Friday, May 11, 2012

More swag!

Here are some other things I've gotten rid of lately. Things that are relevant to this blog, but not important enough to merit their own entries. Though you could argue that things like my sticker book didn't deserve their own entry, either. In which case, touché.

Old console/controller boxes! These things have been in the garage since before you were born. The spider inside the Genesis box was enormous and terrifying. If this was a 90s commercial, it would have yelled 'SEGA' at me.

This excellent poster details the hot new games you can get for your Game Boy. That Donkey Kong Land III looks pretty revolutionary, doesn't it? It kind of looks like James Bond is in Cerulean City.

A breakfast cereal collectible card from Babe 2: Pig in the City. I don't know in what sense it is collectible, but dear golly, my collection of one certainly included Thelonius.

One of these books supposedly contained 1001 cool jokes, but I'm not quite positive as to what qualified these jokes as being 'cool'. I certainly didn't feel cooler for owning it. The other book was my secret spy book. And clearly now, the secret is out.

This magical Sylvester head holds stunning secrets. You can keep candy in there! I mean, I'm sure there are other things you can put in there, too...

"No! Just candy, Ned! Ninety dollars!!"

#0056: 13 Dead End Drive

Tell me, have you ever sat there in your regal armchair, a glass of red wine dangling lazily from your fingers, gazing absently into a roaring fire as you contemplated times gone by? Not quite? Replace regal armchair with mattress your friend crashes on, red wine with a Budweiser, and roaring fire with reruns of Saved by the Bell. Better?

Regardless of your preferred setup (and daily intake of Screech), you’ve no doubt spent many a lost hour, reminiscing. Typical culprits are when you visit a place you hadn’t been in years, or when a session of channel surfing lands you upon your favourite 80s cartoon. You begin to ponder who you were, once upon a time.

One of the more typical statements of our past is that they were ‘simpler times’. And sure enough, this is usually true: you didn’t have to go to work every day, bills and taxes were merely obstacles in Monopoly, and the biggest concern you had was whether Santa was going to get you that Mighty Max playset.

Ever notice kids are unusually good in the month of December? That shit’s entirely an act to con Santa Claus into assuming we deserve the lavish toys we were after. In hindsight, surely saying ‘please’ and eating our green vegetables for 24 days wasn’t enough to make up for eleven months worth of being a prick, but often enough, it paid off all the same.

We were geniuses! We’d fooled St. Nick! Unless your family was poor, which for some reason always led to shitty gifts from Santa. I know we were just kids, but we really should have put two and two together a lot earlier than we did.

As an aside, when I have kids, I’m going to be pissed off knowing that I have to accredit at least a few presents as being from Santa Claus. It’s not going to be the cool stuff, I’ll tell you that: my kids are getting crappy socks and sweaters from the fat red man.

One exception to the rule of simplicity in childhood comes in the form of board games. Because when I was a kid, the exact opposite was true: incredible excess bordering on insanity. With every decade, board games became more and more extravagant and complex, taking longer to assemble than to ever actually play them. Upon finally constructing the monstrous cardboard and plastic behemoths, your parents would inexplicably leave them in their entirety on the coffee table afterwards, secretly not wanting to bother ever doing that again.

Then, strangely, something happened. Once the new millennium rolled in, we went back to square one: like the manufacturers themselves had grown tired of brainstorming, and declared, ‘Fuck it, repackage CONNECT FOUR’.

13 Dead End Drive was perhaps 90s board gaming at its finest: the game board would become a mansion (three hours later, after hearing your dad mutter strange words you’d never heard before, and got in trouble for repeating at school), complete with five deadly booby traps that allowed you to live out your fantasies of pushing a butler down the stairs and throwing a gypsy into the fire.

Dear Aunt Agatha has just passed away, and twelve potential heirs lumber about her estate, meeting unfortunate ends at the hands of malicious gigantic children. The twelve character cards are dealt between the players, and who possesses which character is a mystery throughout the game, because any player can move any piece. If the player possesses the corresponding trap card, they can move a piece onto a deadly trap space, finishing them off for good. One character’s portrait hangs in the mansion, representing the current favourite to inherit the money, and every time that particular character is snuffed, the next portrait in line goes to the front.

Gameplay ends either when every other character is killed, when the character whose portrait is on display escapes the mansion, or when the Detective (an independent piece outside the mansion who moves one step closer every time his card is drawn) reaches the front door. Me personally, I always liked it when Poopsie the cat won. The concept that the Detective arrives to a house full of mangled bodies and a particularly satisfied Persian amuses me greatly.

A long deal later, I’ve finally got the damned thing standing. And even then, it’s not exactly an architectural masterpiece; the rear walls are teetering precariously over the inhabitants as we speak, and everything threatens to come crashing down at any moment. It’s like your own miniature earthquake, and it’s truly heartbreaking.

By this time, all of the frustration you’ve suffered makes you really want all of those people to die. So it’s quite appropriate to let whoever constructed the mansion play with you, even if they forego the rules of gameplay, and just fling the gardener into the fireplace eight times in a row.

Tragically, I have nobody to play with at this point, and a game based on mystery and treachery becomes a particularly schizophrenic practice when enjoyed alone. So instead, I’ll just fiddle with the key features of this set: the wonderful assortment of traps.

The Bookcase…
My first order of the day is to kill off the doctor, Charity. Because of all the people involved, I find it hardest to believe that Agatha’s going to give her dosh to the woman who gives her aspirin. She decides to stroll on over to the bookcase to grab a copy of Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret. I always had a house rule going that if the piece landed back on its feet after falling from the bookcase, it was an automatic win, because such athleticism should be rewarded. Unfortunately, Charity is not so lucky. As a result, she is unable to treat any of the other residents for their injuries.

The Chandelier…
I really struggled to murder Lulu, because she looks strikingly like my nana. However, she’s a wicked gossip and must be done away with, so I decide to escort her over to the chandelier. This one’s a pretty neat trap, as it sways back and forth over the pieces, you always wonder who’s going to get smushed. In this case, it’s an octogenarian. Which I’m certain makes it just that little bit funnier.

The Statue…
Yawn. This was always my least favourite trap, because it was the least amusing of all the possible fatalities. A tumbling statue isn’t terribly thrilling, unless Laura Harrington’s dead body is inside of it (now I’m getting really obscure). I decided the way to make it more exciting was to enlist the services of Clay, Agatha’s personal tennis coach. Why is he holding a tennis racquet? He’s indoors, and it’s the middle of a stormy night! How inappropriate. Clay, you deserve to die for your poor manners.

The Fireplace…
According to the box, this one is actually a trap door, but I cry foul on that assumption. There are in fact five trap doors around the mansion, and they’re used as ‘warp points’ to move around the board quickly. So why should this one be deadly? Nope, the way the mechanism works, that hapless soul is being thrown into the fireplace. I suppose it was just a little bit harder for the illustrator to envisage on a children’s board game. This time, the unfortunate victim is Dusty, who looks like a young, hot Lucille Ball. As best as I recall, there never was such a thing as a young, hot Lucille Ball.

The Stairs…
And finally, the stairs. The switch at the top is theoretically only supposed to be tipped over enough to allow the piece to topple over down the stairs. But funnily enough, each and every kid was so excited to kill something that we hit it as hard and fast as possible, causing the piece to launch off the platform, and fly across the room. In most playtime sessions, this death wasn’t so much a fall down the stairs as being catapulted into space. According to the portrait, it’s the chef’s turn to die, but unfortunately, his piece has gone missing. So I’ve had to make due with whatever substitute I could find.

A few hours later, after countless tragedies, and four bodies at the bottom of the bookcase (why did they keep climbing up there?!), there is only one remaining heir. It’s my favourite, Beauregard the III, Agatha’s boy toy. He’s my favourite, clearly, because he’s hilarious, and the notion that he is able to assassinate ten people and a small cat is simply delightful.

Then, there’s a knock on the door. The Detective has arrived, and could have potentially prevented a lot of deaths had he not been such a slow walker. He apologises for his choice of playing hopscotch en route, and comes face to face with Beauregard, who appears to be offering him candies and a bouquet of flowers.

But the Detective has unfortunate news. Although Beauregard was in actuality the one whom Agatha had left her estate to, the Detective has keenly noted multiple dead bodies on the floor. Beauregard is charged with ten counts of first degree murder, and one count of animal cruelty.

Beauregard attempts to fight his way to freedom, but the Detective is actually ten feet tall, and easily wins the struggle. As Beau is dragged away, he catches the doorstep out of the corner of his eye. Ironically, it says, ‘GAME OVER’.

Good fun. Now I have to disassemble this thing and find the missing chef piece before it turns up somewhere weird, like in an underwear drawer, or a birthday card.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

#0055: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (GC)

I give you fair warning: I'm kind of drunk right now. So if I spout anything incoherent or controversial, I assure you they are not necessarily my views, but the ones forced upon me by my good friend, Mr. Miller.

That being said: Euthanasia! Abortion! Stem-cell research! Cel-shaded Zelda! Controversy is fun when it's also incoherent.

Eight. (I wanted to say 'right', but I mistyped it three times on my iPhone and gave up) Tonight we look to tackle zombie masses, with a series I only have brief history with. The Resident Evil games have been lauded over the years for their eerie atmospheres, clever blend of puzzles and action segments, and the ability to seamlessly introduce sharks in a mansion. That's right: MANSION SHARKS. The fear of every billionaire!

Originally made for the PlayStation, the first title was later re-invented on the Gamecube. And boy, did it look pretty. With approximately four times the graphical power, those zombies were comin' atcha with a whole new look, like a brand new Edgar suit.

Unfortunately, either in an effort to cash in, or a queer way of re-establishing the timeline for RE4's premiere, the next two titles were hastily ported. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is all 32 bits of terror, brought to you, as the box says, 'in all its original glory'. It's like asking for an iMac and getting the 1998 G3 model. Sure, it's neat and all, but times have changed, and the peak of the iMac came with Zoolander. Henceforth, I'm going to envisage Nemesis as being voiced by Owen Wilson. Golly, almost makes him seem cuddly now!

I've decided that I'm suddenly a BAMF, and I opt to select hard mode. ...At least, I'd like to claim it was because I was a BAMF: in actuality, I selected hard mode by accident. Indeed, the very vibration of the controller and menacing voice stating the title of the game was enough to frighten me.

The game starts with a bang (literally). Jill Valentine, who between RE1 and now has concluded that zombies are best fought in a tube top and miniskirt, muses that this is her last escape, before exploding through a wall like the Kool-Aid man.

A pair of zombies lurch out behind her, and when I first played the game on PlayStation, un-aided by a manual, these zombies were serious trouble. Why wasn't the attack button working?! Was I already out of bullets? A quick squiz at the control screen reveals that you first have to take the attack stance in order to fire, but obviously the zombie invasion had me in such a panic that I failed to realise this. Tragically, I fled right into the waiting arms of a third zombie, who gave me a most unpleasant hickey.

But now, I am a wily veteran. Pow, pow! I shoot the first one in the head, and then dance over his fallen body. Whether it's because hard mode makes them faster, or I'm just an idiot with no depth perception, the second and third zombie close in on me quicker than expected and commence devouring me. Om nom nom! According to lore, that should be the end for me right there, but Jill's a hardy lass who shrugs it off. Regardless, I proceed to piss bolt down the alleyway, squealing like Cyndi Lauper.

So obviously, I'm no better at this game now than I was in 2003, and 2003 Tony was no better at this game then than he was in 1999. I'm glad to know that in a potential zombie invasion, it appears as though I will be quite useless. In all likelihood, I'd probably stay with the dude who locks himself in the shipping container. We could talk about Goof Troop into the wee hours of the morning. Sounds okay to me.

After my inauspicious start, it's a romp through the rendered backgrounds of Raccoon City, fighting for survival and seeking signs of life. Personally, I always struggle trying to find my way around these environments: since every setting is static (save for a camera angle change as you move around), I occasionally have trouble differentiating props from paths. I like to press A to observe everything. I enjoy the concept that Jill would take her eyes off her attackers long enough to note partially eaten food and a discarded toy box. Also, for shits and giggles, I take any opportunity to climb up on things and mock the monsters who are just out of reach. Which was great fun until one of them vomited on my Ugg boots. Fucker.

Twenty minutes into gameplay, and I am so frigging lost, and so frigging out of bullets. It's rapidly shifted from a game of survival into a really upsetting game of tag, and I'm fast lamenting my earlier decision to take pot shots from a balcony, naming the zombies as I shot them.

Finally, after sidestepping countless enemies and eating some green shit I kept finding on the ground, I've made it to the police station, an excellent place for me to chill. Before I can enter however, I'm confronted by the titular Nemesis, who, as you can see from the cover, is not a friendly sort of fellow. He lumbers towards me, muttering 'stars' like an obsessive Javert fanboy, and I'm given the option of running into the police station, or taking his ass out.

The choice is obvious: I'm going to fight him like a (wo)man! Here's a video detailing how it went:

...No, this isn't what actually happened. As you may recall, I had no more bullets, and I've yet to figure out a way of throwing my gun like a boomerang. He killed me quite swiftly. The game handily informs me that I died. I make sure to check that I am actually still alive, and begin typing this entry. Pretty sure its claim was erroneous, but I suppose I could just be a particularly wordy zombie.

As a final side-note, I always felt very morose when fiddling with the options screen. A combination of this music and a depressing grey background of twitching, infected cells certainly made me feel guilty for being there. Dammit, all I wanted was to change to control type B! Don't judge me!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

#0054: Halfcourt

Were you aware that a new Nickelodeon Ninja Turtles CGI cartoon is due to hit our airwaves soon? Featuring such radical voice talent as Greg Cipes, who is about as perfect a Michelangelo as I could imagine, and my boy Rob Paulsen: formerly Raphael, now Donatello. Am I the only one who thinks he made this change so that he could add more length to his weaponry? Raphael was useless in the original NES game, so you’d send him out into the thick of things to protect the precious commodity that was Don and his ever-reaching bo staff.

I’m excited for it. No telling at this point what it'll be like (it certainly has the voice talent to be amazing), but I’m a sucker for those Turtles. As long as they’re done justice, I love seeing them kept alive through all these years.

Were you also aware that a new Michael Bay Ninja Turtles movie is due to hit theatres soon? According to Bay, the Turtles are no longer teenage mutants, but aliens from another planet. They’re going to be ‘tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable’.

…Do not want. Michael Bay seems to be under the impression that every beloved 80s franchise suddenly needs to operate under the premise of aliens. The Transformers ARE ALIENS! The Ninja Turtles? ALIENS, TOO. You best watch yourself, My Little Pony, because your alien ass is next…

Anyhow, my un-fan-blinded opinion is that the movie will likely turn out to be entirely watchable, and he probably won’t do any greater injustice to the Turtles than he did to Jazz. Jazz as in the Autobot, not the genre of music. Unless I’m mistaken, Michael Bay is still yet to declare that Louis Armstrong is an alien.

Good, bad or otherwise, it’s undoubtedly an exciting time to be a Ninja Turtles fan. To celebrate all that’s happening to our team of green, here’s a character that is sure to feature prominently in the series and the movie. In fact, he may even become the main character, nay, the titular role!

Time to ball out with Halfcourt, yo.

What was happening in basketball in 1993? The world was still abuzz over the dominating performance by the Dream Team at the recent summer Olympics, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns in six games to claim the NBA title, and gracious me, a batshit crazy giraffe was lolloping about the courts.

Because of course, by ’93 the Turtles were in their most cash-cowiest stage, and every new set of figures was weirder than the last. This basketball themed toy was actually comparatively normal, all things considered, though as far as I’m aware, he never resurfaced ever again. The only knowledge we have on him lies within his miniature biography on the back of the packaging, and all of the eBay images are blurry as hell. All I can make out is that he’s the ‘Jumpshot Jammin’ Giraffe’, and I probably could have come to that conclusion myself.

In my opinion, obscurity aside, this is actually a pretty cool figure. He’s got all of the usual nice little details, and hinged elbows, which was fairly uncommon in the series. My favourite feature is that his neck can extend a little bit, which I assume he uses to great advantage on the court. Like blocking shots with his face. That would be funny.

He also has a basketball net around his neck (used to come with a backboard accessory, too), a little trick that Dwyane Wade likes to do every now and then in today’s game. Though in my opinion, it’s more amusing when Wade does it, because it kind of looks like he’s being born.

Of course, I’ve lost all of Halfcourt’s accessories, but I’m not particularly fazed in this case. It’s not like he needs all of the dapper little knick-knacks, he just wants to shut up and jam. Furthermore, the only thing that made sense was the rather ugly-looking putrid green basketball he was equipped with. Judging by the imagery, the other accessories were a mutated kung-fu chicken, and either a pogo stick, or a machine gun. Come on man, not even Rodman would have used those, and he was weird as fuck.

He’s not without his faults, however. When I was a kid, I assumed he had a malformed left food, because it’s circular in the middle. I later realised that this was a deflated basketball that Halfcourt was stomping upon, and it just so conveniently happened to match the colour of his shoe. The 34 upon his back and the spots peeking out from the rear of his jersey are uncoloured as well, and I can’t help but scratch my head over that one. Perhaps Playmates assumed that nobody would ever look at Halfcourt’s back? I sure as hell did, because I wanted to play with his tail. Whee! It spins!

I wish Halfcourt had been given an opportunity to see the light of day in the cartoons or comics. Yes, he was made with the sole intention of pushing product, but he looks pretty damn cool. Jim Cummings would have given him a perfect voice, like Don Karnage mixed with Mayor Manx.

Alternatively, he could have been voiced by Dikembe Mutombo. Or whoever was voicing the Cookie Monster at the time.