Sunday, November 15, 2015

FALLOWEEN DAY 2: MOVIES

FALLOWEEN DAY 2: MOVIES

So last time, I ranted about books. Today, I want to discuss one of my friends and his obsession. The friend is the indomitable Doktor Zall (name changed somewhat to protect the... whatever he is ;) ) and his obsession is film. Specifically movies.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that the Filthy Casual brings the Casual into any and every endeavor. I am this way with movies, too. I also have the memory of a geriatric stoner, so bear in mind that I haven't seen these movies since they were screened in the Dread Caverns of Doktor Zall from his Film Library of Madness (cue evil laughter). Anything I say may be out of context or mixed up.

All the factual stuff comes straight off of IMDB, since I'm even casual about research. Preach.

#10: The Devils; Directed by Ken Russel; Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton; Based on the Play by John Whiting; Screenplay by Ken Russell; Russo Productions, Warner Releasing; 16 July 1971, USA.

This movie is about one of the bloodiest periods in French Catholocism, and one of the first things I can tell you about it is this: There are no supernatural elements to this. None. The horror is strictly of the realistic variety. It even opens with the Plague.

Things get worse from there.

Somehow there's a love story.

A crucifix gets molested by desperate nuns who just don't want to be murdered horrifically.

The Sun King himself is a narcissistic monster who wants to rule with impunity.

This movie is incredibly hard to watch, but the less I say about it, the more I want to watch it again. Yes, even the part where Father Grandier, the male protagonist, undergoes the Inquisition. Yeah. It's hard to watch.

It was honestly one of the most difficult movies I watched over at the Good Doktor's Film Emporium, and the fact that it made me laugh at times (intentionally, the beast,) only made it more disturbing to me.

If you can stand to watch a period-accurate movie in which Protestants are murdered horrifically, women are sexually abused, and the Church is not made to look particularly good, then you should watch this.

Even if you don't think you can stand it, watch it anyway. It's powerful.


#9: Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter; Directed by Brian Clemens; Starring Horst Janson, John Carson, Shane Briant; Written by Brian Clemens; Hammer Films; 7 April 1974, UK.

Oh this movie...

Why was it not a series? It should have been a series! It's fan-fucking tastic! Amazing! All of the stars in the universe, and the universe is infinite! (Okay, the universe isn't really infinite, according to some scientists, but you get the point, this movie is awesome.)

This is a Hammer film – complete with red-paint blood, bizarre misconstructions of supernatural lore, and better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be acting.

Captain Kronos is, as the film indicates, a vampire-hunter. He comes to a small village where several girls have been drained, not of blood, but of their youth! The dashing Captain must defeat this strange new kind of vampire and save the village. It also clearly sets itself up for sequels or a tv-series – both of which I would have devoured as fully as I do with Kolchak or the X-Files. I love this!

So why did a movie I love so much, with clear intentions to become a new series, never take off? Several reasons: 1 – it was 1974. 2 – Hammer was going under, if I remember correctly. The Good Doktor can always correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure he will).

Go find this film – sell your firstborn if you must, just find it!

Don't sell your firstborn. I'm joking. Are you nuts?! Why would you believe me! I'm a half-assed reviewer on the internet! You should trust my opinions, yes, but never, ever do as I tell you when it comes to other people, health, etc. :P


#8: The Woman in Black; Directed by Herbert Wise; Starring Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, David Daker; Written by Nigel Kneale, based on the book by Susan Hill; Capglobe, Central Films Ltd, Cintral Independent Television; 24 December 1989; UK.

So, do you remember that one line in the Christmas Song, the one everyone calls “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”? The line says “There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”?

That's because in England, they tell ghost stories on Christmas. It's why there's ghosts in A Christmas Carol. It's also why, every year, Britain shows a ghost movie on Christmas.

In this particular ghost story, an old woman dies in an old house and a lawyer has to go settle her affairs. Sounds simple enough, yeah?

It's not.

See, there's an old woman in black who keeps appearing on the periphery of his vision, and no one will acknowledge her existence or even let him know he's not crazy! Worse: every time she appears, someone gets hurt – almost always children. Our protagonist? A father. Not a particularly good or devoted father, but he tries. He guesses.

Also, this is not the Daniel Radcliffe one from a while back. This does not have a happy conclusion. No one gets away happy in this. Nothing is resolved, no evils put to right. It's not something to show the kiddies to tell them “it's okay, nothing bad ever really happens!” This is the movie you show them to let them know that everything ends, and usually horribly.

By the way, this movie, while made for television, is better shot, directed, and acted than probably 80% of the modern movies I've watched in the last five years. Oh, and the guy who plays the kid in this version? He's the same guy who would grow up to play James Potter, father of the Boy Who Lived. Who's actor went on to play the father of the character whose actor would grow up to be the father of his character. Confused yet?

Good!


#7: The Devil Rides Out; Directed by Terence Fisher; Screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley; Starring Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi; Associated British-Pathé, Hammer Films, Seven Arts Pictures, et al; 20 July 1968; UK.

You read that right – Christopher motherfucking Lee.

This is the movie we watched after that legend passed. We watched a movie where he fights Satan.

Yeah. He kinda pwns.

Interestingly enough, this is the second film on the list with an evil Richelau in it – the first being The Devils. One of the main characters is also named Van Ryn, which phonetically connects him both to the painter, Rembrandt, and the astronomer (both of these tie in with the movie, subtly, if you know what to look for).

In this film, a young man gets caught up in a Satanic cult and Christopher Lee's character has to try to pull him out. This is the rare film where Christopher Lee isn't trying to rip someone's throat out. He's trying to prevent the throat-ripping. Lee is amazing in this movie, going from indignant to terrified to exhausted in the span of seconds with nary a pause in his wonderful diction. He was a true master.

If you wanna watch Saruman beat the shit outta Old Scratch himself, this is a great movie for that.

Also, there's some awesome practical effects, and the designs they have for the demons and the Prince of Darkness are amazing.


#6: Monster Squad; Directed by Fred Dekker; Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker; Starring Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht; HBO, Keith Barish Productions, TAFT Entertainment Pictures, et al; 14 August 1987; USA.

Dracula has decided to take over the world. He assembles a crack team of the Frankenstein monster, a walking mummy, a werewolf, and a fishman who I think is supposed to be my favorite monster ever, the Gillman from Creature of the Black Lagoon. In the face of this confederation of evil, who can mankind rely on?

Apparently a group of dorky kids in a clubhouse.

This movie contains no names I recognize. It contains no monster designs I recognize past Dracula and the linen-wrapped Mummy (who I now continuously call the Yeti throughout the movie because of WCW). What it does contain is entertainment value!

Holy shit, it's so satisfying watching these brats obliterate monsters. One of them, who reminds me of Chunk from The Goonies, (I think it's that one, it's been about a year, my brain doesn't even hold onto breakfast, thanks) even winds up crotching the wolf-man.

Wolfman's got nards!”

Go watch this movie. It's a guarenteed good time.

I cannot stand behind my guarantees, since they are based on opinion, not fact. You might not like things. I can't help it if you have bad taste. :P


#5: Nosferatu; Directed by F. W. Murnau; Screenplay by Henrik Galeen, based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker; Starring Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff; Jofa-Atelier Berlin-Johannisthal, Prana-Film GmbH; 3 June 1929 (USA); Germany

Who gives a shit about Dracula when you can have the truly unsettling Nosferatu?

This silent film was created when no one gave a shit about copyright. In fact, it nearly didn't survive not giving a shit about copyright – every copy was ordered burned. Somehow, at least one copy survived the legal purge (brought on by the incredibly cheesed-off Bram Stoker estate, who didn't approve the film and were quite upset that it had been making money without giving them any in return, or, indeed, even asking permission!), and from these sources, the modern cut of Nosferatu rose, Vampire-like, from the dead.

The version I like best, which is also the version I own, is the one with music by The Devil's Music Ensemble. The SO and I have been to a few of their shows, Nosferatu, Red Heroine, and maybe one more? My memory – so bad.

Regardless, this is basically creepy, silent, German Expressionist Dracula – but it does have some differences. The ending, especially, is changed from the original!

If you like to be creeped out by scary-looking fellas, this is the film for you. Max Schreck, despite being, by all accounts, a wonderful human being, is truly uncomfortable to look at, and none of the lankiness of his limbs and digits, none of the long and cadaverous appearance of his face, none of that is a makup effect – that's 100% what he looked like.

Nice man.


#4: Evil Dead II; Directed by Sam Raimi; Written by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel; Starring Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks; De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), Renaissance Pictures; 13 March 1987; USA.

Evil Dead II is just Evil Dead with different characters and a weirder ending. Seriously, that's exactly what I've heard people who worked on the film call it. That's fine – it's better shot, better lit, has better effects, and Bruce Campbell is on his lovable-doofus-who-may-actually-be-utterly-insane A-Game. It's a fun flick, though it's unintentionally disgusting on occasion. Ted Raimi has sweat pouring out of the ear of one of his full-body prosthetics at one point. It's just nasty. And awesome.

Plenty of pratfalls, lots of creepy atmosphere, and excellent practical effects abound. Watch this!


#3: Creature from the Black Lagoon; Directed by Jack Arnold; Written by Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross; Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning; Universal International Pictures; 5 March 1954; USA.

Doktor Zall's indomitable parent will not permit me to watch this set of films at the Emporium. Apparently, said parent lived near where the sequels occurred and was terrified by them. I love this parent like one of my own. I love the Gillman design. I still don't understand how anyone could actually be afraid of it.

The Gillman is a fish-person who lived in a secluded lagoon deep in the Amazon. Then the white man came and made him into a killing machine. For some reason, it wants that white-girl booty. In the long-running tradition of Universal Monsters, white girls are monster-nip in these movies. I don't believe that a single woman was actually harmed by the creature – it's only men. Usually the South American hired help. Totes not racist guys. Totes.

I love this design – it looks great, the suit moves (in the first film, at least) with the actor wearing it, and it holds up well under the constant motion. Unfortunately for said actor, it was nearly fatal to do the underwater scenes, since they had no way of giving him air without spoiling the look. This is a movie which nearly killed its actor. Holy crap.

The sequels, while snappier in pace from the original, are nowhere nearly as well-written. The second movie is slightly better (and has the Creature raiding a crab-shack and terrorizing tourists in Florida), but the third... oh The Creature Walks Among Us, you had such potential and you wasted it all on a shitty redesign and truly wretched lines about Jungles and Stars...

Still, give these a watch for some man-fish fun!


#2: Night of the Hunter; Directed by Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum; Screenplay by James Agee, based on the novel by Davis Grubb; Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish; Paul Gregory Productions; 24 November 1955; Argentina.

This movie gave me nightmares for a week, and there is, again, nothing supernatural or unrealistic about it. This is a movie that could happen next fucking week, and no one would bat an eyelash, despite how horrible the events are.

It goes like this: Man stealls $10k and kills two cops or guards, gets captured after hiding the money and making his children promise never to tell anyone – even their mother – where it is, man shares a cell before his execution with a con-man/murderer who finds out about the missing money and escapes, con man tracks down thief's wife and seduces her despite her not knowing where the money is, con man murders wife and proceeds to spend the rest of the movie chasing the terrified children across the southern US.

Robert Mitchum's performance as deranged con man Harry Powell is so superb that it gives me chills to even think of it. He professes that he is a holy man, and the most terrifying part is that the character seems to believe that God (or who/whatever) truly wants him to go out and murder widows and old maids for their money. At one point, he lets out a howl that made me shrink back into the Emporium couch with a barely-audible whimper.

By the end of the film, I feard that I'd need to go to the hospital, my heart was pounding so hard.

If you have a heart condition, perhaps give this one a pass. It's supremely intense.


#1: House II: The Second Story; Directed by Ethan Wiley; Written by Ethan Wiley, inspired by an original story by Fred Dekker; Starring Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano; New World Pictures, Sean S. Cunningham Films; 28 August 1987; USA.

Oh House II, I had nearly forgot thee...

Until I went over to the Emporium and mentioned to the Good Doktor and my SO that I seemed to recall a film about a weird house where zombie cowboys fought on a dinner table, a weird caterpillar-pug wandered the kitchen cupboards, and John Ratzenberger played an electrician who was surprised by none of this.

Their response was that House II had not, in fact, been a fever dream from that time I stayed home with Influenza for a week. It was real, and they intended to rewatch it.

I want to watch this movie every year. I want to watch it maybe every month. It's not good, it's not well-made, it's utterly bullshit, but dammit, it's fun as fuck!

Seriously, though, that this movie made such an impression on me is no surprise – I have a deep-seated horror of zombies and ghosts. This movie had both – a zombie and a zombie-ghost. I barely remembered it, my mind trying to block the image of the juicy corpse of Slim Razor rising through the crown roast from memory.

Also, there's a character named Virgin. She's a virgin sacrifice.

Watch the movie!


That about does it for me for now – maybe I'll do one more list, this time on Halloween-ish television?
We'll see :)

Go out and enjoy something!

FC

Saturday, October 31, 2015

FALLOWEEN EXTRAVAGANZA: Day 1: Books

FALLOWEEN EXTRAVAGANZA!
DAY 1
TOP 10 BOOKS TO READ AROUND HALLOWEEN

Hello everyone. I'm still alive. How 'bout that? Sorry about the wait, I've been doing “real” job stuff, life stuff happened, you know how it is. STFU, my timing is im-fucking-peccable.

Welcome to frigging fall! Those of us in the Northeast are already suffering OWS (Oncoming Winter Syndrome) what with last year being made of terrifying storms and snow that didn't melt until well into August in some areas. No kidding. The largest city in my state still had a snow-pile in August. Still don't know if it ever melted all the way.

Those who know the real me IRL (In Real Life, for those not as accustome to internet parlance) know that this is my favorite time of year. The shorts go back in the drawer of shame, the t-shirts get augmented by flannel and wool, the sweaters and sweatshirts get shown off. Never you mind all that pumpkin spice bullshit, though. I'm more of a cinnamon-in-the-cocoa kinda person. Sure, I like the spice part, but I've never been one for pumpkin. My family largely regards me as an abomination (or at least an aberration) since I won't eat pumpkin pie, even on Thanksgiving. I'm an apple-eater, and proud of it.

October, being the best month ever, bar none, is my time of year. If I've got any excuse for why it's taken me this long to post something Halloween-related, it's that I've been up to my eyebrows in Halloween-related things. As an illustration of this, and as a way to actually have some content up, here are a few Top 10 lists of my favorite Halloween-related things. Y'know, the ones that have been distracting me and all....

Today's subject: BOOKS!

FILTHY CASUAL'S TOP 10 HALLOWEEN BOOKS*
*may not contain any actual Halloween. Bite me.

#10: Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Deborah & James Howe
I love bunnies. I like vampires. I like books with unexpected narrators. I may still be approximately 8 years old at heart... add all that together, and you get the perfect recipe for a Bunnicula-lover! Bunnicula is the story of a dog (Harold), his neurotic, drama-queen roommate, Chester the cat, their family (the Monroes), and the sudden arrival of a possibly vampiric rabbit named, you guessed it, Bunnicula. Chester, having read Dracula and many other books in his day (yes, these animals aren't just sentient, they're also literate, it's a kids' book, just go with it), is convinced that Bunnicula isn't some innocent little vegan. He fears that the lapid might do something unholy to the family. Problem: Chester is kind of the boy who cried wolf in this family, so it's up to Harold to save the day. Or something. I'll be honest with you, it's been a very long time since I've read this book. I think I remember one of the sequels, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, better. I certainly remember there being a Dachshund who may or may not have been a lycanthrope in that book...
If you like small, furry animals, clever wordplay, and a children's book that won't talk down to you (or your own sprog if you need the excuse to read this lovely little thing), then I highly recommend this book.

#9: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Maybe he wasn't the first, but it would be hard to argue that Count Dracula isn't the most famous literary vampire. Most people are likely more familiar with the nasty noble from his cinematic appearances, specifically the Bela Lugosi film, but I strongly urge anyone who hasn't read the book it came from to do so now! There are literally thousands of iterations of this story now, and it's easy to lose sight of the original in the milieu. Sure, there are parts that drag (why do we need to know about how dearly Harker loves chicken paprikash?), but the story itself is deeply unsettling. Especially when you realize that the whole neck-biting thing? Not really a part of the book. Instead, there's a significant amount of what I, weeny that I am, would call Body-Horror in this tale. And that scene that almost always gets cut out where Dracula crawls head first down the walls of the castle to get into his coffin. I think I've only ever seen it replicated with the appropriate amount of creeptitude in Nosferatu, but we'll get into that later.
Read this! (It's super easy too, there's a free version for Kindle.)

#8: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Okay, so this one's not really Halloween-ish, but it's got some seriously messed up stuff in it! Any book which includes assassination, attempted fratricide, madmen writing their last journals in their own blood, and poisons that literally burn you from the inside out is going to be unsettling. That said, there's not much I can say without spoiling the whole thing for you, if you haven't read it yet. As something which was supposed to be written as a bedtime story (if that rumor is correct), it succeeds far better than my father's sadistic reading of the King short-story The Boogyman. Seriously, who does that to a six-year-old?! (It also succeeds better than Lady in the Water, sorry Shyamalamanamana)


#7: California Bones by Greg van Eekhout
Holy crap is this book good. I picked it up at my local library on a whim, and it's become one of my favorite books. The premise is clever – an alternate history of America where there's real magic, California has seceded from the Union, and people are eating each other. Literally. Seriously, that's how the damn book starts. The main character watches people murder and eat his father for the magic in his bones! Yeah, I can't give much else away on this one, either. There's a heist, there's weird alchemy, there's drug use, there's Disney, there's strong implications regarding the fates of several Hollywood greats... it's amazing. Read this. I could not stop once I started.

#6: The List of 7 by Mark Frost
The author should tell you all you need to know. This guy helped create Twin Peaks. Now he's writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche starring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Fighting zombies. And maybe satan. And Hitler shows up at one point! What the crap?! This book was made of head-spinning mystery, steamy romance, surprise cameos (yeah, Hitler's not the only sudden appearance, just the briefest), etc. It makes me desperate to find and read the sequel, but I'm working my way through two other books right now, so it'll have to wait. Unlike my SO, I can't read more than two books at a time ;)
Why is this book not a movie? It should be a movie.

#5: The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr
From a Holmes pastiche that isn't to one which is. The Italian Secretary is a story about Holmes, Watson, and possibly ghosts. Not kidding. Not at all. Also, they fight a goddamn ballista at one point. It's all terribly dramatic. While investigating mysterious deaths at Holyrood House, H&W are confronted with a legend regarding a ghostly, hunchbacked, mad Italian music instructor to the Scottish Queen who was murdered by a huge amount of lords and landholders (a tale which may have possibly inspired the culmination of Murder on the Orient Express?) because of reasons. I promise, the spooky ghost story and the possible spectral interference at the end of the book somehow relate into the ballista, some illegal haunted tours, unwanted pregnancy, and mad money-grubbers.

#4: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Ikea is a special kind of hell. This book is about Orsk, a haunted Ikea knockoff, and the employees who get trapped in it. Horrorstör starts off with a young protagonist who feels trapped and smothered by her job. She gets roped into investigating some weird stuff that's been happening in the store (there is feces discovered and no poop-smearer can be found to match to it, also creepy bathroom writing and malfunctioning electronics). Anyone who has worked a retail job for more than a week knows exactly who the characters are and their daily grind. It's a supremly relatable cast, but then the weird shit happens: The main character, Amy, and her coworkers stay the night with their supervisor in order to catch whoever has been defacing the store, but it might just turn out that they aren't as alone as it may at first appear.
I won't spoil what happens when night falls on Orsk, but no one will remain unchanged by their experience.
(Holy shit this book nearly gave me nightmares!)

#3: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
While I am personally also a fan of Priest's other series, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, I wanted a zombie book in here. This book takes place in an alternate history where the Civil War never really ended, airships have taken over for the failed railroad, and zombies have sprung up from a deadly mist which has overtaken the now-walled-in city of Seattle. Yeah. Seattle, Washington.
Bear in mind while reading that this is pretty solidly a YA book (I don't know why they just lump all Steampunk books together. It's really annoying when you want to read something a little more... spicy from time to time). It's about a mother's love, a son's determination to find out what happened to his father (which was a twist that took even my Shyamalamadingdong-damaged mind by surprise), and zombie-inducing gas and drugs. Also sky pirates, but that's more the followup book Clementine (which I also own. I should just buy all of the Clockwork Century series, shouldn't I?)
If you want your zombies with a side of family drama and a slice of Steampunk, this is your book.

#2: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, drawings by Stephen Gammell
This book and its sequels gave me nightmares for years. I still get creeped out by the covers. I cannot look at the illustrations for The Thing and Cold as Clay. I can't. When the books were still in my room, I had to cover them up, turn them around, and then put more books in front of them. They freaked me out. They still freak me out. Why were these marketed towards children? Why wouldn't I stop reading them as a kid? These books are the reason I won't look out windows or into mirrors at night. These books are why I fear the dark. These books are why I've never been frightened by another Stephen King book or short story since The Boogyman and that one about the teacher who kills the kids.
This series is fucking awesome.
Torture your offspring with them.
Torture their sprog with them.
Just.... never make me read Cold as Clay again. And bear in mind, I still can't read these almost 20 years later.

#1: October Dark by David Herter
Read this goddamn book.
Buy it.
Read it.
Spread the word.
Holy shit, this book made my Atheist heart beat with religious fervor. And I seem to be the only one as deeply in love with it as I am. That hurts. That hurts a lot.
I was not yet born when this book takes place – the years and days leading up to the premier of Star Wars – but I know the fervor well. I lived through the downfall of the series, after all. I also lived through the fall of stop-motion-animation. This book is about both. And dark magic. And creepy haunted movies that will make you want to watch them. Oh, and a headless automaton which may or may not be a witch-in-waiting. And a dude who just won't die.
And 70s music.
And did I mention it's a love letter to Ray Bradbury?
This book is amazing. I cannot do it justice with my words, only my militant belief that it deserves far broader readership than it has had.
Sadly, the only physical copies are from a limited run of hardcovers. I stumbled upon one of these at my local library a few years ago and devoured it. It's a beautiful book in print. Then I was given a Kindle for Christmas and downloaded the e-book. The e-book is slightly edited (I was deeply frustrated by this, but after reading the Kindle edition, I have to agree that the flow is improved by the minor changes and shuffling). However you can get hold of this book, do it. You probably won't regret it.

This closes out my first Top 10 List of the Falloween Season. Stay Tuned for further entries – for me, Halloween begins on October 31st, but it doesn't end until I run out of candy or until halfway between the 31st and Thanksgiving. That still leaves over 7 days in which to devour your sweets, your books, games, tv, movies, and music.
Go forth and enjoy things!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

G - Game Types Ahoy!

So, at some point, I figured I'd have to explain the different types of games – after all, what if someone stumbled in here without the foggiest notion of what terms like “FPS,” “RPG,” or “Match-Three” meant? Therefore, I am using this post to give an overview of what game-types are what.

Bomb – If you see a game with this tag on it, you can bet that you'll be blowing stuff up. Simple enough, eh?

Bullet Hell – Have you ever played a game where the screen was suddenly 90% projectiles and foes, all screaming towards your ship or character with murderous intent? If so, you've likely played a BULLET HELL SHMUP. I will explain SHMUPS later.

CCG – I hate CCGs. More often than not, these “Collectible Card Games” are just a way for the developers to take your money for nothing but some (usually pretty nice) pixels on the screen, which everyone else who paid a premium for these has also received, making your lv 12 Ultra-Rare Pegasus Knight just about as rare as a Zubat in a cave...

Cell – We're not talking about the Stephen King book here. CELL games are usually based on the life cycle of cellular structures. You are a cell. Swim around, eat things, grow, divide, don't die. That's usually it. These games can get pretty neat, though, and many also fall under the UPGRADE category as well.

Flight – Does what it says on the tin. FLIGHT games are usually something like a flight simulator, or else you're really playing a LAUNCH game with a distance goal.

FPS – Call of Duty. No, seriously – any game in the first-person perspective which has you running around and shooting things (usually brown people or aliens) is a FPS, or First-Person Shooter.

Hybrid Input – HYBRID INPUT games use both mouse and keyboard controlls.

Idle – IDLE games are great for those times when you don't really want to devote a ton of attention to a game. IDLE games play themselves, for the most part, with you only clicking a few boxes now and then to take care of your character, tree, or other goal/McGuffin. These games can get tedious after a few hours, but they're fun for the most part.

Keyboard Only – Okay, I'm cheating here and a little further down, since this and MOUSE ONLY are actually input options. There are games which can only be controlled via keyboard. These are some of those.

Launch – Ah, LAUNCH games. Press a button, hold a key, or do something else the game asks you to do to send your character careening across the screen for massive distance, damage, or other delights. I love LAUNCH titles. They can be great stress relievers.

Match-Three – Ever played Bejeweled? That's a MATCH-THREE. For those who missed the 00s, a MATCH-THREE is a game requiring you to make rows/groups of three similar items or tiles vanish. Usually, these tiles are gemstones. These games come Timed and Untimed, but it's surprisingly unlikely that any two will be exactly identical.

Metroidvania – A mashup of the titles of both Metroid and Castlevania, METROIDVANIA games evoke the devilish difficulty of both of these sainted games. METROIDVANIA games are not at all for the faint of heart or slow of reflex.

MMO – ChaosD1 would do a better job of explaining an MMO than I would, I'm sure, but to put it simply, the term MMO just means “Massively Multiplayer Online”. World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online are MMOs.

Mouse Only – Here's my other cheat. MOUSE ONLY games can only be played with a mouse or touch pad, stick, etc. Basically, they're not KEYBOARD ONLY or HYBRID INPUT games.

One-Button – Another easy one: ONE-BUTTON games only use, you guessed it, one button to play. Sounds boring, no? It isn't always the case.

Physics – Ah, PHYSICS games. Most LAUNCH games are also PHYSICS games, at their core, but not all PHYSICS game are launch games. PHYSICS games use the laws of physics to guide gameplay, such as gravity, friction, and inertia.

Pixel – The Retro-styling of PIXEL games makes them look like exceptionally high-quality NES (Nintendo), SNES (Super Nintendo), or Sega Genesis games from the 90s. These games come in all genre – Roleplaying Adventures, Shooters, etc. Some are even horror stories in game form.

Platformer – Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, and Sonic the Hedgehog were all PLATFORMERS. In these games, your accuracy and reflexes mean the difference between life and death. That jump can kill you!

Puzzle – Do you like solving jigsaws? Have a knack for Sudoku? Then you might like PUZZLE games, which pit your brain against whatever the developers can think of.

Racing – Not all RACING games are created equal. On the one hand, you have Twisted Metal and the really sweet-looking RACING games that come with XBOX or whatever. On the other hand... BIG F'N RIGS! (<insert Cinemassacre video>). Basically, these are games in which you race. Sometimes, they don't work, sometimes they're beautiful and really fun.

Ragdoll – There's a saying: “Some people are like Slinkies. They aren't useful for anything, they're usually tangled up, and they just sit there all the time, but it's fun as hell to watch them fall down the stairs.” With RAGDOLL games, you can do just that. Throw grandma from a train! Drop a stick person down into a pit of spikes! Satisfy your sadistic streak in a safe, sane, and consensual manner (and most won't even charge you!). The RAGDOLL game is one of throwing things around until they don't work anymore. Yes, Goat Simulator 2014 is technically a RAGDOLL.

Roguelike – Way back when (I guess), a game came out called Rogue, which had players dying many, many times. Dying is encouraged in a ROGUELIKE game, even necessary in some! If you don't do well with video games and you don't mind dying often, ROGUELIKE games may be for you.

RPG (ARPG; JRPG/KRPG) – RPGs, or Role-Playing Games, come in as many shapes and flavors as ice cream. I will tell you about three here. The Standard RPG is like Legend of Zelda – you have a quest, you are a character, you do the quest as the character. ARPGs are Action RPGs, which usually involve a faster pace and more mechanical parts than a normal RPG. JRPGs are Japanese RPGs; there are also Korean RPGs, or KRPGs. JRPGs and KRPGs are made in Japan or Korea, and both have their own styles and methods of storytelling which are unique and distinct from each other and other RPGs. If you like questing with your sword and spellbook, RPGs are the way to go.

RTS – I hate RTS games. I'm not good at strategy, and that's what these games are all about. Not your father's strategy game, RTS games are Real-Time Strategy games. RTS games are usually war simulations.

Runner – See Spot. See Spot Run. Run, Spot, Run! RUNNERS are games which are played by having a character run from one point to another (hence the name). There's not a lot more to add here, so...

Sandbox – A SANDBOX game has a very open feel to it. You can run around wherever you want, whenever you want, and you experience the game at your own pace. Usually, SANDBOX games are also open-world (you can explore the whole map at once), but not always.

Seek-and-Find – These games are something like a game of Hide and Seek, but on your computer. You hunt around in digital environments of pretty much any kind and try to find items on a list. So... I-Spy for PC, but with better graphics and more variety.

Shmup – The SHMUP (short for “Shoot 'em Up”) is a game based on accuracy, speed, and usually foul language and Mountain Dew.

Sim – If you have never played “The SIMS”, it's a great game where you are God. You make families or individuals, you build their home, you run their lives. This is only one version of the SIM genre (which is short for Simulation). If it is a game where you become a train engineer or a pilot with a first-person option? SIM. If you're building a society? SIM. If you're learning to cook with a mouse and keyboard? SIM. I love me some SIMS.

Strategy – I am abysmal at STRATEGY games. RISK, Othello, Chess – these are all STRATEGY Games, which include the subgenre of RTS (Real-Time STRATEGY) games. RTS titles have you make all your important, game-breaking decisions as though you were present on the battlefield. I hate STRATEGY games. This is only because I am so bad.

Time Management – Most of the time, if you're running a store in a game, it's a Sim, but some Sims are also TIME MANAGEMENT games. In these games, you have to budget not only your cash, but your time as well. As someone who is often late to things (important things), I find TIME MANAGEMENT titles can actually improve your punctuality and your ability to juggle things like blogging, listening to podcasts, and doing homework. Okay, it never really worked for me, but I can dream, right?

Tower Defense – Another set of games I don't enjoy playing but can see the fun in are TOWER DEFENSE titles. In these games, you have weapons or characters or whatever that you place on the screen near some mode of conveyance (usually roads or rivers). Once everything is in place, enemies wail on you until either you or they are dead. These games can be either very fun or horribly frustrating, and no two are identical. Just your luck.

Turn-Based – Alright, I'll admit that this is really just an add-on to other genre. TURN-BASED games are exactly what they sound like, games based around a turn system, where you make your moves or decisions, then the computer or your opponent do what they're going to do until the game concludes. RPGs often use TURN-BASED systems for combat or conversation. Chances are, if you've played many games, you'll have played at least one TURN-BASED one.

Unity – Boy, I'm just a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater, aren't I? The UNITY game is a game designed specifically for the UNITY player. There are Flash games, which actually most are (since Flash is used for most things on the interwebs), but UNITY games can be used (I think) more easily on Macs, which is a boon to Mac-toting gamers (how do you left-click on a Mac if that's your attack?!). That being said, I've noticed that most UNITY games are also 3D or polygonal (think the Nintendo 64 bit system, if you can). I really have only a very limited understanding of this group, so I'm honestly not sure why it's here. Probably so the entry looks more impressive than it is.

Upgrades – These games are fun, quirky little things. UPGRADE games require you to run through courses or something like that in order to earn currency and purchase, you guessed it, upgrades. There's even an entire series dedicated to the UPGRADE genre, and I highly recommend it. There's something highly rewarding and distinctly completionist about filling in all those stars or dots or what have you.

Virus – These games are unique. Each one is about spread-patterns, be they of paint, blood, or bio-terroristic organisms (such as Zombie Viruses!). I love VIRUS games, especially the “Pandemic” series. Go forth, my readers, and infect the world with your upgraded diseases and agents. Spread the fun (and plague).


So, that concludes this over-lengthy list of different game types. If you feel I've missed one, or if there's a term you don't recognize, feel free to let me know in the comments. A list of games of each type is to follow, once I compile and figure out the links.

Go Enjoy Something!
FC

Saturday, April 19, 2014

G - The Enchanted Cave

G – THE ENCHANTED CAVE

Back in my early days on Deadwhale and Kongregate, I found this game in their RPG/Adventure sections. I almost passed over it, too. I didn't know what I was looking at, being unused to terms like “Rogue-Like”, and the idea of learning a new play-style just for a game I was sure I'd play for 40 minutes while waiting for my shift babysitting the university computer room to end and then forget about forever. I clicked the link and a hideous dark olive-drab colored screen popped up with an adorable little pixel-knight hacking away at an adorable little red pixel-slime to distract from the loading bar. I haven't stopped playing it since, much like Bunni.

One final note – I'm not really happy with how my graded reviews came out, so I'm just not gonna grade this one. Besides: I already gave it a score on Kongregate. See if you can guess by the end how many stars this puppy got.

TITLE: The Enchanted Cave
DEVELOPERS: Dustin Auxier (with music by Alonso Rojas), sponsored by Bored.com
LOCATIONS: Kongregate, Deadwhale, Bored.com, Android, and iOS
DESCRIPTIONS: Dungeon, RPG, Adventure, Fantasy, Rogue-Like
INTERFACE: Keyboard (arrow keys only), mouse (click and drag items)

STORY:
There's not really a story in this game. You are a tiny blue-suited man with a sword. There is a 100 floor dungeon ahead of you and you cannot go backwards. Go forth and slay everything with your trusty blade. There is a twist, however, at the end. I refuse to spoil this for anyone who wants to play it. Just know that when I got to the end and faced the final boss, there was a sudden moment of Dungeon Master's jealousy. I wish I had thought of this idea in some of the games I've run.

ART:
This game was entirely created by one man: Dustin Auxier. I don't know this man. I have only ever seen him in his Kickstarter video for the sequel (funded!). All I know about him is that he is a pixel-art genius. This game has some of the nicest simple pixel-art I've ever seen, and to know that one person apparently did all of the hard work to make this game blows my mind. I've seen games created by professional game companies that looked much, much worse. The backgrounds are usually believable shades of earth tones or aqua-gray that give a sense of depth to the randomly-selected dungeon floors, the enemies look different from one another with only a couple of pallet-swaps (skeletons and bloody bones, wizards and druids, zombies and rotting corpses, etc).

Every single item looks like what it is. The gauntlets look like gauntlets, the boots are boots, and the necklaces look like pendants on chains. I especially appreciate the time it must have taken to make the Eyes (special items acquired throughout the game) each look different. All in all, I love the art and think that Mr. Auxier did a fan-freaking-tastic job.

MUSIC:
I don't know who Alonso Rojas is, really. I can't find much about him, so unless he's a DJ or a football player, I don't know who he is. All I can tell you is this: he's talented. Like whoa. From the first keened notes of what sounds like a synthesized oboe and clarinets backed by an electric orchestra, you can feel the adventure and mystery in the soundtrack for this game (downloadable at http://dustinauxier.com/download-music). It's simple, enjoyable, and it doesn't get too grating when it loops. It's just long enough that every loop doesn't sink into the last as it plays over and over. And every piece will replay. A lot. There are only a few tracks – the one for outside the cave, the one for the shops, and one every couple dozen levels (floors 40+ remind me of the first Star Trek episode with Khan). Whenever the background changes, the music changes, and the last level has its own theme, if I remember correctly. Also: Dig the shit outta his use of creative percussion.

GAMEPLAY:
You move by pressing the arrow keys (or WASD), and you equip, sell, or use items and spells by clicking and dragging items around. This can be annoying on a touchpad. Enemies are fought by running into them, which engages your character in inescapable combat. Make sure to use potions and healing spells, which are found in chests. Potions and Ether can be purchased every ten levels in the stores, which also sell weapons, armor, and other equipment. You can sell things you've found there, too.

Regular items and spells are found in red chests, gold is found in sacks, and golden chests contain relics or legendary items which are more powerful than other items. Escape Wings, which act like an Escape Rope in Pokémon, are also found in red chests, but only after level 5. Occasionally, instead of a bag of coins or a chest of either color, a gem will appear. These gems will permanently raise the stats of your character – red for health, orange for attack, dark blue for defense, light blue for intellect, and white for agility (I'm not sure about the last two, I may have that reversed).

That's about all there is to gameplay, really. Simple, simple game.

DIFFICULTY:
Nonexistant. The trick is paying attention to your HP as you ram full-speed into enemies and auto-combat them. There are health and mana potions to buy or find, and as soon as you beat the game once, it becomes ridiculously easy. You can one-hit-kill most enemies up until about the 70th floor, and then you run a real risk of dying in floors 80+.

LENGTH:
Depending on your luck and dedication, this may not be a very long game for you. There are 100 randomly selected floors, each stocked with random monsters, chests, and coin bags in specific places. Sometimes it takes longer because there are more of a specific type of enemy or you're just having bad items come out of the chests. That being said, you still have to walk through 100 different dungeons before the end (well, 89 or so when you subtract the stores). It can take anywhere from 1 hour to 100 hours to complete this game.

REPLAYABILITY:
Super-high. As you delve into levels again and again, the game gives you different items. You keep your relics – high-powered weapons and items that are only found in golden chests – every time you use the “Escape Wings” to leave the dungeon. All non-relics are lost forever. Some goals for after you've beaten the 100th floor, is to have all the achievements (viewable in the title screen by clicking on the chalice on the rocks), all of the gold-chest items, and to be able to take down the final boss in a single hit. I have only achieved one of these goals. I'm working on the last two.

SEQUEL!
There is a sequel in the works for The Enchanted Cave, and it's something special. Instead of just being a 100 floor dungeon that you just sort of appear in, there's an actual story, there's a town, and there's a crafting system! Just as exciting as the obvious and amazing leap in Mr. Auxier's spriting (or pixel art) skills is the news regarding a new composer. As amazing as Alonso Rojas is, the idea that Grant Kirkhope (BAFTA nominated composer of Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, and Donkey Kong 64, among many others) will be composing the music sends me into swirls of joy and aural ecstasy. Seriously – This guy is freaking amazing, and the idea that I'll be getting the album (I was a backer on the Kickstarter), is exciting. Auxier himself has a blog at http://dustinauxier.com/

I can't wait to see what else this awesome fellow comes up with.

That's all I have to say on this matter, so go enjoy something!

– FC





The Enchanted Cave is (c) Dustin Auxier. Play it here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/DustinAux/the-enchanted-cave

Seriously!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

W - Wrestlemania 30! (SPOILERS)

WRESTLEMANIA 30 SPOILERS:

I know, you're expecting a game review, but this is important to me. If you're not into pro-wrestling, wait for my upcoming Enchanted Cave review. Also: TONS of F-bombs here. Enjoy?

***

I got so freaking sick of the storyline leading to the HHH vs Bryan match that I was utterly cynical about the whole Mania, leading to much amusement from the Thai-Bringer. I am pleased to announce that the cynicism appears to have been largely unfounded.

The opening notes of the Mania, despite being tainted by more shitty Kid Rock music, were amazing. Hulk Hogan coming out to some interest, his lemon yellow and wild-cherry red boa concealing his sagging, sun-afflicted skin was... uninspiring, really, but then a miracle: shattering glass and crunchy guitars - The Texas Rattlesnake himself! STONE COLD! MA GAWD! And then!!! FINALLY, THE ROCK HAS COME BACK! I was well pleased.

While I was surprised by the Streak breaking, it seemed to break the Thai-Bringer's brain - he had a "does not compute" look on his face for a good 20 seconds. Still, it's truly the end of an era - Paul Bearer is gone, Kane is unmasked, and Undertaker is no longer undefeated. It was an amazing moment to be a part of. The match itself? Kinda... bad, really. I am anything but a Lesnar fan, so... watching him land so many weird-looking (read “visibly botched, even to an amateur viewer like me”) suplexes on Undertaker's hip and side, which I know are fucked beyond belief, was not fun. At all. Taker was surprisingly good, considering that he debuted around the time I was born. Christ. What a career!

As for the rest of the card? The Andre Invitational had to end with a Giant vs Giant-Killer finish. The Divas match was... really hard to watch. I despise the fake-looking belt, the boring, poorly-trained "Divas" (with notable exceptions being Natalya, Emma, and of course, the incomparable AJ Lee), and the fact that there aren't enough real challengers to Lee or Natalya or Emma to make any match really tough to call/enjoyable to watch. Can we please get Aksana out of the damn ring before she causes a fatality?

Divas rant concluded, I still think that the Kofi spot was one of my favorite moments of the Andre Invitational. And that the Slam City Promo is one of my favorite things ever (Hacksaw vs Slaughter, Steamboat, and the Million Dollar Man himself!).

Cena vs Wyatt kept me guessing. Cena had energy, which was a shock to someone like me, who has only seen Captain Thuganomics in gassy, chest-heaving "action" (with few exceptions). Tonight, he was on fire. Not literally, that would have ended the match much earlier. Instead, he and Bray Wyatt had an absolutely riveting match that I think will stick in my mind. I never, ever thought I could say that about a match featuring John Cena.

HHH vs Bryan - oh my fuck. I was half-convinced that HHH would make WM 30 his comeback. He'd fuck Bryan out of the belt and the headlines tomorrow would read "75'000 Indicted on Murder Charge as Wrestlemania Crowd Storms Ring in Protest". Instead, we got a match where Bryan carries an exhausted HHH to a finish that is quickly muddled with bitchy, whiny HHH and screechy, whiny Steph (both of whom I despise as characters, as I'm supposed to, but it's still “Shut Up and Go Home” Heat, as the Thai-Bringer would say) attacking Bryan. Fuck you guys, you've already done this and it was stupid and predictable on RAW. At Wrestlemania, it just makes me question whether you have a fucking death wish.

(EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to mention the triumphant return of Bootleg Conan HHH!  Holy fuck was I shocked to see that elaborate throne, complete with scantily clad women and skull-crown!  I was simultaneously awed and appalled by this - it seemed to me to be a harbinger of HHH's return to the ring.  Never have I been happier to be wrong.  Now, if only he came out to belly-dancers and pyro every time he got up to make a speech on RAW...)

The main event had me gritting my teeth long before I even knew I'd be watching Wrestlemania. I don't care about Batista. He is, in my opinion, an unenjoyable performer. Outside the ring? Oh, I love him. He's hilarious, and he was made to be a Heel. Orton is a wrestler I have issues with. He's often put up against people who can't or won't work with him, he's made to seem weak or cowardly at every opportunity, spending much of this year's storyline basically being HHH's pet. Also, I hate that he continues the horrific trend of NOT WEARING PANTS. Put some pants on, wrestlers. You look like morons in your undies. Yes, even you, Daniel Bryan. Even you.

My fuck, the sheer volume and energy of the crowd for everything relating to Daniel Bryan carried much of that main event. As I've said, I don't like Batista as a wrestler at all, and when he's “working” with Orton? Snore. Adding in Daniel Bryan was the only way WWE could have saved that match from becoming a piss-break match. When the GOAT (one of Bryan's nicknames) came into the ring, still exhausted and injured from his bout with HHH, I could tell the match would be bloody. And it was. By accident.

I'm just gonna say this: Monitors, guys. Fucking monitors. Ouch.

So, I'm gonna say that the end, with Daniel Bryan finally coming out on top, victorious and beaming and overcome with emotion while the air fills with confetti and smoke and pyro and the deafening “YES! YES! YES!” of 75'000+ people in the New Orleans Superdome? That's gonna stay with me forever.

YES! YES! YES! YES!  YES!  YES!  YES!  YES! YES! YES! YES!  YES!  YES!  YES!  YES!  YES!  YES!  YES!