Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #38

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Things certainly got a bit out of hand around here as I’m still reeling from moving places a week ago, and in these uncertain times it’s always good to look at the constants in our life to keep us grounded!  For me it’s wrestling shows and Sonic the Hedgehog comics, so it’s a perfect time for IDW’s latest issue to come out now that things are starting to settle, but will they follow up the last issue with an interesting story that dovetails with Belle the Puppet’s mysterious past, or would I rather be hauling even more boxes up staircases than seeing where this story goes?  Let’s find out!!

We begin the issue with Sonic, Tails, and Amy falling through an infinite void of bizarre geometry with no clear direction or any real way to control it.  No, they didn’t find their way into Sonic R, but the whole place definitely gives off an incomplete video game level vibe as it appears to be some sort of pocket dimension that Eggman uses to test whatever his latest Sonic Killing devices are, and probably a lot of other things that I don’t particularly care to think about…

“There’s a door over there labeled Punishment Room. I wonder what’s in there?” “You know Tails, I’d rather not find out…”
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #37

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The one good thing about being as hopelessly behind as I was and having to play catchup throughout December and January was that I got to read A LOT of books in a short amount of time.  The wait between the last issue and this one has been EXCRUCIATING as I kept checking back every week in February to remind myself that yes, it’s still not coming out for another week or so.  No mini-series to keep me occupied in the mean-time either, and you’d think that by now IDW would take a gamble on a concurrent series, but nope!  A full month without Sonic comic goodness for me!  Was the wait ultimately worth it as we get started on a fresh new story arc, or will I be willing to wait TWO months after reading this?  Let’s find out!!

With the crisis as White Park Chateau narrowly averted and Tails successfully Frankenstein-ing Omega back together, we begin this issue rather low-key as everyone is heading to the newly crafted Restoration home base so that Belle (the living puppet with a mysterious backstory and a clown nose) can find a place among the normal folk and not spend her time in an underground bunker.  Okay, TECHNICALLY The Restoration HQ is in an underground bunker as well, but theirs is super nice so it’s still an upgrade!

“Yes, we even have a Starbucks!  Starbucks doesn’t even EXISTS in this reality and they somehow managed to get a franchise in here!”
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #36

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

We’re back for another ironically late recap for a comic about a character is super-fast!  Now that the Bad Guys mini-series is complete and we know how Dr. Starline survived to the end of that, we can focus on what he plans to do now that he has tails and Rouge in his grasp!  Will he succeed in his latest scheme, whatever that happens to be, and will this mini-story arc come to a satisfying conclusion?  Let’s find out!!

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The issue begins with Starline basking in his own genius at stealing The Green Goblin’s idea from the first Spider-Man movie; namely to make the hero choose between their duty to the innocent and the safety of their friends!  If Sonic and Shadow don’t go stop that avalanche he caused, the Chateau is going to be destroyed along with everyone inside!  Naturally Sonic decides to save the people, but Shadow being the paragon of ambivalence towards good and evil doesn’t take a second look backwards as he stomps his way towards Starline.  Gotta say, as much as I’ve found Shadow to be an unbearable and cringy bore in every other piece of Sonic media, I think the writing for him has bene top notch and gives a bit of depth to a character that only exists to be everything Sonic is not.  He’s not happy go lucky, he doesn’t make friends, he’s just dark and brooding.  However, this gives him a bit more personality to work with and his single minded pursuit of Starline for humiliating him earlier in this arc feels quite genuine nad in its own way kind of engaging.

“’Sealed my fate’?  Where’d you get that one from; the back of a Twilight book?”     “DO NOT MOCK WHAT YOU FAIL TO COMPREHEND!”     “Whatever, you wannabe Vegeta.”
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Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #4

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

You know, I spent a good month catching up on the Sonic Comics which I felt very accomplished for doing, and then the holiday season hit which threw everything out of whack.  Now here I am a month later once again trying to polish off this backlog I’ve built for myself; not to mention trying to keep up with the new stuff and my VERY EXTENSIVE Halo Retrospective that I’d be VERY appreciative of if you gave that a look!  In any case, it’s time for me to finish what I started and bring this mini-series to a close!  Does Sonic Bad Guys finish things off with a brilliantly realized final issue or does it fail harder than Eggman fails to take over the world every other week?  Let’s find out!!

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When we last left our favorite rapscallions, they were about to swarm on Dr. Starline for his obvious betrayal.  Sadly for them, the not so good doctor has a bit of Walter White in him, and prepared a foolproof plan for this very likely scenario.  No, he doesn’t have a machine gun car ready to go.  Instead, he activates the Tri-core and bolts out of there with Sonic Super Speed, but not before giving them a taste of his awesome power!

“Lay off, bro!  He bopped me in the sok!!”
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Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 3) – The Budget Friendly VR Guide!

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!!

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Drop Dead

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?

Continue reading “Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 3) – The Budget Friendly VR Guide!”

Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2020 (Part 2)

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!

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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.

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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #35

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Despite some ups and downs in the story, I’m glad that the comic has moved away from WORLD ENDING CATASTROPHES to tell a much smaller and more character driven story with this whole Sonic take on Casino Royale!  What, am I the only one who sees it?  Come on, Rogue is acting super shady just like Vesper Lynd; it’s right there!!  In any case, will Sonic and friends uncover the many mysteries surrounding this story, not the least of which being the identity of the hooded figure?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Sonic, Tails, and the living puppet Belle facing their greatest and oldest enemy to date; confusing action scenes that don’t adequately convey spatial relations!  Yeah, I know I’m a broken record on this, but these early pages are another example of the artist just not doing a great job conveying necessary details or relative threats.  The first thing we see low angle shot of them in a rather narrow but tall room (looking a bit like a silo) that is filling from bottom to top with badnicks.  Clearly they would have to find a way out by going UP, right?  No, it’s actually just a PYRAMID of badnicks and they decide to swarm on the side of the room that DOESN’T have the very obvious exit door.  Then as soon as they escape that room and are in the corroder, what I THINK happens is that a grabby badnick drops out of the ceiling to snatch Tails and Bell doing SOMETHING with her tail to save him. 

“Butt Boosters, don’t fail me now!!”
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Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #3

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The last issue of the Bad Guys mini-series was a surprisingly great entry that did a lot to move the plot forward and develop these characters which needless to say means that there’s a lot to live up to in this one!  Starline remains one of the better characters in this series and it seems like IDW is heading in an interesting direction with him, but we’ve been down this road before with this character and he’s never quite lived up to his potential even at his best moments.  The same more or less holds true for the rest of the cast here as they all certainly proved themselves to be more interesting in here than in their earlier appearances, but can Ian Flynn carry this story to a satisfying conclusion or did he use his best ideas in the last issue?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Dr. Starline in the dead of night; accessing his personal computer and recording a video diary to catalog his mischievous machinations.  I’m not sure why he would bother to keep a record of how he plans to screw over his villainous posse, especially within earshot of anyone still awake and grabbing a snack from the fridge, but then again I imagine Starline is the kind of guy who plans to sell his life story for a book deal and five part movie franchise.  Also, it all turns out to be moot because SURPRISE; it’s not actually Starline!  Mimic, with the help of Zavok, somehow managed to crack all of Starline’s security systems and know every last detail of Starline’s plan.  I can only assume that this bit of tricky with the video diary is to fabricate further evidence of his ACTUAL wrongdoing and send it to Eggman when all is said and done, but for now (and with a bit of coaxing from Zavok), they’re going to let his scheme play out until the moment they get what they want.

“You’re not going to need his body once we’re through with this, right Zavok?”     “…what?”     “Yeah, I figured if I gutted him and stuffed him, he’d make a great mantel piece back home!”     “You do you, buddy.”
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #34

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The last issue may or may not have been the start of a new arc (only time will tell on that front), but it did give us an interesting new set up that’s rife with potential!  No more zombots, no more world conquering jerks, just good ol’ fashion greed as Rouge and company are here to outwit the big wig running these Chao races!  Sonic IDW has finally acknowledged that Capitalism is the root of all evil (right after zombot viruses) and I’m very interested to see where it’s headed!  Do they continue to take this story into interesting and new directions as a refreshing break from the nonstop action, or was the last issue just there to set me up for disappointment?  Let’s find out!!

We begin our story of calculated lies and dangerous spy craft in the lovely dining area of the White Park Chateau where Rose is eating some sort of chocolate chip parfait and Cream has barely touched her very square waffles.  See, that’s the kind of quality you expect when you go to the White Park Chateau; waffles you could set a protractor to!  So why is she ignoring her delicious and structurally sound breakfast?  Well Rouge didn’t come back last night after meeting with Clutch, and if she’s not around to be a bad influence on her, then how else is she going to learn to be a jewel thief!?

“Don’t forget!  You promised to teach me how to use a lock pick today!”     “To unlock doors or to jab into a man’s eyeball?”     “Hopefully both!”
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Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #2

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

I couldn’t tell you if these books have been a huge success for IDW, but the fact that we’re on our second mini-series primarily focusing on original characters and NOT Sonic himself is probably a good sign that they’re at least hitting some reasonable targets.  Still not enough to get a full blown second series running, but I guess these things take time and I frankly don’t need the extra work on my end just yet.  For now, let’s stick with what we’ve got which is yet another issue of their Bad Guys mini-series primarily focusing on that enigmatic and smug jerk Dr. Starline.  What exactly does he have planned now that he’s got a crew to do his bidding, and how soon before it all blows up in his face?  Let’s find out!!

Following their very clever and VERY cool escape from prison (i.e. walking away from an explosion), Dr. Starline and his new allies are going full force against one of Eggman’s strongholds.  Well… MOST of them do as Starline sits on the sidelines and smugly pats himself on the back for how genius his plan is; said plan being to get back into Eggman’s good graces AFTER wrecking all his stuff and freeing his sworn enemies!  This particular phase of the plan, as explained to us in a flash back, is to steal something called Power Cores which were APPARENTLY in Sonic Heroes.  I vaguely remember that each character could get a minor upgrade in some way, but I don’t recall it involving floating color coated balls.  In any case, Starline manages to sell his scheme to his current compatriots; albeit with more than a little slight-of-hand.

“Where the heck did you get that coffee!?”     “Starline made it.”     “Yeah, I made it for ME!”     “And your point is?”
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