Thursday, August 15, 2013

Anchorman (Film) - Review

Anchorman should be so much better than it actually is. It casts Will Ferrell alongside the likes of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, to parody 70s-style misogyny in news broadcasting.  It's produced by Judd Apatow. Maybe by the standards of 2004 this was better, but today, at least, this is bad. What could have been a hilarious ride of mocking sexism is a joyless mess of a film that is only occasionally funny.

Ferrell's character Ron Burgundy is the beloved lead anchorman for a San Diego news station, along with other respected anchors for sports and weather and such. I can't tell you their names, because they're too boring for me to remember. One's gimmick, the one played by Carell, is that he is mentally retarded with an "IQ of 45," but the only real difference between him and just about every other character is that his mental problem has been diagnosed.

They're on top, so when a woman is hired on the station and garners some success, they become enraged, because she's a woman! This premise lends itself to an ongoing joke in the film; the anchors are sexist! They treat women like means for sex, and this is acted out in a very juvenile fashion. Prejudice is funny when it's made to look ridiculously bad, but here, it feels like just another joke. Initially the film-makers try to make the woman, played by Christina Applegate, a straight-man to their idiocy, which was functional until they gave up on that idea. Eventually her character becomes a whole lot less strong, and she falls for sexist dope Burgundy because that's what the dumb script calls for. I cringed and literally face-palmed throughout the film.

The core issue here is that the movie really doesn't know what it wants to do. Is it really trying to smartly satire old-school misogyny? If so, why is the woman turned into a submissive (and even damselized, at the end) joke? Is it about Burgundy's station beating out its competitors, like a very involved fight scene towards the middle, and an important exchange of dialogue at the climax, both seem to allude to? If so, why is it so underdeveloped? There's a colorful bit of animation abstractly visualizing sex, is it really just supposed to be a senseless, ludicrous collection of comedy?  If so, why ground the movie in troubling, serious subject matter?

The movie also has a habit of pretending its actors are much more talented than they actually are. And that isn't a slight at the talent here, because it really does bring together impressive performers. It's just that most of the jokes are one-man shows. We're usually watching an actor act towards the camera. To sustain a movie, it would make more sense to have the cast working off of each other more.

I can be a bit positive about the movie. It's not actually offensive, it just doesn't work. And it is occasionally funny. The attempts at satire don't really work, but when it's just trying to be humorously stupid, it tends to work a good bit. That animation I mentioned earlier is quite funny, and there's some good laughs when things get very ridiculous towards the end.

But the high points really aren't enough. I was surprised how much of a mess this movie is. Anchorman sports an all-star cast alongside its fantastically talented leading man. It's a shame that it's so awful. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'm Excited About the Wii U

When the Nintendo 3DS was unveiled at E3, the gaming community lit up with excitement. There was no doubt that it was going to be a smash hit as a gaming platform, and there was even buzz about its ability as a movie-player. When it launched, it did not do very well for awhile. But eventually, with the aid of a big price drop, a stellar new Mario and Mario Kart, as well as a sweet Ocarina of Time remake, the system got itself on track. Today, the 3DS is the success that gamers initially expected, minus the movie-playing, which didn't go anywhere, really.

When the Wii U was announced, gamers knew better than to expect a hit success right off the bat. And, indeed, the Wii U's initial launch was rough, and still is quite a bit rough. Sales haven't been all that great, software hasn't been there, the launch UI was problematic, etc.

But today, in August of 2013, I can confidently say that I am excited about the Wii U.

Pikmin 3 is Phenomenal

I haven't played the first Pikmin, but I have played the Wii remake of the second, and I enjoyed it, but I'm not a huge fan of it. It's a good little game, but it doesn't get me fired up about its quality. Pikmin 3 looked to have amazing visuals when Nintendo first showed it off at E3 2012, which helped me get interested in playing the game, but I wasn't really excited about it. Now, when the game was about to come out, and the reviews were hitting the gaming sites, I started to get excited. Partially because the game looked great, and partially because it's something to play on the Wii U I got back in December.

I bought it, and expected a great time. I had a phenomenal time. Pikmin 3 is phenomenal.

For the first four days I had Pikmin 3, I basically did nothing else with my free time besides play it. It's a magical game. It's a door into a beautiful world that I loved being in. Exploring PNF-404 for all sixty-six pieces of fruit with my pikmin buddies is an experience I'll never forget. I became attached to the little guys, feeling bad every time one died. The game's story is surprisingly charming, funny and uplifting, as well. I loved it so much.

Even though I really wish the multiplayer aspects were online...

The Gamepad is Cool

The battery life on the Gamepad isn't so hot, and the fact that you can't turn the display off while you use the buttons does not help. The shoulder buttons are placed oddly high, and the triggers are not pressure sensitive. But that's where the issues with the Gamepad start and end. The first issue isn't even as crippling as some like to make it out to be, because I imagine most people play their games near an outlet where the Gamepad can be plugged in. I always play it near an outlet, so for me it's nothing more than a minor inconvenience.

It's a neat little doodad. During my Pikmin 3 hibernation, I enjoyed controlling the game with the Wiimote+Nunchuck and having the Gamepad on my lap for a map. I was able to beam the game to the Gamepad and take it upstairs while I microwaved my frozen lunch. I can beam simpler games to it and play without hogging the TV. It's also an immensely comfortable controller. Much more comfortable than that of the PS3, and probably on par with that of the 360.

Miiverse Rules

Pikmin 3 was able to show me how much Miiverse rules. There is a very active, positive and friendly community on the service, and it is set up very well. Seeing a bunch of posts from other users whenever I boot up the console, with a bunch of Miis all over the place, is fantastic. It's not locked to the console, even; you can access it on any browser.

It feels like a really fun forum experience, mixed with Twitter. Each game is like a section on a forum, with posts essentially serving as threads. You can befriend people without any friend codes, and even follow people for their posts without them having to do anything. Maybe it's just because it's early on in the system's life, with the current Wii U owners mostly being big fans of gaming and/or Nintendo, but the discussion is good.

And holy crap, some of the drawings people do are incredible.

Earthbound is on the Virtual Console

It's finally rereleased, guys! I haven't been able to play it yet, but it's Earthbound!

A Long Line of Games to Look Forward To

We have Platinum Games's promising The Wonderful 101, along with Rayman Legends coming out in September, Wind Waker HD and Sonic Lost World in October, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze in November, and Super Mario 3D World in December! And then Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. to look forward to in 2014.

I played the demo for The Wonderful 101, and I had mixed feelings. It's a colorful, explosive looking game and there's certainly fun to be had. I did, however, find it hard to control and keep track of. But it's a very high-quality developer, and even if it isn't all that great, it will at least be interesting. Rayman Origins is an amazing game, so surely the sequel will also impress. The Wii U seems to have the definitive version, from what I've seen, to boot.

Wind Waker HD being worthwhile is a pretty safe bet. I loved the original up until the triforce fetch-quest, which is getting streamlined in this version. Other things are getting streamlined as well, to improve the game's pacing, which was a bit shoddy in the original. The new graphics look excellent, and I'm sure that having your equipment on the Gamepad is going to be cool. Sonic Lost World looks like a fun Mario Galaxy/Sonic mashup, even though something about the trailers gives me fatigue. It may be a lack of originality, or it may be memories of Sonic Colors, which I didn't like. It's something I'm definitely interesting in checking out, at this point.

I am super-stoked for Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. DKC Returns may just be the best 2D platformer Nintendo has ever put out. It's perfectly challenging and very tight. Many of the levels force you to be constantly moving, to platform your way out of insane set-pieces. The sequel will surely be great. Super Mario 3D World is also a sure-fired hit because of its amazing predecessor. 3D Land is one of Nintendo's finest 3D platformers, in second place right behind Galaxy 2, in my mind. I love that Nintendo is allowing four players to play together for the first time in a 3D Mario game, even though it probably won't be online. And unlike the New Super games, each character has their own distinct abilities, and Peach is playable!

The Wii U has problems. The wifi signal isn't as strong as just about any other gaming system I've ever owned, forcing me to move my gaming set-up in my house. The horsepower in comparison to the PS4 and Xbox One is going to seriously hurt Nintendo's relationship with the triple-A third-party scene. It's still not performing nearly as well as it needs to for Nintendo. 

But I'm excited about the system, and I'm confident that by next year, things will really pick up for the Wii U. Even if it isn't a success, I'm sure there will be a steady stream of great games for a standard lifetime, like there was with the Wii. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kid Tripp (Video Game; iOS) - Review

Apple's iOS platform has proven itself to be a spectacular platform for interesting, fun, and cheap games. Anybody can make a game for the platform for cheap, and getting on the App Store isn't difficult. This excellent ecosystem of games to play on your phone or tablet gives us fantastic little games like Kid Tripp from "Not Done Yet Games." Kid Tripp is another mobile runner with pixel graphics, but it's an especially well-designed and entertaining one. 

There's a cute little story to be followed through simple cut-scenes at the beginning and end of the game. It's very minimal, but charming. The real thrust of the game comes from playing it, and it's a real joy. As stated earlier, this is a runner, but not an endless runner. There are four worlds with fives levels each. A tap on the left jumps, a tap on the right throws a rock, and, smartly stopping you from spamming the rock-throws, a hold on the right makes your character run.

This is one of those challenging, deceptively simple games. Your character automatically strolls forward, and there are spikes and baddies to avoid, springboards to use, and coins to collect on your journey to the end of the level. That's it. But it really is challenging, starting off mildly hard and progressively getting expletive-shoutingly hard towards the end, but it's always a joy. Levels are very short and you get shot right back to the beginning whenever you fail. I found it absolutely exhilarating to finally get past a part of a level I was stuck on for so many deaths, only to be flung into the next portion and be forced to figure out the next death trap. 

Kid Tripp's controls feel very tight and responsive, too, which makes flinging around your character all the more cool. There are times when bouncing on an enemy's head is essential to moving on, and there are some obligatory mine-cart sequences that are exciting. The game's pixelated visuals are very pretty, and the game runs very smoothly. Enemies are cute and reasonably varied, and the tunes are good, although certainly nothing special. 

There's really not too much to complain about here; this is a totally solid game. I don't like the black bars on the screen (which is more obtrusive on the iPad or 4 inch iPhones/iPods), but that's a small complaint, really. I was able to brave my way through it all in about an hour, but the game is designed to be replayed. When you finish, it counts the number of coins you managed to collect, how quickly you got through, and how many times you died - all of which are tracked separately through online leaderboards. You can pay levels separately to master them, and the game will award you medals on your mastery to let you know how well you did. 

I really love this game. It's fantastic. If you have an iOS device, which you probably do, I highly recommend you fork over a mere dollar for this gem. Just be in for a challenge. 


Played on an iPad 3rd Generation for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. I'm matt456p on Gamecenter for those who want to try to beat my scores!