats (NES via Flash Cart)

Ages ago when I first found out about emulators, I savestate spammed my way through this. Either I really sucked back then or didn't care because of the savestate lifeline, because I blew through this in one sitting and didn't even die until I hit the final boss. If Kid Dracula was Baby's First Castlevania, this is Baby's First Ninja Gaiden, although the graphics are a lot less bland than Kid Dracula's and there's no stupid minigames.


Unmechanical (PC, E)

Unmechanical is more a sightseeing tour than anything, albeit one that's nice while it lasts. One that constantly stops to make you unlock the door to the next part of the tour with various interpretations of keys and passwords, but the graphics and atmosphere are nice and mysterious. I would have liked the puzzles to have been a little more challenging, though - maybe the developers thought overly taxing puzzles would disrupt the tour's flow too much.

I was enjoying it to a point until it left me with another reason to be miffed with Another World's ending, and that's how it taught everyone that ending the game halfway through without explaining shit is "deep" and "artistic". Yes, I already knew Unmechanical was going to be short, but even Another World's final puzzle was climactic compared to this game's.


Wizorb (PC, E)

Wizorb is a Breakout clone with magic spells and boss battles, and a really short one to boot (only five worlds, with twelve levels and a boss each) so it's a bit hard for me to say a lot about it. But there's a lot of references to retro games (who else caught on to what Cyrus walking through the seasons is an homage to?), and the price is hard to beat, so if you're into Breakout check it out.


Retro Game Challenge (DS, E)

After I read FO's review of this, you better believe I was going to get my mitts on a copy. Actually, I had seen this game at Hasting's before but blew it off as shovelware. Yeah, I can be a real idiot sometimes.

Retro Game Challenge is not shovelware, and is in fact a collection of eight games that could have each been a standalone NES game if given a bit more meat, although the two Rally Kings can ram it. Somebody said if you just drive without trying to use the dash boost (which usually just sent me flying into a wall) you'll get through both games fine and I found that to be true, but that just makes me wonder what half-assed thinking is behind a game that gets easier when you don't bother with a core mechanic.

Read FO's review for an in-depth look, but I actually thought this game wasn't quite as challening as it should have been; the P-gun in Star Prince is seriously broken, and the final boss of Haggle Man 2 has a rather baffling oversight in that one of his attacks doesn't do much more than make him extremely vulnerable.


Tales of Monkey Island (PC, E10+)

(Note: While I may refer to events happening in their respective chapters, for the most part I'm going to treat this as a single game, not as five. Also, Secret was the only game in the series I had finished before playing this, but I've finished LeChuck's Revenge and Curse as of writing this quickie)

I think I'm going to take back what I once said about how Monkey Island doesn't belong in 3D, although the game looks a lot better in motion since the cartoony models and animation can make the characters look really funky in still shots. At least Guybrush looks decent, certainly better than he did in Escape from Monkey Island where he looks like a lump of polygons sticking out of a pirate suit, or this abomination (you know, the more makeovers he gets, the more I'm convinced he's just a hard character to not make look like ass). And I don't know if I'm just getting too easy to amuse with stupid shit, but this shot cracks me up every time I look at it.

Tales is actually the strongest of the TellTale games I've played since the first season of Sam & Max, and I'd go as far to say I'd like it more if Sam & Max didn't have the advantage of being first. The first episode is a bit shaky and a lot of the new characters (the French doctor in particular) seem less like Monkey Island characters and more like they got lost on their way to the Sam & Max auditions, but the writing is a right laugh and the game has some truly brilliant moments, like the entire first half of the fourth chapter that plays like a cross between Sam & Max and Phoenix Wright (although I really would have preferred it if the cat portion involved unparalyzing it, but the way you get Guybrush out of jail is just too funny). I actually found myself getting quite attached to this incarnation of Guybrush, which came to a head at the end of the fourth chapter and throughout the fifth, culminating in a brutal final boss which plays a bit like the final boss of Sam & Max Season One, if instead of teleporting Sam ten feet between traps for every step of the puzzle he punched Sam from one end of a ship to the other. And Sam had already spent the rest of the game getting progressively more fucked up. And is it worth mentioning that by the time I was done with the game, "Guybrush Threepwood" had stopped sounding like a bad porn name to me?

But my biggest complaint is the self-referential humor. I could deal with the babbling about grog and I was only bothered by the references to Guybrush's past adventures when they were being made gratuitously and not because they were actually relevent, but that's all part of the Monkey Island mythos. I'm mostly talking about the game lifting puzzles and set pieces from the previous games (the first major challenge is to complete three tasks, which include navigating a jungle maze with an unconventional map and getting into a brawl that takes place behind a wall. Sound familiar?) and the constant "The cake is a lie"-tier references to rubber chickens with pulleys in the middle and people telling each other they fight like a cow. Needless to say, these are not the game's finer moments. Also, I learned that puzzle involving a dog and a pile of papers in the fifth chapter was lifted from LeChuck's Revenge when I played through that game in March, and while that puzzle wasn't one of my favorites, it did make me a bit scared that some of the moments I actually would call brilliant like the doctor's chair, the trivia session with Morgan, the aforementioned trial, and the three-way insult swordfight were also plagiarized. But I've since gone through LeChuck's Revenge and Curse, and with only Escape left it looks like I'm in the clear. And TellTale made a boo-boo when Guybrush says his spit once earned him 8,000 pieces of eight - unless the number differs in whatever version TellTale played, it was actually 6,000 pieces of eight.

I also could have done without the part where you astral project into the Voodoo Lady's body and Guybrush does some... er, "exploring", I liked the ending a lot more before the sequel setup after the credits.

Nerdy voice actor trivia time: Demon LeChuck sounded familiar, though it took me a while to realize he sounded like the Butcher from Psychonauts. Sure enough, same voice actor, Earl Boen.