I know the game ain’t precisely brand new, but I’ve had a busy year. So I’m only just now really getting down to it. Long and short is: it’s Borderlands. If you liked the first one, you’ll like the second one. If you didn’t like the first one, don’t waste your time here, because there’s nothing that will change your mind.
Unless of course what you didn’t like about the original Borderlands was the fall damage, because, hey, guess what? It’s gone. Borderlands 2 continues one of my very favourite trends in game design and gets rid of fall damage altogether! Fall damage has never ever been fun, so I’m a huge supporter of this change. On the down side, you now have to pay the respawn fee if you die by falling off the world, which wasn’t the case in the first game. Who wants to bet they added that just to stick it to sly foxes who exploited that little loophole against the first game’s final boss?
Borderlands 2 is way way talkier than the first game, too. People are always calling you on the space phone to make self-consciously wacky Borderlands jokes. They aren’t any funnier than they were in the first game, but there are a whole shitload more of them. Now, don’t get me wrong; the voice acting itself is fine. It’s the dialogue that needs to be fed through a digital mulcher. So far, I don’t think I’ve laughed at a single joke, though I suppose there was one dramatic moment that was fairly effective.
You remember Patricia Tannis, the world’s most least funny NPC, right? Well, she’s back, and she hasn’t gotten less annoying. She’ll seem less annoying once you meet Tiny Tina, though; I honestly don’t even know how to describe this character. Her schtick is that she’s a little girl, but most of her dialogue is Dave Chappelle and Tracy Morgan routines from ten years ago. I’m not even making that up. You have to experience this to appreciate it, but I promise you it’s not worth it.
The game has a lot of defense objectives, which I do not appreciate at all. You’ll find yourself lumped in the middle of an arena, and you have to prevent the mobs from destroying some widget or other. This is pretty annoying, since the core mechanics of moving from cover to cover to outflank your opponents are suddenly unplayable; your only choice, really, is to stand right out in the open and just try to straight-up out-gun everything, since, if you take cover, the mobs will destroy the widget.
Also there are boss battles. They range from “sort of fun” to “is this working right?” The last boss fight I did was against a mob that was as much like a Mass Effect thresher maw as to make no difference, but, for the sake of originality, Gearbox called it… oh, a thresher. Good work, clowns. This fight I’m not completely sure was working properly, as sometimes the boss would simply stand still for a while and not do anything at all while I shot it, and other times it appeared to be able to attack directly through any hard cover I was hiding behind. Then, right as I was about to kill it, a huge shipping crate appeared out of absolutely nowhere and just floated in the air in front of the thing and blocked all my shots. I shit you not. Also: why does a giant moon worm have shields? That makes no sense.
Pointing out that, once upon a time, I made fun of Steve Henson for posting a list of contracts so bad that they couldn’t possibly be traded. By "once upon a time," I really mean "last season." And how did Steve-o do? Well, of the eleven players he named as completely untradeable albatrosses, two of them (Carl Crawford and #1 pick Vernon Wells) were successfully traded, one (Alfonso Soriano) would have been except that he invoked his no-trade clause to block it, and one of them (Jason Bay) was released and then picked up off of waivers. So good job identifying players who couldn’t possibly be moved, Steve!
When I was new to the workforce lo these many years since, I was given to significant reliability problems. By which I mean I used to call out of work a lot. Pretty much whenever I didn’t feel like going to work, in fact. Which was all the damn time. I never bothered making convincing excuses, either; I’d do that bit we all learned from Ferris Bueller where you make your voice all feeble and shaky, and I’d tell my boss I have a dire case of Monkey Pox and I’m far too sick to fold boxes on the assembly line, but I’m sure it’ll be better tomorrow so don’t bother finding coverage. Then I’d go back to playing Dragon Warrior 7 like I’d been doing all day.
This changed for two reasons. Reason one is that I finally learned that work is not school. See, I got a job right out of college, and I’d never had a job before except bullshit campus jobs where I worked like three hours a week and nobody cared what I did. So I was thinking of this whole "work" thing like it was the New Game+ mode of school. I never went to school if I had a pressing appointment with the Nintendo, so why go to work? It was a few years before I finally got to grips with the fact that, although skipping school is 100% upside, skipping work carries the nontrivial disadvantage of they don’t pay you. And if they don’t pay you, not only can you not buy any new video games, but you cannot in fact even pay the rent. And if you don’t pay the rent, you’ll quickly find yourself devoid of any place to plug the N64 in. So eventually I realised that, while I could spend more time playing Mischief Makers today, eventually I’d find myself on the street selling pencils out of a cup to raise money for my Game Boy battery fund. The other reason is because I finished Dragon Warrior 7 and sometimes I can’t tell if anything worth playing has come out since then.
By which I mean Bioshock Infinite’s out. You played that? I haven’t. The original Bioshock was way too infinite for me as it was. The world’s most rudimentary shooter mechanics stretched around a completely meatwitted plot. Also there is Pipe Dream. But don’t worry: I hear Bioshock Infinite is about racism! I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to come up with a theoretical reality in which that ends well. As for me, hey, if I wanted to play an utterly derivative, repetitive game with a cutesy visual style while simultaneously being lectured about what out-of-touch game developers consider deep social issues, I still have a copy of Braid.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is out too. It might be fun. I don’t really know, though; I played about ten minutes of it, after which my wife seized the 3DS and ran off with it. As I write this, she’s huddled up in the corner chanting about it in weird languages. So either she likes it or else the preorder bonus was an actual real ghost. I’ll update this post either way when I figure out this encounter’s gimmick.
Time for ol’ reliable Les Carpenter to write a moody A-Rod article, I mean.
For his first public moment in a Yankees uniform since the playoff disaster, Alex Rodriguez was told to stand in a doorway on Monday morning. He stepped from the Yankees clubhouse less than 1½ hours before his team’s first game and walked not toward the blue backdrop with the team logo attached to the wall for the purpose of impromptu news conferences, but instead to a spot pointed out to him near the clubhouse door.
In all seriousness: is this the first time you’ve seen this? Because it’s not very uncommon.
Perhaps the Yankees were saving him the inglorious symbolism of being pressed against a wall as he was grilled about his bad hip, his disappearance over these past few months while recovering from surgery or why his name showed up on the records of a Miami lab in possible violation of baseball’s rules on performance-enhancing drugs.
Or perhaps they were following the same procedure they always follow when they want an interview to seem "informal."
Or maybe the Yankees wanted to keep him away from anything that identified him as a part of the team, aside from the cap he wore on his head.
Well, sure, aside from that little detail, there’d be nothing to connect him to the team at all! Les Carpenter, you mad idiot genius, you’ve solved all of baseball forever.
And as A-Rod has been for much of his professional baseball life, he tried to smile his way through the questions he didn’t want to answer, speaking in the vague Miss America platitudes that always dodge the more serious subjects at hand.
Can you believe the nerve of this A-Rod asshole? Nobody else does that.
Like when he was asked if he had heard reports the Yankees are looking for ways to void the rest of the $275 million contract he signed in 2007: "I don’t want to focus on that, I want to focus on this glorious opening day."
Asshole. Head-case. Cancer-y clubhouse-cancering cancer man.
Or if he knew what the players’ association was doing on his behalf as the league investigates his linked name in the Miami New Times report about the Biogenesis lab: "Well, I’m not going to comment."
Dammit, Alex! Here are things that do not matter:
- Your privacy
- Union rules
- The fact that anything you say about this — like, literally anything at all — could potentially get you dragged in front of the fucking congress so they can try to gin up some phony excuse to throw you in jail and then fail at it and look like the bunch of useless apes they are
Now sack up and feed the vultures some meat.
Or if he worried that commissioner Bud Selig might suspend him: "No, I’m not going to further discuss this, but at some point it will be all good."
I guess stupid people — such as Les Carpenter — expected A-Rod to start a flame war with the commish on opening goddamn day. A war that wouldn’t do much to improve his chances of not getting suspended.
Also, here’s a funny thing. You know who’s very, very famous for saying absolutely nothing to questions like this? I’ll give you a hint: the first letter of his name is "Derek Jeter." In fact, I have it from a reliable source — this absurd Jeter hagiography — that Jeter’s reaction to the messes A-Rod used to make in the press was "Why can’t you just get this shit right? It’s easy. Don’t say anything. Say what I say, which is nothing." And A-Rod has finally learned this. So take it up with Jeter, Les! He’ll destroy you.
In his 20th season as a major leaguer, Rodriguez is more elusive and more unwanted than ever.
Do you mean "Rodriguez is on the DL?" Since, hey, the Yankees replaced him yesterday with Jayson Nix, who struck out twice in two PA, and then got replaced with Lyle Overbay, who I honestly didn’t know still played baseball, and who flew out twice. That’s the production they got out of the spot A-Rod would be filling, but never mind that. They just don’t want him clogging up the third basepath.
Oh, and the four-run fourth the Red Sox put together? It involved the following things:
- Line drive to weak 3B, Saltalamacchia to third
- Ground ball to weak 3B, Saltalamacchia scores, Gomes to 3B, Bradley to 2B
- Ground ball through SS-3B hole, Bradley scores, Iglesias scores, Ellsbury to 2B
Nobody wants you, A-Rod. Looks like the Yankees are doing just great at 3B! Also, you being hurt forced the Yankees to trade for Vernon Wells, which is goddamn hilarious.
His appearance at the Stadium seemed almost ghostly.
I think we all know which ghost you’re thinking of.
He did not hang out in the clubhouse before batting practice, instead asking a clubhouse attendant to scurry to his locker, pull his uniform off a shelf and take it to him in the trainers room.
He did not come out to the field while his teammates hit. He did not banter with anybody or make any real show to the fans before the game that he had any connection to a team that seems to be lukewarm, at best, about him.
A-Rod has never, never, never bantered with anybody. The most consistent criticism of A-Rod for his entire career has been that he’s weirdly aloof. Like the one fucking time A-Rod has ever done anything silly or spontaneous was when he photobombed the Derek Jeter interview after the 2009 World Series, and the press gave him zero end of shit for how "disrespectful" that was. The man literally cannot win with you hacks.
When asked if he would be introduced before the game, he snapped: "I don’t need to be introduced to feel a part of this team."
Pressed further, he smiled.
"I’ll tell you what, when I get introduced I want to be on the field [as an active player]," he said.
Well, in all fairness, A-Rod, the Yankees have like six thousand injured players right now, and I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who wasn’t introduced before this game.
He wasn’t the only injured Yankee to not be introduced on Monday. Derek Jeter remains in Tampa as he rehabilitates from surgery on a broken ankle.
Whoops missus! I guess tomorrow Les will write an article about how much the Yankees hate Jeter.
But somehow if Jeter were in Yankee Stadium on Monday he would have been introduced.
We’re doing science now, right?
Mostly A-Rod seems to disappear into a crevice that isn’t really the Yankees and isn’t really not.
I gotta level with you, Les: that doesn’t make any fucking sense. I mean I seriously don’t have clue one what that means. In what way are the Yankees a "crevice?" Are you calling them assholes? Derek Jeter will destroy you. Again, I mean.
He spoke optimistically about his recovery, saying he believes he can come back a level that is "very high." He said he was relieved to learn of the tear in his hip after the season because it explained his drop-off in play. And he suggested that maybe he should have had the hip looked at during last season and not after.
"Hindsight is 20-20," he said. "If I would have, we wouldn’t have had the very tough ending to last season. Live and learn."
Head-case. Why won’t you take responsibility??
He was not clear as to who "we" were. Did he mean himself? Did he mean the organization that appears to be holding him at great distance with a pair of tongs, lest his presence further stain an already challenging spring?
Um. Les? "We," in this context, refers to the New York Yankees, a baseball team you may have heard of. He means that they got erased from the ALCS last year after scoring a grand total of six runs, and that his own performance was so poor — which it was — that his crazy insane manager eventually replaced him with the worn-out moldering corpse of dead infielder Eric Chavez, who did nothing good. What he’s saying is that, perhaps if he were healthy, he’d have been useful in that series, the team wouldn’t have resorted to necromantic rites, and then their names would not have been smudged out of the Book of Life. It would be great if you’d learn to understand words and I didn’t have to explain this to you.
Also, if you learned the English language, perhaps you wouldn’t write paragraphs like that. "Lest his presence further stain an already challenging spring?" Holy shit, Les, purple this down about 80%, would you?
"Just his being here is good for us," reliever Mariano Rivera said before the game.
What? How’d that get in here? Dammit. How can I spin this to sound like a stinging condemnation?
If only it seemed the Yankees felt that way.
Aha! Check and mate, Mariano goddamn Rivera. Cut fastball your way out of this trap… if you can!
Rodriguez spoke for just four minutes on Monday before he disappeared behind the double doors of the clubhouse that is his but in a way not.
Hate to be "that guy," Les, but even if you had enough punctuation in that sentence — and you really, really don’t — it would still be garbage. Or, as they say in Germany: das garbage.
It was likely a one-day appearance, a ceremonial visit to hold a place for some undetermined return to an organization that almost seems to wish he’d never come back.
Yeah, because this organisation really really wants to spend $230 million on player payroll for this year and then send out Jayson Nix for 162 games to hit his career averages of .213 / .284 / .370 while playing replacement-level defense. Stay the fuck away, A-Rod! Fun fact: last year was A-Rod’s very very worst season in his career. He played the whole year with a torn labrum, and was only worth 2.3 WAR. Jayson Nix has been worth 2.7 WAR total in his entire career.
Outside on the field, during the pregame ceremonies A-Rod skipped, Lou Pinella, his first manager in the big leagues, threw out the first pitch. It was a reminder of the early days when Rodriguez was young and hitting more than 40 home runs a year in Seattle. He was loved unconditionally there. And it might have been the best home he ever had, until he left it to chase greater riches.
I seem to recall A-Rod won a few MVPs and a World Series in New York. Am I just making that up? Did that not happen? Seems like it hasn’t been all sad-sackery and Mexican hip rot since he came to the Yankees.
Also, I love the part where you say "it might have been the best home he ever had, until he left it to chase greater riches." Read that real close, Les, and tell me what you’ve done wrong.
Eventually, he came here, to the Yankees, to a team that pays him well but also shrugged when he finally returned so say hello on Monday morning.
Proofread, Les. Honestly. Also, this is the last line of the article. What? That’s not an ending, Les, that’s just a stopping. If you’re going to go with that, you should probably add one more line that says "and that’s what I did on my summer vacation, by Les Carpenter, age 8."
Just because I feel like a huge penis right now, I’ll call your attention to this article, for which I researched the following point in order to rebut the stupid, senseless baseball salary cap argument:
"Perhaps 12 of 30 Major League teams have any possibility of reaching postseason play, and fewer still have a realistic hope of winning a pennant. Unless baseball changes the way it does business, it risks seeing its fans drift away, tired of their teams’ futility." San Diego Padres owner John Moores said that in 1999, a year after, rather hilariously, his team went to the World Series. But, comedy hypocrisy aside, is Moores right? Is it really only 12 of 30 teams? Well, to find out, let’s take a look at how many teams have been to the postseason since 1999.
It’s 25. Twenty-five fucking teams. The only teams that haven’t made it to the playoffs? The Orioles, the Royals, the Nationals, the Reds, and the Pirates. What do those teams all have in common? That’s right: extremely shitty management. So, in a nutshell, every team can make the playoffs, except those teams run by gibbons. So fuck the Yankees, amirite?
Just as a quick note: in the three years since I wrote those hi-larious zingers in which I compare several highly-paid baseball executives unflatteringly with monkeys, three of those teams have made the playoffs. Honest-to-god, it is now only the Royals and the Pirates that have not made the playoffs this century.
So clearly baseball needs intervention to fix its lack of fairness oook oook eeek eeek banana.
Remember that guy I was making fun of yesterday? You know, the guy who told everybody else to stop telling people they’re wrong when they like lousy games? I guess I was just in a huge rush to make fun of that awful Game of the Year list, but somehow I overlooked the fact that that guy is the editor-in-chief of a magazine that is almost entirely devoted to telling you which games are good and which games are bad. His goddamn job is to tell you you’re wrong if you like the new Transformers game. So is this just those horrible people in /1 who aren’t allowed to do that, then?
I spend a lot of time on this blog making fun of awful TV, radio, and web journalism, and that’s all fine and good, but the one thing I don’t tend to touch is print journalism. The reason for this should be blindingly obvious: because, contrary to what may be implied by my physique and wardrobe, I am not actually a caveman. I’m just willing to leave it as settled fact that nobody reads magazines anymore, and, as for people who read newspapers, well, I kind of figure they deserve what they get. So print journalism has just sort of been a de facto dead zone as far as the me-making-fun-of-it goes. Until today.
Due to a comedy of errors that is, in an ironic twist, not nearly comedic enough to bother making any jokes about on a snotty blog, I have come into possession of a copy of the February 2013 issue of Game Informer. I can’t be the only one who figures this is yet another manifestation of the secret workings of the Lord, can I? Clearly He wants me to complain about this thing, or He wouldn’t have put it in My mailbox by mistake. His will be done!
Before I start, let me acquaint you with Game Informer real quick, since I imagine you’re not cavemen either, so you’ve never read it. It declares itself the "world’s #1 video game magazine" right there on the cover, but it’s in a tiny little pathetic font. Here — if your eyes are really good, maybe you can find it yourself. I added a big red circle to make it a little bit easier. With all those Marvel characters oozing out of every corner of this thing, I can’t help but be reminded of the way Marvel — a company with a testicle or two — did exactly the same thing. Seriously, Game Informer, sack up; if you’re not comfortable bragging big and bold like that, then maybe just stay quiet and hope nobody notices you.
Logo comedy aside, I actually have a history with Game Informer. Ten years ago, I ended up with a one-year subscription to this rag somehow; I don’t remember if I won it in a contest or it was included with some other thing I bought or what, but the long and short of it is that, for twelve consecutive months, Game Informer appeared in my mailbox actually on purpose. And I’m pretty sure every single one of those issues contained an article about Final Fantasy 7 and an article about Metal Gear Solid. This was 2004, not 1997. So that’s just a nice little bit of introduction for you so’s you can get an idea of what kind of magazine this is.
The first thing we find upon opening the magazine is an editorial written by a dude whose little headshot makes him look like a grown-up, but which is — I shit you not — about how hurtful it is when people call you names in online games. Fuck the heck? Verbatim quote: "I’d pay any company an exorbitant fee to play on an age-gated service that actively and aggressively removes dirtbags." So, okay. Play private games with your friends, because, hey Andy, in the real world, you do have to cope with people who aren’t all just like you. Also: "stop telling people they are wrong" when they disagree with you about video games. Holy shit, dude, if you need a hug, I’m not helping you. I just paid like five dollars for your magazine — as far as you know, I mean — and I didn’t do so for the privilege of listening to you cry that people are mean to you when you add many whelps. Handle it!
So that’s the first thing in the magazine. Off to a good start. Next is reader mail, which can’t be bad; here’s what the letters are about this time:
- Grand Theft Auto
- Grand Theft Auto
- How do I keep my brother out of my Minecraft account?
- Uncharted movie
- This magazine rocks!
- This magazine totally rocks!
- Games are unrealistically and disturbingly anti-wolf
- No, really, this magazine is the fucking best
- Mario sucks
- Nobody makes shmups anymore
- Nobody makes RPGs anymore
Getting an idea of the demographic this magazine skews to yet? Like, that it’s really really young? And also clueless about video games? I can’t believe the guy claiming there are no shmups.
Next: Games of the year for 2012! Odd thing to run in February, but I like to think they did that just so I could make fun of them, because they did the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Game of the year for 2012: Halo 4! Woo! Which I guess is fine by itself — and even moreso if your audience is mainly 15-17 year old males — but Halo 4 did not win Best Shooter. Hate to break this to you, guys, but: that makes no fucking sense. Also makes no fucking sense: Best RPG of 2012? Mass Effect 3! Which is, you know, not an RPG. Curiously, Assassin’s Creed 3 somehow did not win Best Sports Game, but I imagine that was an oversight. The other best thing is the choice of 10000000 for runner-up Best Mobile Exclusive. Now, I’ve played 10000000, and it’s pretty fun, but, if that link didn’t give away the game, I’ve played it on the PC, because it’s not a fucking mobile exclusive. Good work!
Next there’s an article about how great the next Xbox is guaranteed to be, even though the Game Informer staff admits in the article that they know nothing about it whatsoever. All the details are entirely secret and they have no inside information at all, but they just know it’ll be the best! Then there’s a "top ten best dragons" list that at least only manages to include two things that aren’t dragons, though, bizarrely, does also include the fucking dragon from Adventure. What?
Next: an article about how great Halo 4 is, and especially how great Halo 4’s cutscenes are. I guess that’s in case you weren’t yet sure who paid the most product-placement money this issue. Then there’s a similar article about ZombiU, and then — so help me — an article recapping Spike TV’s idiotic video game award show, in which I guess Half-Life 2 was named Best Game of the Decade despite coming out last decade. The only worthwhile article in the magazine comes on page 34, with a two-page story about Pier Solar, which is a game you haven’t played and actually has a really interesting story behind its development. Sadly, Game Informer is maybe just a hair behind the zeitgeist on this one, since Pier Solar came out in 2010.
Then comes a big article about the Wii U launch ports, and how they compare to the versions already released on existing hardware. Spoiler warning: they hate all of them. Then they close the article with a really classy dig at Reggie for having the audacity to suggest that the gaming media’s report of the Wii U as a colossal failure for only selling four million units in three months (for comparison, the Xbox 360 sold 2.5 million units in its first three months) might reflect some institutional bias. This is followed by yet another developer interview about a game from last year. What the fuck, Game Informer? Is there really nothing at all to talk about? No news or information or even any cool pictures or codes like game magazines used to have? This whole magazine is like an American AAA developer circle-jerk. Then there’s a two-page article about how, if you want a tablet, you should get an iPad or an Android tablet or maybe a Windows tablet, which I’m not 100% sure counts as information. Then a full-page article about about how we’re all assholes for thinking Mass Effect 3 had a shit ending — Mass Effect 3 is a year old, Game Informer. You are not "informing" us about a goddamn thing! And the screenshot — which takes up half the page — is not a screenshot from Mass Effect 3. It’s just, like, a screenshot from some random game tacked on to fill space.
Finally we get to the cover feature: fourteen pages about Lego Marvel Superheroes. To save you some time: yeah, they don’t know anything about it other than what was in the trailer. Six pages about the new Shadowrun-themed XCom ripoff, but, again, they have no new information to share. Then there are some crap one-page previews of upcoming games that also don’t contain anything you haven’t seen on every web site ever. And then the reviews come! They review Devil May Cry on two consecutive pages, and give it two different scores, which I still can’t quite understand. But they love it because it has lots of blood and cutscenes. They actually didn’t like Ni No Kuni, which I think makes them the only people in the world who didn’t; reading through this review, the main problem is apparently that you spend too much time playing the game, which interferes with watching the cutscenes. Then there are a whole bunch of shorter reviews, and, in time-honoured balls-less reviewer style, everything gets between 6.5 and 8. So: all the games are "pretty good," and they’d all be better if they didn’t have so much goddamn gameplay. Then, finally, on the very last page, there’s actually something good in this fucking magazine: a big sprite-sheet of all the Mega Man bosses! I have no idea why, mind you, but I’m not complaining. At least it’s cool to look at.
Well, there you are. Now you know why you don’t waste your hard-earned money on gaming print journalism: because it’s fucking awful. Long gone are the days when magazines had any actual information to share; since they can’t update exactly as things are happening like the internet can, they’ve apparently been reduced to boring retrospectives on what happened in gaming last year, and the worst opinion pieces of all time. And, of course, the obligatory bought journalism that just tells you how rad the sponsor’s products are. After all, Jeff could tell you what happens to professional game journalists who don’t praise the sponsored games enough. And then how would these points of light get paid to whine about all those mean people on Xbox Live?
I was not one of the biggest fans of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t keeping company with this douchebag, but I didn’t love it. I found the controls often frustrating, with Mario wall-jumping constantly whether I wanted him to or not, and the goofy Wiimote-shake spin jump firing any time I so much as tilted the remote, and dumping me in pits all the damn time. My overall opinion of the game was that, principally due to the control issues, it was only pretty good.
New Super Mario Bros. U, on the other hand, is not pretty good. In point of fact, it is goddamn phenomenal. What I honestly expected to be a decent but unremarkable launch title turns out to be one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. The game follows the usual visual and audio aesthetic of the New SMB series, and is full of bright primary colours and lively landscapes and catchy background tracks that the mobs (and some environment details) move in time to, and that’s a good thing; the look-and-feel has always been a great strength of the New SMB series, since, frankly, after a while one gets tired of looking at drab, dark, pseudo-futuristic brownscapes, as I believe I’ve mentioned once or twice over the past few years. But New SMB U goes beyond just making things bright and pretty; every level I’ve played so far (and I’m on world 3, so it’s a fair few) contains some new thing you haven’t seen before, and almost all of them are interesting or exciting. I don’t think I’ve said "wow" so many times playing a video game since… ever, pretty much. There’s always something new and surprising popping up here.
The gameplay is probably more balanced than it’s ever been in a Mario game. For once, there isn’t one powerup that’s just better than the others; remember how you haven’t really ever wanted a fire flower since, like, the original Super Mario Bros. since there’s always something better? The raccoon tail in SMB3, the cape in Super Mario World, so forth. They all have the same problem: they give Mario an attack that’s maybe not quite as good as the fire flower, but then they also let you fly and fall slowly and deflect incoming projectiles and hit blocks form the side and on and on. Well, not this time; the glider suit Mario gets from the acorn powerup has no attacks built in, and doesn’t add nearly so many movement buffs; all Mario can do with it is double-jump and slow-fall, which means there are actually times you’ll want something else. On top of the powerup balance, this is the only Mario game I’ve ever played (and I think I’ve played all of them, including the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. and Wario Land on the Virtual Boy) in which the timer actually matters. You have to haul ass to get through the levels on time, even in 1-1.
Playing the game with the Wii U gamepad removes the control issues that dogged New SMB Wii; the game is also playable with a Wiimote (and you have to use a Wiimote for multiplayer), but at this time I’m unable to say if the spin controls have maybe been sensitived down somewhat or if it still throws you in pits constantly. Mario’s wall-jumping reflexes are a bit more on-target this time, though, and it’s not so common that you’ll be trying to make a bunch of rapid jumps and end up bouncing in weird directions you don’t want.
In addition to the campaign and the multiplayer modes, New SMB U also adds a bunch of challenges, which is good stuff. It’ll give you a level to beat in a certain amount of time, or a target number of coins to collect, or something totally oddball — one of the first special challenges has you seeing how long you can survive while dodging fireballs from a pair of Fire Bros. None of this stuff is necessary to play the game, so if it’s not your bag, you can completely ignore it; it’s just a fun little extra from the main menu. There’s also Miiverse integration, which means you can post comments on levels and look for suggestions and such on a spot you’re stuck on without leaving the game at all; I’m not sold on this, but it’s also easy to turn it off, so I really can’t complain. It’s there for people who want it and not there for people who don’t.
If you have a Wii U, there’s no excuse for not getting this game. It’s brilliant. I just hope they have some brilliance left over to use on the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy game.
When Xenoblade Chronicles finally blessedly came out in very north America, I suspected that I really liked it. I wasn’t sure, though, because I was paranoid about Monolith, especially as regards games with "Xeno" in the title. But now I’m a hunnert percent sure I loved it. Why? Because I watched this trailer — which is awful — and it really made me want to play Monolith’s upcoming Xenoblade knockoff on the Wii U, especially if they manage to brown it down 40% or so. Seriously, game developers: what is it about HD that makes you think "brown?" Do you think the D stands for "brown?" In your world, does it mean "high drabbonnation?" Honestly, Xenoblade Chronicles — which I realise was on the Wii, what with its fewer triangles than the competition and that — had utterly captivating environments. Yeah, the faces weirdly looked like shit — I played Last Story too, so I know you could have done better — but the environments kicked my ass since no environments had since Super Mario Galaxy (and before that: mofo Zangarmarsh). So if you fuckers take all those extra Wii U triangles and paint them all brown, I will kill you all in your sleep. With rape bees. Which are like normal bees except you fill in the blanks since you’re all such goddamn geniuses and also you’re Japanese and so oh hey about that.
Seriously, how can I disable Swype on the Kindle Fire HD? It’s making me want to kill myself and also Rihanna but that’ll be another blog for another day.