Taxes

•April 17, 2007 • 1 Comment

I don’t have to say much here as you all know what I’m talking about…but MAAAAN did taxes take me out of the game for a few days.  Apologies on the disappearance.  Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to get something of substance up…but until then…keep it real and don’t let the taxman get you down!

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Super Paper Mario, Super Indeed!

•April 12, 2007 • 3 Comments

Finally shrugging off the nasty withdrawal symptoms that God of War II left me with, I decided to sink my teeth into a new title…see where it leads. I originally had pre-ordered Prince of Persia (Wii), but after some friendly advice, I decided to let that go and picked up Super Paper Mario.

Quick background — Paper Mario was a title originally created for the Gamecube (last console prior to the Wii) as an RPG (role playing game) creation utilizing the beloved characters of Super Mario Brothers. An interesting concept enjoyd by a plethora of gamers.  Now back to the show. The developers at Intelligent Systems, a division of Nintendo, decided to concoct a delicious elixir…with a dash of Paper Mario and a pinch of Super Mario Brothers.  What they ended up with after a quick spin in the game generator was Super Paper Mario…a game where the old school Super Mario Brothers fun meets Paper Mario’s RPG characteristics half-way.

Some interesting tidbits about the game:

– It maintained (generally) the look of Paper Mario (featured above), while providing a decent amount of quality artwork to remind us of why we love these italian plumbers so much.

– Side-scroll lovers unite! Super Paper Mario features the traditional 2-D gameplay, but with a twist. Only minutes into the game, Mario inherits a power to allow him to switch between the usual 2-D world and the 3-D world. In this 3-D world (which is accessed by a simply click of the A button), hidden items, passage-ways, doors, characters and other goodies are tucked away. It also allows you to easily evade enemies (such as those block things with a mean faces) and find alternate routes around impassable obstacles. As they advise you in the game, “When in doubt, flip.” This is a brilliant and fun addition to the game. Check it out!

– Instead of having to plug in one of the “classic controllers” sold separately, Super Paper Mario employs the sideways use of wiimote (demonstrated by that classy fella pictured below…nice hair, Hansel). It feels awkward at first, but you then realize that Nintendo simply discovered a way for gamers to use the wiimote in a traditional Nintendo controller way.

– Can a brotha have an item inventory please?? In typical RPG fashion, Super Paper Mario presents gamers with the ability to collect and use items. There is a limit to how much can be held in the inventory, but it’s a useful addition. Unfortunately, it does eliminate the old favorites, such as the fireball flower (which now comes in a one time only “spell”) and mushrooms (which now comes in a “shroom shake” and adds hit points). I’m willing to make the sacrifice, though.

Anyway, the gameplay is unique…plain and simple. It’s a great combination that I didn’t expect when I picked it up. I’ll keep at it and provide a summary once I complete it…but consider this my “first impressions”…and consider me impressed.

Check out this GameTrailers video and see some of the 2-D/3-D effects used in Super Paper Mario…it’s NIIICE!

Fare thee well…

Goodnight, Mr. Vonnegut.

•April 11, 2007 • 3 Comments

For the first time, the black color that shrouds my blog layout will serve more than a simple, aesthetic purpose. Tonight I dedicate this entry to the passing, and more importantly, the life of Kurt Vonnegut – my favorite author.

 

I hope that early tomorrow morning I wake up and find something jovial to write about as I don’t want this somber post to be the greeting to ExitEastCoast newcomers. In fact, I’d think Mr. Vonnegut would want me to make a simple, but appropriate tribute to him…then move on. So be it, sir.

I won’t take up too much time with Mr. Vonnegut’s bio, you can take a look for yourself here, in the Indianapolis Star who published an article on his passing. I felt the Indianapolis Star was appropriate because he is an Indy native and truly loved, in only the satirical yet genuine way Vonnegut could, being a Hoosier.

Do know that Mr. Vonnegut is a true American artist. He inspired many, including me. His writing was so unique, that he quickly became my favorite author. I don’t see that honor being reallocated any time soon. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Mr. Vonnegut’s work, I implore you to do so. It’s all wonderful in its own way.  Also, you should know that he served his country during World War II, when he fought and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. He was present for and witnessed the bombings of Dresden on which he based his book, Slaughterhouse Five.

During my recent and most memorable vacation (where I formally proposed to my fiancee), I read Mr. Vonnegut’s final book, A Man Without a Country. It was typical Vonnegut. It was almost as if he just wanted to talk to someone, speak his mind…and was generous enough to share those thoughts with hundreds of thousnads of people.

One portion of the book brought a smile to my face. I remember vividly sitting on the beach in Maui, my feet desperately digging into the sand to escape sunburn and the smell of the sea igniting my olfactory senses. What a great day it was…and why not make it better with a little Vonnegut? I read as the master went to work, describing his childhood, thoughts on society and religion in the always satirical and intellectual Vonnegut way.

One segment of my reading that day struck me. It was at the bottom of page 66. Mr. Vonnegut had just finished explaining his take on the beauty of music. When I read it (being a music lover myself), I smiled. I want to share it with you all in the hopes that you smile too.

“No matter how corrupt, greedy and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.”

Farewell, Mr. Vonnegut. Thank you for everything.

Not Wright for the Giants!

•April 10, 2007 • 2 Comments

My friends over at MVN (G101) are providing, as usual, their quality New York Giants news and updates.   A few days ago as well as today, they are reporting about the G-men’s front office still in search of a back-up QB.

At first I was under the impression that they were seeking a veteran QB that could help mentor Eli Manning (who has struggled as of recently) and help foster his growth as he leads big blue onto the field for his 4th year.  This doesn’t mean we need to sign a stud QB…simply one who knows the game well and can step in “if needed.”

(Yes, it does actually pain me to put an eagles picture on my blog)

My first thought when they embarked on this search was a no-brainer…Jeff Garcia.  This guy came on board in Philly last year and delivered.  He played in 8 games, starting 6.  During his 1-year tenure with the birds (again, in essentially 6 games), he threw for 1300 yards, 10 TDs and only 2 INTs.  Moreover, he held down an impressive passer rating of 95.8.  This guy obviously still has the talent to get the job done and can certainly teach a thing or two to the young grasshopper, Eli.  Too bad, he was signed by Tampa Bay.

Now we’re looking into some more interesting options (note: we never did look into Garcia, that was my own wish).  According to MVN, we checked out Jay Fiedler on or around April 5th.  Nothing was heard afterwards, so I assumed he had been dismissed and simply didn’t make the Jerry Reese 300-Point inspection.

Now we have reports that:

“According to Adam Schefter of NFL Network, the Giants are scheduled to meet with former Bengals and Ravens Quarterback, Anthony Wright.”

I actually liked Anthony Wright when he was on the Ravens.  I have a close friend who’s a Raven’s fan and I always said that I thought he was better than Boller (who wants to argue that???).  He’s elusive, has an arm and is quick on his feet…but he’s no primo starter.  I simply do not believe he’d be a worthwhile back-up to look at.  In two of his years with the Ravens, he threw for over 1,000 yards while only hitting 6 and 9 touchdown completions (in 2003 and 2005, respectively).  He’s not going to be able to offer Eli any real help from a “veteran” standpoint though.  That’s why I see this as a worthless acquisition.

So Wright is not what we need in NYC…and in my humble opinion, neither is Fiedler.  But I do agree we need some old-guard guidance for Eli…aside from the post-game calls to his brother in Indy.  🙂

I will say this though…as far as worthy back-up QBs go…I want to go on record saying that I am more than comfortable with Jared Lorenzen coming in to play if Eli gets hurt.  Big, accurate and fun to watch!  Long live the Pillsbury Throwboy!!

Sopranos and Entourage Go to War for HBO

•April 8, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The heat is on! With many critics, and even yours truly, picking apart HBO for their recent lack of quality programming…the network has been hurting for a pick-me-up. Like a group of rowdy fans on draft day hoping for their team pull something great off, HBO viewers crowded up to their TV sets tonight to watch the first episodes of Sopranos (in its final season) and Entourage (now in its third season)…the last two shows of an otherwise largely decaying dynasty.

HBO used to be a complete juggernaut when it came to innovative and unique TV. With shows like Sopranos, Sex and the City, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, other cable networks trembled at the feet of the great movie channel. Then slowly, these tried and true shows started to reach their half-lives…or in some instances expired altogether. Sex and the City closed its doors a few years ago turning away droves of adoring female viewers. Sopranos, which started SO strongly, began to go soft (yeah I said it) while also taking absurdly long season breaks. Curb (I believe) is still going…which is nice. Entourage is still going strong, but how many of you HATE the fact that she show lasts a mere 22 mins?? Rome who (such potential, but lost its viewers and apparently its marketing budget)? Big Love is also a show that, as creepy as it is, had tremendous potential…but where the hell is it??

MEANWHILE…the focus is coming off of Hollywood. The major networks (ABC, FOX, CBS and NBC) cranked it up a notch and started churning out ridiculously good shows. It’s almost as if HBO simply tried to ride their wave of success just a few seconds too long…and now find themselves facing a nasty slam into shallow water.

However, I’ll give credit where it’s due. I’ve been a Sopranos and Entourage fan since day 1 for both shows. Tonight brought me back to those premieres. Sopranos started uniquely with an interesting lack of character appearances, focusing primarily on an unusual arrest of Tony and some even more unusual family feuds. By the end, I realized that despite a pretty steady decline in the quality of the show, the Sopranos still manages to make me anxious and nervous throughout the entire duration of the show. I sit there chewing apart my fingernails just praying that nothing happens to Tony…but I guess we all know that can’t last.

Entourage is still the 20-something male dream show. I can’t get over how well HBO is able to glamroize the lives of four young guys living together in Hollywood. It never ceases to amaze me…not to mention that it generates unbelievable envy. I stand by the fact that the show’s are simply too short. I used to think that if they were longer, they may lose their appeal. STRIKE THAT! A full hour is necessary. Believe that!

So let’s see what happens. HBO must know what’s on the line here. In seven weeks, the former cable TV giant will formally resign its bread and butter, the Sopranos…and I think there’s no doubt that they’ll be retiring that jersey. Entourage and the rest of the “pretty solid” shows have got to step up…or HBO needs to come together and create something else that will remind its viewers just why its a must-have channel.  All that said…I loved seeing Tony, Carm, Vinny Chase, E, Drama, Bobby, Janice and Turtle hangin out on Sunday nights again. Welcome back!

Power of the People…of Rapture

•April 1, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Isn’t it a funny thing? Every once in a while you’ll walk out of your local grocery store or get a knock on your door on a random Saturday afternoon and someone is standing there with a piece of paper. They give you the 30 second “elevator speech” about what they’re bothering you with (95% of the time it’s worthless) and then ask you to sign a petition. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t, but rarely do you think it’ll actually end up making an impact in any major way.

Not always the case!!! There is game set for release on August 21, 2007 called BioShock. This game is one of the most HIGHLY anticipated Xbox360 titles out there. For months and months, gamers have been on the lookout for anything they can sink their teeth in to with regards to BioShock. Lucky for us, 2k Games has been more than generous with the amount of videos released in the last month or two.

Anyway, I could spend all night writing about how amazing I think BioShock is going to be, but I’ll let you do your own research on that. You can check out some previews here on Gamespot, or here at 1Up…but here is a summary giving a very abstract understanding (bear with me, it’s weird enough to be worth the read):

“In the middle of the north Atlantic, a lighthouse juts out of the water. Inside waits a rusted bathysphere, which takes you deep under the ocean to Rapture, a city sprawling along the sea floor.

A man named Andrew Ryan, a former Soviet citizen, built the city in 1946, and the society was envisioned as the ultimate capitalistic and individualist paradise, with the elite achieving for themselves, rather than for the whole. Protected by a network of giant sea walls and consisting of a cluster of enormous skyscraper-shaped hive towers, Rapture was designed to be entirely self-supporting, with all of its electricity, food production, water purification and defense systems powered by volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean.

At one point Rapture’s population numbered several thousand at its peak during the early 1950s, composed of those people Ryan viewed as the best examples of mankind. A large and tiered economy grew among the people, with different quality products catering to different levels of the society.

The grand Art Deco architecture is at once futuristic and archaic, but as you step into Rapture, you find the city a shell of itself. The walls are crumbling and the ocean is seeping in. The hallways are littered with corpses, those who were once the best and brightest of the world above are now mutated and mad, roaming the corridors and waiting to ambush you at every turn.”

Also feel free to meander around the Cult of Rapture, the official game site…very cool and includes lots of other information. But most importantly, it includes information about one of the coolest petitions I’ve heard about in a long time.

Because of the expansive fan base for BioShock, one gamer saw an opportunity to send a message to the creators of the game. After speaking with some of his peers, he decided to start an online petition, showing just how many fans would buy a Limited Edition version of the game. When the petition was started, it caught the eye of 2k Games representatives. They decided to see how far it would go. To make it a deal, they stated if the petition reached 5,000 signatures, they would make the Limited Edition copy of the game.

By 11:15pm, only a few hours after the inception of the petition, the goal of 5,000 signatures was met. After a mere 18 hours, the number had reached 14,000, and is still climbing. Happily surprised, 2k Games is now soliciting information from their fans to find exactly what they want in their Limited Edition version as they fully intend to keep their word. At this point, I can only imagine what will be included, but I’m sure it’ll certainly please the fans. Now THAT’S what can happen when avid fans and good business people get together.

Fare thee well…

Grand Theft Auto 4…all the “RAGE”?

•March 30, 2007 • 6 Comments

In any video game conversation I find myself in, the topic of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) always comes up. My friends go on and on about how cool it is to run around and play the role of the game’s protagonist, building their gangs and usually throw in a cheat or two to seal the deal with an arsenal to take down the city.

Here’s the thing…I don’t like GTA. After GTA3 (which I enjoyed), I picked up Vice City. Smitten with the inclusion of the voice work of Ray Liotta et al, it was a no brainer that I should be falling for this game all the way to the end. Here’s the other thing…I never finished Vice City. To be even more accurate, I never finished GTA3.

I understand that there’s a novelty to running around a city as a tough guy mobster or gang leader, trying to “rule the underground,” but I’ve found that (and yes, I can’t believe that I’m saying this either), the violence is just too much. If anything, it’s at least all too mindless.

The missions all seemed the same to me with a very limited range in graphics. This is where Vice City let me down; I was all set to see the new and improved areas, weapons and scenarios…and all I got was a semi-cool storyline with fun voice acting. A majority of the time I spent playing it was to do the proverbial “run around the city causing mayhem while trying to reach as many most wanted stars as possible.” Fun, yes…for a few days.

This potpourri of gaming mediocrity, in tandem with the lame senseless violence lead me to keep my cash in my wallet when San Andreas was released. I know a lot of gamers loved the gang angle, but I didn’t. I’m a mobster guy…and even that was barely enough to keep me hanging on. So at that point, GTA was dead to me…and Rockstar Games (the publisher of the game, for you readers unaware) was a tired studio with an overplayed baby.

However, today my buddy pointed out the new trailer for GTA4. At first I mocked him for even attempting to push it on me, but curiosity got the best of me and I took a look. Now I’ve found myself in a pickle. I’ve spent the last two years bad-mouthing Rockstar (save Table Tennis…booyah) and the GTA franchise overall, and then the GTA4 trailer ends up looking……….pretty good.

This brings me to my post title and final point. It’s too far from the release date to make any serious assumptions about this game. With such limited online assets (6 screens and 1 trailer), I can’t feasibly give my opinion with any reasonable substantiation. But…Rockstar’s decision to finally swing these puppies over to the next-gens is going to cause me to do my research. The next gen (PS3 and Xbox360) capabilities along with the new RAGE engine may very well turn out to finally revamp this cliche’ title (in my opinion).

The GTA4 city looks more realistic, complex and full as opposed to the old Liberty City versions where you may turn a corner to find only a lone prostitute awkwardly walking into a street light, then piveting, walking into a wall, piveting, then walking into a streelight…and so on. But again…it’s definitely too early to say.So until then, I’ll keep my eyes on some other upcoming titles (BioShock, anyone?) and see if GTA4 is really only hinging on RAGE…

(Not keeping my fingers crossed though, don’t come crying if I never post about it again)

…fare the well…