Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nancy Drew: Secret of Shadow Ranch

Okay, I have to talk more about the iPhone/iPad version of Nancy Drew: Secret of Shadow Ranch, because I'm curious as to what this game will be like.

It is not going to be a port of the PC game. This is good news to me, because I've noticed that a lot of ports are...um, not so good.  I still remember the Nancy Drew: White Wolf of Icicle Creek port to the Wii, which had the problem of an obnoxious loading screen that appears every two seconds.  Other than that, it's a very good port.

Some not-so-good ports that I've written reviews for are the Pajama Sam PC to Wii port, the Samantha Swift PC to DS port, and the Phoenix Wright DS to Wii port.  And let's not forget the rather unpopular PC to GBA port of Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion, which  I personally thought was well done, but it was sort of doomed to failure due to the limitations of the system.

So the new Shadow Ranch adventure is not going to be a port. In fact, it's going to be a completely different genre from the original adventure game.  It is now going to be a text-based game.

A text-based game?  They...still make those?

Judging from what has been said so far, it is sort of like a "choose your own adventure" game.  You can choose what Nancy says, and what she does, which is standard adventure game fare.  BUT--this is where it gets interesting--it says you can also choose the culprit.

So presumably, this game has four different endings, one for each of the culprits.  All right, that has my attention. I'm interested in seeing how the case will change from culprit to culprit.

The game is not going to be entirely text-based. There will also be some pictures to go along with the text. There are also minigames, and unlockable rewards. That's basically all we know right now.

What do you think, Nancy Drew Clue Crew?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (Part 3)

Time for another update on the plot of the latest Professor Layton game! So far, our heroes have been sent ten years into the future, when London is under the control of the Evil Future Layton and his army of gangsters. It's up to Professor Layton, Luke and Future Luke to stop Future Layton and save London!
First, though, Professor Layton returns to the present so he can pick up some files from his office.  Flora Reinhold is waiting there, and she's upset that she doesn't show up until three hours into the game. I mean, she's one of the main characters of the series! How could they leave her out of the game like that? Professor Layton apologizes, and he agrees to let her join the time-travelling adventure.

Then the Professor totally ditches Flora when her back is turned.

Layton then goes to meet Inspector Chelmey. Chelmey's current assignment is to figure out what happened to the Prime Minister and Creepy Scientist, who haven't been seen since the time machine explosion at the start of the game. Layton says it's similar to a case from ten years ago, which also involved a time machine explosion. Who knew time machines could be so explodey?

After reading Inspector Chelmey's top-secret Scotland Yard files, Professor Layton declares that he has the entire mystery figured out! Way to go, Professor Layton! But instead of explaining the mystery, Professor Layton leaves as quickly as possible.  So...Professor Layton has just ditched two of the series' main characters, and he refuses to explain anything. When did he become such a jerk?

Ah, but Professor Layton's jerk actions catch up him. Just when he's about to return to the future, both Flora and Inspector Chelmey rush into the room, demanding satisfaction. Of course, it's too late to stop the wormhole, so everyone gets sent to the future. Uh oh!  Looks like the whole Professor Layton crew is going to enjoy the time-travelling adventures!

Well, except for Luke. All of a sudden, he becomes really sad because his parents are moving away soon, and--woah, what?  Luke has parents? When did this happen?  I mean, his parents don't get mentioned at all in the first two games!  Why is it they don't communicate with their ten-year-old son for weeks on end?  I'm not sure, but Luke says he and his parents are moving away at the end of the game, in order to ensure that there's a dramatic ending.

Anyway, our heroes make it to the headquarters of Evil Future Layton, where they storm the building and have a dramatic confrontation with the vile fiend. It turns out that he's not really Professor Layton at all! He's...get ready for a big shock...the Creepy Scientist from the start of the game! He didn't die in the explosion after all!  It was all part of his unnecessarily complicated plan to build a working time machine!

But why is Creepy Scientist so obsessed with making a time machine? He wants to go back in time twenty years and stop the tragic death of Claire, Professor Layton's girlfriend.  Apparently, Creepy Scientist was madly in love with her, even though, hello? She had a boyfriend.

Creepy Scientist: I...I loved Claire!
Professor Layton: What? She was my girlfriend!
Creepy Scientist: I know I never dated her, but I loved her with all my heart! And...I still do.
Professor Layton: She died twenty years ago. You should be over it by now.
Creepy Scientist: Don't judge me and my creepy love for Claire!
Professor Layton: Get your own girlfriend, Creepy!

Creepy Scientist then captures the Layton crew in a trap. Uh oh! Things are looking very bad now! Will the Creepy Scientist throw our heroes into prison?  Will he go back in time and steal Professor Layton's girlfriend?  And seriously, why haven't Luke's parents ever been mentioned before? Tune in for the next plot update from Professor Layton and the Unwound Future!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Three Things

1. Big Nancy Drew news! The series is going portable!  That is, they're developing Nancy Drew games for the iPhone and iPad.  Their first game is Secret of Shadow Ranch, which looks like it will include footage from the PC game of the same name. However, it is a text-based game, not an adventure game. Interesting!
http://www.nancydrewmobilemysteries.com/

2. I read the comments on How long should a videogame be?, and I think everyone agrees that a game should be good, instead of long.  If they put something in a game just to make the game longer (as opposed to putting it in the game because it's fun, important to the plot, etc.), that's probably not good. The part where Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess does that is very boring.  However, I can think of other games where you have to do time-consuming activities that aren't so badMaybe it just depends on the game.

I think the standard length for an adventure game today is actually two hours.  Tell-Tale Games, the big adventure game industry leader, sticks to the two hour time limit, anyway.

3. I made a short little video about Metroid: Other M.  People have been criticizing this game a lot for having longwinded cutscenes. So, here's a sample cutscene from that game!



My favorite joke is the title screen fade-in at the very end.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Walkthrough Plans

Some people have asked what my current videogame walkthrough plans are, so here goes.

Plan #1: To stop making videogame walkthroughs, because they take up too much time.

As such, I am not going to be starting a new videogame walkthrough for Professor Layton and the Unwound Future at this time. Sorry, Layton fans! You'll have to read my series of blog posts about the game instead.

Plan #2: Finish my current videogame walkthroughs, because leaving a walkthrough half-done isn't very good.

Currently, I have three half-done video walkthroughs for Super Mario Galaxy 2, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and Miles Edgeworth Investigations: Case Four.  Majora's Mask has the lowest priority, and Miles Edgeworth has the highest priority.  That's because I am on Case Four, aka The Best Part of the Entire Game.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (Part Two)

I have now finished Chapter Three of, I dunno, eight? Professor Layton and Luke have been having some crazy adventures in the future.

Instead of meeting with our heroes right away, which is what any normal person would do, Future Luke decides to string them along for a half-hour. The "super important" thing he wanted them to see at the hospital? It's Professor Layton's car...and it hasn't been used for years. Plus, they met Marty McFly.  This is undeniable PROOF that they are in the future.

Along the way, Professor Layton catches a glimpse of a woman who looks like his old girlfriend, Claire, and there are cutscenes/flashbacks of Layton and Claire flirting with each other. It's sort of like normal flirting, but more British. ("Claire, darling, did anyone ever tell you that your tea and crumpets are absolutely cricket?") The good Professor is completely unnerved at seeing her again, but we have't been told why yet.

Our heroes finally meet up with Future Luke, inside a casino run by "The Family", a gang of 50 identical-looking mobsters. Future Luke and Professor Layton have a puzzle showdown, then Future Luke explains...

The future is horrible, Professor.  Scotland Yard was destroyed years ago, and The Family now runs London.  It all started when the Prime Minister disappeared, and an evil genius took his place.

An evil genius? You must mean Don Paolo!

No, it's not him. The evil genius is...Granny Riddleton!

No, seriously, the evil genius who took over England is Professor Layton. Dun dun dun! So now Professor Layton has to stop his future self and save London!

At this point, The Family bursts in, and they machine-gun the casino in order to kill Professor Layton and the two Lukes.  It was a surprisingly violent cutscene, to be honest.  Professor Layton got out of the dangerous situation by making a slot machine gun that shoots out tokens when you pull the jackpot lever (unlike real slot machines). The gangsters all screamed and ran away, because tokens hurt.

Professor Layton and the two Lukes then go to Chinatown, which is Future Layton's headquarters.  Our heroes are surprised to find out that there are guards outside the building. So they can't get inside. Darn!

Michael's Theories about the Plot So Far:
  1. All the members of The Family look the same because they are robots.
  2. All the members of The Family look the same because the art director is lazy.
  3. Professor Layton is surprised to see his old girlfriend again, because she mysteriously disappeared in an accident many years ago.
  4. Professor Layton is surprised to see his old girlfriend again, because she dumped him and married Future Luke.
  5. The woman in the future that looks like Layton's old girlfriend Claire is actually...the daughter of Layton and Claire!  Yes, she suddenly left Layton without an explanation, because she was pregnant with his child! Just like the Katia plotline in the last game.
  6. The evil Professor Layton really is Granny Riddleton.
Next up, it looks like our heroes are going back to the past to talk to Inspector Chelmey! Because, for some reason, Professor Layton thinks that Chelmey has something important to say, even though Chelmey's role in the series is comedic relief.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (Part One)

I just got the latest Professor Layton game, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. I haven't played too much yet, but here's what happened so far:

Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke were invited to a banquet, where a creepy-looking scientist demonstrated his new invention: the time machine. He asks the Prime Minister of Britain to test out the time machine, pulls the lever, and...boom! The time machine explodes, and the Prime Minister and Creepy Scientist disappear.

Professor Layton then gets a letter from ten years in the future, saying the world is in trouble, and they need Professor Layton's help.  This letter is signed by Future Luke.

Luke and Layton follow the instructions in the letter, which involve visiting a clock shop, and they get taken to...THE FUTURE!  At least, it seems like it's the future.  All the streets and buildings have changed, and the dates are all ahead by ten years. Everybody in town seems leery of Professor Layton's top hat, although no one has said why yet.

Our heroes just got a second letter from Future Luke, which says to go to a hospital. They have nothing else to do, so they decide to go there. That's as far as I've played.

Now, the other Professor Layton games have come up with ridiculous explanations for their mysteries.  In the first game, everyone in town is a robot. In the second game, the entire town is a gas-induced hallucination.  So obviously, Professor Layton isn't really in the future.  There is a perfectly logical, ie. totally ridiculous, explanation for what's going on.

So far, I have come up with the following possible explanations for what happened:
  1. The Prime Minister is a robot.
  2. The Prime Minister is a kangaroo in disguise. He didn't disappear; he just hopped away.
  3. The Prime Minister is a robot kangaroo.
  4. The Prime Minister is a robot kangaroo from France.
  5. The scientist who invented the time machine didn't really invent a time machine. This was all part of his scheme to kidnap the Prime Minister and...I dunno, make him reveal his French robotic kangaroo secrets.
  6. The letters from "Future Luke" are actually from someone named "Fred Lynch"; he just has really, really bad handwriting.
  7. "Future Luke" is really Luke's father, who has teamed up with Professor Layton's arch-nemesis, Don Paolo, to take over the world by kidnapping the Prime Minister.  Or something like that.
  8. While Luke and Layton were inside the clock shop, a tornado came and took them to the Land of Oz.
  9. Everyone is scared of Professor Layton's top hat, because there is a rabbit hiding inside.
  10. This is all part of an elaborate April Fools Day joke. 
I'll keep you guys updated with the plot of the game as it goes along, but for now, it seems like an interesting mystery! Also, the puzzles have all been good so far, except for the train station one, which was total nonsense and impossible to figure out without guessing because the puzzle description was poorly worded.  I had to resort to random guessing, and it took four wrong answers before I got it right. I say they replace that puzzle in later copies of the game, right away!  The other puzzles were good, though.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Question

Recently, I've seen several comments about Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water's Edge that look like this:

"Awesome! I hope it's longer than Trail of the Twister!  That game was SOOOO short!"

I don't remember Trail of the Twister being short, but after reading six or so complaints about it, I decided to double-check how long it is.  My video walkthrough for that game is three and a half hours, so it's probably about four hours long on the first playthrough.  That's not short...right?

So here's my question: How long should a game be?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Evil: Unpunished, Or Its Own Punishement?

I seem to have confused everyone the last time I talked about one of my classes. Be warned: I talk about one of my classes in today's blog post!

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My Philosophy of Evil class is very interesting, even if the readings we've had so far haven't been. There are a lot of different ideas about evil, and I'm not sure how to get them to come together to form a coherent picture.

For example, here are two well-known ideas about evil that don't seem to agree--evil is its own punishment, and evil is largely unpunished.

1. Evil Is Its Own Punishment

Evil is its own punishment; if you choose to do something evil, you are basically choosing to be punished. "Karma" is the most popular term for this idea today; Karma says that if you do something bad, something bad happens to you. Aesop shows this well in his story of the Greedy Dog:

Once upon a time, there was a very Greedy Dog. He was walking down the road one day, when he saw a smaller dog who had a steak for lunch.

"Gimme your steak!" the Greedy Dog said.

The small dog offered to share his lunch, but the Greedy Dog wanted the steak all to himself, so he started barking and scared the little dog away. He then took the steak and decided to take it to his home, on the other side of a river. When he was going across the bridge, he saw his reflection in the water.

"It's another dog!" he thought. "And he's got a steak that looks bigger than mine! I want it!"

The Greedy Dog started barking to scare the other dog away, and the steak fell out of his mouth and into the river. So it was that the Greedy Dog ended up having no lunch at all that day, just like he deserved. The end.


There are several morals to the story, such as "Greedy people are never satisfied with what they have", but the traditional moral is "sin inevitably brings its own punishment". Nobody punished the Greedy Dog; he brought his punishment upon himself. Hence, we can see that when someone chooses to be evil, the person will inevitably be punished for it.

Aesop has several other stories along these lines, such as the boy who cried wolf. The boy lies so often to the townsfolk about the wolf that, as a result, no one believes him, even when he tells the truth. Like the Greedy Dog, the Lying Boy brings this punishment upon himself. He chose to do evil and deceive others, and he suffered the consequences of this evil action.

I could give examples that aren't from children's stories, but I'm trying to keep things simple. If you're bad, you're sure to get punished for it. That's karma, right?

However, this view is almost the exact opposite of another common idea about evil:

2. Evil Largely Goes Unpunished

There seem to be an awful lot of evil people in the world who don't get punished. You've probably met some people like this, people who do bad things but don't get in trouble for it.

The most common example of this today are politicians who boldly and publicly lie about what they'll do during election time. Then, when they're in office, they do the exact opposite of what they promised. That's lying, but the politicians seem to be rewarded with lives of luxury, instead of being impeached like they should be.

This is not just true for today; it seems this has always been the case throughout history. As the psalmist says, "The wicked spring up like grass, and all who do evil thrive" (Psalm 92). Evil dictators like Napoleon, Caesar and Hitler managed to get away with killing millions of innocent people for a very long time before they were eventually stopped.

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So what do you guys think? Do you think evil people tend to be punished, or do you think that evil people tend to get away with their own misdeeds? Should I write more about this topic, or leave it here?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Secrets Can Kill Remastered - Easter Egg

You can get an easter egg in Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill Remastered for solving the elements puzzle early on in the game (instead of at the end of the game like you're supposed to).



My imitation of Nancy whispering "Dare to Play" at 0:04 of the video is eerily accurate.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Nancy Drew Newsletter

Huzzah, everyone! There's a new Nancy Drew newsletter out, all about the upcoming Nancy Drew game: Shadow at the Water's Edge. Get your first look at the four suspects today!

The game will be released in October, and pre-orders are starting now. Also, I've been hearing good things about the minigame they released. If you're interested, check it out!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Promo for my Professor Layton Walkthrough

Who wears a top hat, solves puzzles, and is popular with millions of gamers?

Well, Abraham Lincoln, of course. But Professor Layton is pretty good, too. He’s a mystery-solving gentleman who’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with dangerous criminals. Just look at him confronting a murderer!

point

Waaait a minute. Something’s wrong with that picture.


OBJECTION

Ah, much better!

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first game in the Professor Layton series, and in it, the good professor is called to solve an inheritance dispute. The game quickly becomes dramatic, as someone is killed, people in the town are kidnapped, and absolutely no one has a key to the giant spooky tower that no one ever goes in. Yes, it’s the perfect set-up for an interesting mystery, so naturally, Professor Layton ignores it in favor of solving brain teasers.

Brain teasers! Yes, this game contains over 130 puzzles for the professor to solve, some of which are easy, some of which are difficult, and all of which are addicting. Fans of puzzles will love going around town and solving every puzzle they come across.

There’s a problem, though. Some of the puzzles are too hard to figure out on your own. That’s where my video walkthrough comes into play. Whether you’re searching for help on that last, elusive puzzle solution, or you just want to see Professor Layton get attacked by a ferris wheel, we’ve got you covered. Every single puzzle solution is contained in this video walkthrough, including the rarely-seen UK-exclusive puzzles!

So whether you’re a puzzle maniac or a casual gamer, or just a fan of top hats in general, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the game for you. Check it out today!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Epistemology

Right now, I'd say that Epistemology is shaping up to be my most boring class.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, which means it deals with how people know things. Knowing things is important, but sometimes, you can end up in situations where you think you know something, but you really don't.

It's an interesting topic, but right now, we're studying what the ancient philosophers have to say on the subject. They all seem to be trying to outdo each other when it comes to making up a lot of terms that are hard to translate into English. Each reading is starting to look like this:

The Stoic philosopher Obscurus Maximus (died 95 B.C.) distinguishes knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts as the three principle possessions of the rational intellect. His epistemology, accordingly, contains six types of knowledge, all of which you must memorize because they'll be on the midterm.

First, there is applesaucia, which is what you believe you think. This is not to be confused with applejuicia, what you believe you know. More solid than these two are peanutbutter, what you know you believe, and jellysandwich, what you know you think. These are substantively different from bibbetybobbetyboo, what you think you believe, and eenymeenymineymo, what you think you know.

He is the first person in the history of the world to speak about longissimus verbum, which is what you believe you think you know you think you know you think you believe, not to be confused with what you believe you think you know you think you know you think you think.


Epistemology becomes more interesting when you talk about specific examples. For example, say there is a pair of identical twins named Rachel and Kim Hubbard, and I'm talking to one of them. Can I ever be really sure that I'm talking to Rachel, and that it's not just Kim playing a joke on me? I'm not entirely sure that's possible. And if I can't know something simple like who I'm talking to right now, how can I expected to know something complicated?

My answer: I don't know. But do I know that I don't know, or do I just think I don't know, when I really do? Boy, epistemology is complicated sometimes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Slogan

Hey, everyone! I think it's time for a new slogan for this blog! The current slogan, which I came up with around March of 2009, is this:

"This is Michael's blog. Join him as he writes about his video walkthroughs, comic strips, and other things!"

Any suggestions as to what the new slogan should be?

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Edit: The slogan has been changed to "Where Michael writes about Nancy Drew, videogame walkthroughs, and other things!" Any thoughts?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Internet

The Internet here at the University isn't working right now, so everyone in the building has collapsed from a heart attack and flocked to the local public library for free Internet.

Personally, I find it amusing when people overreact to not being able to access their email. I like email just fine, but it's always better to call someone and actually talk with them. And it's always best to actually see the person you're trying to communicate with, you know? I'd rather be with my friends than email them.

I know that seems obvious, but there are people nowdays who are so absorbed with Internet stuff that they have no interest whatsoever in talking to others in real life. Those people are really rude, and it's not that they're mean-spirited; it's that they just don't care about having normal conversations, and in the really bad cases, they don't care for dealing with other people at all. That offends me. How could you not care about other people?

Let's hope this isn't a trend, and the people in the future will know that talking to people is better than not talking to people.

Speaking of which, what are you doing reading this blog entry? Get off the computer and hang out with your friends. Sheesh!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Brief Correction

As I've mentioned before, my Super Mario Galaxy 2 walkthrough is partially brought to you by IGN, who hired me to make a video walkthrough for it. I got several comments on my last blog post about how it's very cool that I'm being paid to make video walkthroughs.

*snickers*

Guys, I am an unpaid intern. In fact, I'm pretty sure that paid interns don't exist anymore, in this economy. The only thing IGN is giving me for my work is a free copy of the game.

But it's nice of you to think that I'm good enough at making walkthroughs that I could do it for money.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Videos

It's been busy-ish in video walkthrough land for me for the past week or so. After a two-month drought, I finally made more videos for Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. It takes me at least half an hour to do commentary for each ten-minute Zelda video, and in some cases, it takes me an entire hour to get ten minutes of commentary. That's why I don't make Zelda videos that often.













The videos are all about one section of the game (the water dungeon), and I released each video as soon as it was finished, instead of releasing them all at once.

In other news, I made four Miles Edgeworth videos, but I haven't released any of them yet. The Edgeworth videos are tricky to film, because due to recording limitations, I can only get about four minutes filmed in one sitting. Recording a complete video is basically a huge hassle.

I'm also trying to wrap up with the Super Mario Galaxy 2 walkthrough, because IGN (the company that hired me to make the walkthrough) says I have to, but I'm getting kind of bored. The game makes you redo every single level to get the complete ending, which is 120 levels of repeat, repeat, repeat. If I was revisiting the levels for fun, or if the levels were at least somewhat different the second time around, then this might be a fun challenge. But it's not; instead, it's getting boring.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water's Edge Trailer

There's been some new material for the upcoming Nancy Drew game, Shadow at the Water's Edge. For one thing, the cover artwork for the game has been released, with some brief details about what we'll see in this game, like Sudoku, the most popular puzzle in Japan.

Rumor has it that John Grey from Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon will be reappearing in the new game.

And we've also got a new trailer for the game!



Personally, I'm just wondering if Japan is anything at all like it is in that one music video I made:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GPS

My Dad got a GPS for his birthday in July, and he recently gave it to me, because he doesn't think he has the technological skills necessary to install the GPS system in his car.

Well, Dad might be right, because installing a GPS is pretty tricky. For the sake of all my readers who might be struggling with this Herculean task, let me give a detailed list of instructions.

How to Install a GPS

Step One: Plug the battery into the cigarette lighter on the car dashboard.
Step Two: Plug the other end of the battery cord into the GPS.

Phew! That was tough. I can see why Dad thought he couldn't handle it.

So my GPS is up and running, and I've been using it for a while now. I don't use it when I'm going someplace I already know how to get to, but it has been helpful when I'm going to somewhere I've never been to before. Kind of. As you would expect, it's not perfect, and I've gotten lost twice.

The first time I got lost, it took me to the wrong Grant Avenue. Hee hee. Whoops! What town has TWO Grant Avenues, anyway? Crazy town...

The other time I got lost, the GPS took me to an imaginary house. It said to turn left because I was at my destination, but the highway was on the left, so...I went up and down the street for about fifteen minutes, trying to find my location. It turned out that everyone was hidden two buildings away from the 7-11. And no, they didn't get me a Slurpee.

All in all, the GPS works reasonably well, and I suppose it's here to stay, because Dad won't take it back, and my younger sister seems to think I need it because I'm a horrible driver. She might be right, I guess; I almost got in a car crash yesterday.

I'd like to think that it is totally not my fault that I drove the wrong way on two different one-way lanes. I was just trying to loop around to get that parking spot in the first row. I was too busy thinking "Woo hoo! Front row parking!" to be worried about insignificant details like "Why is that car driving right towards me?"

Besides, they need to get some one-way signs, not easy-to-miss one-way arrows drawn on the pavement. What shopping center has only one-way driving in their parking lot, anyway? Crazy town...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More EBooks

I've done more book editing recently. Here are the five ebooks I helped produce:
The one which was the most fun to edit was the ebook of novenas, because I got to work with illustrations. It was fun to decide which illustrations to use, and where to put them.

All these books should be free to download on your iPad or BookReader or Whatever They're Called within a week or so.

Next, I'm doing a short-ish book (40 pages or so) called Fraternal Charity. After that, I'm going to do a book of paintings, just because I liked dealing with illustrations for the book of novenas.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand Review

Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand is not my favorite Nancy Drew game, but I have to admit that it is one of the more important games in the series, setting most of the standards that the series follows to this day.

Scarlet Hand is the sixth Nancy Drew game. Like most series, they hit upon a successful formula for all their games, following general rules like “there must always be four suspects”, “Nancy can always call her friends Bess and George for hints” and “there is always a locked door you have to find the key for”. Starting with Secret of the Scarlet Hand, the series pretty much sticks to this formula and doesn’t try any major innovations until the game screen changes in Secret of Shadow Ranch.

Today, sixteen games later in the series, it becomes obvious that many of these general rules have their origin in Secret of the Scarlet Hand. This game is the first to have the to-do list, as well as the written summary of the plot/clues. It came up with the “find all six special objects” metapuzzle that appears in most of all the other games [1]. It’s the first game to include a trailer for the next game before the ending credits. It’s the first game with the Hardy Boys, Sonny Joon and Koko Kringles, Prudence Rutherford and Krolmeister. And it’s not the first game to include multiple locations, but the ability to travel between various places becomes a standard of the series from here on out.


nancy-drew-secret-of-the-scarlet-hand_sc1

Now, I prefer this game’s predecessor, The Final Scene, just because my organized self loves how the game is split up into three convenient parts (and that kidnapping plotline! DRAMA! And Nancy jumping into Sassy Detective Mode, coming up with all sorts of great one-liners! And Brady Armstrong is–wait, wrong review). However, I cannot deny that Secret of the Scarlet Hand is spectacular. The mystery is tip-top, and whenever it starts to seem that the plot has slowed to a complete stop, they throw a huge plot twist from out of nowhere. BAM! Henrik gets thrown down a flight of stairs! Joanna gets fired! And Poppy Dada is…POPPY DADA! Oh man, she’s so cool that I friended her on Facebook. Keep drawing, Poppy!

One of the highlights of the game is calling people. Her Interactive went above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to phone calls in this game. The dialogue is all entertaining–so much so that I saved the game and replayed through the phone calls to hear the different dialogue options–and the voices are just plain fun to listen to. What should be a simple, boring challenge of “Call person X to learn information Y” ends up being surprisingly awesome. The only drawback is that you have to switch back and forth between the two phones in the game, because Nancy can’t call all of the characters from one phone, which almost always confuses first-time players.

And that overarching plotline of getting all six jade carvings! It’s really satisfying to see those six subplots come together so well, what with the exciting “you just found a jade carving” music, and the 3D “put the pieces together” puzzle. It’s almost as satisfying as seeing the villain scream, “Confound you, Nancy Drew!!!” after realizing that Nancy has tricked him or her. That still sticks out in my mind as one of the best endings to the series.

Actually, the villain him/herself stands out as a great villain. I don’t want to spoil the culprit’s identity, but for this game, the culprit is well-chosen. At the end of most Nancy Drew games, when the culprit appears, it could pretty much be any of the suspects who appears before Nancy. You could easily see Jacques, Dexter, Hotchkiss (okay, maybe not Hotchkiss) or Lisa appear as the villain at the end of Treasure in the Royal Tower; they are all interchangeable when it comes to the villain role. In Secret of the Scarlet Hand, however, I cannot see anyone else being the villain besides [name deleted]. The culprit in this game is just that much of a perfect fit.

ScreenShot1

There are a lot of great things about this game, but it’s not perfect. My two issues with the game are the phone call section and the educational section. Like I said earlier, the phone calls in this game are great, but there’s a stretch around the middle/end of the game where you have to go through 15-25 minutes of doing nothing but making phone calls. It’s a little too long for my tastes, and the game really should have spread them out a bit more instead of lumping them together at that part of the game.

The educational section is a bit too long for my tastes, too. The game takes place in a museum about ancient Maya culture, so Nancy has to go through all the exhibits and learn a lot about the Mayas. And you do learn a lot; I now know the ancient Maya numbering system, and the Maya calendar system (something which people are obsessed with today, for some reason). There are matching puzzles that force you to connect Mayan glyphs with their translations, and there are even quizzes in this game, where you get to answer questions like “What is a language spoken in modern-day Mexico?” Answer: Nahuatl. If you go through all of the museum stuff at once, it’s sort of like edutainment overload. Fortunately, you can do the exhibits challenge at the beginning of the game and the pyramid challenge at the end; that way, the educational parts are spread out, instead of being lumped together like the phone call section.

All in all, Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand is a very good game. It might not be a home run, but it is definitely a triple with at least one RBI attached. Even eight years later, it’s an enjoyable experience, and it’s no surprise that this game set some of the series’ standards which persevere to this day.

[1] I guess the “find all three medallions” challenge in Treasure of the Royal Tower technically counts as the first time you have a “find all the special objects” challenge, but I don’t count it as such because Nancy never searches for the medallions (she just finds them over the course of the game), whereas in Scarlet Hand, she knows that she must find all six jade pieces and goes searching specifically for them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Damage Control

In the words of Tino Balducci, "Calm down, everyone! No need to panic!"

The archives for Pug's Adventures are now back up. All of the joke strips I did during my six-month stint as a cartoonist for Universal Features are there for viewing.

Also, the Phoenix Wright/Miles Edgeworth videos will continue as planned. I can't stopped 60% of the way into the mystery! That'd be evil.

My review for Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand comes tomorrow. Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nancy Drew: Creature of Kapu Cave - Review

Here's a review that I have written for Nancy Drew: Creature of Kapu Cave, one that deals with the fact that a lot of people dislike this game. Let me know what you think!

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Nancy Drew: Creature of Kapu Cave is sometimes pegged as the worst game in the entire series, for these reasons:

  1. Length: It is over twice as short as the other games.
  2. Plot: What plot?
  3. Graphics: It is glaringly obvious they got a new graphics team for this game.

So, if you like short mystery games with only a semblance of a plot, this is the game for you. Thus sayeth the cynics.

quigley

The plot of the game is that Nancy goes to Hawaii to help a quirky entomologist named Dr. Kim. The Hardy boys are there, too, doing a background check on a local surfer girl. And there have been sightings of Kane Okala, a minor Hawaiian god who is destroying the local pineapple crop. Could it be that someone is pretending to be Kane Okala in order to carry out nefarious deeds?

The plotline about Kane Okala, who I can only presume is supposed to be the titular Creature of Kapu Cave, gets dropped ten minutes into the game. The Hardy Boys’ investigation, while interesting at some points, is pretty much completely optional. In fact, when I tried to follow through with their investigation, I was unable to trigger the “confront the criminal” scene, which stinks because that’s basically the whole POINT of investigating crimes, am I right?

In fact, most of the plot of this game is entirely optional. And unfortunately, it’s often hard to trigger certain plot points because following through on their subplots is optional. So far too often you’ll end up with a bunch of unrelated plot points that don’t get explained and/or don’t seem to be relevant. Only when you replay the game a couple of times and choose different dialogue options will you be able to get an idea of how all the various plots are related.

The ending of the game amuses me, because it tries to wrap up all the various plotlines in as little time as possible. Personally, I like the idea of an ending that says, “You won the game! Congratulations! Here’s the plot as a reward.” In fact, if Final Fantasy games did this, I would be pleased as punch, because they do not contain discernible in-game plotlines.

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Okay, that’s enough bad-mouthing the game. What good things can I say about it? The characters are pretty popular with everyone. Dr. Quigley Kim is loads of fun. Quirky is always fun personality trait, although it is immensely overused in children’s entertainment nowdays. Dr. Craven, whose main personality trait is angry, is also a fan favorite. There’s something oddly enjoyable about hearing Dr. Craven blow his top and yell like a maniac. The least popular character is surely Big Island Mike, who is personally responsible for 80% of the filler material in the game, but it’s a mark of good characterization that he can consistently get that negative reaction from most gamers.

As for the graphics, yes, it’s obvious that a new animation team was working on this game, but the graphics aren’t really all that bad. In fact, a lot of the time, the graphics are very good. The Hawaiian scenery, in particular, is so beautiful that I can’t help but think they used real pictures from Hawaii.

The problem, however, is with the character animation. From what I can tell, there are two different models for each character: a full-body model and a closer-up shot. The full-body models look just fine. The closer-up models? Not so much. If they stuck with the better models the whole time, nobody would have complaints about the new graphics. Or at least, people wouldn’t complain as much.

People would probably still complain about the game’s length, though. As I said earlier, it’s a pretty short game. Most of the other games in the series are twice as long. The worst part is that even though the game is short, it still feels like it has an overload of filler content that artificially extends the game’s length. For example, you have to do a five-minute fishing challenge–a minigame that is copy/pasted from Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock, by the way–three or four times over the course of the game. Then there’s the frass analysis challenge, which also takes up fifteen to twenty minutes, a lot of which are spent going back and forth between Quigley and her base camp. True, these aren’t any worse than similar challenges in other games, but maybe because this game is so short, they just stand out a lot more.

big island mike

Is this really the worst the series has to offer? I’m hesitant to say yes, but there are a lot of reasons to not like this game. It’s too short, the plot is poorly presented, and I’d like to be able to skip over some of the longer, repetitive tasks. On the other hand, the characters are well done, and the scenery looks great, so it’s not a total disaster. It definitely has its moments.

If you’re only going to play one Nancy Drew game in your lifetime, don’t make it this one. But if you want to enjoy all the series has to offer, don’t skip over it, either. Aloha!

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Anyone want to come up with funny captions for the pictures in the review?

Videogame Writing

I'm not sure how to say this, but...

I've been writing for a videogame website called GameCola since 2006 or so. I've written dozens of columns and reviews for them since then, and it's thanks to GameCola that I started doing video walkthroughs in the first place.

Well, it's sad to say, but I just handed in my resignation to the Editor-in-Chief of GameCola, my friend Paul. I don't have enough free time to spend writing three or so columns a week on videogames. And besides, I need to focus on more important things.

So, as soon as I finish my current assignments, I won't do any more writing for GameCola. Also, I won't do any more video walkthroughs for them, even though there are some games I really want to play, like Time Hollow. It's kind of tough for me to close the door like that, but that's life. Live it well.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Justin Bieber's Back to the Future!

Woah-oh-oh! Apparently, people do not like like the idea that Justien Bieber could be in a Back to the Future remake.

I dunno, I think that could be amusing. Specifically, I'm thinking of the scene where Marty's band fails the rehearsal. Imagine how they'd do that scene with Justin Bieber in the main role...

SCENE: School Gym. Marty and his band are playing Baby.

Marty: Baby! Baby! Baby! Wuh-oh-oh!
Audition Man: (speaking in megaphone) STOP! STOOOOP! JUST STOP!!!!
Marty: (stops playing and looks confused)
Audition Man: You are WAY TOO BAD to play at the school dance! We want people to enjoy the dance, not run away screaming! For the love of bacon, never sing again!
Marty: Oh noes!
Audition Man: And besides, you dress like a little old lady! And you need a haircut And--



SCENE: Outside school. Twenty minutes later, when the rant has ended. Marty is walking slowly, depressed that he failed the audition. His girlfriend Jennifer sneaks up on him and gives him a sideways hug.

Jennifer: Hey, Marty. You looked bummed. Is it because your mom made you wear her sweater today?
Marty: It's not my mom's sweater! It's my sweater! I always dress like this!
Jennifer: Really? Why?

Some of the other scenes in the movie could be amusing, too, like the brand-new ending where Lorraine falls in love with George because "compared to Marty, you're the coolest kid in school". So hey, it might not be the WORST remake ever! At least, it'll be facing stiff competition for the "worst remake ever" category from the other six remakes that are coming out that year.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More School Stuff

I checked my mailbox today, and all the mail was for someone named Julio. I asked the people in the mailroom about it, and they said that everyone got a new mailbox this year.

Well, that's just fine and dandy, but which mailbox is my new one, and what's the combination to open it?

They wrote down my new mailbox number and combination on a form. Apparently, I was supposed to pick up my form on Monday. I didn't do that, so they put the form...in my mailbox.

So basically, I have to open my mailbox to get my mailbox combination. Perfect.

The person in the mailroom was able to open my mailbox for me, but it was still kind of ridiculous.

In other school news, I've finished my first week of classes. The elective I'm taking is Spanish 2, which is what you'd expect it to be. Espanol esta bien, mas or menos. Mi vocabulario es mas grande que los otros estudiantes porque de mi trabajo en lenguas antiquas. Mi problema es no pienso en espanol. Cuando quiero decir algo, yo pienso sobre que quiero decir en ingles y lo tranduco en espanol. Necesito pensar en espanol.

Another class I'm taking is epistemology, which is totally epistemological. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How do people know things? What can people know? How long will it be before I can spell "epistemology" correctly? These are the sorts of questions that the class will hopefully answer.

It'll be another week or so before school really gets started, because there are three or so programs that don't start until two weeks in, just to make things simpler for the new people. My assignments will be sacristy duty, playing piano (provided I pass the audition), and tour guide. Yep, tour guide. I've got four groups ready for tours of the seminary already. It'll be an interesting ministry, to be sure.