Tuesday, June 30, 2009


You know what gets my goat? (Actually, I don't have a goat, but that's not the point.)

People who complain that this or that "ruined [their] childhood." (This is invariably in the context of something which is a modern take on something that the speaker enjoyed in childhood; as we all know, whether the modern take is good or not, some of the people who enjoyed it as children will hate the modern take with a savagery unparalleled in civilized man. Except by Hitler.)

What the heck is that supposed to mean?

For that matter, how can anything "ruin [their] childhood?" The only way I can think of for someone to "ruin" the childhood of an adult is to get a time machine and steal every ice cream cone they've ever eaten before they eat them (or something similarly ridiculously petty).

And in that context, it makes the related phrase "raped [their] childhood," usually simply used in the exact same way, even worse than it already was, which was pretty bad.

Never say that something ruined your childhood to me. It will ruin my childhood.

-Signing off.

Monday, June 29, 2009

300th Post


*crickets chirp*


Meh. Predictably, I don't feel much like making a real post.

So I'll direct you here, where I link to a few of my favorite posts, and also will direct you to some of my favorite categories.

Greatly Belated Book Reviews
Writing Techniques
Real Superhero Adventures
Super Robot Profiles

I'll probably be doing a few (or more than a few) book reviews of old science fiction in the near future. I'll be reviewing some of H. G. Wells' stuff, in fact, and there's a contemporary doozy that I'll have a blast talking about. 'Til then.

-Signing off.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Interruption In Sevice/Manga Post

Believe it or not, the "interruption in service" was not due to the protracted case of "blogger blah" that I've been suffering from. This really nasty storm swept through the area last night, knocking down (very big and sturdy) trees and hurling various small creatures many hundreds of feet. (A small freshwater aquatic worm found its way to our yard, where it probably died after a member of my family put it in a bucket to show it to the rest of us.) Of course, it wasn't the tree-breaking and critter hurling that caused the interruption in service, no sirree. Everything had calmed down, and I had time to get on and use the ol' Internets. Then, without warning, the power went out for twenty minutes or so. Since there were still traces of lightning and thunder echoing in the distance, I resolved it wasn't a good idea to turn the computer back on, and aside from briefly making sure it wasn't fried, I didn't.

So, that's why there wasn't a post. See you Monday.


Just kidding.

So, in the continuing saga of Ultimo, Vice didn't turn into anything insane this time. But Dunstan content was remarkably high when you consider he didn't actually appear in this chapter:

Also, Ultimo is still creepy (Ultimo speaks in the third person very much), although he was actually genuinely intentionally kind of funny this time. (Also, now Vice is the one talking creepy to Ultimo. Heh.)

On the non-Ultimo Shonen Jump front, why do people hate Naruto?

(Before you react, keep in mind: I know Naruto's really popular. I'm talking about the people who "hate on it.")

I'm well aware that Naruto is kind of a... well, a stupid series. It's about ninja wizards (or wizard ninjas? or perhaps you'd prefer "magic ninjas") who beat the stuffing out of each other. And that's pretty much it.

Is there anything wrong with that?

I don't watch (and will probably never watch) the Naruto anime. It holds no special place in my heart-in fact, it holds no place in my heart whatsoever. (Shame on you, anime, for having cruddy animation rear its head throughout the first episode [which came with an issue of Shonen Jump, the only reason I've seen it]. If you're not wasting your budget on the first episode, you aren't getting attention, and you're not setting people up to like it.) But I love the Naruto manga.


Because Masashi Kishimoto can draw like heck.

Now, let's get one thing straight-Shonen Jump hates Naruto readers. I mean, not really literally. But it treats them horribly. Rather than publish Naruto consistently and continuously, we've been subjected to jump-ahead after jump-ahead so that Viz Media can ram a few hundred dollars worth of Naruto graphic novels down the throats of any hardcore Naruto fans and make millions and millions more dollars than they would otherwise. You ain't gettin' my money, Viz, 'cuz I can't afford it. Maybe five years from now I'll buy quarter-price discount Naruto on Amazon or something, but not today.

(Note to Viz: If you ever do this with One Piece, Shonen Jump won't be worth reading anymore. That's the only manga still going since the first US Shonen Jump that hasn't had its Shonen Jump releases mangled horribly, and the only Shonen Jump Manga I'd truly suffer without. I miss Naruto when you screw with it, but don't you touch my One Piece. ... That sounds wrong somehow.)

Anyhow, Naruto is admittedly a stupid series by nature. It's a series you read if you want to see guys summon twenty story toads to fight giant sand demons, or a giant puppet thing with a poisonous stinger tail. Not that there's anything wrong with that-in fact, that's quality entertainment. But the thing that really makes Naruto, at least for me personally, is that the art is stunning.

Kishimoto can draw giant frogs in pseudo-feudal Japanese regalia like nobody's business. He can draw dynamic scenes with a frenetic energy that is truly rare on the printed page. His layouts and lines are rough but flawless. (It's a phenomenon that's hard to describe. It's kinda like what I've seen of vintage Jack Kirby.) His character designs are... well, I'm not sure what I think of his character designs, because they simply exist. There's just something about them. I know that there have been a few that made my forehead crinkle, and a few that struck me as cool, but for the most part I barely notice them.

I'll never claim that Naruto is the bestest story ever-that'd be dumb even if I'd read every story ever and stood a chance of judging it on those grounds. (Although I think the story's just a smidgen less dumb than what you might think from the way I talk about it. Also, just 'cuz it's dumb doesn't mean it's not moving.) But it's quality comics that I can read over and over again without getting tired of it. That's got to count for something.

By the way, Monday will be my 300th post. Dunno if I'll do anything special for it.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lazy Post

I was trying to figure out an excuse to do something lazy today (if you can't tell I haven't felt like blogging much lately, you haven't been paying attention), when all of a sudden I realized "Why do I need an excuse?"

(Also, what's up with the scheduler lately? It hasn't been working right. I keep having to come back and order it to publish again.)

So, yeah. I figure it's been too long since I've randomly subjected my readers to random GaoGaiGar embeds from YouTube, so here you go.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tear Back The Veil...

...and witness the true wicked universe.

Descend into madness, or at least have a lot of nightmares.


Eh, I got nothin'.

-Signing off.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Super Robot Cartoon Profiles: Mighty Orbots

A series I've mentioned a few times but never quite profiled is Mighty Orbots.

Mighty Orbots is a series which bridged the gap between animation in the US and Japan. What does this mean?

Well, for one, it makes for some crazy fun.

In the first episode, some evil rock stars use their "alien music" to make a magnetic monster, which Mighty Orbots throws into a volcano on some rocky moon so hard that it (the moon) explodes.

In the second episode, the Orbots cut a planet in half, scooped out the middle, used the halves to trap a giant gas monster guy, and then welded it shut to keep him in there. (It didn't work-they had to throw him into a planet-eating wormhole later on.)

In the fourth episode, the Orbots were mind-controlled by blatant Ewok analogues, who themselves were under mind control.

The main cast of Mighty Orbots are Rob, AKA the "Orbots Commander" (it was actually a secret dual identity, which is hilariously incongruous for a few hundred reasons), Ohno, the mother hen and the component that activates the combination (she scolds and tirades an awful lot), Tor, the big dumb brute, Bort, Crunch, the dog who eats stuff (okay, he's not the dog, but he talks about as much as a dog), and Bo and Boo/Bu, the girls with energy powers. (Bo is "master of the elements," which basically means she can absorb and focus all kinds of energy; Boo is basically a robotic Invisible Woman [invisibility, force fields] who can also make more elaborate illusions and teleport.)

All together, they're like the Fantastic Four (a strong guy, a flexible/shapeshifter type, an energetic and mischievous master of elements, and the one who sounds lame but is powerful... and then there's Crunch, who eats stuff-um, yeah, he doesn't fit with this analogy) but robots.

And since they're robots, they can combine into a giant robot, conveniently called Mighty Orbots, who has all their powers. (And when I say "giant," I mean, a few hundred times more massive than the combined mass of the Orbots themselves. How? It's powered by 100% pure Japanesanimesium.)

So I guess they're a combination of the FF and the Planeteers from Captain Planet... except that Mighty Orbots came out six years before Captain Planet. Ah, well.

Anyway, as mentioned, this series is half-Japanese, half-American. This gives it one of youth-oriented anime's strangest quirks-excessive narration. The series is also, as you might guess, unabashedly goofy. (Author Michael Reaves, talking about his cartoon-writing experiences, once called Mighty Orbots one of the worst series he'd ever worked on. He seems to have taken that remark down...)

But despite (or even because of) that, I really enjoy digging up old episodes of it on video sites, because they're unselfconsciously fun.

I need to do more posts on them. Sigh.

-Signing off.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Canadian Soldiers Are Invading

No, I'm not making this up-"Canadian Soldier" is a term for the mayflies of the Great Lakes.

For the past two days, and to a lesser extent for the past week, hundreds upon hundreds of large (just shy of an inch long), fishy-smelling insects have boiled out of Lake Erie and probably from the other lakes as well. (I wouldn't know-quite frankly, I've never visited them, and certainly never during mayfly season.)

They spend their time lolling about, scaring tourists and feeding animals (because they're tasty), after a short while shedding their exoskeletons and then mating and dying. Mayflies live fast.

Of course, the truth about mayflies is that they're totally harmless, since they have no mouths. If they did have mouths, they'd probably be the scourge of the region. As it is, they just need to be periodically plowed out of the streets like insectile, fishy-smelling snow.

And a further truth is that this is only the tiniest fraction of their buggy lives. The actual lifespan of a mayfly is three years-it's just that it spends that whole time as a wingless freshwater insect incapable of reproduction. They're common prey, though not nearly as common prey as the adults. (And when I say that they "feed animals," well, cats and dogs will eat them as readily as birds and fish. No joke-when I gave one to an indoor cat the other day, she started purring with pleasure and drooled.)

Of course, if the water arthropods ever decide that they want to invade the land and conquer the Earth, mayflies are probably going to be their prime recruits. (And, of course, their primary source of casualties.) In all seriousness, the little buggers are probably the closest thing you'll ever see to a flying lobster.

-Signing off.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

High Concept: Living Planet

It figures I'd move on from Planet Eater to the natural prey/enemy of the Planet Eater.

This concept is rather more variable than the Planet Eater. While there's pretty much only one modus operandi for a Planet Eater, and they always exist in something with science fiction and fantasy elements together, the Living Planet is far more varied.

For instance, Isaac Asimov's Living Planet was quite simple-a planet where every part of it is at least sort of alive. This is Gaia from his Foundation series. (It should be noted that the idea is itself an extension of the "Gaia hypothesis.")

A little more elaborate yet also elegantly simple is Solaris, a planet that is covered in a single, huge organism that is capable of forming complex structures and reading minds. (Oops, I guess that's a spoiler. Not that I care.)

From these relatively innocuous "individuals," the Living Planet category then jumps to considerably more formidable beings. Ego the Living Planet. Mogo the Green Lantern. (Perhaps closer in class to Gaia and Solaris, but he's still a frikkin' Green Lantern, and they're powerful enough. And he's the one what controls where the orphaned power rings go.) Unicron. (Unicron is pretty versatile.) Primus. (Only often a planet, but "often" is enough.) Zonama Sekot. (A list of Living Planets that is not particularly complete [partly because it doesn't provide enough links to the stuff it lists] can be found here. I've hardly heard of all the ones on the list, but they can hardly be all of the ones out there. Heck, I can name at least three off the top of my head-as I understand, "Mangaverse" Galactus was at least sort of a planet, and another Planet Eater, the Beast Planet, also qualifies. The last is the epically named "D'vouran," a much less well-known Living Planet from the Star Wars universe, who as its name vaguely suggests eats most of its would-be inhabitants, allowing only its parasitic "natives" to survive, so that they can maintain the thriving tourist towns. Gives a whole new meaning to "tourist trap," doesn't it?) Each of these beings is either a "god" or very godlike.

Out of the latter group of Living Planets, any of them can traverse deep space as fast as any fictional spacecraft, and any of them could probably or definitely destroy another planet. Living Planets seem to be a vital part of any science fictional/fantastical space ecosystem, and they're rarely prey animals.

As with the Planet Eater, the lasting popularity of the Living Planet seems to be because it is iconic, dramatic, impressive, and simple to conceive ideas for.

It's also likely to give those with overactive imaginations nightmares. Watch your step.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I've only just noticed that I started blogging more than a year ago now. Oops, I meant to say something about it when my "first anniversary" rolled around.

So I'll just put up links to a couple of my favorite of my own posts, and let you enjoy them, possibly for the second or third time.

The Life and Death of Robot John
Cartoon Profiles: Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles
"the longest-living Indian action comic superhero"
The Very Short and Ugly Career of Missileman
High Concept: Space Knights
One Thing Leads To Another (To Another, To Another)
Epic Blah Blah Blah: H. P. Lovecraft

-Signing off.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Superhero Traditions

I recently decided it would be rather interesting to try to pin down "major" traditions of "superheroes" from different countries.

Since these are vague terms, I'm free to make totally nonsensical observations if necessary.

Western Superhero
Nation of Origin: United States.
Primary Medium: Comic books.
Costume: Extremely common, but not required.
Secret Identity: Extremely common, but not required.
Superhuman Abilities: Often but not invariably present. The Western Superhero may be born with these powers, but perhaps more commonly gains them due to an accident or a scientific formula. Usually science-derived.
Other Characteristics: I've dubbed this one the "Western Superhero" for lack of a better term. It's not really universally "Western" so much as it is the most common "Western" variety. Primarily found in English-speaking countries and in countries with strong connections to those countries. The Western Superhero is a strong, upstanding citizen who does right for the sake of doing right, or because they are haunted by the need for justice.

Super Antihero
Nation of Origin: United States.
Primary Medium: Comic books.
Costume: Somewhat common, but discouraged. If present, usually "scary."
Secret Identity: Variable-many go to jail, so not likely in those cases.
Superhuman Abilities: Sometimes present, but usually a minor part of the character-skills with weapons, grit, and cleverness are all more important.
Other Characteristics: Interestingly, this type of hero, who is frequently heavily armed, is very popular in Britain and Australia. There, the characters are often satirical, dark, and quite frankly terrifying (Death's Head is perhaps the most famous such character). The Brit/Aussie variant (which is more popular than the "Western Superhero" in those regions) is also much more likely to time travel and dimension hop-no doubt due to the influence of Doctor Who, and to have superhuman powers more central to the character. (These differences actually made me consider making the British Antihero its own category; consider it a major subcategory.) Antiheroes are of course morally ambiguous compared to many other superheroes. Generally found in the same countries as the Western Superheroes, although this isn't strictly followed.

Eastern Superhero
Nation of Origin: Japan.
Primary Medium: Live-action television.
Costume: Nearly required, and put on rapidly, usually impossibly fast.
Secret Identity: Sometimes present, but not seen as a big deal, and often only present if the characters fight secret, undetectable enemies.
Superhuman Abilities: Common, but usually secondary to a costume (which is often treated as the powers themselves) and weapons, which are very common. Often equated with martial arts. Also note that it is far more common for powers to be obtained (as opposed to merely being controlled) entirely using martial arts training. Often essentially magical, even if not explicitly magical.
Other Characteristics: Like the Western Superhero, the Eastern Superhero is an upright, highly moralistic individual. Unlike the Western Superhero, the Eastern Superhero usually carries a weapon, and that weapon is rarely nonlethal. Despite this seemingly horrific fact, since the Eastern Superhero rarely fights "real" people, usually instead slaughtering monsters and robots, it's at least sort of okay. Unless it's not. Note that while Japanese adults enjoy these characters, they rarely make the mistake of claiming they're not for children (despite the level of violence); very few such series are aimed at adults (GARO is the only one I've heard of). Also note that pretty much all Eastern Superheroes with weapons magically summon them out of nowhere. (For more information on Eastern Superheroes, you could easily look at my other blog, which is pretty much entirely about them.)

Nation of Origin: Mexico.
Primary Medium: Live wrestling.
Costume: Required. The central part, of course, is the mask.
Secret Identity: They never remove their masks.
Superhuman Abilities: None. Many do, however, use martial arts-inspired techniques.
Other Characteristics: Luchadores (according to my mother, the word means "hero" just as much as it means "crazy masked wrestler who speaks Spanish") have the same place in Mexican and Latin American popular culture that superheroes hold in the United States, if not a more cherished one. The most famous Luchador, El Santo ("the saint"), appeared in over fifty films. (Pretty much all of them were called "El Santo vs. [cheap horror movie villains of your choice]." Several of these were dubbed into English as "Samson vs. ..." which is really rather strange.) Some might question my classifying them as "superheroes." I say, why not? They tell stories, and it's at least partially fictionalized, isn't it? Plus, I remember this live-action show from years ago called "Los Luchadores" which was about a Luchador who fought an evil genius chihuahua on his off-time. Cracky good stuff. (That was during the live-action kids show craze inspired by Power Rangers, who are among the most Americanized Eastern Heroes and probably the most famous in the USA. The show wasn't anything special, except for the fact that it featured a Luchador fighting a chihuahua that was piloting a spiky robot battlesuit on a regular basis.)

And that's a wrap for now. I may at some point do a follow-up if I find a "type" that really stands out as different from these.

-Signing off.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two Suggestions To Save Money And Protect The Environment

I'm not a huge environmentalist or anything (obviously), but sometimes, you see people being really stupid about this kind of subject.

Two activities/habits you can eliminate which are all but guaranteed to help the environment:
  1. Mowing the lawn. (Seriously, it's a waste of fuel, and it's also wantonly destructive. Obviously this doesn't apply if you use one of those motorless push mowers... do they still make those? I don't know if I've ever seen a real one.)
  2. Buying individually wrapped snacks. (WASTEFUL. And expensive. For any product, a big chunk of the price and the cost is the packaging.)
Coincidentally, these are also rather expensive habits.

Ironically, I spent all day mowing (not by my own free will), so I'm too tired to think of a proper subject for a post, so this is what you get.

-Signing off.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ask A Stupid Question...

As I've discussed before (in reference to this very image), the answers to his questions in that first thought bubble ("Is he a mad god? A cosmic idiot?") are yes and yes.

-Signing off.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Strange Changes

One of the most fascinating processes in nature is metamorphosis.

Any discussion of metamorphosis must by nature encompass insects, as their metamorphoses are considerably more noticeable and complex than those of most other creatures. (Wikipedia's article omits any information on crustacean metamorphosis [which admittedly is generally universally similar-the larval stages are small swimming or floating creatures, and the adults are comparitively large, slow-moving bottom feeders]. Shame, Wikipedia, shame.)

In fact, metamorphosis among insects has in many cases become remarkably specialized and functional. Far from the common simplification of "incomplete and complete metamorphoses" which we assign to insects, insect metamorphosis is incredibly varied. For instance, the ant lion (or doodlebug, so-called because it walks backwards, and thus meanders a lot) only lives long enough in its adult stage to reproduce, a common insect feature. The adult form is retained purely because its flight grants mobility. (Note: You do learn new things every day if you let yourself, even if you're an enthusiast-I had never heard of owlflies before.)

Or take the blister beetle, which is hypermetamorphic. (Awesome.) What that means is that the blister beetle's larvae can shift between multiple different larval types (the types being "nymph," "caterpillar," "grub," and "maggot," more or less) depending on its needs (as I understand it, they shift between "grub" and "maggot" because they parasitize their prey and can also winter as a somewhat nymph-like form).

Or take the bizarre case of the mealybug (and the scale insects in general), whose sexual dimorphism is unique-the females remain in squishy, weird larval forms their entire lives, while the males metamorphose into flying adult forms in order to find mates elsewhere. (It should be noted that mealybugs, like aphids and certain other pest insects, both can give birth to live young and are capable of reproducing without mating. They say that some aphids are actually literally born pregnant, making them a real-life counterpart to the tribble.)

Then there's the mayfly, the only creature in nature who confuses the old classification of "adult" versus "immature" descriptions of insect stages. Why? It's the only variety of insect that molts after it has fully developed its wings, the usual marker that a winged species has reached adulthood. (Just why it does so is somewhat unclear-the molting process is time consuming and difficult [I know because I've seen it-I live in mayfly central], and it doesn't seem like it would really be necessary to do so. It's just an odd thing they do.) Its "subimago" form is covered in fine, water-repellent hairs which are necessary for the mayfly to escape the water and fly, and for whatever reason, it feels the need to shed its "hairy" stage before it mates and dies a few hours later. (Taking a quick shave would be easier, dude.)

There may be other oddballs that I haven't heard of or have forgotten, but these are strange enough.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

High Concept: Planet Eater

You know, for a long time, Galactus was the first and last word in planet eater's definition. But now, it's a little more involved than that.

We have Unicron (as I once said, Galactus + Death Star + Satan), Lavos (one of the more distinct ones, really-can't accuse it of being a Galactus rip-off), the Beast Planet (Unicron minus transforming abilities), Omnipotus from The Tick (to be fair, a simple Galactus parody), the Planet Gobbler (okay, now I'm stretching), and probably others that I haven't heard of (I've obviously heard of a lot), not counting the "variant Galacti" that have appeared in various comics.

The reason the concept has proliferated is probably because it's so evocative. Like any mythos, pop culture likes striking ideas, and the idea of a predator (or a parasite, in Lavos' case) that eats whole planets is a dramatic one. (Dramatic enough that I have about half a dozen variant ideas for planet eaters and the extended "ecosystem" that they might live in.) The death of a planet because something was hungry is tragedy in high form. (Galactus's reluctance to eat planets on many occasions is one way to look at it; Unicron, on the other hand, is a dark god of destruction and actively takes pleasure in it. You can play it a lot of different ways.)

Incidentally, while I appreciate Galactus's originality and character, and realize that Unicron is considerably more derivative, I think Unicron "makes more sense."


Because Unicron is essentially a huge spaceship, and you could at least sort of believe that one of the reasons he devours planets is to break them down for fuel and raw materials. The explanation of how Galactus eats planets is all kinds of ill-defined and confusing, defies logic, and so on. But Unicron? You can count on any planet he eats being ground to pieces and used to light his rings up.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Food For Thought

I was thinking about nostalgia today, and I have come up with a scientific (no, I'm not serious at all) explanation for it and for its twin brother, hatred/fear-of-the-future (or whatever-I don't know if there's a real word for that or not).

The Doppler effect.

See, if the Doppler effect makes things you're moving away from redder, and things you're moving towards bluer, then you're automatically seeing the past through rose-colored glasses, and the future looks sad 'cuz it's blue.


What? I thought it was funny.

-Signing off.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I went to a sorta-local anime convention on Saturday. (I was mostly the chauffeur, but I did have fun. I was taking my sister and her friend.)

I'm still a bit tired from it, since between driving and walking around, I spent about ten hours continuously wearing out my legs. (The friend in question lives as far away from where the con was being held as we do, but in a different direction. That was a long drive, going down that road, then back up it, then doing it over again, and then driving home, too.)

Anyway, my sister's friend was basically a walking photo op (on purpose-and yes, that's her), so there's a fair chance of me having been unintentionally caught in a picture or two.

Which would be just about the only chance anybody reading this blog who doesn't know me in person would have of seeing a picture of me. (Which is a thought that amuses me.)

-Signing off.

Friday, June 5, 2009

You Know, I Think It's Been Too Long Since I've Griped About Blogger!

Primary gripe about Blogger at the moment?

Why does it give me that redirect where it says "The NEW Blogger requires a Google account" when I sign in?

First off, if it does require a Google account sign-in, why do I only get this message one time out of five? (And why is the Blogger sign-in page even still there, for that matter?)

Second, why is the message so darned insulting, as if I had never heard of this possibility before?

Third, why does it still imply it's possible that I didn't know about this when not only has "the NEW Blogger" been this way at least since I signed up for it, but I actually got my Blogger account with my Google account e-mail?

Sorry, but sometimes you just need to vent about this stuff, you know?

-Signing off.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Game Profile: Swarm Assault

So, if you like real time strategy games, but aren't great at them (like me) and don't have a lot of money to blow on them, where do you look for them?

Well, you could buy Swarm Assault, which can be had for $13 or thereabouts (according to the website I checked). It's a little hard to find, and it is no longer supported or even acknowledged by the studio that apparently created it, but if you like RTS games, there are worse ways you could blow less than twenty bucks and six or twelve hours.

It's no Total Annihilation, but it is fun.

The game is much simpler than the typical modern high-budget RTS. There are five "species," for lack of a better term, of "insect" that you can control (each produced by its own kind of "colony"), and four "factions" which each get a bonus in production for one type of "insect." There are only four tilesets, which run rampant with "wild" neutral enemies of three varieties who will likely cause you a fair bit of trouble.

The thing I haven't mentioned yet? The "insects" have guns, missile launchers, and bombs.

Each kind of colony has a unique defense gun. (My favorite is the Ant colony's powerful machine guns, which can stop the typical mob rush in its tracks; the worst is definitely the Beetle colony's inaccurate, short-ranged, slow-firing and outright cruddy cannon.) Each also produces three types of unit of its own "species," meaning that the game features fifteen controllable units.

In broad strokes, each type of unit is suited by its weapon and armor for a specific role. Melee units (such as the Bull Ant and the Savage Scorpion) are useless against colonies; if used, they're better suited for defense, killing artillery units that are out of range of the base guns. Artillery units (Cannon Beetles, Missile Spiders, Spear Scorpions) are ideal for killing colonies, as they outrange most colony guns. Then there are units that are a tad more versatile, such as the Sniper Spider and the Ninja Scorpion. (See why I like the game?) The Sniper Spider's considerable range and excellent accuracy make it highly capable at picking off enemy artillery or doing light artillery work, while the Ninja Scorpion's homing ninja stars (!) despite being short-ranged will kill just about anything they can reach because of its high firing rate. (The Ninja Scorpion is kind of expensive, but it's probably the most powerful unit in the game because it can fill nearly any role.)

The oddest "species" are probably the Wasps, as their cheapest unit, the Assault Wasp (which isn't that cheap) is probably their best "artillery" because of its range, while its longest-ranged unit is a base defender instead (it launches "knockout" projectiles that don't affect colonies), and its heaviest unit, the Sonic Wasp is a mixed-role thing whose range is too short to work against many colonies. (The whole species probably has this oddity and disadvantage because they're the only species that can cross water, which is the only advantage flight gives them. Also, weirdly, nothing in the game can shoot while moving, and the Wasps can't stop while over water, which makes beachheads nearly impossible.)

I speak of costs, but the only cost in the game is time. Each unit takes a set amount of time to be built, and if you play as the color/faction that matches the species, they build 25% faster. The true resources of the game are the colonies. Each colony can never be destroyed, only "knocked out" and then captured. (Comically, when a colony "dies," it erupts and releases some slimy stuff I can only refer to as "goop," which the various insects in the area will seek out in preference to fighting. Whoever gathers the most goop wins the colony, which is "reborn" without any health, and if there are mixed forces in the area, it will almost certainly die again and need to be recaptured, since the enemy bugs will immediately start shooting it.) Colonies can regenerate if they aren't building, and there is a certain strategic element to turning production on and off.

The biggest flaw of the game, although it also lends an air of uniqueness, is the fact that, at the end of the day, your bug soldiers are still bugs, and they pretty much are impossible to control except in the most general ways. You can't give them standing orders to stay put or patrol an area; once they aren't actively doing anything, they start just aimlessly wandering around, following whatever catches their eye. (A piece of advice various parties have given concerning the game is to send your Wasps flying over the enemy's colonies; this causes all nearby units on defensive duty to forget what they're doing, if anything, and chase and shoot at the Wasps. This often severely damages the colonies, as the defenders are freaking morons and will shoot at anything. Even worse is when a neutral flyer causes your units to do this.)

The neutral units in the game come in four flavors to match the tilesets; in what I think of as the "normal" tileset, there are dragonfly bombers and flowers that shoot heat-seeking pollen; in the "nighttime" tileset, there are moth bombers (probably the least threatening bombers) and the uber-annoying popcorn plants, which are not tough but exist in huge numbers, and can make capturing colonies nearly impossible; in the desert tileset, spiked plants shoot thorns and flies drop crow's feet bombs which bounce and multiply across the landscape; and then there's the candyland tileset, which is pretty trippy, as it features a "bomber" that resembles a helicopter made from popsicle sticks and piloted by a neutral Grenadier Ant (its gobstopper bombs are similar to those of the desert fly except more musical and colorful). There are also neutral Ants which emerge randomly from burrows in many environments.

The game comes with one hundred "missions," and I have doubts as to whether they were all play-tested, as some of them were freaking impossible and I don't see how any amount of preparation or planning could change that. (For instance, one map modelled after Spain and the Americas features you trying to overwhelm the huge "American continents," crammed full of a single allegiance of colonies, with a single Wasp colony in "Spain." [Talk about cultural insensitivity.] As I mentioned, Wasps can't shoot while hovering over water, and the computer AI seeks out the nearest enemy and sends all of its units on a... well, a bee-line for it, which means that they all crowd over on the eastern shores and start shooting at anything that comes in range. There's no way to get around that, even if you had more colonies than the other guy, which you don't.)

Swarm Assault has no multiplayer that I know of; it's just as well, since two to four people trying to manage a bunch of bugs with guns couldn't end well.

Swarm Assault isn't a "deep" game with numerous facets; it's a hideously simple one. Sometimes that's all you need to have fun.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

And Shakoora...

...flew, taking them along-

-Signing off.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Giant Robots In WWII

They move kind of funny, but considering that this movie was done by a guy in his spare time, those robots are pretty awesome.

(Thanks, sis, and also draxenn of Comic Dish, for pointing me at this.)

-Signing off.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Moment Of What The: Power Lords

Let's take a moment to appreciate one of the trippiest toylines ever made: Power Lords.

What the photos there don't make clear, and which adds considerably to the trippiness factor, is that many of the toys turned parts around, as is demonstrated in a scan here (the blue tattoo-covered guy can turn around so he looks like a semi-normal guy or something).

I'll be frank-even a toyline like Robo Force looks better than most of that. (Except for Arkus [the main villain of Power Lords]. I've owned Arkus's head as a hand-me-down for years, and I still love that thing. And Arkus still looks delightfully weird. Too bad he's probably the most fragile toy in the known universe.) The Robo Force robots may be repetitive and plain, but at least they're charmingly ugly. (And they make great substitutes for Skeletor's robots.)

Also, bonus points for the presumably unintentional parallel between their subline and the relatively recent Transformers toyline (Beast Machines).

-Signing off.