Category: Video Games

Video Game Review – Batman: Arkham City

Plot: Sequel to 2009’s Arkham Asylum.  After the events on Arkham Asylum, Gotham officials have cut off a section of the city dubbed ‘Arkham City,’ where all of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals are now held.  The facility is run by the deranged Dr. Hugo Strange (Corey Burton) who has plans for Arkham City that Batman (Kevin Conroy) must uncover while many of his major adversaries try and destroy him, including the Joker (Mark Hamill).

I never dreamed a Batman video game could be this good.  If you are a die hard Batman fan, this game was made for you.  Aside from training around the world for a decade and being a billionaire, this is the closest you’ll ever get to becoming Batman.  Despite its terrible and anti-climactic ending, 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum was the best non-multiplayer game to come out in years.  This game takes everything that was great about Arkham Asylum and makes it not just a little better, but significantly better.

The game play is flawless.  Moving around and fighting is smooth as can be.  And even though you fight a group of thugs 900 times in this game, it never gets old.  The countering system they introduced in Arkam Asylum was very good, but I can’t even put into words how unbelievable it is in Arkham City.  It’s so satisfying to elbow two guys behind you, grab their heads, and then slam them to the ground.

The parts in which you truly get to be Batman are when you’re sneaking around and taking out enemies without other thugs seeing you.  Silent takedowns were all present in the first game, but here, it feels fresh once again.

And what Batman video game would be complete without gadgets.  What I love about Arkham City is you basically start with all the gadgets you ended with from Arkham Asylum, and you just get to add more stuff.  The introduction of the smoke pellet is pretty awesome.  The two gadgets that are stand outs for me though are controlling the remote control batarang and the line launcher, which was in the original game, but in this, after you launch a line, you can launch another one while zip lining.  Batman does an awesome little flip maneuver to transition into this.  It’s so bad ass.

One of the drawbacks to Arkham Asylum is that you’re relegated to only Arkham Asylum.  The environments got kind of repetitive.  Here, it’s basically Gotham City…a vast improvement.  There’s nothing better than gliding around the city.

As far as the story goes, I liked the story to Arkham Asylum, but I wasn’t blown away.  In this one…I’m blown away.  Aside from Zelda games, I’m not one who gets into the story for a video game.  I like simple games and don’t need ten minute cut scenes.  I’ll watch a movie if I want that.  But in this, I was really invested in the plot.  It’s a fantastic Batman story, and the voice acting (especially Conroy and Hamill) is through the roof.

They cram so many big time Batman villains into this, yet none of them feel forced.  They all serve a great purpose to the story.  And when you get into a boss fight with a villain, the game delivers in spades.  Each boss gets his own unique battle, and it’s just so much damn fun!  There were a couple major Batman villains I felt got short changed though, and once again, the Riddler is relegated to bonus challenges.  I’d like to see him in the main game, but oh well.

Speaking of the Riddler, this game is packed to the brim with bonus stuff.  There are side missions, challenge maps, Riddler challenges and a Catwoman mode.  I’ve barely scratched the surface on the bonus material, but I definitely plan on conquering them at some point, and trust me, I am not one to do that in a video game.  Once I beat the game, I’m done.  But Arkham City…I’ll be back time and time again.

The only other thing I want to touch on is the ending, but I won’t give anything away.  When I played Arkham Asylum, I was devastated by how lame the final boss battle was.  It nearly ruined a great game.  In this game, I have mixed feelings.  Basically, there are two things that happen at the end.  One of them was AWESOME, and something I totally didn’t see coming.  The other is tough to talk about, because while I think it was a good story ending, it’s not a good video game ending.  But all in all, the ending satisfied me, unlike the crap they pulled in Arkham Asylum.

If you’re a big video game fan, you should play this game.  But if you’re a Batman fan…you have to play this game.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 (OMG, OMG)

Mario Brothers and the Warp Pipe

I was playing Super Mario Brothers the other day, and I just can’t help but get fascinated by the Green Warp Pipes.  There are so many of them, and not just in the first game, but every single Mario game ever made.  I’m just wondering what the hell goes on in that pipe?  I mean how do they work?  Why do some have different colors?  What if he got stuck in there?  Look, I’m not here to offer any kind of concrete knowledge; I just want to raise the questions and offer some theories.  So let’s explore the pipes in the Mario Brothers World, shall we?

First of all, why can you go down some and not others?  Maybe some pipes are actually closed off and have some kind of hatch or top.  We really can’t see because of the side view.  But then how come Mario can stand on the ones with holes?  Either way, the logic doesn’t hold up.  Mario can walk on thin air for the pipes you can go down.  We never see him lift up any door or anything.  How is he walking on thin air?  If there was some kind of wind or air current keeping him afloat, then how the hell can he go down inside the pipe?  Maybe the pipes in the Mushroom Kingdom are simply enchanted or magical.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

And what about the Piranha flowers who pop up out of the pipes and shoot fireballs?  There’s a lot of mystery with these bastards.  First of all, when Mario goes down a pipe, how does he know there’s not a flower waiting for him?  I guess he could look inside the pipe, but who knows how deep it is?  What if it’s there waiting for him at the end?  And how deep does the flower go down?  Does the vine of the flower stretch all the way to the end of the pipe?  But what I really don’t understand is that I’ve definitely seen Mario go down one of the pipes with a Piranha flower inside it.  How the hell does that work!!  If it goes back inside the pipe and Mario goes down, wouldn’t the flower be waiting for him?  Does it disappear when it goes inside the pipe?  WTF!!

I guess we should start exploring what happens to Mario once he’s inside this thing.  As we all know, when Mario goes into the squat position, he sort of freezes as he goes down the pipe.  Okay, my take on this is that the pipes are in fact some kind of enchantment as I brought up earlier and Mario doesn’t even realize when he’s inside the pipe.  He’s in some kind of deep sleep or coma like state.  When he comes out of the pipe, he’s brought back to consciousness.  This could also explain the flowers not being able to kill Mario.  Everything inside the pipe is frozen and not harmful.  Mario just floats right through it.  Now every time he goes down the pipe, we get that sound effect.  I’m not sure if Mario hears that or not, but I’m not too concerned about the sound effect to be perfectly honest with you.

Okay, now it’s time to explore the heart of the matter.  Where did these pipes come from?  Now I’m about to get a little crazy here, so be warned.  But I do feel strongly about this.  In Super Mario Brothers 3, Mario explores all the worlds that make up the entirety of the Mushroom World itself.  Each world I believe gets progressively deeper, until Mario finally reaches the heart of the Mushroom World, Pipe World, or World 7.  I know people are going to say, well about the 8th world, ‘Dark World.’  I believe ‘Dark World’ or World 8, is on a separate plane and completely Bowser’s own territory and not really affiliated with the Mushroom World.  But that’s a debate for another day.

Anyways, I believe that because Pipe World is truly the heart of the Mushroom World, the pipes are actually the foundation for the entire Kingdom.  In essence, the pipes created the Mushroom World.  Think about it?  They run through all the worlds, and you can even get to World 7 via the pipes from one of the earlier worlds with the whistle.  How does the whistle connect to the pipes?  The whistle is clearly a powerful magical object and obviously linked with the pipes somehow.  The pipes show up everywhere!!  Not to mention the fact that World 7 is nothing but a system of pipes.  So if Mario were to go through the right combination of pipes in World 7, he’d probably find the birthplace, or first pipe, of the Mushroom World where the pipes all probably interconnect and respond too.

Bowser should stop kidnapping Kings and the Princess, and focus on finding this original pipe and destroy it.  That would in turn destroy all the pipes in the entire world and completely undo the Mushroom World causing a total apocalypse.  Although I have to believe it’s nearly impossible to discover the original pipe, and not even the Princess has seen it.  And honestly, I would imagine it would work like the Ark does in Raiders of the Lost Ark where if you looked directly inside the pipe, you would ultimately die.  Or if you were to go down the pipe, you probably remain in the deep sleep state and just float around the pipe system throughout the Mushroom World for all eternity.

This is why Super Mario Brothers 3 is the greatest Mario game of all time.  Mario could have been a few pipes away from discovering the birthplace of the Mushroom World.  OMFG.  The biggest flaw in my theory though is that how was Bowser able to infiltrate World 7 whereas Mario had to battle through every world of the Mushroom Kingdom to finally reach the heart of the Mushroom World.  Certainly Bowser’s resources and power make this viable.

I actually think the last Mario Brothers game of all time should be Bowser attempting to locate this pipe with plans to destroy it, in turn destroying the entire Mushroom World.  And the last battle would be Mario luring Bowser inside the pipe where he would float throughout the Mushroom World frozen forever.

Well next time you play Mario Brothers, don’t just toss all those warp pipes aside.  Just remember there could be something greater going on…

Top 10 Video Games

Video Games.   They’ve made us all lazy, but we love em’ anyway.  It’s hard to believe video games are more popular today then when they first hit our television screens in the mid-eighties.  And yes, I know there were video games before then, like Atari and other random systems in which the power adapter took up half the apartment.  But I was introduced to video games through the Nintendo Entertainment System.  For me, the last great game system was N64.  Games today are nothing more than pretty colors and graphics.  Where’s the heart!  And they are so damn complicated.  I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to invest myself in learning 75 different button combinations.  I just want to jump on things.

So here is my list of Top 10 All Time Favorite Video Games.  Let the complaining begin!

10) Pac-Man (Arcade/Home Systems)

-Addicting.  Intense.  Maddening.  These are all words you could use to describe Pac-Man.  That little yellow guy causes quite a stir.  But I love the simplicity.  You eat pellets while being chased by ghosts.  It’s all about the orbs though.  A true gamer goes for all the ghosts while they are still blue.  Don’t be a whimp.  Blinky (the red ghost) is by far the smartest of the bunch.  He is clearly the leader and always tricks you.  I hate him.

9) Goldeneye (N64)

-Does anyone remember the story mode?  It was perfectly fine, but it’s all about the multi-player for this one.  It was a pioneer for first person shooters and it was James Bond.  How could you go wrong?  With so many different modes and ways to kill people, it’s no wonder it garners a lot of respect in the gaming world.  Everyone had their own personal favorite modes of play, but for me it was License to Kill with proxy mines.  Tucking one of those babies under a floor ledge and watching someone’s screen go red was so satisfying.

8 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game (Nintendo)

-Based on the Arcade Classic and far superior to the original, this was an epic turtle adventure you couldn’t put down.  Non turtle fans can appreciate the game itself, but true turtle followers know it’s the best ninja turtle game ever made.  You fight everyone in this thing.  After battling through countless foot soldiers and insane bosses, you finally make it to Shredder at the end only to find out that he can clone himself and kill you with one attack.  Wow.  This was a hard one.

7) Dick Tracy (Sega Genesis)

-This is probably the most obscure game on the list.  And no, I’m not talking about that crappy Nintendo one that is literally impossible to play.  The Sega version was a straight up side-scroller.  Oh man, this was fun.  You get a pistol which is cool, but the best part is using your tommy-gun to shoot enemies in the background.  It was awesome.  It also has a legendary bonus stage, which I have to say I’m pretty damn good at.  This game also has the hardest level I ever played.  I still have nightmares about Stage 6-B.  It’s complete chaos.  If you’ve played this one, you know what I’m talking about.

6) Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

-I’ve never been so emotionally invested in a video game than I was for Final Fantasy VII.  I hate RPG games.  I hate them.  So it makes this game even that much more impressive for me.  It’s three discs long, but once you start, you can’t stop.

5) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

-Everyone knows how good this is, so I don’t need to go into length.  It’s everything you want in a video game.  I hate the Water Temple.

4) Street Fighter II (Sega Genesis)

-The best fighting game of all time.  The cast of characters is amazing.  I think Ryu is clearly the most talented.  But the feature that really separates this game from many others is the group battle.  Choosing a team, strategizing who to take and when, made it that much better.  It was always nerve racking when it came down to that last Zangief/Dhalsim fight.  What a battle…What a game.

3) Mario Kart Double Dash (Game Cube)

-All of the Mario Kart games are great, but this one really stands out for two reasons: 1) The special weapons.  2) The double character selection.  My friends and I played with all light kart characters, how could you not?  In retrospect, I played this game way too much during four years of college.  We discovered strategies and playing styles that I didn’t even know were possible in a Mario Kart game, dissecting for hours what the best special weapon was.  Was it the three shells? The Bowser shell?  The Super Mushroom?  The Big Banana?  The only drawback to this game was that it almost gave me multiple heart attacks.  I just wish the blue shell could be outlawed.

2) Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! (Nintendo)

-The Rocky Balboa of video games.  Little Mac was a lovabale underdog who continued to rise up the ranks against seemingly unbeatable opponents.  Piston Honda.  Soda Popinski.  Bald Bull.  Macho Man.  You know the names.  Everything about this game works, especially the music.  This game gets your heart pumping from the opening screen.  All you see is darkness with a bell and a cheering crowd heard in the background.  It’s an epic game with the hardest video game boss of all time waiting for you at the end.

1) Super Mario Brothers 3 (Nintendo)

-It’s not only Mario’s greatest adventure, but it’s one of the greatest video game stories ever told: 8 worlds.  7 kingdoms.  Countless power-ups.  And of course the Koopa Kids, led by the biggest video game jackass of them all…Bowser.  Let’s not forget all the secrets to uncover.  This is a tough game to truly conquer.  Pipe World was mind boggling.  But nothing compares to the insanity that is Dark World.  Fighting Bowser for the first time is hard, but once you figure out how to beat him, you can do it over and over again with ease.  The game has fantastic replay value, truly making it the greatest video game ever made.

My Dream Punch-Out Cast

It’s one of the greatest video games ever made.  What am I talking about?  The odyssey that is Nintendo’s Punch-Out!  The characters, the music, it was just an epic experience.  Now I played the original version with Mike Tyson before they had to change it to Mr. Dream, or something like that, I don’t know.  I’ll never forget when I beat Tyson.  I had been playing that game for years and I finally won on a split decision.  I’ve never even TKO’d the guy.

With the new Wii version that was just released, it got me thinking…What if they made a Punch Out movie?  Who would the cast be?  Assuming I had an unlimited budget, here is who I would love to see play the original characters from the game (Tyson not included).

Shia LaBeouf as Little Mac

Shia as Mac

Yeah, he would have to toughen up a little bit and not seem like such a dork, but I think Shia could pull it off.  I would expect him to really go method and get inside Little Mac’s head.  Little Mac has so much heart in the game, and Shia needs to express that to the audience.  If he does…give him the oscar.

Forest Whitaker as Doc Louis

Forrest as Doc

I don’t know why, but this just makes sense.  The role of Doc (Mac’s trainer) requires an established veteran at the helm and Whitaker is certainly that.  I thought about Denzel Washington for this role, but he would be way too intense.  Doc drives Mac hard, but he’s always calm.  Plus, it would be funny to hear Forest Whitaker say lines like “Join the Nintendo Fun Club today.”

Owen Wilson as Glass Joe

Owen as Joe

There is no other choice.  This just fits.

Gary Oldman as Von Kaiser

oldman as Kaiser

As much as I love good ole Gary in the Nolan Batman movies, I miss him playing those sadistic bad ass villains.  This makes him perfect for the crazy Von Kaiser.  Oldman would knock this role out of the park.  Look at those eyes!

Ken Wantabee as Piston Honda

wantabee as piston

He’s one of Little Mac’s most notorious opponents.  Piston Honda is key.  He fights Little Mac a second time, so we are going to need a top notch actor here.  As long as Wantabee can move his eyebrows up and down at a fast and evil pace, he’ll be fine.

Ben Affleck as Don Flamenco

Affleck as Flamenco

Cocky.  Arrogant.  Annoying.  That is Don Flamenco in a nut shell.  So why not Ben Affleck?

Dennis Franz as Bald Bull

Franz as Bald Bull

So maybe you do some CG on his body, but come on, he’s perfect!  Bald Bull is the most hard nosed out of the Punch- Out crew, so Franz is ideal here.  I only worry that he may not be able to pull off the bull charge.

Dev Patel as Great Tiger

patel as Tiger

Fresh off his Slumdog Millioniare success, I think this would be a challenging but rewarding role for Patel.  Even though most of Great Tiger’s performance would be special effects, you still need to bring a quiet intensity to the character.  Don’t let me down, Dev.

John Goodman as King Hippo

Goodman as Hippo

I feel bad about this one because I love the man so much, and I’m sure no actor wants to hear these words from their agent: “They are interested in you for King Hippo.”  The fact of the matter is though that John Goodman as King Hippo would be awesome.  This is the comic relief of the film, so why not get one of the funniest actors out there.

Dolph Lundgren as Soda Popinski

lundgreen as Soda

For those who don’t know, Dolph was Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.  Dolph would have to shave his head and grow a mustache, but he already has two key qualities for making a good Soda Popinski: He’s played a Russian in a boxing movie before.  He’s also really intimidating.

Samuel L. Jackson as Sandman

jackson as sandman

The Sandman is the scariest fighter Little Mac goes up against.  You need to fear the crap out of this guy.  I think Samuel L. Jackson can pull it off.  Can you imagine him saying lines like, “Time to put you to sleep Little Mac.”  Wow.

Mickey Rourke as Super Macho Man

rourke as Macho Man

When I saw the Wrestler, I immediately thought of Super Macho Man.  He was that guy in the movie.  Now remember with no Tyson in the film, this is the final guy Little Mac would fight.  He needs to be very well developed and so a fantastic actor is needed.  If I could see Mickey Rourke as Super Macho Man in a Punch-Out movie I could die a happy man.

Well that’s my dream Punch-Out cast.  Will it ever happen…probably not.  Be sure to play the new Punch-Out on Wii, it kicks ass.  And remember, “Join the Nintendo Fun Club today.”