Posts categorized “Of the Month”

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

“Of the Month” September 2014

Video Game of the Month:
azure_striker_gunvolt Azure Striker Gunvolt
The creators of the Mega Man X series of video games really wanted to make another Mega Man X game… but since they don’t actually have the rights to do that they made Azure Striker Gunvolt instead! This is very much in the vein of Mega Man X‘s 16-bit side-scrolling platformer action. The big hook of this game is the combat system. You use your gun not to damage enemies (it does very little damage), but to “tag” them so that you can unleash your main weapon, a psychic discharge of lightning that automatically seeks out any enemy that you’ve tagged. You also create a field of electricity around you when you do this that damages enemies (a little) and blocks physical projectiles—but not energy-based projectiles. You’re also way more vulnerable to damage when you’re using the lightning. So combat controls is a fascinating game of know when to hold ‘em, know when to unleash ‘em.

The game isn’t without its faults. The random enemies that appear during the levels are shockingly uninspired, and except for a couple of instances don’t vary from level to level; it seems like you’re always fighting the same four baddies over and over. There’s an item crafting system, but to truly take advantage of it you have to play already-completed levels over again while activating “challenges” in order to obtain bonus parts. I’m at the final level and I haven’t been able to craft anything remotely useful—not to mention the fact that you already start the game with the best item in the game, the awesomely powerful Prevasion Pendant that lets you automatically avoid damage (as long as you aren’t actively using your lightning) in exchange for using up some of your psychic power (which you can replenish anytime by tapping down on the control pad twice).

But the levels are well-designed, all the boss fights are extremely excellent and surprisingly difficult, and the mini-bosses are pretty good, too. It’s a very fun throwback title, and it only costs about $15 bucks and comes with the “Mighty Gunvolt” 8-bit little game as a bonus.

TV Show of the Month:
Last Week Tonight Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Joining the ranks of John Stewart and Steven Colbert in savagely savaging the news media, this new show from John Oliver (Professor Ian Duncan from Community) does a weekly roundup of the events from the previous week. And it holds no punches while being uproariously funny.

I don’t post about politics on this website (much), but damn this show is some good stuff. Biting and insightful. Just watch this segment on Ferguson:

It’s an HBO show, but thankfully its YouTube channel updates pretty regularly.

Kickstarter of the Month:
the players score The Players’ Score
I would LOVE for this documentary to get made. Video game music (especially classic, 8-bit video game music) is one of my favorite types of music (so much so that I make my own), and this proposed documentary is all about it. If they reach their goal, artists on board to participate in the project include:

  • Hiroki Kikuta – Composer, Secret of Mana Series
  • Manami Matsumae – Composer, Mega Man, Shovel Knight
  • Danny Baranowsky – Composer, Super Meat Boy, Binding of Isaac
  • Random AKA Megaran – Chip Hop Rapper

SO GOOD! Do what you can, chip in (get it) a few bucks and let’s honor these un-sung heroes of pop culture who have influenced me so much.

Categories: Of the Month.

Friday, 1 August 2014

“Of the Month” August 2014

Video Game of the Month:
Shovel_knight_coverShovel Knight
BELIEVE THE HYPE! After an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, Shovel Knight has come to life. I got the 3DS version of it. This is a meticulous throwback to the golden age of 8-bit, a Mega Man style of side-scrolling platformer with lush, 8-bit graphics and a glorious chiptune soundtrack. What I really appreciate about this game is the amount of thought that went into every screen of every level. This is not a half-assed game by any means. This is a fully-assed game whose designers obviously love the genres they’re drawing from for this amazingly nostalgic but still fun-in-its-own-right pastiche/homage. This is the rare fanboy project that manages to be even better than most of its source material.

Link of the Month:
Digital Antiquarian The Digital Antiquarian
Though it has a no-frills web design, this blog is a treasure trove of detailed information about the nascent years of computer gaming, especially things like role-playing games and other story-driven (as opposed to arcade-style) video games. The author’s series on the development of the early Ultima games (he’s up through IV now) is an insanely informative and entertaining read. In-depth, fact-based, historical research with excellent commentary and informed opinion sprinkled throughout.

Tweeter of the Month:
A83Ewlwu @AssJudger

…Seriously, Chris? Your tweeter of the month goes by @AssJudger?

Yes. Seriously. @AssJudger is a relatively new account (only about a month old). It isn’t the pseudo-porn account that you’d think it would be, one that posts pictures of ladies’ bums and slobbers all over about how hot they are. No, @AssJudger belongs in the same family as joke accounts like @ProBirdRights, @RealCarrotFacts, and @DogSolutions: funny tweets written in perhaps not the goodest of English. There is something charmingly naive and innocently goofy about them.

@AssJudger’s tweets tend to fall into about three categories: First off, if you follow him he will tweet a “judgment” of your ass. But these aren’t about how hot-or-not your ass is (especially considering you don’t have to actually show a picture of your ass anywhere), but are often weird, esoteric, or non-sequiturish. Here is his judgment of my pal @tangentbot:

And here is his judgment of my own ass:

Another type of tweet are the more explicitly “jokey” tweets where butts turn up in unexpected situations or have properties you normally wouldn’t associate with them:

And finally there are the more “autobiographical” tweets, where the @AssJudger talks about his personal philosophies or personal wishes:

Sprinkled throughout all of this are various hints of @AssJudger’s personal life. Apparently he lives alone in a cabin the woods somewhere in Washington (don’t know if it’s State or DC). He’s less than 200 tweets in, so I’m really looking forward to seeing if some sort of narrative emerges from all this, like @RealCarrotFact’s disastrously failed romance with a woman named Meagan.

Right now @AssJudger has fewer than 25 followers. Do you ever get the feeling of excitement when you realize you’ve just gotten in on the ground floor of something that is about to get popular quickly? That’s what following @AssJudger feels like for me. Wow, I just wrote a lot of words about a guy who calls himself Ass Judger.

Categories: Of the Month.

Friday, 4 July 2014

“Of the Month” July 2014

Webseries of the Month:
Bravest Warriors Bravest Warriors
Created by Pendleton Ward, who also created a little show you might know of called Adventure Time, this webseries offers up a similar vein of creative surrealism. But being on the internet instead of a network in some ways frees Bravest Warriors up to be even more crazy than Adventure Time. Also, the shorter running time means that the craziness is packed tighter into each episode. It’s quite hilarious. And you’ll absolutely love Cat Bug. I know, I know, everybody loves Cat Bug, therefore you automatically don’t because you can’t possibly like something that the majority likes, because then your opinions would be “common.” But you’ll love Cat Bug.

Sorry, that was a weird rant, wasn’t it? Anyway, you’ll love Cat Bug.

Video Game of the Month:
Pikmin 3 Pikmin 3
The third in the Pikmin series doesn’t stray too far from its roots. You’re tiny people trapped on an alien planet (highly implied to be a post-apocalyptic Earth), and the only way you can survive is by utilizing mobs of tiny, plant-like creatures called Pikmin. You utilize them by throwing them at things. *Cough*

Yes, it is a bit of animal slavery, but not really any more than Pokémon. And it is a lot of fun. In this outing you (eventually) control three people (whom you can also throw around) who can split up to do coordinated tasks. There are some clever puzzle-solving elements, and Pikmin 3 seems to be the most epic of them all so far. I’m already about two weeks into the game (as far as in-game time goes) and I haven’t even activated all the colors of Pikmin yet. So I feel like I’ve got a long, satisfying game ahead of me.

TV Miniseries of the Month:
Cosmos Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Ah, yes, Cosmos. I was only three years old when the original Cosmos aired, but due to repeats I have vague recollections of the dandelion-shaped spaceship piloted by Carl Sagan and our imaginations. Now comes a new, updated Cosmos hosted by the charismatic Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It’s a visual wonderland of sciences, from microbiology to astrophysics. The capabilities of modern special effects dwarf anything that Sagan’s series created, visually. And yet Tyson’s version still has the same warm heart and joyful defiance of the original. It doesn’t shy away from “controversial” topics like evolution and global warming (which shouldn’t be controversial because the science for both is absolutely sound). It draws marvelous chains from history through to possible futures. And it is especially good that for even me, an agoraphobe, it made the infinite vastness of space seem wondrous rather than terrifying. An excellent miniseries that I can’t wait to show to my daughter.

Categories: Of the Month.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

“Of the Month” June 2014

I know, I know, it’s already the 10th of the month and I’m just NOW doing my “Of the Month” choices. Well, y’know, I’ve been busy with a baby. And Mario Kart. And seeing movies. Y’know. Anyhoo, here we go:

Album of the Month:
Dark Comedy by Open Mike Eagle Dark Comedy by Open Mike Eagle
This is another one of the reasons why my “Of the Month” choices are so late this month: I was waiting for this album to drop. This is a frikkin’ incredible album, a tour-de-force of Mike’s intellect and wit, with some of the best production and beats behind him of any of his albums. Nerd references abound, and the comedy forms like a doorway of accessibility that leads you down a rabbit hole to some legit darkness in the state of the world. I think maybe I’ll have to write a full article about this album (you know, in all of my spare time) to do it justice. Pretty durned spectacular.

Here’s one of my favorite tracks, featuring comedian Hannibal Buress:

Video Game of the Month:
Mario Kart 8 Mario Kart 8
It’s another Mario Kart. You do know that the Mario Kart series of games is my all-time favorite series of games, just barely beating out classic Mega Man and the Legend of Zelda games, right? Well, this one is no different. It’s got some added items and features, like the whole anti-gravity feature (that reminded me a bit of F-Zero X), and there are some interesting changes like the fact that you can’t “chamber” an item by holding it behind you and then pick up another item. Nope, you can only ever hold one item at a time (unless the item itself is multiple, like triple-shells). Also the coin system from the very first Mario Kart makes a fascinating return! But really the star of this Mario Kart is the gorgeous HD visuals. If you ever get the chance to watch someone else play (or watch a video of gameplay), just look at all the stuff going on in the backgrounds and on the periphery of the action. It’s just stunning.

And speaking of gameplay videos, this Mario Kart lets you upload highlight reels to YouTube. Uh-oh, you’re all in trouble now. Here’s me as Baby Rosalina kicking some ass:

Music Video of the Month:
Tesla by They Might be Giants Tesla by They Might be Giants
A rather gentle and unassuming song from TMBG about Tesla and his many contributions to the world has been taken by designer Paul Sahre (a frequent collaborator TMBG’s) and made not into just one video, but NINE videos. Sahre made 8 remixes of the song, then created a video for each of them plus the original song. They’re all strung together into over 20 minutes of glorious, hypnotic, funny, grainy, black-and-white goodness. Don’t believe me? Silly fools! Just watch for yourself:

Categories: Of the Month.

Friday, 2 May 2014

“Of the Month” May 2014

Tweeter of the Month:
@audipenny @audipenny
Perhaps the most laugh-out-loud Twitter talent out there right now, Audrey Farnsworth crafts tweet jokes that seem to start out in a safe, predictable way, but quickly veer off into bizarre surrealism. She is a brilliant mixture of mundane and insane. I absoluterly LORVE this kind of humor. It reminds me a Jack Handey in a very palpable way. It was hard for me to pick just a couple of tweets from her, so here are six:

Album of the Month:
threeni Alcohol & Isolation by Three Ninjas
Old-school, howling, angry, depressed, authentic country music. None of this pop-country crap that has dominated the country music scene for the last 30 years. I wrote about this album a little while ago. And I went to its album release party on Tuesday night. Here’s a photo of that:

And here’s a sample song. Take a wissen; it’s good stuffs:

Also, if you manage to track down a physical copy of the CD, there are GOBS of bonus songs at the end! DO IT!

Game of the Month:
cardwars Adventure Time: Card Wars
There was an episode of Adventure Time a while back where Finn & Jake played a holographic parody of “Magic: The Gathering” called “Card Wars.” Well, since this is the 21st century, someone went ahead and made a real version of the game so you, too, can play it! It is surprisingly fun, and the voice actors recorded a metric tonne of lines for it. It does a surprisingly good job of capturing the feel and rules of the game as played in the episode. Cons: it’s not free, and it’s micro-transaction based, so unless you’re willing to pony up the cash it’ll take you a long time to build up a powerful deck. Also, there’s no multiplayer, which seems weird since the episode was about a two-player card game. Oh, well. FLOOP THE PIG!

Categories: Of the Month.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

“Of the Month” April 2014

Artist of the Month:
goshadole James “GoshaDole” Franzen
James Franzen is a local (Olympia) web designer, graphic designer, animator, and artist who has developed a really cool, chibi, pseudo-anime style. His characters tend to have very large, circular heads with nubby hands and feet (think PowerPuff Girls hands). He has prints of most of his work available on his storenvy shop, my favorite of which is this collection of chibi versions of all the Robot Masters from Mega Man 1 through 10:


Radio Gosha x Mega Man by GoshaDole on deviantART

He has animated a good handful of videos, including a couple for my favorite chiptune musician Leeni:

Find James Franzen:

He can also usually be found with a booth at local comic/anime/game conventions:

Radio Gosha at ECCC

Radio Gosha at ECCC

Check his stuff out when you get a chance.

Game of the Month:
Cartoon Wars 2 Cartoon Wars 2

Your basic Tower Defense game (2D version) — you send out waves of your troops to the right to destroy the enemy’s castle, while the enemy sends out waves of troops to the left to destroy your castle. They meet somewhere in the middle for massacre/massacre funtimes. The selling point of Cartoon Wars is that they’re all stick figures and cartoony monsters. But what is so addicting about this game is the vast options of troops and castle upgrades you can purchase. It makes it a really engaging resource management game: should I spend my gold on a troop upgrade? A new type of troop? Making my tower’s defense better? Its offense? The difficulty scales nicely, although sometimes if you choose unwisely you can get stuck on a level for a LONG time while you try to rack up the moneys to upgrade troops to fight your way out of it. I find it hard to put down.

Tweeter of the Month:
the_ironsheik The Iron Sheik
Yes, the REAL Iron Sheik. The professional wrestler who fought Hulk Hogan and whose dreaded “Camel Clutch” finishing submission move threatened to break your back and make you humble. He now has a completely uncensored twitter feed that is brutally hilarious and written in the same accent as Sheik’s verbal speeches. It is also very NSFW. I had a hard time finding any example tweets to embed, because they usually involve telling people (or the readers) to go f**k themselves. Here’s the best I could do:

He also has an Instagram account which is equally hilarious. And, yes, it is really him.

Categories: Of the Month.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

“Of the Month” March 2014

Tweeter of the Month:
chrissyteigen Chrissy Teigen
Yes, she’s a model, and yes, she’s married to John Legend. And, yes, she’s mostly nekkid in her Twitter profile picture. But she also happens to be whip-smart and one of the funniest people on Twitter right now. She is biting, acerbic, and very charming, and she has no fear of sliding into the vulgar and/or scatalogical territories of twitter (i.e., some NSFW stuffs). I enjoy it. Perhaps so can you to do?

Instagrammer of the Month:
jamesfrancotv James Franco

James Franco has always seemed a bit of a paradox; he comes off as a doofy, grinning, slacker type, but he periodically gets nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars and other prestigious acting awards. And then he appears on a soap opera. His Instagram feed is similarly all over the place, running from bizarre and funny things he’s found on the internets to plugging his appearance in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. But it’s all very friendly and personable, and like Franco himself, you can tell that no publicist or agent or manager has the tiniest bit of influence over what shows up:

Book of the Month:
bluberrygirl Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman wrote a poem, a prayer to a newborn little girl (the daughter of Tori Amos originally) that she may grow up to be strong, wise, independent, and fun:

Keep her from spindles and sleeps at sixteen;
Let her stay waking and wise.

There might be a four-month-old reason why this book resonates so much with me… it is seriously beautiful, with Charles Vess’s gorgeously detailed but not literal illustrations. Chokes me up a li’l. You know.

Categories: Of the Month.