Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reviews, Excitebots, Tournament of Legends, Etrian 3 and District 9  

Games: So I know I promised I wouldn't blog about Alpha Protocol anymore, but I figure a simple link to my official Second Opinion over at GameCritics doesn't really count. Check it out HERE, if you're not already sick of me talking about it.

(Oh, here's my official Crackdown 2 review as well. And yes, Alpha Protocol is better.)


In other games news, I'm a little shocked to say that I've been spending most of my time with the Wii lately. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that my son is here for the summer, but still... The first thing that caught our attention was Excitebots: Trick Racing.

While I can't say that I was a big fan of the controls (tilting the Wiimote to steer flat-out sucks) I have a weakness for racing games that feature anything other than cars. In Excitebots, the stars are animal-shaped robots that also transform into bipedal modes, have grabby claws that come out of their backsides, and can also fly -- seriously, how cool is that?

The actual racing itself has a loosey-goosey quality that I can't say I especially enjoyed, but the game is so goofy and fun that it's impossible not to fall in love with. We blasted through the normal mode in a day or two, and I definitely give it a thumbs up. Recommended.


The other Wii game that we've been clocking hours on is Tournament of Legends, published by Sega. In this particular case I decided to go ahead and do a full review which will run over at GameCritics. Look for that soon, but in the meantime, if you are a fan of fighting games and would be interested in one that doesn't take itself too seriously (while managing to avoid being a parody) it comes highly recommended.

The cast of characters is great, all of the dialogue seems to be taken from cult movies, and it's extremely pleasant to lay hands on a fighter that doesn't take a week to come to grips with. Even better, it goes for $30 brand-new. This kind of quality at that kind of price? It's a no-brainer.


Leaving the Wii behind and moving to the DS for some hard-core action, I've been spending some time with Etrian Odyssey 3. I can't say a lot about it right now, except that from all appearances, it appears to be the best one in the series so far.

it's not an import, this is just a Japanese pic.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to my review of Etrian Odyssey 2. While 2 and 3 are essentially the same structure-wise, 3 has added tons of tweaks and a couple of pretty exciting new features that I haven't had a chance to check out yet. (It takes a little while to get starting characters going, you know…)

I will eventually be doing a full review, but this is the sort of game that requires a pretty significant amount of time to get a grasp on. I was a little hesitant to take it on after remembering the kind of commitment that was necessary to finish each of the previous Etrian games, but after just a few minutes past the starting screen, I was hooked again.

For fans of hardcore RPG's, this is some seriously good stuff.


Film: Just watched District 9 last night for the first time. The wife and I managed to get the kids down at a decent hour, so we figured we'd have a "date night" complete with movie, soda and popcorn. Of course, it took place in our living room so it wasn't exactly the full theater experience, but still, when you've got two kids you need to take what you can get. Anyway, we both thought District 9 was not at all the right kind of flick for a date night, but in general, we both thought it was a pretty fantastic movie.

There are plenty of synopses available online if you don't know what the movie is about, but it seems to me like everyone else in the free world saw this flick already, so I'm not going to bother with explanations. What I will say is that it kept us on the edge of our seat for most of the running time, and that I was quite pleased with the main character. To clarify, I found him to be a very human and believable character -- he meant well, yet often made bad mistakes and had serious lapses in judgment, just like the average person would when trapped in a situation that's spinning out of their control.

I also have to say that setting the movie in South Africa gave it a completely different feeling than it would have had if it had taken place in a more standard setting. It added quite a lot, really. Seeing the grinding poverty and attitude of people onscreen juxtaposed with a large alien presence was fascinating, and completely different than the vast majority of sci-fi films I've seen. That particular spin on humanity gave everything else in the film a flavor all its own.

The movie wasn't flawless, though. For every moment where I felt challenged and curious, there were elements that seemed calculated solely to "sell" the film to general audiences. Of course, I understand that making a film on relatable or having characters that are genuinely alien is a steep challenge, but it was hard not to get stuck on them just the same. For example, the human-like eyes of the alien Prawns seemed like a very overt gesture towards getting audiences to warm up to them. To me, the eyes seemed out of place. While I'm sure this can be categorized as nitpicking of the highest order, I can't help but wonder how the emotional quality of the film might have shifted if the eyes of the Prawns were solid black, or compound.

Another similar thing was the handling of the little-boy Prawn. Adding in children is one of the easiest and most effective ways to connect with an audience, but I couldn't help but get stuck on the fact that the relationship between the father and son seemed like a carbon copy of what a human relationship would be. I mean, it was cute and all, but would these insectile creatures from another galaxy really treat their kids the same way that we do? Feel the same way? Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't, but that aspect seemed too blunt.

I had a few other nitpicks (it's a personal pet peeve of mine when people "transforming" into another species end up changing into an exact replica of the target) but I really don't want to nitpick it. It was a great film that felt very fresh and vital, and was a genuinely new spin on ideas and themes that I hadn't seen before. Really enjoyed it greatly in spite of any problems, and had a great discussion with the wife about it afterwards. Definitely recommended, although like I said, I'm sure you've already seen it.

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