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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2009 » September

September 2009


video games September 25th, 2009 by The Grim Jesta

If you didn't make the Sign of the Hammer the moment you read “True Metal”, chances are you're one of the many people who will see Brutal Legend for what the rest of the world sees it as: a really cool metal game. But for those of you metalheads, punks and freaks out there who understand what True Metal means, Brutal Legend is more than a game – it's a friggin' tribute to all things metal. Nay, it is a temple of worship to the eldritch deities of rock. Those mofos at Double Fine know their metal. The vibe is perfect in this demo. At no time does it NOT look like a Dio or Iron Maiden album cover. Hell, even the girl is metal chick perfection.

Jack Black is a metal advocate of a sorts. The man loves old school metal and thrash, and coupled with his ability to weave a believable tale (when it comes to his own music), we have him delivering very authentic dialogue for Eddie, the main character in Brutal Legend. Of course, it's a bit hard not to see the main character as Jack Black himself. But whatever.

But holy shit is this game a worthy recognition to the epic awesomeness of metal. I got a huge kick out of the slap in the face towards the “metal” bands of today (and I use the term “metal” lightly here). Brutal Legend is a celebration of the heyday of metal, when long hair, leather jackets, and band T's were the chosen uniform of the world's disenfranchised youth. As one of those people, I was slapped in the face with an epic dose of nostalgia and excitement the more I played the game and this was only the demo! I'm thinking the full game is going to unleash Ragnarok the day it comes out, and the end times will be heralded in with an ear-shattering guitar solo.

Skulls? Check. Demons? Check. Mean cars? Check. The list goes on and on, but Double Fine did its homework on what's considered worthy of an Ozzy album cover, what objects you might find on a Slayer set, and they put it in the game.

I could talk about how smooth the combat felt or how the car's driving controls were better than GTA IV's. I could wax on about the smooth cartoon graphics and impressive animations, but screw that noise. Steve hit it before me and I don't like sloppy seconds. All I'm saying is this: Brutal Legend is the gaming world's nod to that dragon and denim loving subculture we all know as True Metal. And to prove that it's True Metal, it even has two Manowar songs on the soundtrack.

So ride forth oh horsemen of metal and strike fear into the hearts of your foes... um... by sitting in your basement and playing Brutal Legend. Okay, so you'll probably only scare your mom. But still.

video games September 24th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Brutal Legend

At least for those of us who have a Gold membership it has! For the rest of you it will be a few days (Oct 1, 2009) before you are able to download the awesomeness that is Brutal Legend.

In case you have been living under a rock Brutal Legend is the most metal game to ever hit the Xbox360 (and those other systems). Not only is the soundtrack jam packed full of heavy metal goodness but the main character is voiced by none other than Jack Black himself! After fighting my way through 15 minutes of demo goodness I'm prepared to lay down some opinions and observations.

1. Theme - As soon as the opening story begins you just begin to feel it. Some of you youngins' may not wax as nostalgic as us older folks do about the glory days of metal but you feel it as soon as you see Eddie puffin' on a cig while watching the band he works for do their thing. Notice I didn't say their 'metal' thing? There's a reason for that that will become all too clear as the demo begins.

2. Weapons - A metal legend without an axe is like a politician without a strawman to attack. Within moments of entering the game mode of the demo you find yourself grabbing a large battle axe and laying waste to a number of red-robed cultists. Shortly after this you grab the real axe and lay waste to even more bad guys!

Your battle axe is your hand-to-hand weapon and operates in either a quick rapid attack format or in a slower 'nothing can withstand my attack' power assault mode. Your metal axe is a ranged combat weapon and shoots blue lighting at targets. There is also a combo attack where you use both at once to cause structural damage and knock your enemies around with its quake power.

3. Relics - Part of being the world's best roadie is that Eddie knows how to build anything. It's not long before you activate the first relic and build a car to travel in. The relic is activated in a simple manner. A quasi musical notation appears on screen and you have to press buttons in the right sequence and at the right moment to activate the relic.

I expect that later relics will use more complicated button presses to activate.

4. Controls - Straight forward and fairly simple. The right stick controls your camera angles (most of the time) and the other buttons are used for attacks, defense and changing targets.

I did have some problems when driving the car during the boss battle near the end of the demo. I found my view constantly blocked by walls that I could not see through. No matter what I tried to do with the right stick I could not adjust my camera angles. I can only hope this is a demo problem and not indicative of the full game.

5. Voice Acting - What can I say, even though I first thought the character of Eddie was Meatloaf I find Jack Black does an admirable job bringing the character to life. I also have to give a serious nod to the programmers who matched up Eddie's facial expressions and mannerisms to Jack Black's dialogue.

The characters in this game do not suffer the problem those in Fallout 3 suffered with. You will not find random arm movements and head turns in this game. Everything the main characters do is choreographed to look realistic.

I am really looking forward to the release of this one. If you have a Gold level Xbox Live membership download it and check it out. If you don't you'll have to wait a few days. Same goes for none North Americans, sorry...

Dem-o-Thon:

Tune in to www.brutallegend.com Thursday, October 1st at 12pm PST for a live broadcast from Double Fine Productions in San Francisco featuring interviews and antics with the Double Fine team as well as Live Q&A’s from our fans at www.twitter.com/brutallegend, awesome giveaways, a message from Tim’s Swine Flu proofed bunker, Spoilers, Live Axe Lessons, and much more.

Also, don’t forget, the Demo goes Live October 1st for everyone on Xbox Live and PSN. Download and play this mind destroyingly epic demo and help Double Fine productions stave off the wrath of Ormagoden. If you have any questions, let me know.

video games September 22nd, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

On August 24, 2009 the second installment in the Professor Layton series hit American shores. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is a sequel to the original Professor Layton and the Curious Village game from early 2008. Developed by Level 5 this single player puzzle game features over 130 puzzles in the single player story mode and a plethora of more puzzles that are unlocked post game.

As before Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke have stumbled upon another mystery. It's up to them to navigate their way through numerous puzzles to determine who - or what - caused the death of Professor Layton's mentor, Dr. Schrader. Was it the mysterious Elysian Box, rumored to kill all who open it? Professor Layton and Luke find a clue that begins their adventure: a train ticket for the Molentary Express.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

The game begins with a very short tutorial format that explains the basic game controls and how to move about the world. Within ten minutes you will have solved a handful of puzzles and have met a few interesting characters.

The early puzzles are not difficult and they serve to let the player know that some puzzles have answers that require thinking outside of the box. When solving puzzles you need to not only consider what is written but also what is not written in the instructions. Some puzzles become very easy after you alter your point of view. This can be as simple as turning the DS on its side.

You do not need to solve every puzzle in the game to complete the story mode. In fact there are only a few points where you can be stopped in your tracks for not completing enough puzzles. As long as you solve 80 puzzles as you near the end of the game you will be fine.

The core puzzles are not excessively difficult while several of the side puzzles will have you scratching your head and using coins to purchase hints. Even though this game is rated for 10 and up you may find this game turns your preteen into a screaming monster when they come upon a difficult puzzle.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Along with the puzzles that require solving there are also a few mini-games.

    Mini-Games

  • Tea Set - Brew three ingredients to make a tea. Some people you encounter will provide information or puzzles after you serve them the correct tea.
  • Hamster - You pick up an overweight hamster on the train. If you can get him to exercise enough he will become a 'hint coin' sniffer.
  • Camera - The first part of this mini-game involves finding the camera parts and rebuilding it. the second part involves taking pictures and spotting three differences. One you spot all three a hidden puzzle becomes available.

You needn't complete all of these mini-games to complete the story mode of the game but it does help. If you give someone the wrong tea just walk around and you will get the chance to offer them a different tea in the future.

It is also important to note that after you complete the story mode the game will save right before the ending. This allows you to go back and find any puzzles you may have missed. The old woman's shack also exists in this game and puzzles you may have missed from earlier stages will be found here. This happened to me on a few occasions when I solved a puzzle that advanced the story before completely exploring the area I was in.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

If you find a puzzle to be particularly difficult you can spend a hint coin (up to three) to get a hint on the puzzle. Some of these hints are obvious while others will prove useful. Don't be surprised if you come across a hard puzzle and all of the hints point to things you have already noticed.

When you solve a puzzle you earn a number of Picarats. This number decreases if you submit a wrong answer. It is generally safe to assume that hard puzzles will be worth more Picarats but you may find this does not always apply to you. Based on your own experiences you may find some of the high Picarat puzzles are easy while some of the low value ones are hard.

The previously mentioned hint coins can be found all over the place. Most areas have three hidden somewhere in the background.

After you complete the game more puzzles are unlocked in the Bonus section of the game. These bonus puzzles are linked to your performance in the game. Some are unlocked based on the number of Picarats you have earned while others are based on the completion level of your mini-games.

Conclusion
I had a blast playing this game. I found the majority of the puzzles challenged me to think (sometimes differently) and the hints more often than not helped me when I was stuck. I found the story to be very engaging though some of the plot points were fairly transparent if not outright obvious.

    The Good

  • Wide variety of puzzles
  • Very engaging story
  • Interesting characters
  • Excellent voice acting
  • 8+ hours of gameplay
  • Weekly puzzle download
    The Bad

  • Puzzle instructions are not always clear
  • Puzzle graphics are not always clear
    The Ugly

  • A lot of running around required to reset a character after serving them the wrong tea
Programming September 14th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Ever have one of those days where you find yourself copying and pasting a ton of HTML code into your WordPress install? You're making excellent progress moving data over and you feel real proud of yourself. Then something goes wrong.

The something I am referring to happened to me this evening. See, I never use the visual editor in WordPress but tonight, after pasting several hundred articles, I went to look at the site and was horrified to see that all of my work had been copied into the visual editor and not the HTML editor!!!

Yes, I was viewing wordpress posts that were showing pure HTML to the viewer!

Being technically inclined I knew that there was no way I would spend the next hour copying from the visual editor and pasting into the HTML editor for each post. Instead I used my brain and logged directly into the database and ran the following two queries:

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE(post_content,'&lt;','<')
UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE(post_content,'
&gt;','>')

This simple little bit of code goes through the entire wp_posts table and replaces the HTML code for the opening and closing HTML brackets with the brackets themselves for all post content.


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