Donkey Kong Country Returned

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country was a pretty big deal when it came out. I’m not going to go into boring specifics, but needless to say I ended up loving it. Over the years since the hype has died it seems that most of the gaming community (especially the enthusiastic press) don’t really have any true feelings of love for the series. While it’s true that DKC never truly broke any new ground in the area of game design, that doesn’t mean what it was doing was bad. I personally love the feel of playing one of the DKC games because they really do have fantastic spot on control. There’s something about being able to blitz through a stage flawlessly and having absolute control over every single jump. It’s just fine platforming, I don’t care what anyone says. Don’t even get me started on DKC2, which I’m willing to say is pretty much a masterpiece.

So now you know my love for the series. Donkey Kong Country Returns, coming from the fine folks over at Retro (the dudes that also revived the shit out of Metroid with Metroid Prime) have managed to bring the series back to its roots, yet make enough minor changes to the formula to give it its own identity. This isn’t Donkey Kong Country 4, it’s more of a reboot of the series which forgets creepy characters like Candy Kong, ignores Rare’s Donkey Kong “cannon” (in that Cranky Kong is alive, would you believe he was actually killed in a game? It doesn’t get much worse than that) and boils everything down to its basics. This is all for the better of course, because the moment you start introducing over arching story lines and awful characters (though I do like Dixie) in games like this things just get ridiculous.

Anyway the big thing here is that the speed of the game has completely changed, or at least at first glance. With a camera that’s more pulled back than the original games, and a more weighty and realistic Donkey Kong, Returns comes off by feeling slower than its predecessors. That isn’t a knock, it’s just that the speed has been toned down as a whole, meaning unexperienced players won’t be running and jumping like Mario does New SMB. That said, experienced players will be able to use DK’s move set to propel themselves through stages in the blink of an eye. Rolling and jumping onto enemies help DK find new momentum and will send him flying through stages. In fact there’s actually an entire portion of the game devoted to speed runs. So while it may initially feel like a slower paced game, it can easily be played at a much faster clip. It goes to show the range of the game where players can approach it with caution, or go through stages methodically to find all the hidden trinkets, or master the art of using every enemy and object to their advantage. Nothing is put into a stage without thought, it all has a reason for being there. The game encourages all these different play styles and rewards them accordingly. Needless to say, players will be playing through the stages multiple times, but always coming at it from a different angle.

Donkey Kong controls nearly identical to how he does in the previous games, though oddly enough Retro has turned what was essentially a two button game into a three button game (counting the waggle as a button). While the roll used to be assigned to the run/action button in the original games, it is now performed by shaking the remote. The game still has an action button, but it’s mainly just used to grab objects. Considering there is no longer a run button, this button feels slightly under used as rolling is what players will be doing the most. At first I tried to play the game with the sideways remote as I kind of refuse to play platformers with an analog stick, but it’s much harder to roll when needed holding the remote this way. Because rolling is such an integral part of the game, I made the switch to the remote/nunchuck combination. I can say that this was likely the method of control the game was designed around. DK has analog controlled walking (that’s why there’s no run button) and pounding and shaking the remote in this way is much easier. For people that want to master the game, this is the way to play.

That said, I wish rolling had a button assigned to it. I died countless times from the remote not picking up on the fact that I’m shaking on it. I’m generally cool with motion control, but in a game like this it’s almost essential to have something as important as DK’s roll assigned to a button. I think it’s satisfying to pound the ground by shaking, but the other actions don’t call for it. I’d say this is a large misstep on Retro’s part, but the truth is that it’s not a game breaker. Watching crazy gold medal speed runs on YouTube prove players are completely capable of kicking ass with the control the way it is. Just expect a few hiccups here and there.

I’m currently more than 90% through the game. I have completed the main quest and now spending my time finding all of the hidden trinkets and eventually going to man up and try out the speed run challenges. I know there is even more stuff beyond just that, and I’m loving the fact there are still several stages I haven’t even played yet. The game just manages to keep on giving, and I’ve easily put on around 20 hours of game time with no sign of me slowing down any time soon. It’s kind of ashame, because I’d really like to go back and finish collecting items in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, play some more Super Meat Boy, or finally wrap up my brothers copy of Dead Space Extraction, but I’m pretty much hooked on this one for the time being and have been playing it exclusively.

So if you have a passing interest in platforming games or have any feelings in your heart about the original DKC, you’d probably do well to check this one out. It’s pretty fantastic.

Just be prepared to die… a lot.

‘Jacquo’s Carol’ Returns to the Episodes Page

Decided maybe I should get this episode up early this month instead of waiting until the day before Christmas. We have some company over so it gave me enough time to run into the Shamoozal Dungeon and render out a new version of this short for YouTube.

Jacquo’s Carol was the first thing on Shamoozal to ever go semi-viral (I don’t believe we ever produced anything truly worthy of being called viral before, though we’ve come close a few times). I remember checking some statistics out on Christmas Eve of ’05 and finding that this video got absolutely hammered. Well over 20k in a night, which was a huge deal then (and to be honest, it would still kind of be a huge deal to me with any other projects we do) all thanks to a link on the site Milkandcookies.com. I felt pretty good about it because a week or so earlier I uploaded it to Newgrounds without much fanfare, certainly not the numbers ‘Black Friday Blues’ pulled anyway. It was probably the best Christmas gift I could have received that year.

Tonight is the first time I’ve watched this in ages. Like everything else I created from those days, I think it’s pretty ugly… but you know, I still find some charm in there. I like Joe’s music, and despite my terrible lyrics, I think there are a handful of decent laughs in there. I still like the idea of Jacquo eating boxes, stealing Santa’s sleigh, and of course Loose Leaves detachable leg and rotating teeth (later to be seen in ‘The Last Copy‘). I had never written a song before and know zero about music, but Joe did his best to show me what he felt would work and how it should be sung. It was a really challenging project, and considering I busted out the actual animation in about three or four days (with Frank doing about two shots himself), I had my work cut out for me.

So I guess I like this one, faults and all.

I used to love the Masters of the Universe film

Masters of the Universe is an absolutely awful movie, but like most awful movies in of it’s ilk I can’t help but watch it whenever it’s on. It goes into that strange Batman & Robin territory of ‘so bad it’s good’. The truth of the matter though is that I used to think this movie was incredible.

Growing up, I wasn’t really into He-Man much. Sure I watched the cartoon quite often, but I never loved He-Man like I did Ghost Busters and Ninja Turtles. When the live action film hit video (I didn’t see it in theaters, though I remember wanting to) I loved it. I remember being so glad there was no crappy Prince Adam to deal with, and to this day that’s one of the film’s biggest strengths. Face it, Prince Adam is the worst. When you’re watching He-Man all you want to do is see He-Man fighting people. You don’t want to have to deal with Prince Adam. So it was a wise choice to cut out Prince Adam from this movie. I guess it would be kind of like making a Spiderman movie where Spiderman is never Peter Parker, but I suppose that would be kind of awesome too.

Despite this being a plus, the filmmakers manage to replace Prince Adam with something worse, two stupid teenagers. This essentially gives the audience two Prince Adams to deal with. It’s one of those movies that is ashamed of the fact that it’s dealing with a licensed kids property and masks it behind the guise of regular humans in a cheap and easy effort to make the audience connect with their story. This is very similar to the approach Michael Bay takes with his Transformers movies, where despite being called Transformers, is really about Sam and his relationship. In this case, He-Man isn’t really about He-Man. It’s about Courteney Cox and her boyfriend, and Courteney’s journey to fixing time so her parents don’t die. He-Man, much like the Transformers, is only used as a way to tell that story. Going back to Spiderman again, it would be like making a Spiderman film where some made up character is the main character, and Spiderman is only around to set things in motion and fight bag guys for that person. Come to think of it, I guess if they made a film about Spiderman in which there was no Peter Parker, it would probably be exactly like that.

Aside from that, I used loved everything else too. It’s amazing what the simple child brain sees as awesome. Watching this movie now it’s obvious everything is a giant piece of shit ready to fall apart. The fight scenes are terrible too. The final battle between He-Man and Skeletor is one of the slowest sword fights ever filmed. I personally love the giant flood light behind them that changes colors while they fight. To its credit, some of the effects work holds up pretty well. There are a few sequences with ships flying around (including He-Man on a hover board) that despite looking cheesy, at least have decent matte jobs. So that’s something.

The over the top music is kind of great too. I always wonder how a composer feels scoring films like this. He had to know he was scoring a giant pile of shit, you have to wonder if the guy brought his A game or not.

This movie was supposed to get a sequel, and the same studio was actually working on, get this, a Spiderman film around the same time. Turns out their money issues made it so that both Mattel and Marvel bailed on them, leaving both films on the cutting room floor. In an effort to use materials, sets and props already created for the two movies they created the film “Cyborg” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. I really want to watch that now because I’m sure it’s incredible.

Anyway, if you want to see some shitty film making, please watch Masters of the Universe. It’s awesome.

Victory.

Movie Info of the Week (Nov 29 – Dec 3 2010)

My DVD/Blu-Ray Pick
Knight & Day

Knight & Day – there really wasn’t anything great to pick this week for DVD and Blu-Ray. I chose this one because it was a pleasant surprise when I saw it over the summer. I had no desire to see it at all but on a boring, rainy day down the shore it was the only thing playing at a decent time. I actually laughed a lot more than I thought I would. Tom Cruise was pretty damn good in it. Its an action comedy so you get all the car chases and shoot outs but with some laughs. Its not a great movie by any means but it was enjoyable as a summer popcorn action flick.

My Theater Pick
Black Swan

Black Swan – this is only going to be a limited release this Friday but its the movie I am most looking forward to out of anything else hitting the theater this weekend. Darren Aronofsky made films like Pi, The Fountain and The Wrestler. But his movie that is one of my favorites of all time is Requiem For A Dream. He’s a very unique director and always taking on projects to challenge himself. He actually just signed on to direct the next Wolverine movie which is a very odd choice for him. But I instantly got excited about that movie after he became a part of it. Anyway, Black Swan is a trippy, weird looking movie about battling ballet stars played by Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman. That might sound like garbage but go watch the trailer. Its a total creepfest. And I’d be lying if I said the hardcore make out scene between the 2 chicks didn’t get me excited too.

Box Office Results
Harry Potter

I guess I’m not really surprised that Deathly Hallows took the #1 spot again. I am surprised that Tangled nearly beat it. Disney is still a money making machine. Since nothing really huge comes out this weekend, I guess it will be another battle between Harry and Tangled. I wonder if all the people who saw Harry this past weekend will go see Tangled now instead? They don’t really have the same demographic but we’ll see.

Also coming out in stores this week is Nicolas Cage in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the vampire spoof film Vampires Suck.

Also hitting theaters this Friday is the fantasy action film The Warrior’s Way starring South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun along with Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston and many more.

‘Black Friday Blues’ added to Episodes page

Slowly getting that old content back onto the site. Just in time for Black Friday, I once again present Black Friday Blues.

Like most of our older stuff, I’m not exactly pleased with how this short has aged. I still think it has some decent enough gags (more so than Candy Corns at least) but it does lack direction. It just kind of happens and then that’s it. I won’t lie, originally it was planned that Grey would make it to work and be completely bombarded with customers, but I saw how much time I had to work on it and knew that wasn’t going to happen. From there I just decided that maybe it would be best if Grey didn’t make it to work. After releasing it, I had the intention of making a “Black Friday Blues: Part 2″ where we would see Grey at work, but well, you know how it goes. Anyway, happy shopping tomorrow you suckers.

I’m Thankful for My Car

Thanksgiving with the Mitchells

Thanksgiving with the Mitchells

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so I figured it would be a nice time to thank you people that frequent this site, hang out on our boards, or simply enjoy the work we do around here. So thank you for being there and supporting us! I’d say something like I couldn’t be here without you, but… well I’d probably still be here regardless of you. I’m not really anywhere, and I just do this shit for fun. Sorry guy.

On a personal note, tomorrow will be the first time my wife and I celebrate Thanksgiving at our home. We usually go to either my parents place or her parents, but this year I decided to stay in since the babies are still young yet. I’ll most likely have baby duty while Dem makes tons of delicious food (though I’m not looking forward to cleaning it all up). All I know is that I can’t wait to stuff my face. Is it wrong to just want to do nothing but eat and eat and eat? I’ll most likely want to throw up all over myself by the time I’m done, but it’ll be worth it.

As we have family coming over, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some time and escape into the now dusty Shamoozal dungeon where I can render out a version of Black Friday Blues for YouTube. Last time I was down there it was littered with beer bottles and unfolded laundry. I really need to get back into my space… I’m counting down the days to when the babies will go to sleep early and be on a set schedule. Maybe then I’ll finally be able to get back to work. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

On a completely unrelated subject, I saw a commercial on TV last night about how Walmart will be open tomorrow. I love how Thanksgiving not only gets passed over between Halloween and Christmas, but that now it’s just become another Christmas shopping day. Unbelievable. I feel sorry for everyone that works at Walmart and has to go to work instead of being able to stay home with their family. Walmart really is the worst. I don’t know why anyone would even go to Walmart (or any store really) on Black Friday these days. Sales at places like Amazon and Newegg blow away all that crap. Why would anyone want to face such ugly crowds? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Anyway, yeah, can’t wait to eat turkey, play lots of Donkey Kong Country, and uhhh rake leaves. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Voldemort’s Fingers

Voldemort's Fingers

Voldemort's Fingers

I was going to write up a small review about Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1, but instead I’d rather focus on something that’s been bothering me since Goblet of Fire. Voldemort’s Fingers.

I can’t stand looking at Voldemort’s worthless fingers. Does it drive anyone else absolutely insane that he can’t bend his fingers? It’s so unnatural looking that almost every time I see him I concentrate on nothing but his hands. I understand that he’s most likely been fitted with some sort of prosthetics in order to make his fingers look longer, yet I don’t see the benefit of his longer fingers. I was really looking at them during Deathly Hallows and his fingers don’t seem that much longer than they already are. They might be longer, yet they don’t appear to be longer. I suppose he has crazy finger nails, but couldn’t something like that have been fitted on the top of his finger, or at least something fitted towards the middle of the finger so he could still bend that part? As it is, he can barely bend the base of his fingers. It drives me bonkers. Look at the way he introduces himself to Dumbledore in the below clip (around 1:37).

Considering his fake hands don’t bend, and it’s obvious as hell, it has also wormed it’s way into figures of Voldemort because they’re trying to be as accurate to the movie as they can. So in essence, these figures are capturing this major flaw in that Voldemort CAN’T move his fingers. So now it has gone beyond being a technical limit to just being something that Voldemort can’t do. No wonder Voldemort wants to destroy the entire wizarding world, he can’t even pick up some loose change if he wanted to.

That said, Voldemort needs to be in a suit more often. He looks dashing. Much nicer than the robes he’s been in for most of his screen time.

And now you’ll never be able to unsee Voldemort’s fingers.

Movie Info of the Week (Nov 22-26 2010)

My DVD/Blu-Ray Pick
Expendables

The ExpendablesSylvester Stallone did something special for his latest film. He brought together action stars of today and yesterday to make a ridiculous ensemble cast. Names like Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and cameos from Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke and plenty more. Its an old school action lovers’ dream. Sly Stallone knows how to cater to his fans and I hope he continues to make films his own way. Even though I wish this movie could have been more than what it was, its still a decent action flick and I’ll continue supporting the man who brought us Rambo and Rocky.

My Theater Pick
Faster

FasterThe Rock stopped being The Rock and started making family friendly films a few years ago. He was bashed by his professional wrestling fans and action movie fans in general. He was being looked at as a possible new age Arnold Schwarzenegger with cool action flicks like The Rundown and Walking Tall. But he didn’t want to be typecast into the macho action guy. He became Dwayne Johnson, the actor. But now it looks like he’s reaching back to his badass roots for an R rated, violent, shoot ‘em up type movie. Hopefully this sparks something in his brain and makes him realize he’s meant to do these kinds of flicks.

Box Office Results
Harry Potter

Its no surprise that Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 tore shit up at the box office. Since its the beginning of the end, people are very interested in the conclusion of their time with Harry and the gang. It was the biggest opening ever for a Potter film with over $125 Million over the weekend. That is just insane. It didn’t even have the 3D price hike which Part 2 will definitely have. I can’t even imagine what this means for the big finale coming in July.

Also coming out in stores this week is the Julia Roberts sapfest Eat Pray Love and the fake documentary from Joaquin Phoenix called I’m Still Here.

Also hitting theaters this Wednesday for the holiday is Love & Other Drugs starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a viagara salesman who meets Anne Hathaway and sparks up a relationship. Also Disney‘s newest animated flick based on the classic Rapunzel tale, Tangled, with voices by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. Also the musical Burlesque starring Christina Aguilera and Cher.