When you buy an Oculus Quest and you DON’T have the kind of beast computer to take advantage of Oculus Link, one of the things you have to accept is that everything’s going to be pricier than you’d hope it would be. There are almost no games below the fifteen dollar mark, and the sales are usually like five percent per game or a whopping ELEVEN percent if you buy five games bundled together. That MIGHT be changing as I’ve seen a few deeper cuts in the last few months, but being on the cutting edge usually comes with a premium; even if the cutting edge is what, three years old now? Fortunately for all of you, my thrifty and curmudgeonly attitude kept me from indulging in the more expensive fair which means I can pass the savings onto you! Are there some fun and worthwhile experiences on the Quest without breaking the bank? Let’s find out!!
Developed by Pixel Toys Ltd
Last year I highlighted Crisis VRigade as a fun throwback to old school arcade shooter that was marred by some unfriendly design choices here and there. This feels like the more polished version of that very same idea, but unfortunately it also sands off some of the more interesting edges in favor of what I can only assume is maximum appeal. Thankfully you don’t need to physically crouch down to avoid gun fire and I will give this game a HUGE thumbs up for that alone, but it’s also a very easy and barebones experience that feels like it’s doing the bare minimum to hit the necessary marks for a game like this. The zombies move really slowly, the weapons don’t take long to master, and there’s always more than enough health, power ups, and whatever to keep you nice and safe. The lack of required movement is definitely a plus here but it is yet another area where the game feels very limited in scope and imagination where games like say Superhot VR make the most of the space around you. Now granted there were A LOT of light gun arcade shooters just like this so I guess I can’t fault them too much for being at about the same level, a bit more speed or more surprises would have done wonders for this game that otherwise is a bit of a snooze. Out of all the games I bought on the cheap for the Quest this is the one that felt the most like its price point. Not too expensive for a not too exciting game, but still fun enough to enjoy once in a while; especially with friends who may not be used to the platform. Oh wait… we couldn’t have friends over in 2020, could we?
2020 is almost done, I promise! Just a FEW more games to cover here and then a few more games in one last piece! You can look at the games I’ve already covered right here, so let’s continue where we left off!
Motherload & Super Motherload (PC)
Developed by XGen Studios
Back in the old days when I could still call myself a youngster, Steam was still in its infancy, online gaming as far as I knew was just on Xbox Live, and Flash was the primary way we played games on the internet! There were plenty of standouts at the time (Cartoon Network had a pretty solid list of games under its belt) but one that still sticks with me to this day is Motherload; more or less the fore bearer of explorative digging games like SteamWorld Dig and Terraria. I only learned a month or two ago that the developers had gone on to develop a feature rich new version of the game called Super Motherload on Steam, and it even came with the full edition of the original Motherload to really hammer home the changes XGen made in the intervening years. Perhaps this is nostalgia talking, but the mechanics of the original game hold up AMAZINGLY well with a clear set of incentives and goals to work towards that are spiced up with well don RNG elements. Sure, you could spend an hour only finding Iron and Silver ore, but the random chance of finding an artifact that will get you that new upgrade you’ve been grinding for is what keeps the game compelling and prevents the gameplay loop from feeling overly repetitive. However, it’s also a game that could do with a few enhancements and that’s what makes Super Motherload such a great successor. Smoother animations, streamlined mechanics, and more bells and whistles manage to retain the brilliance of the original design without getting bogged down in the limitations of the time. Sadly I haven’t been able to delve THAT far into the new version to get a sense of its endgame (and if they retain the bizarre ending of the original) but it was kind of heartwarming to see something I enjoyed as a kid made for a new generation by the very same people who made that first game so much fun to begin with.
A year on this website wouldn’t be complete with a rundown of some of the games I managed to play in the preceding twelve months; almost none of which came out that year! Frankly unless it’s a big Nintendo release or something REALLY up my alley like a Hideo Kojima game, I rarely buy games when they come out and 2020 proved to be pretty anemic for big releases that caught my attention. Still, my backlog is enormous and it’s worth pointing out what games were really good (or really bad) even if they aren’t the freshest things out there. I mean heck, with Steam and online storefronts being what they are, who can even say what’s relevant anymore and what games can or cannot capture a bit of the spotlight? Probably not most of these games though as I tend to not have much in terms of “taste” but let’s see take a glimpse at what kept me entertained in the bad year to end all bad years!
Batman: Arkham Knight (PC)
Developed by Rocksteady Studios
My big purchase of the year was a brand spanking new graphics card for my very old and out of date system, and one of the games I got to kind of benchmark it was this. The Batman games to me are kind of like Dynasty Warriors in that I ignore pretty much everything going on around them when they’re released and will just pick and choose the ones I want to play years after everyone stopped caring. To its credit, whatever bugs plagued this game on release don’t SEEM to be there anymore as I had a very smooth experience, and while the narrative is eye rolling tripe the gameplay was interesting enough for me to stick with it for a while. What kind of sticks out about the Batman games is that they do go the extra mile to make things feel like a “Game” and not just an open world sandbox of repetitive action. Sure, you can while away the hours picking off random things if you really want to, but the story missions aren’t just concentrated arenas for the same open world gameplay. The last mission I played before I put it down for a while (I’ll try to get back to it at some point) was the blimp level, and the fact that they bothered to introduce this shifting angle mechanic to give it something distinctive was very much appreciated. If you liked the Batman games and aren’t burnt out by them just yet then this is more of the same with a next gen sheen to it (though I guess at this point it’s decided CURRENT if not LAST gen) and one of these a console generation seems to be the right amount.
The Rankin/Bass Specials as well as all the images you see in this editorial are owned by Warner Bros
Christmas Music is one of those things that we just learn to live with. It’s always the same twenty or so songs, it always starts playing the grocery stores way too early, and we hate to admit it be we all have a soft spot for some of them. Not just the COOL songs like Whatever You Celebrate by Reel Big Fish or the fun indie songs like A Willie Nice Christmas by Kacey Musgraves; not even the GENUINE modern day classics that should go in your rotation RIGHT NOW like Tell Your Mama by Aloe Blacc (listen to it RIGHT NOW if you haven’t!). No, we’ve all got soft spots for some of the ones that they keep playing OVER and OVER again each year that everyone else in the world is sick of except for you. Now for me, I’m a sucker for Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney, Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano, and of course the immortal Heat Miser/Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus. Not only has the song become a radio fixture for decades now, those characters have taken on a life of their own; more or less overshadowing the special they came and inspiring plenty of fan art and YouTube covers! Still, there’s got to be a story behind these two, right? Not only that, but did you know they made a SEQUEL to the special in 2008 all about these two? Since it’s the Holiday season and I’m all about finding random obscure stuff to shine a light on, let’s see what we can learn about Snow Miser and Heat Miser!
Who The Heck Are These Two Anyway!?
Sadly there’s not a lot of information out there on the production of The Year Without A Santa Claus; at least not any I could find. We know the writer was William Keenan who mostly wrote episodes of TV shows back in the seventies, and the composer was Rankin/Bass’s in house guy Maury Laws who wrote songs for all of those classic specials, but as to the origin of Heat Miser and Snow Miser there’s no real thread out there to pull. It certainly didn’t come from the book that the special was based on which was written by Phyllis McGinley in 1956, but then Rankin/Bass was always a LITTLE bit weird with stuff like wizards and abominable snow monsters; not to mention The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus which was based on an L Frank Baum story and looks like Santa got plopped in a Tolkien style fantasy.
All Elite Wrestling is owned by Tony Khan and Shahid Khan
From the beginning AEW has promised that at some point in the future they would have an official video game for us all to enjoy so that we can stop trying to recreate the roster in WWE 2K19 or in Fire Pro Wrestling World. Now, just over a year after they debuted on TNT, we are finally getting the first pieces of information regarding their plans for the world of gamers in this video presentation they uploaded to YouTube! Let’s take a look!!
Before anything got announced, they made sure to make this as fun as possible with the whole thing a mock Steve Jobs presentation. Well-trodden territory to be sure, but it was still fun to see and there were some decent jokes throughout like the bit where they showed a mock-up of a supposed early version of the game.
Hey, Kenny can have ALL the goofy sketches he wants, as long as they have something worth showing us! So what was ultimately revealed; besides of course a new AEW Games T-Shirt for the website?
AEW Wrestling Game developed by Yuke’s (Console)
The first and biggest announcement is that AEW is making a wrestling game with developer Yuke’s who have made… well basically ALL of the WWE games since the early 2000s. Say what you will about some of the changes throughout the series (especially when Publishing rights switched from THQ to 2K), but there were some real gems there and you couldn’t ask for a more experienced developer to bring this new project to life! The footage that they showed, which Kenny assured us multiple times is VERY early, doesn’t show us much more than the art style being used and that it will be a 3D wrestling game as opposed to something more like Fire Pro Wrestling which uses sprites. Aesthetically it looks comparable to the recently released WWE Battlegrounds, but there’s a lot more to look forward to here than in that game. First and foremost, it’s a proper wrestling game released by a veteran developer instead of something slapped together because 2K lost all confidence with consumers after its terrible 2K20 WWE game; the first game by the way released after they got rid of Yuke’s. Reception on Battlegrounds hasn’t been AWFUL, but the end product was ultimately quite shallow which we can only hope won’t be the case with Yuke’s heading up development. I mean they certainly won’t have the budgeting and resources that WWE and 2K gave them, but good studios can do more with less as long as they have a better environment to work in. No release date has been announced, nor should there be at this stage and we can only hope AEW doesn’t make the same mistake that WWE did by making this a yearly franchise and putting the developers through the ringer to get it done. The biggest news however is that the game will include inter-gender matches which hasn’t been a feature in the WWE games since SmackDown Vs. Raw 2009 and is something that Kenny himself has been a big proponent of given his participation in the company’s only inter-gender match last year during the Jericho cruise. I couldn’t tell you if that will be a BIG motivation for people to buy this game, but it’ll certainly help with some fans.
It’s that time of year again for ghosts and ghouls to roam the streets (which you shouldn’t be doing this year) and for us to get reacquainted with some old friends like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and Michael Myers! There are no shortage of movies we could be talking about starring these icons of horror, but we’re going to take things in a slightly different direction here and familiarize ourselves with the oft overlooked subgenre of horror comics! All three of these characters have had their share of funny books based off their exploits, so why not find out which one has the best stories to tell and are the most fun to read? And no, we won’t be going into the Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash comics as they are their own separate thing from either franchise’s main books. Next year perhaps!? Well let’s get through this first before we start planning ahead!
In Last Place for Bad Taste – Friday The 13th
Starting this list with the most heartbreaking of them all, my beloved Jason Voorhees has had undoubtedly the WORST comics on this list. Why? Well with this series you basically get two kinds of stories; blatantly fetishistic gore porn and philosophical musings from pompous edge lords. It’s a blatantly cynical misunderstanding of the character and the franchise as the stories seem to think that Jason is supposed to be the protagonist. You may have goes to the movie to SEE Jason Voorhees, but the stars of those movies were Alice Hardy, Tommy Jarvis, Tina Shepard, and so on. For almost every single one of these books there’s hardly a character worth rooting for or a victim who’s death is anything short of gleefully excessive because the writers want you to side with Jason as some sort of agent of chaos here to destroy THE MAN. Corrupt cops, evil corporations, and at its absolute most revolting point gay people, are all lined up for Jason to take his brutal bloody revenge out on to the cheers of the audience; either because you WANT those people to die or because your tickled by the rendering of blood and viscera on the page. The tackiest ones are where they try to justify their wanton bloodlust and by making Jason some sort of avenging spirit of Native American Genocide, like the supped up version of prefacing all MRA bullshit with WHITE women to try and pretend you’re not just an angry at all women, and this is something they try TWICE; once in the 2008 series and again in the Bad Land 2 parter. Out of all of these books, the only three that stand out as anything other than dreck are Jason Goes to Hell, Jason Vs. Leatherface, and Pamela’s Tale. Jason Vs. Leatherface is bad for a lot of the same reasons as the other books are BUT it has enough tongue in cheek humor to dull its more obnoxious moments, and the artwork has a grotesque EC Comics by way of Alfred E Newman look that lightens the mood considerably. Pamela’s Tale, while rather unnecessary as it’s just a prequel that doesn’t do all that much interesting with the characters, at least is driven by something other than gore and titillation as we see how she came to have Jason and how she ended up working at the camp. It’s far too happy to throw out allusions to future aspects of the franchise when it could have done its own thing, but I found it an entertaining enough read and one that didn’t make me repeatedly wince like so many of the other books. Jason Goes to Hell is the definite standout as it’s just a retelling of the ninth movie, but that film is pretty underrated as is and I think the more fantastical elements are better suited for a comic book; not to mention that the script for that movie is FAR superior to the original scripts they wrote for the other comic books as it focuses on characters instead of just watching a lumbering monster be directed at whatever gripes the writer has with the world. Aside from those three there’s not really anything to recommend as even the ones that pull back on the overt gore have garbage themes and characters, so I’d avoid almost every single one of these like the plague.
The Good: Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993); Friday the 13th: Pamela’s Tale (2007)
The Meh: Jason Vs. Leatherface (1995)
The Ugly: Friday the 13th: Bloodbath (2005), Friday the 13th Special (2005); Jason X Special (2005); Jason Vs. Jason X (2006); Friday the 13th: Fearbook (2006); Friday the 13th: How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2007); Friday the 13th (2007); Friday the 13th: Bad Land (2008); Friday the 13th: Abuser and the Abused (2008)
Back in November I finally took the VR plunge and got myself a (VERY EXPENSIVE) Oculus Quest. Now sure, it may not be the BE ALL END ALL of interactive experiences, but it’s definitely the most interesting new gimmick for the medium in a while. The best way I’ve been able to describe it is the difference between beer and hard liquor. Both are unique in their own way with pros and cons to each, but there’s no doubt that one is a more POWERFUL experience and that you can’t have as much of it without getting sick. It’s amazing to be immersed in the virtual world in a way that no other gaming console can adequately replicate, but the weight of the hardware itself as well as the strain on your senses trying to understand the disconnect between what you’re seeing and what’s in the real world means that it’s best for short bursts rather than longer sessions. In any case, we’ll take a look at many of the games I’ve played for it as well as any other impressions I had of the hardware. Some games are from the built in Oculus store, some were side-loaded to the console through other means, all are worth talking about today! Let’s get started!!
Develop by Beat Games
Alright, I’ll admit it! I mostly bought this ridiculous headset just to play this one game! ARE YOU HAPPY!? I’ve always been a huge fan of rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, and after playing this at a convention a year or so back I knew I had to get it as well. The gameplay is ridiculously intuitive with the many slash patters becoming second nature after a surprising short amount of time; though some of that might be due to my experience with other rhythm games. I don’t want to BRAG and say that I’m an AMAZING arm waver, but over time the connection between the visual cues and the body movement become more and more abstracted and the thought process between seeing a block on screen and knowing what to do with my arms became instantaneous and I was racking up high scores in no time; even if I STILL can’t do a good chunk of those absurdly difficult EXPERT+ songs, and that brings me to something worth discussing about this game. The big elephant in the room is the custom songs you can add to the game through mods with very little effort; even on the Quest which is designed to be much more self-contained and therefore harder to mod. Look, I love the game play on its own, but if I couldn’t play Shut Up And Dance, You Get What You Give, and Eating Food In The shower, my interest would have faded away almost instantaneously. People uploading tracks that they do not have the right to upload is frankly the lifeblood of this game and the paltry tracks that come with your thirty dollar purchase as well as the small handful of downloadable tracks are simply not enough to sustain interest. I don’t know if Beat Games has said much on the use of unlicensed music in their game, but they sure haven’t fixed the “problem” yet and I’m curious if this is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. Until it does though, this is easily the most fun experience there is to find in VR, and the first thing you should buy if you get a headset!
One of the more notable stories in games this year was the rise in ridiculously slashed game prices on the Nintendo eShop for games that otherwise were starting to get overlooked in the marketplace. It definitely feels like that has slowed down quite a bit even if there are a few good deals here and there, but let’s take a look at some of the games that I bought on a whim!!
Crypt of the NecroDancer
Developed by Brace Yourself Games
I played this game a while back when it was on Steam and wasn’t too impressed. I was TOLD that there was a DDR mode and the idea of doing steps to do super moves or whatever sounded intriguing, but using a mat makes the game almost unplayable and when I used a keyboard it just felt rather dull. When it was on sale for the Switch however, I decided to give it another shot, and you know what? It’s pretty good. Not one of my favorite games for the system, not one of my favorite rogue likes for that matter, but the gameplay works well enough and that soundtrack is pretty rocking. My biggest problem was getting overwhelmed pretty easily as the controls and combat intersect in an interesting but still odd way, and the fact that you’re encouraged to keep things to the beat means there’s not a lot of time to really think things out which is when you get blasted in the face with a dragon beam or get crushed by the boss for the ten millionth time. Then again, complaining about dying a lot is like complaining about the lack of sweet dunking skills in a first person shooter, as amazing as it would be to see Master Chief tear it up on the court, and by now the game is old enough that you can ask everyone and their grandmother how good it is instead of asking this Grumpy Gus. If nothing else, I’m pretty interested in playing The Cadence of Hyrule which not only incorporates Zelda iconography and music, but appears to downplay the rouge-like elements for a more traditional adventure. Let’s hope there’s a decent sale soon so it’ll be on next year’s retrospective!
I might be a little late here, but I always like to take a bit of time to showcase some of the games I managed to play in the preceding year; particularly those that didn’t actually come out at that time and just so happened to catch my interest for whatever reason. Some were good, some were bad, all were hopefully worth talking about (otherwise I spent a lot of time writing for absolutely no reason), so let’s get started and I hope you enjoy it!!
Apex Legends (PC)
Developed by Respawn Entertainment
Pretty much the only online multiplayer games I’ve ever stuck with significantly were Team Fortress 2 and Rocket League, so while I haven’t played at match in this game for many MANY months, it’s not their fault; it’s just me. Apex Legend was by far the best of these Battle Royale games and its astounding just how much better it is than Fortnite in every way that matters to me. The cooperative gameplay make each match much easier to invest in as you have someone other than yourself depending on your performance, and the innovative team chat options made it effortless to coordinate tactics and efficiently convey new and prescient information. So why did I stop playing it? Well it’s not JUST that I’m terrible at it as I’m pretty bad at both Team Fortress and Rocket League which haven’t stopped me from playing them. I think the matches might go on a bit too long to get into a really nice groove of match after match after match, and the closer we get to the end of one the less interesting the mechanics become. I’m personally more of a sneaky player and I like to keep my distance from other teams, but it’ll inevitably come down to trading bullets with someone else (inevitably ten times more skilled then you are) and at that point I can only hope that my teammates can pick up the slack. The game has the mechanics to do more than just shoot at each other, so I’d probably jump back in if they took advantage of that for some sort of racing or package delivery game modes, but as it stands it’s a really good example of the genre that managed to suck a good forty hours of my life away in its first few months, so I can only imagine what it’d be like for someone who’s actually GOOD at one of these!
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Do any of you even know who The Banana Splits are? Of course not! They were on the lower tier of Hanna-Barbera creations and because they were live action characters they never got that extra bump of popularity that many of their other creations did when they started randomly pairing them up on shows like Yogi’s Gang where they flew around in a giant flying ark. Yeah, Hanna-Barbera is weird like that, but the thing about The Banana Splits is… I actually really like them! I remember watching a marathon of episode back when you had to actually watch TV on a TV, and I thought it was a fun little slice of sixties nonsense! A bunch of dudes in animal costumes playing bubblegum pop and doing slapstick? What’s not to like!? And guess what? THEY’RE MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT THEM!! OH BOY! It looks like someone has finally realized how groovy these cats (and dogs and monkeys and elephants) are and are giving them the big screen treatment they deserve, right? RIGHT!?
So it turns out that SOMEONE thought it would be brilliant and edgy to take lovable characters aimed at children… and turn them into monsters in a horror movie; straight up. I mean yeah, they’re clearly playing up the absurdity of it but it just looks like a miserable experience outside of how senseless its UNIQUE SELLING POINT is. Actually, even more blatant than the simple “shock” value of taking character aimed at kids and making them creepy (congratulations; you’re where Creepy Pasta was twenty years ago) is that they are only doing this to beat the Five Nights at Freddy movie to the punch. I mean they weren’t robots in the original series either within the fiction of the show (they were anthropomorphic animals in a band) or the reality of its production which was done by people in costumes which is CLEARLY the case here as well.