Friday, August 29, 2008

Mile High Masterpiece

I truly believe that whatever doubts lingered about Obama's strength or ability to lead, he put them firmly to bed last night. This had the feel of an historic speech. He painted the picture of his dream for change and he took it hard to the old guard and their failed policies. His acceptance speech was a true challenge to McCain and a splendid, stirring commentary on the state of our union today.

"Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise."

Obama/Biden '08

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Never To Forget

We will never forget the disappointment that was last year's campaign.
It's important to remember our missteps so we can learn from them and move on.

The bell invites us. The hour is upon us. It is time to start anew.

The great work begins.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Midnight Pool Review

I'm not a "good" pool player, but I really enjoy playing the game with friends and occasionally with strangers, as long as they don't totally whip my ass. That being said, I've always enjoyed virtual pool games as well because they allow me to play the game without scrounging for quarters or blowing more money than usual on drinks.

I can imagine it must be really difficult to get pool to "feel" right in a video game. The atmosphere of a seedy bar or a
neon-lit nightclub is easy enough to duplicate, and getting the geometry and physics of the table game into a virtual world can't be all that hard, even though many past attempts have been sorely disappointing. In particular, the Billiards game on the DS's Clubhouse Games was a huge letdown. What better system to have a great pool sim on than one you play with a different kind of stick?

Despite the DS's shortcomings, the Wii seems to have gotten it mostly right with Gameloft's
Midnight Pool for WiiWare, and this 800 WiiPoint package has a lot of bang for its buck.

The most important element of any pool game is of course the actual gameplay. Midnight Pool delivers in this department. You only need the Wiimote to play this game. All of the menus are simple and utilize the Wiimote's IR capability. The in-game control is the most notable part of this game, as Gameloft has done a great job in getting the feel of a pool cue. It's not a 1:1 ratio, but how hard, soft, quickly, or slowly you thrust the Wiimote translates excellently into how your character strikes the cue ball. You're able to aim either using a click-and-drag ability or by scrolling around the table using the D Pad. You click the B button to switch in and out of shooting mode, preventing any accidental touches. Furthermore, you can change seamlessly between two camera angles (one close to the action, the other an overhead view) using the 2 button and make adjustments to your strike location and angle of approach using the 1 button, allowing you to put some wicked spins on the ball. If only I could apply enough backspin to pocket balls at opposite corners in real life, I'd hold down a table for a whole lot longer. All of these elements add up to the most realistic pool experience on the Wii, even better than Nintendo's own offering on the Wii Play compilation.

The only problems I've had with t
he control scheme are that you MUST be pointing the Wiimote at the screen to strike the ball, otherwise nothing happens. I've poked my Wiimote forward many times with no results, making me feel like an idiot as I make sure I'm lined up with the TV. Also, I've found that to get a better feel for the power of your stroke, you need to click into striking mode with the B button while the Wiimote is closer to the screen, then draw back and thrust forward with your chosen speed and power. If I started the motion with my hand further from the TV, I noticed that sometimes upon thrusting forward, nothing would happen, so I clicked out of striking mode and started again with the Wiimote nearer to the target.
Besides these two gripe
s, which are probably more due to my own stupidity than to programming miscues, the game controls very well and has a great overall feel to it.

Graphically, the game looks good for a WiiWare significant damage it does to the block total (I'm down to 17 now...where's the solution Nintendo?). The environments all have that neon glow you associate with the inside of a bar, club, or pool hall, and there are quite a few different locations to play in, although you're really not paying much attention to your surroundings in this game. The tables are all basically the same, save for color variants depending on the venue. The characters don't look quite as good as the spaces they inhabit, but they are pleasantly silly and stereotypical, complete with some appropriately bad one-liners and voice acting. One character, who is a cop, informed me th title, and one should hope so considering theat I was under arrest for being a loser after he came from behind to whip my ass.

The game has three basic modes: Arcade mode, Story mode, and Multiplayer. Arcade mode and multiplayer both allow you to choose between US 8-Ball, UK 8-Ball, and 9-Ball games, and this variety is a nice touch that adds significant depth to the experience. Multiplayer mode is a very enjoyable experience, though with increased difficulty, the AI provides a bit of a challenge in Arcade and Story modes. As always in pool though, your worst enemy is yourself. Story mode doesn't have so much of a story to speak of, but it allows you to choose a character who hops around the US playing other characters for significant chunks of change. You can bet on every game and you get additional monies for winning and also performing feats such as streaks, combo shots, or bank shots. Also, after every win, you're given the chance to win extra money with no penalty for failure by completing characters' special trick shots. These trick shots also have a mode of their own, adding even more legs to this package.

Overall, Midnight Pool is well worth the 800 WiiPoints as a casual, pick up and play title, a perfect fit with Nintendo's new philosophy. It's many modes and difficulties and the multiplayer experience will keep gamers coming back for more. If you play more than 8 rounds of pool, you've gotten your money's worth in games at the nearest bar. And it's a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a pool table. The virtual experience will, of course, never measure up to the real one, but this is about as close as we've far.

7/10 DreadPoints

Thanks to WiiWare World (part of a nifty family of Nintendo sites called Cuttlefish Media, including Virtual Console Reviews and Nintendo Life) for the images.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mario McCain


Thanks to GoNintendo.

Obama/Biden '08.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pwn the Vote

Microsoft and Rock the Vote are teaming up.

Gamers will be able to register to vote via XBOX Live as well as receive important news updates and participate in online political forums.

This is of particular interest to me considering I'm a gamer AND that I co-organized a Rock the Vote event in my hometown of Columbia, SC at Trustus Theatre along with my good buddy Ben before the 2004 elections.

Rock the Vote's cause is a noble one: to make sure every voice is heard.

Kotaku reports.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yikes...Just Yikes

File this one under wayyyyyy too soon.

This game is on display at the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany right now, supposedly as an art exhibit.

The goal of the game is to take down the invaders before they take out the Twin Towers.

Not exactly how Taito would want Space Invaders to celebrate it's 30th anniversary. I smell a lawsuit... or at least an apology.

Kotaku reports.
You can download the game for Mac OS at the "artist's" website here.

Don't Come to Navy Pier

If you ever come to Chicago, don't come to Navy Pier.
It's a waste of your time and your money.

The food is shitty. The "attractions" are shitty. Everything's expensive. Do NOT drive here because it will cost you $19 to park. $19?!? I didn't know we were going to a pro football game! This place is the epitome of a "tourist trap".
The only thing worth visiting is the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, but even that is $50 or $60 a ticket.
If I didn't work here, I would heed my own advice.

Save your time and your money. Stay away.

God bless Charlamagne Tha God, even if his name is blasphemous


Thanks to Andrew for the heads up. Go Carolina!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New International Track & Field

I was spurred by the spirit of the Beijing Olympics (not the oppressive, Communist spirit...the meeting of nations, healthy athletic competition spirit) to pick up Konami's latest offering for the Nintendo DS: New International Track & Field. I was also spurred by Best Buy's decision to make the game a bargain at $19.99 for one week only (this week, while supplies last). God bless the marketing power of the Olympics.

This game is not officially licensed, but I guarantee it's better than almost any game bearing the IOC's stamp of approval. If anyone remembers the original Track & Field for the NES, a true button bashing classic, this is the re-imagined sequel on Nintendo's powerhouse handheld.

New International Track & Field features 8 original characters competing in 24 events for that ever-elusive gold medal. The game's sharp presentation is evident from the moment the title appears on screen. The nostalgia really kicks up with the remixed Chariots of Fire theme playing at the title screen.

The game's menus are crisp, clear, and vibrant. A single player has a choice of Career Mode, Challenge Mode, or Single Events. Career Mode is the main draw for solo play. There are three levels of difficulty and 6 programs containing 4 events for each difficulty. The first program of events is relatively easy and the programs get progressively more difficult as you advance through career mode. Likewise, cranking up the difficulty to medium or hard brings an added dose of competition from the AI contenders. For each event in the programs, you must meet a qualifying mark. The higher you place or score, the more points you acquire. These points come into play in deciding who wins the entire program; the contender with the most points through four events wins the gold, second most the silver, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, you are earning points towards progressing your skill level (you start out as a Novice...I'm currently a Challenger, some three levels up) and also unlocking extra costumes for the original characters, all of which are varying degrees of ridiculous. Unlockables always provide a certain degree of satisfaction though, no matter what they are.

There are plenty of events including 100 Meters, 400 Meters, 100 Meter Hurdles, Long Jump, Breaststroke, Vault, High Bar, Diving, Cycling, Archery, Pole Vault, Javelin Throw, and others. The game play basically consists of scra
tching, circling, and tapping with the stylus, and sometimes it can require some seriously vigorous motion. I've worried about scratching the DS or dropping it, and I've worked up a sweat on more than one occasion, making this the only DS game I've ever played that involved a bit of a workout. It is a very satisfying experience to beat a tough competitor or break a world record though due to the work you put in. If strenuous stylus exercise is not your bag, you can switch to traditional Track & Field controls and show off your button mashing skills. I find the stylus controls to be more immersive though and the controls fit their respective events very well.

Graphically, the game excels, taking a page out of Nintendo's script with its character design. All of the characters
are super deformed and each has his or her own style. The models are bright and detailed and they move well. The athletic environments provided are complimentary to the characters. The world Konami has created is an engaging one.

The sound in the game is well executed with some nice touches, particularly the awesome Chariots re
mix, the NES sound effect signaling the start of competition or some other significant happening, and the announcer screaming "GO!" at the start of each event.

This game has great legs beyond the Career Mode. Challenge Mode consists of 6 unlockable mini games featuring classic Konami characters who also become available for play in the athletic events. So far, I've only unlocked Frogger and Sparkster. Also, Single Event mode allows you to practice each event as many times as you want, encouraging you to try for the gold in each event against super stiff competition. Also, there are special trophies to unlock that require you to complete very specific objectives at multiple difficulty levels, making for a significant challenge to get them all.

Furthermore, the game has local and wireless multiplayer as well as online leaderboards, encouraging players from all over the world to continue to break each other's best records. You can check the leaderboards through your DS or via Konami's website. Local multiplayer supports single and multi-card play. Online play is fairly seamless, and the online leaderboards provide a never-ending challenge. The game also has great stat tracking capability as it keeps tabs on all of your records in every event as well as total playing time and other tidbits.

Overall, New International Track & Field is a great addition to the DS's impressive library as a great single and multiplayer experience. It's fun, it's challenging, and it'll keep you coming back for more. Its release around the time of the start of the games is perfect timing and hopefully this will help the game adopt a large userbase. The more challengers we get on those worldwide leaderboards, the better this title will be in the long run.

8/10 DreadPoints (Highly Recommended)

Thanks to IGN for the pictures.

Funny Stuff

I've become a fan of this pop-culture (read: Video Games) commentary website called SydLexia.

I was turned on to it due to their extensive, informative, and pretty damn funny lists of the top 100 NES and SNES games, but I've explored a good bit of the site now and must admit to being a fan. They update it pretty frequently too.

A brief disclaimer: It's a funny site, but sometimes these boys can be asinine and downright offensive. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fantasy Baseball: The Home Stretch

This post is dedicated to Pittsburgh Pirates' center fielder Nate McLouth (pictured), one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season and a Godsend to many of my Fantasy Teams.

As you may well know, I am a bit of a Fantasy Baseball addict. As a matter of fact, I have seven (7) teams this year: six (6) on Yahoo! and one (1) on ESPN. I finally realize that this is a bit of an overkill. I will probably limit myself to only four (4) teams a year from now on (I'll try to limit myself, but we all know I'm not so great at that).

The Fantasy Baseball season winds down (or winds up) at the end of August in order to have playoffs in September. MLB's playoffs begin (and usually end) in October, and with only eight (8) teams making the playoffs, this would put quite a damper on most people's fantasy production. Therefore, Fantasy Baseball is over at the end of September. There are only two weeks left in the Fantasy regular season.

Here are the current standings for all of my teams in the 2008 Fantasy season:

Cubby Bears - Detroit 135861
126 - 61 - 13
1st place in Division 2, 1st place in League

Shamrocks - Big Willy's Baseball League
161 - 130 - 29
5th place, 18 games back

Let's Pet Puppies - Yahoo Public 198023
115 - 69 - 15
1st place, 5.5 games ahead

The Shams - Vitamin B Behind Me
81 - 96 - 13
6th place, 45.5 games back (1 game back from playoffs)

The Shams - NL Only (Rotisserie)
78.5 Points
3rd place, 2 points back

Murphy's Law - Our Other Teams Are Too Good (AL Only)
77 - 100 - 13
7th place, 49.5 games back (8.5 games back from playoffs)

The Rentals - Yahoo Winner 288574
110 - 58 - 12
2nd Place, 2.5 games back

Overall, it's been a good fantasy season. The two leagues I'm doing worst in are the two most challenging leagues I'm playing in as well. I hope to make the playoffs in the Vitamin B Behind Me league. The other one (Our Other Teams Are Too Good) is probably a lost cause, barring a miracle.
I expect to win my ESPN league and I hope to win at least two of my Yahoo! leagues. Come playoffs, anything can happen. It's a whole new ballgame.
The one I want to win most is the NL Only league. I had a comfortable (read: ginormous) lead all year long in that league, and over the last month, two other players have caught up to me. The three of us keep swapping the top spot day after day. I'm hoping that when the smoke clears, the league will be mine.
I'm starting to gain some confidence in my skill as a Fantasy Baseball manager and I look forward to the playoffs, but even more so to Fantasy Football season!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Holy shit.

These guys in Georgia (read: Jawja) believe they have a dead Bigfoot on their hands.

I think it looks like a Planet of the Apes costume with pig intestines dumped on it.

They are pretty adamant about it being the real deal though. Who knows? (Answer: The Shadow knows.)

The New York Times reports.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

House of Cards

Not-so-breaking-news: Radiohead is amazing.

This video is their newest off of the masterpiece that is In Rainbows. (If you haven't bought it yet, what are you waiting for?)

The video's a month old now, but it's too good not to post here.

They're even allowing people to remix the video. Check it out, if ye be so inclined.

Kill the Wabbit or What's Opera Doc?


Bob's Game

Here's a pretty simple site about a pretty amazing accomplishment. I discovered it dredging through the IGN Nintendo DS General Lobby.

This guy's name is Robert Peloni and he's been working for five years (FIVE YEARS) by himself (BY HIMSELF) creating what is essentially the Nintendo DS game of his dreams. Apparently, the game is now finished and he's looking for a publisher.

Here's hoping he finds one. The game has a large, incredibly interactive world and the art style is pretty cool as well...impressive for something drawn in pixels entirely by hand (BY HAND). Check out a video of annotated game play footage at his site.

Cheers to following your dreams. I hope I get to play his dream some day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mega Man 9 Can't Get Here Soon Enough

More and more info continues to be revealed about Capcom's upcoming WiiWare, XBOX Live Arcade, and PSN vehicle Mega Man 9 and it has me worked up into an anticapatory frenzy.

This article
from Gawker Group's video game blog Kotaku reveals images of a few of the Blue Bomber's new nemeses, namely Concrete Man, Tornado Man, and Magma Man.

I am super stoked about this brand new, old school Mega Man goodness. More details can be found...pretty much anywhere, though IGN has been reporting on it frequently.

If you're hardcore, check out fansite The Mega Man Network. They list other villains reported to be in the mix, including Galaxy Man, Jewel Man, Plug Man, Hornet Man, and Splash Woman, the first female baddie in the series!!!

Mega Man 9's current release date is listed as TBA.

Hail to the Bobblehead

It's official. Barack Obama is our new president...

...that is, according to the number of people who selected his bobblehead over McCain's at 6 Minor League baseball parks around the country (the choice is pretty clear to me).

If only I'd been in Charleston at the RiverDogs game on Monday! How much do you think these babies will be going for on e-Bay later?
(edit: Apparently, anywhere from $10 - $50 a pop)
They're pretty sweet. I'd like to give Bobblehead Obama a little fist bump every now and then for good luck.

Deadspin reports above (where I've been accepted as a commenter! Happy day!).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In Rainbows, In Hollywood

Radiohead in the movies.

The boys from Oxford can do no wrong by me. They are the best band in the world right now. Their In Rainbows tour pretty much proves that I think, as does the accompanying album, which finds them in rare form (When are they not?). I may be a bit biased though (I've seen them three times on this tour).

Jonny Greenwood wrote the score for P.T. Anderson's much ballyhooed There Will Be Blood and was unfortunately denied an Oscar bid due to the Academy's ban on
"scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music" (Wikipedia). Looks like the whole gang wants a crack at the whole movie score thing as well (though Talk Show Host, their contribution to the soundtrack to Baz Luhrman's controversial 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, is a standout track in their entire canon).

I'm really excited to see (hear?) this new venture of theirs, as reported above by the BBC. And Mr. Palahniuk is a pretty damn good writer too (so I've heard). At least I know Fight Club kicked ass.

Thanks again to Ben for the heads up.

SECond To None

The battle for conference supremacy in college football rages on.

Of course, I think we should just let the winner of the two teams that play in the Georgia Dome at the beginning of December be the uncontested National Champ.
What's that game called again? Oh yeah, the SEC Championship.

Great article above from Thanks to Ben for the heads up.

Madden '09 Initial Experience

Another pleasant midnight launch experience at the local GameStop (2929 W Addison St.). The employees were wearing football jerseys and everything (mostly Bears unis, though my favorite employee was wearing a certain former Falcons QB jersey. Ouch! Dirty Birds indeed...).

I arrived at 5 'til midnight. I had my copy in my hands and was back in my car by 12:07 A.M.. Very efficient. The crowd was excited (as was I... big dork...) and very friendly. Madden drew a MUCH longer line than the the last midnight launch I attended, which was for Mario Kart Wii (which I was personall
y much more excited for).

I returned home and booted up the 360. I was asked to select my favorite team (Skins, natch) for a custom presentation, a feature I've liked ever since its addition. Then a holographic Madden a la Princess Leia via R2D2 in A New Hope appears to tell you about this year's addition's most touted feature called My Skill. My Skill is a sliding difficulty level in 4 areas (Pass Offense, Pass Defense, Rush Offense, Rush Defense) that constantly adjusts to your level of play. A pretty good idea. To set your initial skill level (quantified as your Madden IQ) you must first take the Madden Test.

The Madden Test introduces you to the new holographic, Tron-esque training program which is nifty but totally unnecessary. I doubt it will return in next year's roster update. The Madden Test takes you through 4 drills that assess your skill in the 4 areas mentioned above.

The first test is the Rush Offense test. Your goal is to use your blockers and perform the moves indicated on the screen at the right time in order to get into the endzone as many times as possible. You have 5 tries at each difficulty level, with varying numbers of blockers and varying difficulties of defensive backs trying to stop you. I torched the competition and received an All-Madden skill rating in Rush Offense. This is where I started to get skeptical about My Skill. I consider my Madden rushing skill to be about on par with Reggie Bush's NFL production: I average about 3 yards a carry. I'm not very good at using spins, jukes, and hurdles. If I run twice, I'm usually forced to pass on third down to pick up the first. I'm not very good at rushing in Madden (or any football game, for that matter).

Anyways, I received All Madden rating in Rush Offense and Rush Defense. I was TOTALLY confused by the Pass Defense test, thinking that I had to, you know, defend the pass as the D-back (You are unable to switch
players). By the time I figured out that I was supposed to be RUSHING the passer, it was too late. I had only succeeded once out of 5 tries and was assigned a Rookie skill level for my Pass Defense ability (and I actually consider myself decent at rushing the passer in Madden). In Pass Offense, I didn't get sacked once (which I usually have problems with) and I didn't throw a single pick (another problem area of mine), but I didn't complete all of my passes either. I received an All Pro rating for Pass Offense.

Overall, my Madden IQ was rated just below 600, which I think qualifies me as being pretty good. Therein lies the problem. I really don't consider myself to be any good at Madden. I think adequate describes my skill level. You certainly won't see me playing in the Madden Bowl on TV anytime soon. I'm giving the My Skill feature the benefit of the doubt though. It should adjust to my true skill level after 10 games or so.

Having completed the Madden Test, I played my first full game (at my own custom skill level) as the Skins versus the Cowboys (again, natch). Let's just say it didn't go so well. Jason Campbell (Or I, rather) threw three INTs, two of them coming on crucial plays towards the end of both halves that probably could have won me the game. I think I only gained about 60+ yards of total offense. Portis was totally shut down and I couldn't get the ball to Cooley (though rookie dreamboat Devin Thomas came in handy several times). The only points of the game came off of Nick Folk's foot in the first half and that was enough to hand me my first loss of Madden '09. Cowboys 3, Redskins 0. BO-RING.

The total experience, though, is vastly improved. I can't tell if I like having commentary back or not yet, though at first it was definitely welcomed over last year's sparse radio style play-by-play. I definitely don't miss the flashbulb-popping transitions either. I must say though that Cris Collinsworth sounds every bit as smarmy as
he looks on Football Night in America. This guy sounds (and looks) like he would steal your wife and your drink. No, I've never met the man personally or spent any quality time getting to know him, but I am leery of him all the same.

The visual presentation is very nice with the PIP replays and scoreboard/TV broadcast-style graphic menus. The EA Backtrack is an AWESOME new feature. After I threw my first pick, they replayed the previous play, highlighting specific players and showing the defensive and offensive formations and movement. Collinsworth even showed me who I should've thrown it to instead. Very cool. This feature will stick around for a while.

Also, the Rewind feature is nifty as well. It's essentially a mulligan for football. You can decide on how many to allot yourself at the beginning of the game (I gave myself one...and used it...too early). It comes in handy if, say, you throw the ball directly at a linebacker in coverage when trying to hit Chris Cooley on a crossing route (like I did). It even rewinds like game tape does, complete with the appropriate sound effect, until you find yourself starting the play anew. I approve...but during competitive online play, I would hope this feature would be eliminated.

The graphics look good up close and only OK from far away. Maybe (definitely) I just need a better TV(high-definitely). Fed-Ex field looks excellent, just like the real deal (and my game was in the extra treat). Portis and Campbell look good for sure as I got a few close-up views of them. The animations are noticeably improved. All the player models move much more fluidly and contact is much less herky-jerky. That's a technical term.

After I finished the game, My Skill adjusted slightly, raising my dismal Pass Defense up a few bars and lowering my Rush and Pass Offense bars down a few notches as well. Like I said before, this feature shows promise...and even if it doesn't deliver, it's optional. I can always switch back to Rookie, Pro, All-Pro, or All-Madden whenever I want to.

I look forward to playing some more of Madden '09 and I'll update with my explorations of the game and my progress as a player (and of course the inevitable franchise mode saga that will begin unfolding shortly, I'm sure). I also can't wait to try out online leagues. There's a fantasy football option that looks intriguing as well. This is a pretty large package.

From what I've played so far, I have to agree with many other reviewers in saying that this is the best Madden...probably ever. Here's hoping that EA continues to improve upon its time-tested franchise.

(Thanks to IGN and Operation Sports for the screenshots.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Madden Middnight Maddness

Yes, I will be participating in Madden Middnight Maddness (everything is more formiddable with two D's).

At approximately 12:01 A.M., I will pick up my copy of Madden '09 (for XBOX 360, thank you). This year's game features Brett Favre in his Packer uni on the cover. Collectible? I'm thinking yes, now that he's Jett Favre (the Jetts are more formiddable with two T's).

And yes, I will be wearing my Redskins hat.
Go Skins! Campbell/Cooley '08!

As if you needed any other reason to pull for old D.C., check this out.


"Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has he appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."

- Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie