Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
In these times of economic struggle, my friends and I sometimes find ourselves looking for things to do on the cheap. A buddy of mine wanted to do a co-op game together, but without spending too much money. Looking through the local Best Buy we saw Spider-Man Friend or Foe at the $15 price point and it had 2 player local co-op. We decided to pick up despite the bad reviews and figured we could have some fun with it and in the end we were right.
Now don't get me wrong, this is far from a great game and it has lots of issues I will go over in a minute, but in the end we had a fun 2 player co-op brawler that didn't go on for too long and earned us some achievements along the way. The story is rather simple, there is some mind control aliens out there and if you beat the villains, they get angry that they were tricked so they help you. Makes no sense, and obviously made for kids, but what brawler has a good story anyway? This game is very similar to the Lego Star Wars games in the sense that you can go at it single player with an AI teammate, or 2 player co op and as you kill enemies you collect chips similar to how you collect Lego pieces. These chips are used to buy upgrades for your player. Spider-Man is obviously the main character so he has the most upgrades available and extra moves, but as you unlock the other teammates you can upgrade them as well. While fun to unlock more moves (and they do break up some of the monotony of the combat) a lot of times you stick with the basic moves. Unfortunately, a lot of the extra moves cannot be used on the larger enemies and bosses, which makes them somewhat pointless, which is a shame.
Some other negatives and that since this game is definitely made with kids in mind as the audience, it is definitely on the easy side. It seems they really took that Lego Star Wars copying even further with that, whereas you can't really “die” you just lose a few chips in which you can always earn more. There is also a lack of variety in the enemies (similar to how the 80s and 90s brawlers were made). They are mostly just color swaps to reflect the new location you are in, but their attacks and movements are all the same, even for the bigger guys. The only change in characters are the super-villains that you fight and later join you. The lack of variety there is made evident when you play as them though, as you will see how they have a lot of the same moves, even when it comes to the co-op double team moves. Some may say that the short completion time is a downside, but I can argue that it's longer than other brawlers and if it were much longer it could get even more monotonous. I find that the game is best played in short bursts anyway.
I played the Xbox 360 version, so I was able to get an easy 1000 points playing though this game. Most are just going through the game, with a few that you get for unlocking everyone and all their moves. They have other versions for other systems that are all the same game. I have not played them, but PS2 version is basically the same with graphics not as good (although the Xbox version isn't all that great to begin with) and obviously no achievements. The PS3 version is identical graphically but has no trophies since it was released before Sony implemented them and made them required for all games.
Bottom line: game is fun for kids, maybe to play with your kids or younger cousins, people looking for a fun semi-old school brawler, or achievement whores. If you fall into one or more of these categories, it's worth checking out for the bargain prices you can find it for. Amazon has it available for $20 for most systems, with the PC version being less than $13. You can go third party merchants to get it even cheaper. It is a poor-man's Lego Star Wars, but some fun can be had with it on the cheap.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Midnight Meat Train Review 8-17-2009:
Midnight Meat Train came out during the Lionsgate higher-ups changeover and was just dumped in theaters with little promotion. For probably the only instance I can think of for a “major” release, it was actually premiered at many “dollar theaters” also known as the “second run theaters.” This was a major factor in it's poor opening weekend gross. I think the other factor... It sucked.
Valkarie Review 8-17-2009:
The lastest from director Bryan Singer (and the 3rd to my count that deals at least partially with Nazis) is Valkarie which recently came out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Away on my vacation we were looking to rent a movie and this was one that everyone was looking forward to seeing. This review is based on the DVD since that is all we had access to while away, unfortunately I cannot comment on the qualities of the Blu-Ray version. In the end, I was the only one who really enjoyed it, with my fiancee being the 2nd best of it being "ok." This is not for everyone, especially for those looking for an action movie.
Valkarie is based on the real life events of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and his plan to take out Hitler and regain congrol of Germany. It was the last of 15 attempts on Hitler's life, and happened a mere 9 months before Hitler ultimate commited suidicide. I knew nothing of the events beforehand and I was gripped throughout the entire movie about what would happen next. I am sure some artistic liberties were taken with the story so I do not know how close it is to fact, but I know that it got me interested enough that I will seek out some documentaries on the subject to compare (and will update review accordingly). While the others I watched it with felt the movie dragged, I kept wanting to see what would happen next and I was just amazed to see what people would go through to try and stop someone ruling them so harshly. It was most interesting of all to see that not all Nazis were how we portray them here in the US, and I'm shocked that despite it being based on fact that more people didn't complain as they did with the John Cusak movie Max. In that movie it showed a young Adolf Hitler as a struggling artist, and since he was not shown as a monster, people were in an uproar. Maybe it was because it was not Hitler himself and the Nazis instead.
As mentioned before, this is not an action movie. While there are a couple scenes such as the opener where you see how Tom Cruise's character loses his hand and eye, it is more about plotting and setting up the effort to take him out. The actual scene involving the bombing, it was more about suspence than action. The movie is an even 2 hours and while others felt it dragged, I felt it went by quickly and so I have to say that if you're looking for a good drama depicting real life events that interest you, this is a great movie to watch. If you're expecting a Saving Private Ryan or something along those lines, you will not find it here. Tom Cruise gives a great performance no matter what you think of the guy and the directing by Singer is also top notch.
Watching the DVD on a standard TV with the TV speakers I have to say the image was very clear and the sound came through well and was mixed well. It did not have any of the typical "turn it up for dialogue, turn it down for action and music" that can be heard on other DVDs. Again, it was not my usual setup and I will try to rent the Blu-Ray in the future so I can really compare. Being a rental it was just the first disc which has no extras to speak of, but there is a 2 disc special edition available.
Fans of singer and war history give it a look, I really enjoyed it.