I spent the last two days in Derry at a puppet making class. Now, when I think puppet, I think glove puppets, marionettes, or Muppets. Small things, y'know? But these were those giant-headed, pole-mounted, long-armed monstrosities that march in parades, frighten children and are often caricatures of politicians. Those kinda puppets. And I could rag on about how much I loathed the material used (three layers of alien cloth, some paste and wrapping them all up to make a solid? WHAT DECONSTRUCTION OF SENSE IS THIS) and how mega shit I am at painting (very!), but all in all it was pretty enjoyable and I learnt all kinds of crazy construction lessons that'll probably be obsolete to the common man by 2029 when we've all got robot slaves to do our productivity for us. Still, fun while it lasts!

Two days of work and I don't even get 150 words out of it. Oy vey.


In other news, Wario Land: The Shake Dimension just astounds me with its awesome visuals. I'd only seen stills previously, but seeing it in action - beautiful. It's a shame they don't even make it fill the screen, throwing two wonky HUD bars at each side; and pity that it's a bit easy so far, though that's nothing a decent level builder couldn't solve.

Which it doesn't have.

The world of gaming makes all the progressions I don't want it to. :{

I mean, seriously, I bet people would've publicly loved New Super Mario Bros. for more than a month if it had a level creator that didn't require crazy hex hax.



So despite having seven emulators on my Wii, at the end of the day I mostly end up using the SNES one for some Kirby's Fun Pak or Yoshi's Island. Which is understandable, but I threw pretty much my whole game collection on, even the stuff I have but haven't even played. Hence lots of stuff going to waste! Well that has changed.

Because I decided to see what Bad Street Brawler is like.

Basic rundown: Apparently, shit's going down in the city, hence why there's punks with bats, flail-swinging midgets, gorillas and skater boys out on the loose without parental supervision. So some fellow with quite dire fashion senses sets out to put a stop to it, by beating the crap out of them and throwing their possessions in a dumpster. It basically plays like Final Fight, minus the vertical axis of movement (bar jumping), two attack buttons (that keep changing attack every stage), no co-operative, no difficulty curve, and nothing that actually made that game vaguely memorable.

Somehow, I played all the way up to stage 9 before finding the boss to be a mega bitch and lost the patience to continue. See, brawlers tend to inexplicably stop your progress so you can do battle with some thugs before allowing you to move on, and even if it doesn't it's still wise to fend them off anyway, since they can be persistent buggers. Bad Street Brawler only stops you three times per stage at the same points (measured in buildings on the HUD), and once you reach those, any thug that isn't the select enemy will just waddle off-screen. And yeah, the enemies are zany, but they're not exactly difficult. Something is wrong with a game when a tiger is the easiest opponent of them all, and a skater boy and a punk chick who appears to barf bananas are the toughest of the regular enemies.

I played this because it was on a list of games I randomly chose to play for an hour or so for the sole purpose of having something to write about, but instead of pondering how on earth they thought a man being able to fly by swinging a steel ball around was a good idea, I'm left pondering why the game was made. Yes, there's personality, in the sense that the motivational poster captions at the beginning of each stage are mildly sarcastic, the enemies are bizarre and the Trip manoeuvre looks utterly filthy if you look at it the right way (or read an eight year old popular review)... but the game itself is almost comically simplistic. Nobody's forcing you to fight more than three bad guys per stage, between your cycling array of two moves there's one that'll knock the shit out of anyone in your way (GUT KNEE), and the fact the bosses become regular enemies certainly spells out how threatening they were in the first place. Not to mention that the intermission taglines and still images feature our hero spouting such hilariously edgy lines as "I'd rather have a hamburger" while being awarded a medal and a parade, not even the personality can save it. I was almost going to say that personality can make a game, but, yeah, that's the kind of comment that elitists come back and haunt you with; not to mention that my example, Puchi Carat, has a fast-paced, good quality game underneath all the anime glam.

It's not very good, and aside from some absurdity-related humour, has no other reason to exist. Slugs out of 10.

Up next: Hyper Olympic? I sure know how to choose 'em.



A mere day after I strike gold with it, and my WiFi now refuses to do anything other than play spectator mode in Brawl. I can wait for a match to start in either game, but it doesn't go anywhere. And all my solutions end up making connection impossible for a good few hours until I finally figure out what combination of nonsense I pull to fix it. Sigh.

You guys are probably wondering where the interesting updates have gone! Me too. We should set up a search party. (some inspiration and loss of moodiness would probably help me about now)



In yet another demonstration of me avoiding the chance to personally compliment someone on their work because me so shy, Flying Omelette's list of great video game boxart is superb, and really reminded me of those things. I mean, yeah, I hold onto all my boxes and manuals, even the cardboard ones that are no good for actually safely holding things, but I don't really pay attention to the art on them nowadays. And looking at the ones shown, the stuff you see nowadays doesn't even compare. The original thread is good stuff too, and it really makes me wish I had any resemblance of art direction. I suppose just looking at the site's layout should show the extent of my knowledge.

And it reminded me of how much Mario Kart's boxart has gradually gotten crappier and crappier. Not the best example in the world, admittedly, but look at my game collection and list any that actually have good boxart. THERE'S NONE I TELLS YA (either that or I'm just incredibly ignorant. More likely!)

The first game, for instance. A great demonstration of the old-style Mario art, before it became boring old CG models that, while nice and all (and admittedly I'd kind of like to know a bit of 3D modelling for the sole purpose of non-fumbled anatomy and tracing, hurf), and I always loved the sheer chaoticness of it. It helped that the art inside was pretty great too, though I don't think anyone's gone out of their way to scan it. Well, I haven't checked, but I'm a pessimist.


Mario Kart 64's box never really captivated me the same way. It's good in its own way, but I would label it one of the best or anything. On the bright side, there were several large action images like this made - one on DK's Jungle Parkway that I once had as a great poster - that showed they were at least cool enough to make several instead of just going "aw man apparently standalone character art doesn't make good boxart, we'll have to actually put effort on something now." The manual featured a great image of Toad being mowed down by a bus on his own level while Mario had this frighteningly ecstatic grin. I don't think anyone's archived that art either. If people don't archive awesome things like that, however would we have known about the goddamned Poltergeist King?! The Poltergeist King, you guys. He's the man. (who give Trevor Belmont his weapons)


After the lousy Mario Kart: Super Circuit came the slightly less lousy Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, which was a decent game and all, but by now it's just heavily overshadowed by every other instalment ever. On the bright side, it did feature some nice action shots - all of the most boring course, sadly, and nowhere near the great compact nature of the first game's artwork, but it's nice to see they were trying something. Would've been nice to have a better game wrapped inside it, though. A million characters is good, but the unchanged amount of courses, many of which are pretty meh, wasn't quite what I was looking for you guys.

This is the American boxart; the PAL version got a slightly rearranged version with the Mario brothers closer to the "camera," and everyone else much further away, resulting in lots of empty track. Not cool.


And after that (and before it with Super Circuit, hurf), they just decided that making it as uninteresting as possible was the way to go. Just Mario, on his kart, on a background of varying levels of bland. Nobody being shoved around, nobody wailing in panic, nobody falling into harm's comical way. Just him. Mario Kart Wii did mix it up by implying chaotic racing by having Mario invisibly grinding into Luigi on invisible karts, holding Wii Wheels. Didn't change the fact it's really, really dull. You'd think with the twelve racers, online play that doesn't stink, silly items and rubber-band AI that rivals that of the original game they'd have something a fair bit more dynamic, but apparently not. Heck, the secondary art for the characters is just art from older games slapped next to their kart. Lazy.


Also, I think that's precisely why I don't like books as much as I want to: They ain't pretty. The blurb certainly doesn't tell you what it reads like, whether it'll be a monotonous slog of detail or like DIY instructions set to fiction, and it seems to be very hip nowadays to have really, really bland covers. I looked in an book store recently that had a Fantasy section, and it was really nothing more than shades of green with perhaps a scrawled dragon or goblin on the cover. Of course, the fact that half the books were written by the same author probably explains that.



If there's one thing I like about the Nintendo USB WiFi Connector, it's that there's very you need to do to get it working. If there's one thing I hate about it though, it's that there's very little to do at all, meaning if it doesn't work with the basic setup then the most you can do is fumble with things randomly.

And that's about as far as opinions go. You just plug it in, grant access to your DS or Wii, make sure it's not blocked, and that's how it works.

Which is precisely how I finally got the online functions on the Wii working. Hearing it was compatible with the USB device that I'd previously only used to be humiliated by snakers in Mario Kart DS, I pretty much probed and groped every orifice of my computer's security settings to see how the hell I could get it running. I tried it on my dad's computer, and it was instantly blocked by his internet security program, and on mine I didn't even know I had a firewall, but one was presumably what was causing it to not work.

Then, just for a gag, I try Mario Kart Wii's WiFi multi-player option, and voila, it worked.

And I'm baffled as to how.


Even still, I got a good five matches out of it, and all were entertaining! Which was very refreshing, since the few times I raced people who didn't play Mario Kart DS for the totally hardcore expert meta-game of HOW MUCH CAN YOU EXPLOIT THIS FEATURE they'd just drop out and leave me with a sorely disappointing single opponent, who'd probably drop out as well. But to get a satisfying twelve opponents, on a big screen, with cheating that didn't require endless patience and no life to replicate it yourself, it's really all I could ask for. Aside from voice chat. I'd love to hear the profanities people could come up with regarding the racing of large nosed plumbers.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl, though. I try to set up a game, and I end up waiting five minutes in that sandbag arena with no one bothering to enter. All I appear to be able to do is be a spectator on matches and bet mega monies on the worst players. Which is actually pretty cool, I must say! Sure, it's not quite the super talent demonstration I thought it would be, but it's almost nice to see that I may actually stand a very small chance participating in it! It's kind of annoying to bet on somebody who ends up sitting by the sides doing taunts endlessly and being ignored, though.

And then there's WiiWare title Bomberman Blast, which I have a lot to complain about. See, there are two versions of the game; the full retail version, which includes what looks like a co-operative story mode, and your typical multi-player with eight participators and online play, and a bunch of customization extras, I hear; and the WiiWare release, which axes out the fancy extras and story mode and makes it only the battle mode, offline and online. Which is actually kind of cool, with so many games these days having modes that are embodiments of crap.

The problem? Japan is getting both versions, and from what I've heard, Europe is only getting the WiiWare version. Meaning that we're getting yet another version of the game's multi-player and nothing actually vaguely new - in this case, the story mode. It's very likely going to be a retread of Bomberman DS and its astounding lack of difficulty curve or anything actually redeeming about it, but dude, a story mode! Where your Miis are kidnapped! If I want multi-player I could just play any other instalment of the series.

On the bright side, from what I've played it's not too bad. The stages actually look different, it plays well enough, and the presentation isn't horrible. Not sure if I'd actually pay the real 10 monies for it (so far the only WiiWare titles I'm actually extensively interested in are MaBoShi and Star Soldier R), but it's fair enough.

Except it doesn't connect online. Quite understandable, being a bit of a thieving installation and all, but the online mode really is the only reason I expressed interest in this, and no matter how long I wait, it simply refuses to find any players.

Oh well.



"Each portion of Munch Bunch contains as much calcium as a glass of milk!"

Claims like that regarding children's snacks piss me off for the stupidest reasons. In this case, yeah, good work creating an alternative to milk, but it doesn't achieve much if the kids already like milk, y'know? All it does is convert the consumption of its nutrition from drinking to spoon-feeding. If you really want anyone to be interested, make it twice the amount of calcium as a glass of milk. Render that shit obsolete! BREAK THE BARRIERS OF DAIRY PRODUCE

But nope, it's just as much calcium as a glass of milk and no more, whatsoever.

With an attitude like that, mankind is never going to make it to Pluto, are they?



Today, while playing Yoshi's Island (ON MAH WII BAYBEE) (I think I just like to remind people that playing retro games on modern consoles is awesome stuff), I realised that my visual interpretation of an enemy had been, for many, many years, entirely wrong.

Here is a Tap Tap. It's an enemy that, unless you have an ice melon or a convenient pit, you can't kill by regular means. It's also kind of tiny, so for about thirteen years I thought it was meant to be like this:



All mechanical-like, a giant red eye, not very personified and rather contrasting to the fact that everything in the game has some kind of exaggerated facial expression. However, in reality, it is actually meant to be representation of this:


I'm saving money on my car insurance!

A grinning, beady-eyed, red-nosed spike ball.

It all makes sense. The giant boss-size version looking more distinctly like this, I just ignored. Every boss in the game is a bigger version of a regular enemy (well, except maybe that ghost pot dude), but the giant version of the Tap Tap I just assumed was made cuter to stop kids getting nightmares.


Next up on Seeing Things Like They Really Are - Digletts!

Is it a nose, or a strangely bulbous, three-dimensional, permanently-open-in-awe mouth? Maybe somebody will finally convince me it's a nose in more persuading terms than "dude, it's a nose! You must be blind! It's a goddamned nose!" You don't become a lawyer with arguments like that, son.



Two months in, and I'm still enjoying the Wii. I'd love to bitch about the crappy selection of games and how WarioWare is still a hideous 34.99 even though it's like a million years old by now, but the whole emulation thing really makes up for it. Not to mention how easy it is to get homebrew running, it really does make up for the official cock-ups, y'know? I still only own four games, the rest being held by Steve, but the fact I've got a vast library of NES and SNES games at my disposal really does forgive all the crappiness available.

I do have to complain about the Wii Remote, though. Being the first wireless controller I've owned, it's pretty great the benefits you get from the lack of wrires, not having to spend fifty hours untangling them all, but of all the things in the world - poverty, genocide, discrimination - changing batteries would have to be somewhere in the top two hundred. I always keep a large stockpile of batteries for all the crazy electronics I own, yet I loathe having to actually replace them. If the battery power of something is low, I will refuse to replace them until they're totally, completely drained. For the likes of the Game Boy, DS and other handheld consoles, this wasn't a hassle either because they allowed you to save your progress whenever possible, or didn't do it at all, so hey, saves you the trouble of deciding when to quit! Plus, the light would go orange and grow dimmer when low, though the DS never seemed to dim at all, which was a bit of a bummer. But still, at least it helped out in knowing when to bust out the battieres!

The Wii Remote, though. It's got four lights, showing which player it's designated to, as well as showing how much battery power is left when turning on. The Home menu also shows how much juice is left, and games pop up menus reminding you that the battery power is low when it's on the last chunk, so it certainly goes out of its way to remind you that this thing ain't wired up. Which is nice!

What isn't nice at all, and frequently frustrating to an impatient fuck like myself, is the fact that it remains on the last chunk of battery power for like quadruple the time of the other slices. Pop fresh batteries in, a few hours will drain it to three, and not too long before it reaches two. Once it reaches one, it'll settle into that setting for a long, long time. There's no other hint of how long it'll last aside from simply how long it's been there; it never fades, there's no estimation of how much time is left, and the Home menu certainly doesn't provide further details. And thanks to the remote's rubber sleeve and what a pain in the ass it is for me to get off and on again, if the batteries happen to die mid-game don't expect a quick replacement!

Even more incredible, I got a 20 charger for the Wii Remotes that was supposedly as simple as whacking in a battery pack, plopping it on the charger stand, plugging that stand into the Wii, and then when the Wii was on some of its power would refill the remote and all would be well.

The problem?

The battery pack doesn't fit.

Honest to God, the little slits of room for all the protrusions inside are just a millimetre or two off from letting it fit. Using brute force just gets the thing dangerously stuck, requiring another bout of reverse brute force to get it out, which for the act of pulling a small cuboid half-wedged inside something else is just plain awkward and uncomfortable. And you know what's also brilliant? The instructions to the charger explicitly state that it'll stop charging after so many uses.

Effectively, after you've bought the product, it tells you that you should've saved your money on something worthwhile. It's like a fabric conditioner saying "our ad may have said it washes 99.9% of stains clean, but in reality it only works on clothes with a slogan reading 'BLOWFISH RULE HARD'." Except not quite as specific in its general crapness.

You know what we need nowadays? Magic. Seriously, it'd solve everything. Electricity, batteries, this bloody gas crisis everyone's moaning about. Nobody was complaining about petrol a few weeks ago, and then whoops, now that the news is talking about it, everyone's started to complain!

Of course, that'd come with its own mess of problems.


MANA POOL CRISIS - Mana supply running low since discovery of "see through clothing" spell. "It's not even that good," says a local spell experimenter. "We haven't solved that ugly epidemic."



It just occurred to me that I've seen plenty of photos and caricatures of Barack Obama, but I've only seen him in motion once, and very briefly at that. But every other modern politician? Interviews, announcements, conferences - the works. I feel like I'm missing out. =(

Today's point of discussion: There's a show on Channel4 tonight called "Other People's Breast Milk." It's an hour and five minutes long, and is nothing but what the title suggests. Discuss.



Avoid this easy email scam: Even Paris Hilton has fallen prey to this hacker's scheme to steal passwords.

Pardon me for being so hilariously topical and hip on the humour tube, but I don't think anyone considered Paris Hilton much of an intellectual on anything, internet security or otherwise. Har har!

I'm like fifty years too late to actually say something like that aren't I


In other news, I finally completed Super Metroid, thirteen years after it first came into my possession. Well, technically Steve's possession, but I ended up playing it more than him. And either the fact is still sinking in, or I just don't feel very satisfied. I mean, fantastic game, superb, highly recommended and all - but I used a walkthrough.

For the bits I just didn't know where to go, or the bosses that didn't have an apparent weakness, I consulted a walkthrough. Without it I was likely to have taken another thirteen years to complete the game, but the fact I caved in and used one at all appears to have neutered my fulfilment. It's okay with Super Paper Mario, though, because it's not super incredible and I admit I mostly want to finish it for the sole sake of having no reason to go back to it. But Super Metroid... its completion feels hollow. Maybe it's because I didn't finish it on the original cartridge, but on the Wii. Maybe it's because I didn't save the animal dudes.

I blame the fact that the walkthrough would consistently say, if you had followed its instructions, how many missile and bomb expansions you should have by each point. And I consistently had less than half of the allotted amount. STOP PATRONISING ME YOU WALKTHROUGH I'M PLAYING THE GAME THE WAY I WANT TO



On the front of Hello! Magazine there were three women - Angelina Jolie, Cheryl Coles, and someone else just listed as "Kathie." It took me five minutes of close examination to realise they actually were three different people.

I don't know how I lasted beyond a minute in today's modern society.

Plus two of the husbands shown were identical as well! ARE WE BECOMING POD PEOPLE



Earthworm Jim 3D was actually the first in the series I'd played, and I was completely oblivious of the 2D games before it, believing it was based off the cartoon show. How uncultured of me! I thought it was pretty fun and managed to more or less complete it, though I just didn't have the patience to collect all the marbles and golden udders for 100% completion. Of course, I've gone back to it over the years and just reacquainted myself with the fact that it's not really that good, and often quite laborious in the mundane tasks you have to do. I mean, yeah, it's zany and all, but hopping over explosive eggs up a slope for ten minutes just isn't the most riveting thing in the world. Of course, I never really played the other games either, so my knowledge of Earthworm Jim really is pretty meagre.

One thing's always bothered me, though.

Until you're as clever as A Smart Superhero! this door will not open.

As you collected marbles, Jim's intelligence increased and allowed access to further in the game. One door in the world of Fears would not open until you'd collected all of them, and explicitly said so - Yoshi didn't say "get all the stars to see me in a really unsatisfying moment of fan service!" halfway through Super Mario 64, nor were you informed you can't actually get the Triforce in your inventory in Ocarina of Time, but this door said, right in your face "you'll have to complete the game to find out WHAT LIES BEHIND ME (the door)," which just made it that more frustrating. It didn't help that the levels were large, full of platforms above pits, and dying would make you lose every single marble you collected. Fun times!

Of course, the cheat sites all said that behind the door you would gain the ability to play as Earthworm Kim, a never-before-seen character that was just plain shocking. A female character that was neither Princess What's-Her-Face or Queen Bloated, Pulsating, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed Slug-For-A-Butt? Preposterous! But still, extra player! Stuff like that always catches my interest, so getting behind it was something I wanted, but simply never accomplished. And until recently, I'd forgotten all about it.

And I saw what all the fuss was about.



In hindsight, knowing what the series is like, I shouldn't be surprised. But, well, it's the Yoshi-in-Mario 64 situation again: Exaggerated expectations.

Thanks, woefully under-updated obscure_games! You've broken my heart.

thx for the pics though :]