Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Triviabot: Koopaling Etymology

We've partied with him, we've gone golfing with him and we've gone toe-to-toe with him in the most forgettable installment of the Mario franchise, Super Mario Sunshine. But let's face it, Bowser Jr (left) is just so boring compared to his seven older siblings. Lemmy, Roy, Ludwig Von, Morton Jr, Wendy O, Iggy and Larry all turn 20 this year since their first appearance in Super Mario Bros. 3. Though they rarely appear in any modern Nintendo games they do have a cult appeal for some. This is likely due in no small part to the real life counterparts that their names and personalities were, to some extent, modeled after.

Iggy Pop is largely considered to be the inspiration for Iggy Koopa. He is also considered to be an instrumental in the development of modern Heavy Metal and Punk Rock as we know it today. Pop played with his band, The Stooges, in the early 1970s and became a notorious shock rocker, exposing himself to crowds and often leaving shows covered in blood, sweat and vomit. Those not familiar with him or The Stooges may know him best for doing that song in the Royal Caribbean commercials, "Lust for Life". He most recently got back into the studio with The Stooges to record their newest album "The Weirdness"(2007).

Much like Iggy Pop, Wendy O. Williams was a notorious shock rocker and among the most controversial women in 1970s Rock and Roll. She and her band, The Plasmatics, were as well known for their heavy metal/punk rock sound as they were known for their on-stage antics which included chainsawing guitars, sledgehammering television sets, exploding their equipment and performing wearing next to nothing (she was acquitted of obscenety charges in 1981 for performing wearing nothing but shaving cream). Williams died in 1998 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, she was 48.

Lemmy Kilmister is the founding member of the band, Motörhead and is considered to be one of Heavy Metal's living legends. His status of respect in the heavy metal community is best illustrated by a line delivered by Steve Buscemi in the movie, Airheads.
Question: "Who would win in a fight - Lemmy or God?"
Answer: "Trick question - Lemmy IS God."
Aside from Motörhead, Lemmy has also done a bit of acting and has starred in a few movies by independent film studio, Troma. Most notably, he was the narrator in Tromeo and Juliet. Motörhead recently won a grammy for their contribution to The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. No, I'm not kidding. In the way of videogames Motörhead's song, Ace of Spades, can be found in both the original Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3. The umlaut is strictly for show.

Roy Orbison is considered to be the inspiration behind Roy Koopa. A Rock and Roll pioneer, Orbison is the singer/songwriter behind "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Only the Lonely," and "Crying," among others. His musical stylings have influenced many rock bands that came after him, including The Beatles, who site "Only the Lonely" as an inspiration for their song "Please Please Me."

One of the more obviously named Koopalings, Ludwig Von is named after Ludwig Von Beethoven. Aside from being a musical genius, writing some of the most recognizable pieces in the whole of human history, and inspiring fictional sociopaths, he was also an avid chess fan and was friends with a man who invented The Turk, a primitive precursor to Deep Blue, the modern day chess playing computer. Of course, Deep Blue is a complex marvel of computing. The Turk was a hoax and turned out to be just a high level chess player in a box. (source:

Not a particularly good guy to name a Mario character after, Morton Downey Jr. is best known as the godfather of trash talk shows. His talk show antics became popular in the 1980's due largely to his yelling at, insulting and verbally abusing his guests or anybody who did not agree with him. His influence could later be seen, intended or not, in such shows as Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake and even Bill O'Reilly. He became a short-lived pop culture icon, primarily for being a loudmouth jerk. In what many believe was a hoax perpetrated in an attempt to reclaim his fading celebrity status in the late 80s he was found in the San Francisco International Airport with a Nazi swastika painted on his face, which he claims was the work of Neo-Nazis who had assaulted him. No evidence was ever found to support this claim. Downey died in 2001 of lung cancer.

Nobody is really certain who Larry Koopa is named after. Larry King is the most common choice. However, even though King is, like Morton Downey Jr, a talk show host (a more tasteful talk show host, but still the same career) nobody seems very convinced that this is Larry Koopa's namesake. If you have some guesses, make them in the comments. My money is on that delightful Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers. That kooky Cousin Larry, if only he'd listen to Balki's simple Meposian morality and values then he wouldn't get into so much trouble.

New Issue of Gamecola Available

The newest issue of monthly online videogame newsletter, Gamecola, is available. It's my last issue writing with them (I contributed a review of Alex Kidd and The Lost Stars and "Poor Players Paradise") so I can focus my attention on this blog and other projects. It's worth checking out and has a good variety of different columns and reviews.
The link is here:

Rumorbot: A Torrent of SSBB Leaked Info

Looks like I was being something of a stick-in-the-mud yesterday, waiting for more certain confirmation of new characters and stages in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. New screens that sure seem to be legit have surfaced that have not only confirmed the items I was hesitant to confirm yesterday, but have also confirmed a slew of other SSBB info. Here's some shots below:

You'll notice some unannounced characters in the screenshot above, including:
Windwaker Link (Toon Link)
Mr Game & Watch
Captain Falcon
R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy)

Unless Nintendo isn't nearly as OCD as I am, it looks like there's room for one more in that bottom row of characters, but, assuming these are all reliable, this accounts for just about everybody in the game.

As for stages:

Green Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)

Link's Ship (Windwaker)

Port City (F-Zero)

Mario Bros.

If you're done drooling you can check out Kotaku's article on the new info over here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rumorbot: New Smash Bros Info revealed in leaked intro?

If you're one of those failures at life that think learning some information that you would have found out within the first 12 seconds of playing the game counts as a spoiler, you'd do well to skip this bit. For all the rest of us:

A new trailer has set the Super Smash Bros Brawl (SSBB) fan community aflame today as the interwebs are flooded with nearly baseless speculation flying from all directions. Here's a few:

Ness and Marth are returning to Smash Bros!!

Though there is no SSBB update I'd like to hear more, Ness is still unconfirmed. Unfortunately, so is Marth. I hate to urinate on your picnic but, yes, the video does make it look like they're playable, but it's possible that Ness and Marth will simply be assist trophies or parts of the game's new storyline - not playable. Until we hear otherwise from the SSBB Dojo, it's all just speculation. After all, these guys are in the video too and they aren't playable:

Green Hill Zone is a playable stage!!

Like above, nothing has been confirmed in regards to Green Hill Zone being a playable stage. Though it would be nice, and downright likely, there's still no confirmation. The shot of Green Hill in the intro could simply have been rendered for the movie to show Sonic in his natural habitat.

Those are the big ones - check out the video below and I'm sure you'll be able to find more to get yourself excited over.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thriftbot: Games on the Cheap

Do you like shooting aliens in the face? Do you like contrived sci-fi plotlines? Do you like being shot in the face by 12 year olds only to be called countless racist and homophobic slurs and be teabagged by them post-mortem? Then, if you’re one of the 4 Xbox360 owners that have yet to get their tickets onto the Halo 3 Hype-train now might be the time to do so.

Best Buy is currently serving up some Halo 3 for $38, $22 off the normal price.

I’d hop on it soon as this will probably be a limited time offer and I don’t foresee Microsoft’s multiplayer monolith getting another pricedrop like this until it inevitably becomes a “Greatest Hits” title.

If you own a Wii and, for some ungodly reason, do not yet own Zack and Wiki then now is your chance to experience one of the most excellent adventures since two dudes discovered a time traveling phone booth. Go buy now!

Why is it so important that you go out and buy this? Simple – if people don’t go out and buy good games, the good games don’t come back. Don’t let Zack & Wiki go the way of Psychonauts and Earthbound.

Need more incentive to pick it up? Fine, how about the fact that most retail outlets are carrying it for $10 off its already bargain price, dropping it to a svelte $30. I thought you’d see things my way. Now go buy!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reviewbot: CSI: Hard Evidence (Xbox360)

With all the terrible games out there based on movies and TV shows it’s always refreshing to see one that is a carefully crafted, visually appealing, masterpiece among games.

Unfortunately, while we wait for such a game to surface we’ll have to make due with CSI: Hard Evidence, a game that was crafted with all the precision and care of a passenger-train wreck with only half the visual appeal.

“Hard Evidence” is the fifth CSI video game, and with it comes more of the same, aiming more for fans of the show rather than hardcore gamers. You play as a new recruit to the Las Vegas Crime Lab, assisting characters from the show solve five different cases. Your partners can give you hints at any time, though you probably won’t need them as the game’s default settings make the game so easy that it might as well be taking you by the hand, walking you through the levels and patting you on the head, promising everything is going to be alright.

The game’s character models are clunky, lifeless shells, sometimes not even particularly resembling their real-life counterparts and moving with all the fluidity of an un-oiled robot in a strobe light. The flow of the game is also ruined by designers’ laziness, the worst example of which is when you get search warrants that are arbitrarily limited to every section of a house except the one drawer that, it is later revealed, holds the case-breaking piece of evidence.

Thankfully no skimping was done in the audio and writing department. Nearly all the original cast members provided their voices for the game and the soundalikes used for Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) and Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) would fool even long time fans of the show. The writing also shows the promise that this franchise has, allowing the player to unweave complex and compelling mysteries worthy of the television series itself. Unfortunately, the storylines also seem desperately written around characters and stages from previous cases, presumably to keep game designers from having to create new locations and characters.

If lazy game design wasn’t bad enough, the product placement in the game is downright shameless, slapping HP logos on every piece of electronic equipment in the game, and Visa logos on absolutely everything else. I can forgive this much. Product placement can, when used properly, create a feeling of realism in a game. But when the Chief of Police takes time out of his busy day to tell you that he was pleased as punch that Visa’s Continuous Monitoring Service protected a murder victim from a possible identity theft you know that lines have been crossed and you just paid $40 for an interactive Visa commercial.

This game obviously depends on its popular subject matter to carry what would normally be a lackluster, bargain bin, “shovelware” title into a more financially successful title. But between graphics that wouldn’t have held up on last-gen consoles, lazy game design and copious amounts of shameless product placement, this game does very little to further the dying Point-&-Click Adventure genre, and a lot to push it a little deeper into the grave.

out of 100

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Plextek Adopts New Business Model - Dismal Failure

If the upcoming re-release of Nokia's "sidetalking" failure heap, NGage, didn't have you perplexed enough then here's something that will destroy any remaining part of you that thought the world had to make some kind of sense:

The Gizmondo has been cleared for re-release.

Eurogamer broke the news that UK Electronics firm, Plextek, has confirmed that they plan to re-enter the stopwatch-from-hell back into the game market.

Surely this is the contender we have been waiting for that will dethrone the mighty DS.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ProcrastinationBot: Ouverture Facile

If there's one thing I'm good at it's wasting time when I ought to be doing something productive. The only problem? I hate most internet games, mainly because they tend to be insipid bubble popping/jewelry arranging/color matching games for stupids.

Ouverture Facile, thankfully, isn't afraid to try some new things. Originally only in French (its name originally means "Easy Opening") Ouverture Facile has been translated into english and is ready to destroy your brain and any free time you may have.

Each level presents you with a scene that you can interact with and a clue. From there, it's up to you. OF requires the player to do a lot of thinking outside the box to solve its puzzles and will have you utilizing math skills, photoshop, hex editing, HTML and more. Don't be afraid if you aren't familiar with these things - the game only requires a basic knowledge of any of these skills. The real challenge is knowing when to employ these tools.

A warning right off the bat - you will get stuck. Just keep working at it and, in extreme situations, you can visit the OF forums for more clues, and you'll get it eventually. If you're anything like me the feeling of satisfaction you get when you finally find the right answer to a particularly hard level will drive you to repeat to yourself "just one more level" until you realize it's 4 in the morning, you're not going to get any sleep now and you haven't gotten a damn thing done.

Thanks, Ouverture Facile, you are truly a hero among procrastination tools.

you can play it here:

Smash Bros. Brawl to Offer Demos for Classic Games

Smash Bros. Dojo is reporting that the ever-elusive Super Smash Bros. Brawl is going to have yet another new feature called "Masterpieces" - playable demos for classic games.

According to The Dojo the North American release will include:
Super Mario Bros.
Ice Climber
Legend of Zelda
Kid Icarus
Kirby's Adventure
Super Metroid
Star Fox 64

Fire Emblem and cult favorite, Earthbound (Mother 2) were also listed as being playable on the Japanese version of the site but were omitted from the North American release page. However, fans of these games (and others not listed), don't lose all hope - it was also mentioned that this is not a complete list of games and others will be able to be unlocked.

This new feature raises some questions for me. Namely, "Is this new feature awesome or kind of lacking?"

It's a nice new feature and unlocking new demos will add some replay value to the game, but after playing the Gamecube version of Animal Crossing where you could unlock full versions of classic Nintendo games - don't demos feel a little bit like going from filet mignon to half-eaten Big Macs?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reviewbot: WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii)

Since its GBA inception nothing has delivered insane, ADHD-friendly fun quite like the Wario Ware series. The newest Warioware title, Smooth Moves, takes it off the handhelds and back to your TV for the first time since the Gamecube version 3 years ago. Previous versions have never been afraid to look silly, having players slice logs, pick noses and slather French fries with ketchup within the span of a few fleeting seconds, but Smooth Moves adds something new to the mix – now you get to look stupid too!

This time around the microgames are completed by holding the Wiimote according to the “stance” you are given before the next game is presented. For example, if you are shown that the stance for the next game is The Mohawk, then you will hold the Wiimote atop your head and prepare for the upcoming microgame. There are quite a few stances, all of which are designed to be as fun as they are silly-looking. You may look foolish in front of your friends when you play this, but trust me, it’s nowhere near as foolish as you’ll feel when you’re standing in your empty living room, all alone, doing squat thrusts with a plastic controller on your head and posing like a samurai, so let go of your inhibitions.

Fans of the series have reason to celebrate this installment. After smacking orange-thieving old men with a blackjack, lifting weights to the delight of a bunch of lions (above) or helping Mario hit blocks full of coins you’ll find that the games are just as absurdist and self-referential as ever.

Though it is a lot of fun the game isn’t without its problems. The Wiimote is generally very responsive and works great but there are a few games where the motion sensing is inordinately picky and requires you to be holding the Wiimote at just the right height and distance away from your television for a game to read it. This isn’t a huge problem and only affects a handful of the games but it’s still a pain to run into.

The much bigger problem in this game is the multiplayer mode. Lack of a multiplayer mode isn’t the problem. There is a handful of different multiplayer modes and the game supports play for up to 12 people. The problem is that everybody has to share the same Wiimote. The rationale from the game designers for this is that they wanted you to focus on watching and laughing at your friends rather than all playing at the same time and missing it. That certainly is a good point but I would much prefer that you recommend that I use 1 Wiimote rather than forcing me to.

Another unfortunate thing is that the game, much like all of its predecessors, is pretty short, clocking in at only a few hours from start to completion. Of course the real draw to this game isn’t so much the single-player offerings but, rather, the multiplayer.

Despite its multiplayer shortcomings the dull wasteland of abysmal party games that is the Wii’s game library, Warioware shines above the rest, putting its peers to shame.

out of 100

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Undertow - Free on XBLA

I can think of no more worthy an inaugural topic than one about good free games.

Are you an Xbox360 owner?
Do you have the Xbox Live?

If you said yes to these questions then welcome to free game town - population: You. Xbox is making Undertow for XBLA free until Sunday, January 27 as an apology for recent "hiccups" in the live service since Christmas.

Already buy Undertow? You've got 800 MS Points coming to you. Call up 1-800-4MY-XBOX and demand (politely) that they make with the points and, apparently, they'll comply.

Welcome to Slothbot!

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Stick around, I'll have some content up soon.