Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A&G 2014: The Rundown

Not quite.

 It's that time of year again.  You know, it's the time of year where I run around with a video camera at a convention recording everything I can while also getting roped into various events?  Yup, it's A&G Ohio 2014!  My everything hurts, so sitting in a chair and typing this up is low-impact enough that this shouldn't take too long.

Thursday

-Got there the Thursday before the con started to find the wrestling ring already set up.  Unlike previous years, the ring is in a separate room so other events (read: concerts) can go on while the ring stays up, especially since the rasslin' event happens for three days this year instead of one.  For those people portraying multiple characters in multiple matches, this was a godsend.

-My first act as a con staffer was to disinfect the ring.  This bodes well.

-I had two matches on separate days and got to work out the first one with the guy who would eventually win the A&G title belt.  It's decided that since I'm going to be a huge dickbag (Bandit Keith) I'll spend the majority of the match cheating my ass off before eventually losing.

-Maffew (he of Botchamania fame) is there already, referencing wrestling things I either barely remember or never saw.  I'm probably the least knowledgeable wrestling person involved in the entire event.

-The ring is... uh... Let's put it this way.  I legitimately thought about using a lint roller to try and clean the thing.  The canvas looked like someone wearing a white shirt had a black cat sit on them for an hour or five.  Also, one of the other wrestlers/staffers discovered the support beams were uneven after a bit of practice.  Safety first, kids.

-The convention center closes down entirely at 11pm every day and opens at 8am.  The con used to run 24 hours a day so this cut down on the amount of programming available, but the staff seemed appreciative of the chance to, you know, sleep.

-I get to sleep on the couch.  In a sleeping bag.  And the couch is a foot too short for me.

 This will be remedied swiftly.

Friday

-I get to the convention center well before anything needs filmed to go over more match stuff and make sure the ring won't somehow kill us all.  Technically I'm on staff for the cosplay repair station, even though I'm not handy at all with that kind of thing.  I mainly used the back of the room as storage for my laptop and various props and costume pieces I'd need for the Multiverse Rumble (read: wrestling).  The only other people working that station were in that room almost the entire con.

-Filmed some of Nerf Warz day 1.  This year I managed not to get shot by people thinking I was someone on the other team trying to flank them.

-It's the first time this con has taken place in an actual convention center, and as people start filing over the course of the day I notice one major positive about the move.  The hallways are much larger.  This was the first A&G where I never found myself trying to weave through the one-inch gaps between people's shoulders to try and get somewhere.

-I spent the entire weekend guarding my USB drive with my life.  This drive had all of the wrestling intro videos and music as well as the subtitles and audio for the Avatar: The Last Airbender Musical (yes really) on it.

-It's time for the wrestling show.  I couldn't find a camera man so I had to set it up in a corner of the room and hope the footage looked alright.  The moment I saw some guys end up outside the ring way away from where the camera was pointing, I shook my fist at them like an old man who just had his peach tree stolen.

-For my match (in which I was Bandit Keith facing Chef from South Park) I managed to botch twice before the match even started.  I forgot to take off my staff badge before going out and knocked off my American flag bandana trying to get the badge off of me.  As a bad guy I spent almost the whole match cheating like a motherfucker, but still lost.  Whatevs, he was going on to win the title later that weekend.

-Kaiji Tang was one of the guests this year.  Cool guy, by the way.  Kaiji voiced in a lot of things, one of them being Owain in Fire Emblem Awakening, as of now the only 3DS game I own.  The guest relations head offered me the chance to get something signed by him, but all I really had was the tiny-ass game cartridge.  Instead I handed him my 3DS and asked if he could sign that.  This is the result:

CAN'T... CONTROL...

Saturday

-Woke up a bit late.  Not sure if it was due to my bed being a couch and foot rest pushed together, the room being noisy with people making costume fixes for con events, or both.

-The musical happened.  At one point I put in a fake error message as part of a filler for when the audio tracks changed over, which apparently the con chair (who was in the musical) didn't know about and dropped several F-bombs before and after he realized it was fake and nothing was actually wrong.

-A Dick Tracy cosplayer?  Holy shit, there was a Dick Tracy cosplayer!

-At one point I wound up having a short conversation with Michael Raven, another guest of the con.  We somehow wound up reminiscing about high school marching band and how it sucked to march and play with a trombone.

-At some point, this happened.  Too bad I didn't see it in person since I love the first game and don't completely hate the second one:

  MediEvil cosplay: a phrase I never thought I'd use.

-I was Kanji from Persona 4 for the wrestling, going against Tiger Jackson from Tekken.  The guy playing Tiger wrote up a massive list of match notes ahead of time so we both had a decent idea of what to do, though since we didn't get to practice as much as we wanted the finish was altered a bit.  I did okay for the most part, but for the finish I wound up landing ass-first on the edge of a steel chair doing my finisher.  Victory comes with a price I guess.

-Maffew was doing a tournament in the game room for WWF No Mercy.  I went there to film it and wound up filling in for a guy who no-showed/was busy.  I got a first-round bye in which Maffew claimed I defeated Scott Hall.

-I faced Maffew in the second round.  I barely remembered how to play, but still gave a decent effort as Taka Michinoku against Faarooq (how it was spelled in-game).  Maffew flipped his shit for a moment when I somehow managed to kick out of his finisher, but he still won.

-After the tournament he had some extra time and did a fatal four way match, in which I played as Trish Stratus because why the hell not.  Somehow I lasted until the final two, threw both the steel steps from the ring into the crowd, and kicked out of a finisher as well as several follow-up maneuvers including a stop sign being thrown into my throat.

Sunday

-There was a table flipping competition, but midway through two legs broke off of the table.  Then it was thrown again and everything else broke off of it, so it turned into a chair tossing competition.

-For the final day of the Multiverse Rumble I refereed one match and cut a promo from backstage as Bandit Keith to set up something for next year.

-Total damage from the wrestling: cuts on two fingers on my right hand and one on the palm, a cut on one of my left knuckles, bloody scrape and bruise on my right forearm, another bruise above that, burns on both elbows, massive bruise on the front of my right shoulder, bruise on my chest the size of a golf ball, marks all over my back from the ring ropes, a very sensitive lower back (also bruised), and one busted right ass cheek.  I had a Taekwondo class less than 24 hours later.

-I missed closing ceremonies since I was helping tear down the wrestling ring.  I left the con a few hours later after helping some with clean up and main events tear down, but Maffew caught me for a photo right before I left the convention center.  Apparently I left an impression.

I guess I did something right.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Best and Worst Thing

For those of you who don't know, I've taken a bit of a liking to speedrunning, or the act of completing a video game as fast as possible.  This started a while ago after seeing one of the Awesome Games Done Quick marathons, hosted by Speed Demos Archive and Speed Runs Live.

 They seem like nice people.

I don't think I'm particularly good at it, but in a "why the hell not?" moment I decided to try submitting a couple games (all but one of which were crap) for Summer Games Done Quick.

Well...

Uh...

How should I say this?...

Guess who's traveling to Denver this summer to play Ninjabread Man for charity?




Countdown Clocks

Saturday, December 14, 2013

SC On Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood (PS2)

This series was given more than one entry.  Think about that.

Gee, just what I was hoping to get as a gift from one of my convention buddies.  Thanks, Macho Man!

 For those of you who did a double-take at the "2" in the title, yes, this was a thing.  Not only was the first game a thing, it was a thing that sold half a million copies.  This game would sell almost 400,000 units, thus reaffirming my lack of faith in humanity, or at least the average video game consumer.

Casuals.  Fucking casuals everywhere.

 As the cover might suggest, the game does indeed include Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope from the Insane Clown Posse, who also co-founded Juggalo Championship Wrestling (yes, that is also a thing), which is where several in-game wrestlers now or at some point in the past worked.  Also included are people from Combat Zone Wrestling, the stereotypical "hit me with something until I bleed, then hit me again" promotion where the infamous "JEZUS" Botchamania clip comes from.

And thus Maffew would spend the rest of his life avoiding Zandig.

Also on the cover is New Jack, also known as "that guy who technically killed four people."  He and another alum of Extreme Championship Wrestling, The Sandman, are in the game because reasons.  As for the woman in the middle, she's either Tylene Buck, Tera Patrick or Sunrise Adams.  I don't know who specifically she is because they're porn stars and why should I even bother talking about them?

The game boils down to a career mode and exhibition mode.  There is multiplayer but let's face it, the only people who would play this game with you are only doing so ironically or out of pity.  Career mode is where you create a custom wrestler, assign them a move set and go around various "backyard" locations to win titles by completing missions to unlock challenges, namely a tournament to win a title which unlocks more areas to compete in.  The idea is to win all the belts to get to the final section and beat the Insane Clown Posse guys (yes, they're the final boss) to collect a million dollar prize, which is a simple enough setup if not kind of dumb.

Then I tried playing it.

In case you can't tell, I'm the one with hair.

The custom wrestler creation is, in a word, unusual.  I would say lacking, but in truth there is a wide variety of options for the most mundane shit while other aspects are left woefully understocked.  For example, there are 132 tattoos available from the beginning, but only 18 pants options.  A character can have a lot of different skin colors, even allowing for Mr. Game & Watch black, but there are only six faces and seven hair styles to choose from.  Also if you make a female character you only have two body types.  They're called 'Athletic' and 'Muscular' but they actually look like 'Needs a Sandwich' and 'Had a Sandwich.'

There are three different sections (East, West and North) with three separate combat areas in each, then the final area where the ICP hang out.  Each area of each section has five missions and five challenges unlocked after completing the missions.  One area of each section has a title tournament which opens after completing all available missions.  Winning the title opens up a new section and the game moves on.  This essentially makes all challenges but the title tournament a waste of time, unless you really want to earn some extra money to unlock a new hat or some other crap that should have been available from the start.  Besides, more than half the challenges are the same across each area.

There's a problem with these missions, however.  Each area has a set number of generic create-a-wrestler characters that appear in each match.  Even when just doing each mission once I ended up seeing the same half-dozen or so people over and over.  Even worse, there's so little variety to these missions that I quickly realized two-thirds of the mode was "perform X move Y amount of times" or "get your opponent to X Y amount of times."  And if that wasn't bad enough, some missions where you have to do an action four or five times, for example, show you as having cleared the mission by only doing the action once.  Proper programming is for those WWE wussies.

Okay, forget what I just said.

I haven't touched on the actual "wrestling" part of the game yet, though.  Each match consists of two sort-of mobile character models awkwardly jogging around an environment trying to beat each other up.  Each environment has specific environmental hazards and weapons that can be used and, unless there's a mission objective that requires doing something else, each mission can be won by finding a weapon in the area that won't break and doing three-hit combos over and over until the opponent's health runs out.  That's more hardcore and extreme and awesome and real and entertaining than pinfalls or submissions, right?

Sometimes the reach of said weapon only makes things even more ridiculous.  In the pool level there's an indestructible pool skimmer which has about a five-foot reach.  Coupled with how bad the grappling is, why would I do anything but use weapons?

Oh right, I haven't explained that yet.

Grappling in this game has a few key problems with it.  For one, you can only irish whip (read: throw) or drag/lead people while in a front grapple.  There's also a big input problem when trying to pull off "Super Moves" by mashing the two attack buttons at once.  Sometimes it just plain won't register that both buttons are being hit at the same time, which for me meant doing shoulder breakers half the time I tried using it.

The worst part however is how evasion works.  It's possible to mash a couple buttons to do a "grapple escape" when the turbo meter (also used for the supers) is full, but most of the time you'll have to try and counter by hitting either the attack, throw or submission button when the opponent tries to do an attack, throw or submission.  This has to be done before, not during, the move, meaning reversals boil down to a 1-in-3 guessing game for what the opponent will do.

Why am I not surprised that the game with poor wrestling mechanics has several people from promotions that go through thumbtacks, barbed wire and light tubes the way I go through cherry soda?

Scratch that.  Why am I surprised that this happened when I tried playing it?

The styrofoam head avatars seem unfazed by this.

There's yet another reason to just use weapons the entire time: the enemy AI.  It is, in a word, terrible.  The AI constantly tries to get in as close as possible to do grapples while sometimes doing attack combos, however leading them near any elevated surface leads them to climb on top of it and attempt a diving attack, which can be avoided by not standing still and leaves them open to be attacked, pinned or put in a submission hold.

Then there are times where the AI, while trying to find a weapon, runs into environmental hazards and takes damage.  I've won a few matches this way.

Committing suicide in a survival challenge?  That's a paddlin'.

You do eventually fight the actual wrestlers (and porn stars) in the game and have a chance to unlock videos of them for one or two-thousand dollars.  That means doing missions, challenges and general matches over and over to earn enough money to buy the videos, most of which aren't worth the effort. That and the videos for the porn stars are the most expensive despite being less risque than a Dead or Alive volleyball game.

Or you could save some real money and not even bother with the game to begin with.  That is, unless someone gives it to you, like in my case.  When I get the chance, this game's going through my friend's window Paperboy-style.

This gif syncs well with most polka music.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Content ID: Get a Real Job, You Say?

(Note: nonsensical mess of words ahead.)

This will likely be the only thing I say on the subject, seeing as how the YouTube community has already proven to be both way more knowledgeable and not very knowledgeable at all of what exactly is going on.

Before getting into it, here is where I stand.  I am virtually unaffected by this.  I have a job, am working toward a college degree and treat video-making as a hobby.  I have monetized none of my videos and, to date, have copyright claims on about 55 videos, three of which are blocked in Germany.  Ich bitte Sie, Deutschland.  Most of them are dumb bullshit, but among them are also the Guitar Hero III and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 videos (licensed music), the last part of the Shenmue videos (again, music), one part of the Jumping Flash playthrough (yet again, music), the last part of the Resident Evil: Survivor video and the James Bond Jr. video.  If you are seeing ads on these or any other videos, I have two words for you.  Adblock Plus.  If you're on my blip channel, use it there too.  I'm not sure why it even still exists when I went out of my way to make the front page look as ugly as possible.

However, that doesn't mean others aren't affected.  Some people at RiverCityGamers do monetize some of their videos and can be affected by this.  YouTube's "guilty until proven innocent" approach--don't kid yourself on this one.  It's been like that for a while, but only now has it started to affect larger, partnered/network-managed channels--means that monetization of a video might not be possible now or ever.  YouTube moves at a snail's pace on any sort of claims, even slower than they did when I first started getting claims and had to dispute them left and right to keep the videos on the site at all.

That also means this applies to the "big fish" like Angry Joe, Rad Brad, Classic Game Room and a laundry list of others.  In fact, Classic Game Room, who has been with YouTube since the passing of the first ice age, appears to have up and left YouTube in favor of using his own site for his videos.  The new content ID system is the rough equivalent of treating everyone like Milton in the movie Office Space; management 'fixes a glitch' in payroll which stops him from getting a paycheck and not only does no one tell him about it, they avoid the subject when confronted by him as he continues showing up to work.

In theory I should be somewhat glad about this because, if enough people are driven off YouTube, it opens the opportunity for someone else to step in who couldn't because of the gap YouTube's site creates between promoted and non-promoted channels.  That and I've had various disagreements with certain content creators in the past, namely Joe.  Then again, I've only stuck around as long as I have because of the people who look at or are subscribed to my channel.  If there were a solid alternative to YouTube, I would have left years ago.

That would be the case, except that the same rules everyone has struggled with now apply across the board.  A person in the medium of creating gaming videos now has limited options when any video or audio from the source material is a copyright flag waiting to happen, one which several publishers or creators of the sampled content have had to manually whitelist users who were flagged by YouTube's content ID system without their go-ahead.

Some might say to make gaming-related videos without using the game video or audio.  People have done and do this, with a prominent example being Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation, yet another person I don't really like.  Also note that Yahtzee left YouTube and didn't return with ZP until 2011 on The Escapist's channel.  My opinion on "vlog" style reviewing of games is as follows:


I don't trust you.

That's one thing I give people like Angry Joe and which I try to emulate in my videos.  When I talk about something, positive, negative or otherwise, I show it so you'll know I'm not pulling "facts" or opinions out of my ass.  Vlog reviews of video games are the equivalent of writing a research paper without citing any sources.  Yes, I have done the rough equivalent of that before, and no, I don't expect you to believe or agree with what I say in those videos, much less anything I've posted.

Others have tossed around a phrase I'm all too familiar with.  "Get a real job."  This phrase should have died along with the "real jobs" that became obsolete or unnecessary as time and technology have moved on.  As an aspiring musician, you can probably guess how tired I am of hearing this phrase get tossed around in lieu of an intelligent statement, especially when it implies that there is no work involved in anything that is not a job in the most traditional sense.

What defines a real job?  Having set work hours?  Having some signed paperwork on the subject?  Having a set salary and steady paycheck?  Having a boss?  As someone whose father works as a self-employed architect, all but one of the prior conditions does not apply to him.  Try telling him he doesn't have a real job.

In the sense of a "real job" not involving the use of material originally created by other parties or for the purposes of review or parody, I suppose anyone who samples sounds or music like DJs or musicians have real jobs.  But then, would the original content creator, who is also a musician, have a real job?  Let's not go into anything too paradoxical.  As for parody, comedians and entertainers don't have real jobs.  For review, critics of various things such as video games, movies, food, toys, books, cars, computers, and more 'I think you get the point' examples don't have real jobs, even though there are several such people employed in such roles, "real jobs" if you will, by various outlets.

There seems to be a disconnect between the idea of a "job" and doing "work."  Let's ignore the old formula of plopping a camcorder in front of a TV and talking over it in real time for something like I would do.  Game reviewing is not a job of mine.  I try to show what I can from the game so, depending on its length and content, on average I end up recording roughly 10-12 hours of footage for the one game the video focuses on.  Then I go back and review all of the footage, taking another 10-12 hours, making notes about what happens where and which clips illustrate different points.  As this is going on I also have to script out the entire video, hitting all talking points and organizing everything into a pseudo-comprehensive and logical flow while marking sections for narration over game footage, live-action shots or other external clips.  I also do background research on the game, its developers, etc.  Depending on writer's block and information availability, this can take anywhere from three to eight hours.  Then after all that I film any live segments and locate external video clips, which takes maybe an hour if things go well.  Then I finally start editing which, depending on how my editing programs feel that day, usually takes about 9-10 hours.  Then I can finally render the video which, depending on length, might take another 2-3 hours, and assuming the whole video rendered correctly then I can upload it.

If you do the math, that equals anywhere from 35 to 46 hours of work on average.  That's for a relatively short game, too.  Things like Evergrace or Muramasa wound up with closer to 25 hours of recorded footage.

I'm getting sidetracked.

The point is this: don't fall into the trap of thinking that because X is enjoyable, any form of profiting or working through X is automatically not considered a "real job."  Also, stop talking like a crotchety old man.  That's my "job."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blip Videos: What Do I Do?

Conflicted.  That's the one way I can describe how I feel at the moment.

In the midst of midterm week and trying to get the next RiverCityGamers podcast together (coming this Friday, hopefully), the video-hosting service Blip, which hosts videos for every member of RiverCityGamers, started cutting back on the bulk of its userbase.  Specifically, they cut back on people who, in their eyes, weren't contributing a "high-quality original web series."  As far as I know, the list of RCG members affected is as follows:

Zeromaster
Blondeguygamer
ShadowSnake123
AngelHalo (who I feel especially bad for, considering he's also had his original YouTube account wrongfully suspended)
WellUnreal007
Nightman39

I haven't heard from Onirokaku or Wizwar100 on the status of their accounts, though you might be asking why my name isn't listed.

Well, Blip e-mailed everyone on their site, whether their accounts were getting removed or not.  Here is the e-mail I received:

Dear Blip Producer,

The following message is regarding the Blip account SCXCR.

You may have heard that we’ve been telling some legacy producers that we're going to close their accounts in an effort to keep Blip focused on high quality shows. To avoid confusion, we wanted to reach out and preemptively head off any misconceptions or concerns you might have.

If you did not receive an email asking you to move your content, you will not be affected by this effort. If you are producing a high quality original web series, you have nothing to worry about.  On the contrary, expect to get more love than ever from us!

Once again, we also want to reassure you that the core Blip toolset (producer dashboard, video player and monetization tools) will remain the same; Blip.com will continue to operate as a robust entertainment destination; and the industry-leading Blip sales team will be ramping up their efforts.

If you have any questions or concerns, please visit Producer Support at http://support.blip.tv or contact us with specific questions.

Thanks,
Blip Support


I've spent the past couple days wondering how and why my account isn't on the chopping block (yet).  I haven't uploaded anything to Blip since July (the Lifeline video) and I purposely made my show homepage look like utter garbage, partially to drive away dirty casuals and partially to stand out from the over-professionalized personification of stagnation that usually clutters the front page of the site.  However, now I'm stuck asking myself this:

Should I close my Blip account?

This account is something I specifically created to host my more well-produced (by my standards anyway) videos, as well as the Soulja Boy mixes when they got copyright flagged to hell and back.  I specifically refused to monetize any of my YouTube videos because of my disgust at some of their practices, but with Blip ads were part of how they did things so I put up with it.  I've seen exactly one payout in the four years the account has been up (which I promptly used all $25 of to buy Persona 4) and am probably four years from another, so I haven't gained much nor stand to lose much from leaving.  That and I'm particularly pissed off about my friends' show pages getting the boot.  For some reason though I feel... I don't know, attached to it?  The point when I got the Blip account is the point where I really started putting in the effort to try and make my videos the best quality I possibly could, and I've put a fair share of time into both the videos and that account to make it happen.

I just...

I don't know.  Thoughts?

Friday, August 16, 2013

SC On Ninjabread Man (Wii)

This will go exactly how you think it will.

I could just say this game is awful and move on, but you already know that, don't you?   So why am I writing this blog?  Partly because it's a slow day at work and partly because most of the people I see talk about this video don't get further in depth than 'the motion controls suck and this game sucks.'  Did I mention it's also a slow day at work?

Let's start by going back in time a bit, before Ninjabread Man ever came out.  There was a British company called Data Design Systems formed in the mid-1980s to make games for the Atari and ZX Spectrum platforms.  They eventually became Data Design Interactive in the 90s, somehow getting by purely on licensed titles such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy while churning out such gems as Rise of the Robots and Tonka Space Station.

Then they decided to stop screwing around when the Wii came out and started producing the Popcorn Arcade label to go after casual gamers with low/budget-priced games.  In addition, they developed G.O.D.S. (Game Oriented Development System) to develop cross-platform games faster and with only a few staffers.

In other words, DDI developed a way to push a lot of games with a short development time onto a lot of different systems.

 A dumb parent and their money soon go separate ways.

The games sold moderately well, but were also lambasted by critics.  The studio itself was at points singled out as being responsible for the "shovelware" tag the Wii couldn't get rid of and even blamed by some for hurting the system's credibility with titles like Action Girlz Racing and the Kidz Sports series.  DDI eventually stopped trading in 2009, robbing the gaming world of such future classics as Kidz Sports: Crazy Mini Golf 2 and the sequel to Ninjabread Man.

That being said, Ninjabread Man.

Essentially the same game as Anubis 2 and Rock n' Roll Adventures (from the same company), Ninjabread Man is about stopping an evil army of cakes and bees (?) called the tooth-rotters (only know that because the instruction booklet said so) from taking over Candy Land. (Doesn't explain the bees, but okay!) At least that's what the back of the box says.  However, not only is this never addressed anywhere except the back of the box, every level revolves around grabbing eight blue... vials?  Power sources?  I don't know, but they power up a teleporter to get the hell out of each level except the mandatory training stage.  Apparently Ninjabread Man fights off evil by getting the hell away from it, because even the last level has him getting in a teleporter instead of fighting... whatever he's supposedly fighting.

Running: the one thing Ninjabread Man does well.

Actually doing this is a major challenge, mostly because of the controls.  Sword swings are tied to swinging the Wii remote, but most of the time they either don't register or register after an enemy has already landed a hit.  Hell, there were times where, while the Wii remote was motionless on the ground, I had my character doing sword swings by trying to jump.

Oh, jumping.  For the longest time this was my biggest problem with the game.

Jumping is done by raising the nunchuk straight up, and you need to double jump to get through the bulk of the game's platforming sections.  I wound up having to point the nunchuck at the ceiling and make a punching motion for it to register once, and beyond that it was a 50/50 chance for the second jump to register at all.

Complicating this even more is the way Ninjabread Man (screw it, I'm calling him Jim from now on) moves.  Jim essentially has three movement speeds; standing still, beginning to lurch forward before an all-out sprint, and all-out sprint.  The second only happens for a moment before he takes off at full speed, so it's more like two speeds.  There was one time I got him to walk, but it didn't last longer than a second or two before he did his best Road Runner impression.  This, coupled with Jim's jump height being about six inches, makes even the most basic of platforming a pain in the ass.

That is, until I realized that the Z button also jumps.  It still has moments where it doesn't register, but it's way more consistent than the motion controls.  Oh, and the instructions never say Z is a secondary jump button.

I googled "consistency is amazing" and got this.

The other means of attack, which is much easier to use, is the... pink... glob... things that Jim throws at enemies.  They're in unlimited supply and, though Jim has to stand still to use them, they also function as a means of moving the camera around outside of repeatedly resetting its position behind Jim.  They also have lock-on, since the aiming is so sensitive the reticule bounces all over the screen virtually regardless of how steady your hand is.

There's also a "bomb" attack, which I didn't know existed until reading the instruction booklet.  Even the training level never mentions it.  As such, I never used it.  Good thing too, as it involves a combination of holding and releasing A and swinging the Wiimote away from and toward the TV.  Stonekeep: Bones of the Ancestors taught me that's a recipe for disaster.

Then again, you might not actually attack anything.  It's actually better to avoid fighting anything since, even though there aren't many enemy types and most just try to run into you (which also has weird hit detection involved), the biggest threat are the slices of cake that spit heat-seeking... things at Jim.  These and the random landmines which can hit Jim from several feet above or below him and a good ten feet beyond the visible blast radius are the only real threats, more so because they'll knock him off platforms than because they do a lot of damage.  Everything in this game can only take off one heart of damage at a time, and every enemy (except the bees) drops a heart when killed... which flies out of Jim's reach in a few seconds.

With all of these problems though, the game does have one saving grace.  It's only 4 levels long if you count the training stage.  On my first try, I beat the game in under an hour-and-a-half, and when I went mildly insane and tried it again, I beat the game in about 20 minutes.

And by the way, there is no ending.  It just cuts back to the title screen.

You think you had it bad?

The only other really noteworthy thing about this game is its website, which still exists (www.ninjabread-man.com).  For the most part it's a bunch of tripe trying to up-sell the game's quality (or lack thereof) but there is one saving grace.  Apparently they wanted to get some fan feedback on what they wanted in the sequel and, amazingly, those few people that somehow derived enjoyment from this game responded.

 I may have a burnt face, but that doesn't mean I can't take over the world!
Take that Ninjabread Man, you shit!  Wa ha ha ha!

The amount of MS Paint creations and shoddy printer paper sketches that you'd expect to see Maddox make fun of in his free time is limited, but still quite something to behold.  There are even one or two people who can actually draw AND had unique ideas I doubt Data Design Interactive would ever be smart enough to come up with themselves.  One guy even plugged his website in the middle of the art submission.

Free advertising, whether Data Design Interactive liked it or not!

And in the end, this is all we'll likely ever see of the proposed Ninjabread Man sequel, titled Ninjabread Man: Blades of Fury.  All I can say is thank God, because if the sketch below is any indication, it might have ended up being the bastard child of Candyland and Saints Row.

Coktel?  Liquorice Lounge?  Was Ninjabread Man going to fight alcoholism in the sequel?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

SC On Lifeline (PS2)

"Voice-based controls?  Why the hell not?"
-Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., circa 2002