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January 31, 2014

The Simpsons Game (DS) (Part 2)

Part 1 can be read here. Please, go read it first if you haven't, or else you won't understand a damn thing in this article. Trust me, it gets REAL weird. In fact, I think I still need to get back into the normal mindset.

Dunno if that'll do the trick, but I guess it'll be just fine.

But if you don't want to read through 2,000 words, here's a short recap: In The Simpsons Game, the family finds out that they're characters in a video game and they all have superpowers. First they use the superpowers to stop regular crimes, until aliens decide to invade Springfield. Bart and Lisa go looking for help inside their own game's circuits, and come back with the strategy guide. They kick some alien ass, but that's not enough to force the aliens to retreat. As a result, the family goes into cyberspace to find a way to cease the invasion.

Told you it was gonna be messed up. Well, it gets even worse this time around. When we left last time, it was in the Bargain Bin, and we were about to save a pixelated version of the Simpson family stuck in a NES cartridge on its way to a furnace.

January 26, 2014

About Justin Carmical

NOTE: This article was originally a tribute published to the blog on January 26th, 2014. However, recent developments and revelations have led to me deciding to remove the tribute section. This article was edited on April 15th, 2018.

In January 23rd, 2014, Justin Carmical committed suicide by self-inflicted gunshot to a temple in a bout of severe depression. When the tragedy happened, many of us who had been watching Channel Awesome were floored. Justin was "the nicest guy" on CA. A symbol of what we should try to become on this Earth. Not a single person making videos for Channel Awesome seemed to have something bad to say about him. I never watched his solo vides, though I saw him frequently in crossovers with other producers, including the Anniversary Movies (Kickassia, Suburban Knights, To Boldly Flee).

Fast forward to March and April 2018. Channel Awesome is in turmoil after multiple producers release a document about horrid business practices held by Channel Awesome. One of the accounts comes from an few Anonymous women who claim a member of the site sexually abused them. These are serious allegations.

A couple days later, on April 12th, Channel Awesome (or its CEO Mike Michaud) released a "response" to the document where they addressed critiques contained in the document and refuted them, without ever giving an apology for their bad behavior. They even held screenshots of chatrooms which, ironically, sometimes only confirmed a lot of producers' complaints. Some screenshots sloppily hid the name of the sexual abuser in the chat logs about him, and made no effort to hide the dates and years those discussions took place. And when I say "sloppily", I do mean "sloppily". Some letters could still be recognized. As a result, it didn't take the most clever of Internet sleuths to realize the abuser was Justin Carmical. He was allegedly taking advantage of conventions to seek victims to abuse.

If you watched the man back when he had his review show, you are probably floored by the news. If you knew him by reputation or through crossovers, you're probably shocked. If you didn't know him, then now you probably don't wish to know more about him.

Many people currently find it difficult to conciliate their memories of Justin and the sad truth of what he has done. And it's perfectly understandable. It's a tough reality to accept. It's never easy to see your positive image of someone crumble and fall after allegations come out. 2018 has really been the year of broken pedestals. I take no joy in writing this. As for the traffic, I consider the message getting out far more important than the views on it. Same goes for my newer articles about the controversy around Channel Awesome. There was some schadenfreude to be had with the company so blatantly avoiding any sort of direct apology, and suffering for it, but any sense of enjoyment stopped after this reveal. We're dealing with an extemely serious topic.

On my end, on the first days after the reveal, I've had a sort of crisis of trust in humanity, an innate fear of each person's darkest secrets and how well-hidden they may be. A fear of even the nicest people I know turning out to be complete assholes behind closed doors, or doing very reprehensible or illegal things as long as they felt they could get away with it.

There is no defending Justin Carmical for what he has done. You can separate the art for the artist, and appreciate the videos he has released. I know I would be incapable of doing so. I am perfectly fine with a man's legacy to be tainted by new revelations years after his passing. This does not invalidate the good years we spent fondly remembering him, but it certainly throws a shade of sadness upon those years.

And, because this has to be repeated: Do NOT attempt to figure out who the victims were. They chose to remain anonymous for a reason. Do not gather information, do not seek them, do not harass them. Coming forward with these allegations has been extremely difficult for them, and their request for privacy must be respected. Do not make it harder for them. Y'know... don't be an asshole, is what I'm getting to.

January 24, 2014

The Simpsons Game (DS) (Part 1)

In the wake of the Simpsons Movie, Matt Groening and the production team behind this cinematographic event were trying to hide the movie's plot so that nobody would discover it before the film's release. That whole dome thing, the family escaping to Alaska, Homer saving the city... I'm sure you all knew about this, right? (If you didn't, well... Oopsie!) Well, the whole plan was to be sure that nobody would know before July 27th, 2007. Hey, I went to watch this film in theaters for my 15th birthday! You can't give any better to a Simpsons fan!

However, I can't help but believe that this extreme secrecy had an effect on all the merchandise that would inevitably come because of the film's popularity. Many movies nowadays have their video game adaptation... with, ahem, “varying” levels of quality. My guess is that, among others, the Simpsons producers didn't want the advertisements for an upcoming video game to contain scenes that are too close to the movie's plot... And thus, we got a story that was unrelated to the film in all regards. Or they wanted to make sure nobody on the staff at Electronic Arts would spill the beans on their ultra-secret plot, so they chose to create a totally unrelated story. Or maybe it's a reason totally unrelated to the Movie. Regardless, what is said story?

The family discovers they're in a video game!

… Oh God.

This is the Simpsons Game, everyone. The DS version. And get ready, because this is gonna be one Hell of a surreal mind screw of a ride.

January 19, 2014

Why Did The Angry Birds Become So Popular?

Hey everyone! For today's Editorial, I thought I'd discuss something that I really like, and I know many others like: Angry Birds!

The little birds appeared for the first time in 2009, in a game for Apple's line of portable products. In less than four years, many versions were created by Rovio Entertainment, from the original series to Angry Birds Seasons to Angry Birds Star Wars, and there's so many I'm missing. These games, which are available for free - although in some cases, you have to pay a bit to buy items that will help you with some levels - have therefore reached a total of about two billion downloads. Picture that, almost one third of all of mankind. The franchise has also grown to include a cartoon series, a line of building toys sold under the K'nex line, little figurines to attach to your phone, and so on.

It was an instant breakout hit, and we gotta wonder why. Yeah, that's a good question. Why did the Angry Birds become so popular?

January 17, 2014

The Simpsons: Road Rage

Well, I haven't had the best of luck with the Game Boy Advance games. Two of the worst games I've reviewed were for the GBA: Mario Pinball Land and Garfield: TheSearch For Pooky. That's why I'm getting scared now every time I have to review one of those. But I shouldn't fear. Not all these games are bad... right?

Now, let's talk about something that brings a collective small “yay” from a crowd and a collective groan from another: The Simpsons. The series has been going for twenty-five years now, and it's still going, as impressive – or as annoying – that might be. Has it gone on for too long? Well, it still extracts a laugh from me from time to time, and some recent episodes were fine (if we forget the horrible pacing problems) but yeah, quite a number of recent episodes were sorta hit or miss. Yeah... As for the games? They're also kind of hit or miss.

The Simpsons: Road Rage is one of a few Simpsons games based around driving cars. Fun fact, both are also references to Grand Theft Auto; they reference other road-based crimes. Road rage, and Hit and run. Now, is this game as clever as its title? ...Hm, not sure...

January 13, 2014

Can A Bad Camera Kill A Game?

No, this isn't one of those philosophical questions in the same vein as "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, will anyone care?" No, it's more of a technical question about video games.

In the wake of three-dimensional games, a new programming element appeared all of a sudden: Cameras! 2D games didn't need this much, did they? Okay, maybe a little, but back then the sole preoccupation was to follow the character on its quest, and it was easy to show that; make the camera move as the character goes left or right. But with 3D, the characters can go around almost as much as they want. The camera cannot just be placed in one spot and never move. It moves along with the character, it can be spun around to the player's whim... However, such a mechanic is often very difficult to implement. (A common joke is that some franchises have a harder time putting the camera right in the games. Really, can a bad camera kill a game?

January 10, 2014

Top 12 Plots From The Mario Series

I doubt I'll ever repeat it enough times. I LOVE the Mario series. Some people grew up with Sonic, others grew up with Zelda, others grew up with PlayStation or Xbox franchises... Me, it's Mario. I was stomping Goombas twelve years ago and I still do, as I control the red-clad plumber in his quest to save the princess.


One MAJOR point of criticism about the Mario series is how it's the simplest plot ever. I gotta say, I understand. It all started with a plumber saving a princess from a fire-breathing turtle-dragon, and twenty-eight  years since that first encounter, Mario is still doing that. Except things have gotten bigger now. How, you may ask?

As I mentioned also before, the Mario series has become extremely diverse. 2D platformers, 3D platformers, RPGs, puzzle games, party games, sport games (golf, karting, baseball, soccer, dancing, the list goes on)... In the past, Mario even had educational games! ...Yeah, you certainly heard of Mario is Missing, A.K.A. Weegee Teaches Us Geography.

Still, for a series that is claimed to have had very little plot for so long... It sure doesn't deserve that reputation. I mean, Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser are still around, and most plots revolve around the four of them in a way, but aside from that, the series really expanded on its own universe and brought us many, MANY examples of complex stories. And yeah, most of those come from the role-playing games, I prefer to tell you right now, because it's so obvious. Okay, what am I waiting for? I present to you the Top 12 plots from the Mario series!

Remember that this is all opinion-based, so you have every right to disagree with me on one or more of the choices on this list. But I'd like to hear which games you thought had a good enough plot that they would be on a similar list.

January 6, 2014

Why Is Bowser Overused?

Well, this Friday is a Top 12 of the best plots in the Mario Series. My personal opinion, as usual. I do feel like discussing the Mario series today as well, in preparation for the big post. As I was writing it, I realized one word, or rather, one name, came up very frequently: Bowser.

Let's face it, Bowser is one of the main characters in the Mario series, alongside Mario, Luigi and Peach. And of course, Bowser takes the role of major villain in the franchise. Okay, once in a while he does show more character depth than just being a brutal splice of two animals. But in other occasions, he's just the generic villain. Bowser is a fan favorite, he's in almost all the games (again, usually as a villain), playable in many others; he is important in the plot of every Mario RPG, as an ally, as a minor villain or as the main enemy. It really feels like he's the answer every time the team behind the Mario series can't think of a villain. As if he was really overused. Actually, I think he is. And there has to be some reasons for it. So, instead of asking whether or not he's overused (as the answer is obvious), let's ask instead:

Why is he overused?

January 5, 2014

List of all Demo Reviews + Announcement

Hello there, dear readers! Just decided I'd write a post today. Yeah, that's an odd choice of a day, but remember that in normal circumstances I'd be posting a Demo Review. Anyway, talking about those... Many of you noticed that I posted about ten Demo Reviews in the past two weeks and a half. And I thought it would be a good idea to put links to all of them in a same post. That way you can access them more easily. I'm mostly doing that because listing them all in the Archive section would take too much space. Okay, maybe not "right now", because there's only ten of those. But next time I have a break away from work or university, I will re-do those and it'll start piling up again.

So, here goes!

Demo Review 1: Lead The Meerkats
Demo Review 2: Furry Legends
Demo Review 3: BIT.TRIP CORE
Demo Review 4: 3D Pixel Racing
Demo Review 5: Soccer Bashi
Demo Review 6: Frobot
Demo Review 7: BIT.TRIP BEAT
Demo Review 8: FAST Racing League
Demo Review 9: Rage Of The Gladiator
Demo Review 10: Mix Superstar

There, all done!

Oh, but this wasn't the only reason I wanted to write a message today.

You see, the day has come for me to begin my internship. Tomorrow, actually. I'll be working 35 hours a week, employed to my university's blog, and I won't have a much time for this blog, Planned All Along. Therefore, I officially announce the new schedule on this blog!

Fridays: A review, or a part of a review.
Monday Either an Editorial, a Cool Stuff Article. Mondays will no longer be used to post the next part of a review posted on Friday.
Wednesday: Nothing anymore.

This schedule might change again in a few months, depending on how busy I am once the internship is over. However, for now that's the way I'll work.

Read you soon!

January 4, 2014

Demo Review 10: Mix Superstar

A game to make your own music? This would be fun, if it isn't needlessly complicated. Well, at least the demo offers a tutorial. During the tutorial, the game will take control of the cursor and show you everything you can do. You get access to a large selection of “musical loops” with which you'll build your mix. To help you in your search, you can select a genre and a category of instrument (bass, drums, etc.). Each musical track has a length and you can arrange all the pieces until you get something that sounds good.

And that's it. No really, that's pretty much everything this game is about. I wouldn't complain. I mean, I've tried it, and the result you can get sounds very nice. Yes, it will sound repetitive. If you keep using the same musical tracks to build your song, that is. We've seen stuff like this on Internet, it's very common. Which is why I really wonder if it's that important of a game.

Okay, no worries. Instead of just repeating the same things over and over again, let's instead take a look at what the demo offers and doesn't offer. The tutorial shows you every single aspect of the game, or at least those you can access in the demo. It's pretty long, but ultimately it's better to watch it entirely in order to know what you can do and how to do it. And I bet the full version gives you access to this tutorial at any moment, so I guess that's a nice touch.

Like I said, the music sounds great, and even with your limited demo time you can get a nice-sounding tune to dance on with your friends. There's not much in terms of graphics, or in terms of difficulty, as it's more a tool than a real game.

HOWEVER! That said, it's not perfect. The demo only gives you TEN minutes of play time. If you use it to watch the tutorial, you lose at least half the minutes you had to try the demo. That's kind of bad. Even with the ten minutes, you never quite get to test out the demo well enough to have an idea of how fun it is. Also, as you probably guessed, a few features are absent. Okay, that's normal for a demo. Among the missing features, there's the possibility of recording your own voice tracks for the game, using the Wiimote.

It isn't for me. I don't have the patience to build whole tracks, and besides, those songs wouldn't be of much use for me. I prefer when good lyrics go with good music. Oh well, whatever. If you always wanted to make your own dance tracks, Try this demo. And if you really like it (despite the 10 minutes of test time only), you know what to do.

January 3, 2014

Reel Fishing Ocean Challenge

Just in case I haven't said it enough, Happy New Year! I hope you've celebrated the last moments of 2013 and the first moments of 2014. As for me, it was one gigantic family reunion at my house. My mother's side of the family is enormous, we had about twenty guests. It was epic. And it was really fun. Of course, it takes a lot of organization, what with thinking of the meals, the number of guests, the drinks, the activities, the desserts, the chairs and tables, the snacks, the decorations, space to park all the cars outside... did I mention the food?

Yeah, now we can really relax. I mean, I've relaxed pretty often during the two or three weeks I had away from university; I watched at least one film per day, I played a lot of games (as I can prove with my Demo Reviews; by the way, the last Demo Review for this one will be up tomorrow, and Sunday will be a post with links to all the Demo Reviews I posted), I had a lot of fun. I also met my friend, the Pokémon fan, to trade some Pokémon. And of course, I bought a couple games during that time.

Now that I think of it, there is one way to relax I have never really done: Fishing. I never had the chance to attach a worm on the hook, throw the line, and pull back when the line shakes. I never did that... In real life. In the gaming world, however, I had one major opportunity to do so, and it's called Reel Fishing: Ocean Challenge.

This is as simple as a game like this can be, and it's not a problem. The game is found on the WiiWare with a couple more fishing games, all of these also under the Reel Fishing franchise. I think I can start the year with an easy review like this. I ended last year so powerfully, I really need something simple to start 2014. Are you ready? Forget the cold weather outside, put on your fisher hat, and get ready, we're going to catch some fish!

January 2, 2014

Demo Review 9: Rage of the Gladiator

Gracius, prince of a great land, was betrayed and is now forced to fight along with other gladiators, in the arena. This antique world, reminiscent of Rome A.D., is also home for many mythical creatures, such as minotaurs and dragons. Needless to say, those monsters pose a threat. As a result, our prince protagonist has to learn how to fight like a gladiator, show his talent, and then go up against the monsters.

First of all, this game makes you pick three different ways to play. That's a good start. Once the opening cutscene is over, you are now in the arena, and a little Chinese sensei comes to you. Oh, God... The character's design is insensitive, the voice is annoying, and his face is scary. I'd have a field day just mocking this one character, but I have to write about this demo as a whole. And it's kind of sad, because the game seemed at first to promise to us some excellent modeling, what with that grand cutscene and those beautiful images we hoped to see soon in 3D. Better luck next time, I guess. You're now following a tutorial during which you can bash on the little Chinese man as much as you want. Take that, insulting stereotype!

Fast enough, the little guy starts attacking as well, and continue teaching you the basis (blocking, dodging, jumping away from the attack). More is explained to you, such as counterattacks. Your first true enemy is an armor-wearing goblin. Use everything you've learned against him and beat him. Once he's beaten, he... summons power to him so he can beat you. Beat him again, and he'll do it once more. The third time? He grows to be a god damn giant. After he's beaten, you face an even greater challenge; A minotaur! He's really hard to defeat, but use all you've learned and you should be able to win. And then a sea witch.

The demo probably stops there. You got the tutorial, and then three battles... That's a LOT for a demo. What can I say about it? Well, while the modeling is great for the monsters, the only human we see in the game is... creepy. The controls? I'm glad we get to choose between three different control schemes, because this game is damn difficult. No matter which one you'll pick. Each opponent has different attacks, and you really have to learn what these attacks are, how to avoid them, and how and when to hit back. If you like your games hard, you'll like this. The voice acting for the cutscenes is fine, although you'll probably be saddened – or glad – that they're not animated. I do find this kind of awful that the game makes the enemies get stronger twice while you stay at the same “level”. Oh well.

Just download the demo, and if you love it, then spend your dear money to buy the full version. I know I won't, but really, it all comes down to your personal opinion.

January 1, 2014

Planned All Along: 2013 Retrospective

Planned All Along : The 2013 Retrospective

Happy New Year, everyone! Yes, this is January 1st, and if it still isn't, then maybe you need to repair your clocks. Ah, 2013. This was a pretty cool year. I guess. Nothing can beat the frenzy around the Mayan calendar, but eh. Why should I care about that hoax. I knew it wasn't possible.

But let's start talking about my blog. Even if it's only half a year old, Heck, barely five months and a half old, it's still become very great. I never thought it would become this popular. I guess all my PR and self-advertisements helped a great deal. So, before I continue this article, I would like to give you a few stats about the blog.

Number of visitors: Approximately 4950. Getting close to 5000!
Number of posts: Including this one? 99.
Month with the most page views: December, with 1416! (Just for the fact, it's 550 more than the second month with the most views, August, with 850).
Most viewed additional page: Archive, with nearly 100, with About Me a close second, at 90. (I really should update that page.)

Number of games reviewed: Not counting the demos, 20. Demo Reviews included, 28.
Number of review articles: Again, not counting the demos, 31. Demo Reviews included, 39.
Number of Editorial-Style articles: 18.
Number of Cool Stuff articles: 20.
Number of Top 12s: 3. (Those still count as review articles, BTW.)

Now, a few Top 5s and Top 10s about the blog's statistics. I'm mostly unveiling some important information about the blog's visitors here, so this information isn't really THAT useful. But as a look back at this blog's existence so far, I think it's really good. And it makes good trivia.