Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Stay Up Too Late Day

So here we have an entertaining little short film about the perils of space travel, and it just happens to be probably technically set on New Year's Eve.

(It might be a little easier to watch on its proper page rather than embedded, because this is rather smaller than its intended viewing size.)

Of course, there's one thing about this that's incredibly unrealistic: Spaceships don't do that "sinking/drifting" thing.

(What, you think that the coffee machine was unrealistic? I found it perfectly plausible.)

See you next year.

-Signing off.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Never Seen Those Make Music Before

The song is a rendition of the Power Rangers theme.

The instrument is a set of eight coordinated floppy drive motors.

Yes, really. It's pretty cool.

-Signing off.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Game Reviews: Super Mega Ultra Battle Robot

Super Mega Ultra Battle Robot is an odd little duck of a game.

Gameplay is a little bit like the Atlantis game I reviewed some time ago, with a robot's movement controlled by arrow keys while its aim is controlled with the mouse. Your weapons are pretty generic, and while you get new weapons and can swap some around, most of the first few you get are pretty much the best.

You also have a gigantic "battle blade" which you activate by pressing the space bar, and this causes your robot to draw a sword at least twice its own length, clumsily swing it forward, and then crash to the ground, damaging all enemies nearby for a large amount and destroying all enemy projectiles that it hits. It's really kind of hilarious to watch, but you need to use it judiciously because its recharge time is really, really long.

Fortunately, that's not all you have. You've also got a "time bubble" that slows down projectiles that enter it, to the point where they're nearly not moving at all. (It's the rather big green circle.) This makes the early levels where enemies are few and far between and only have slow-firing weapons a cakewalk, because you need to reach "bullet hell" levels of enemy fire before there's any chance that stuff will actually hit you, and even then, most of the time your only challenges will be the bosses. (Heck, while I was taking the screenshot, I saw a projectile head for the robot, and then I went and did other stuff for about three minutes before I checked back in... and when I came back, if I'd been just a tiny bit faster than I had been, I'd have been able to keep the robot from getting hit.)

The first time I played the game, this was comically exaggerated, because for some reason the game was slowed to a crawl (and it's not really that fast to begin with) and I didn't even have to pay attention to play it effectively... though the bosses are still difficult because of the sheer coverage of their firing patterns.

Therein lies the game's problem: It's... kinda boring. While there's good enemy variety and whatnot, most of the weapons are fairly boring, even the sword once the humor value has worn off, and there's little incentive to choose weapons in an effort to optimize for specific situations as the game seems to want you to. The gameplay is slow and fairly easy much of the time, with many basic enemies presenting no threat but still taking a long time to kill, and fast and hard every now and again. It just... never really clicks, is all.

It's got some interesting ideas, the main one being the time bubble. While it's probably a bit too powerful in this game, it does lead to some fun and interesting gameplay, and I'd like to see it used in a game that's a little better thought out than this one.

So... Yeah, try this game out to see the silly sword and the time bubble, but don't count on it holding your attention.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Belated Christmas Greetings (...Wait, Didn't I Actually Mention Christmas Yesterday?))

I'm in the middle of a blizzard and battening down the proverbial hatches, and the power has been blinking on and off today-never quite long enough to shut off the computer, but enough to make me concerned about working on a long post.

So here's a quick YouTube embed of the apparently now annual David Kaye Christmas greeting, now with two hundred percent more vocal variation!

Voice actors who can do that are awesome.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#73)

(Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and whatever else blah blah fishcakes.)

721. Morlings. Morlings are ambiguously canonical ugly dog people. They apparently have adapted well to using technology after joining galactic society, but don't understand it and think it's magic. Many of them are pirates by trade. They're also really ugly.

Rating: 2/5. Have I mentioned they're ugly? I rather like the idea that there's a group who's perfectly good at using technology, but just handwave it as magic-after all, there are plenty of people in our society who don't have the faintest notion of how a radio, or an internal combustion engine, or a telephone works, yet use these things all the time without thinking about it. (Oscillations, if you don't know and you're wondering. Yes, that applies to all of them, even if it's not very informative.)

722. Morodins. Morodins are rather huge (~30-60 feet long) eight-limbed creatures, with six legs and a pair of rather stubby arms. They look quite a bit like a collection of hodgepodge dinosaur parts, and not in a bad way-the overall effect is quite charming and rather cool, though a tad unbalanced-looking.

As huge herbivorous beings, the Morodins are easily mistaken for unintelligent beasts, and while they seem to have a propensity for slow-wittedness (not connecting a group of farmers they were helping with a group of poachers who were killing them, despite the two groups being made up entirely of the same people-in their defense, I could imagine their eyesight being rather insufficient), they're actually descended from a starfaring civilization that used some form of organic starships, and retain a great deal of knowledge from that society. Those aforementioned farmers? They were up to various illicit activities, and unbeknownst to the Morodins, the "farmers" had discovered that the Morodin help they'd received for their crops had turned the plants into a source of blaster gas (for reference, the enormous floating city on Bespin from The Empire Strikes Back was a blaster gas mining operation, so obviously it was a pretty lucrative trade).

Eventually, a good-hearted crime boss helped put a stop to that, as is often the case in the Star Wars galaxy.

Rating: 5/5. They're pretty great.

723. Morses. Morses are long-lived "humanoids" (we don't know what that means in this context) who don't necessarily have any place in canon, as they're from the same almost-official source that gives us the Morlings and various other ambiguously canonical stuff. They have blue antennae that give them some kind of excellent "sense of perception," and can live for two hundred and fifty to three hundred years. Apparently, their hair goes through many different colors as they age, settling on purple in old age.

Rating: 2/5. That rainbow of aging sounds like an interesting detail, although there's not really anything other than the most boringly mundane stuff otherwise.

724. Morseerians. Morseerians are one of the various races described as "methane breathers." This is silly, because in order to get use out of methane, you'd need something to burn it with (i.e. oxygen). Now that I'm thinking about it, I suppose a "methane breather" could have a metabolism based on using oxygen stored in its food to burn its air as fuel, but that's needlessly complex and silly.

Ahem. The Morseerians.

They've got four arms, and allied to some degree to the fellow "methane breather" race, the Drackmarians. They didn't like the Empire, and a lot of them helped the Rebellion, though there were some who served the Imperials as informants.

Apparently, they were cautious and careful enough that the Empire never actually found their homeworld, which strikes me as improbable.

Rating: 2/5. Their status as non-oxygen-breathing four-armed aliens is a mild point of interest.

725. Mosciive. They look pretty human, but with red eyes.

Rating: 1/5. They do have an interesting name, I suppose.

726. Mostlaa. Okay, you see this elegant, slightly odd species name? The sole named member of the species is known as Jimmer.


They're rather short and described as weaselly, although the picture of Jimmer that exists looks too... pudgy and beefy, I think... to really be "weaselly."


Rating: 2/5. They're saved by the hilarity of "Mostlaa" versus "Jimmer." Jimmer, you guys. Just... Jimmer.

727. Mrissi. Mrissi (the singular form is "Mriss") are owl people with separate arms and hilarious little wings. The pictured one looks rather like he belongs on Middle Earth or something, wearing a hooded robe and carrying a walking stick and a scroll as he is. The wings are explicitly vestigial-and thank goodness, because the thought of one flying is almost too funny to bear. Oh, gosh, now I'm thinking of it. Heh.

Heh heh heh.

Okay, I'll stop.

They're apparently prone to being outspoken and politically unconventional scholars.

They also are highly sensitive to pollution and thus prone to illness on industrialized and similar worlds such as Coruscant.

Their strangest and most improbable feature is that they never developed sculpture on their own, and this fact informed Grand Admiral Thrawn's analysis of their psychology and helped him manipulate them in his seizing their planet.

Rating: 3/5. They're interestingly detailed, and they're good for a giggle.

728. Mrlssi or Mrlssti (which is also the name of their homeworld). Like the Mrissi, they're bird people, although they're a fair bit more alien and distinctly separate from any specific real world animals. Like the Mrissi, they're also scholarly, although it seems they believe much more in applied sciences. Like the Mrissi, they were attacked and trounced by Grand Admiral Thrawn (begging the question of whether there were typos involved somewhere). And also like the Mrissi, they've got a name with "Mr~ssi" in it.

Rating: 3/5. They're kind of interesting looking, and I do rather wonder at that odd little single letter of separation between the two.

729. Mudgubs. The sole known Mudgub was a Mudgub princess who tried to court a big froggish creature called a Gorph. She was a little salamander creature, and she wore lipstick.

She also had what looks like frizzy hair, which I'll be generous and say could be interpreted as external gills such as one might see on certain salamanders (mostly larval ones, and the axlotlaxolotl.

Rating: 3/5, because as with the Gorphs, I'm somewhat interested in a less cartoony interpretation of the design.

730. Mugaari. The Mugaari have an interesting name, because it's only two letters off from the name of the Vagaari, a group of piratical butchers who ran around enslaving and slaughtering other species and stealing their accomplishments. The Mugaari are also known for being pirates, though considerably less notable ones.

They apparently have heavy brows and lantern jaws, which makes them not that much different from most heavily built comic book characters (and thus their defining physical feature is largely meaningless). If there was any indication that they had the slightest relation to the Vagaari, they'd be at least marginally interesting, but as they are... Meh.

Rating: 1/5... because they made me think of a more interesting group. That's terrible.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Excessive Success (And A Side Note)

(Okay, I just read this incredible summary of a Power Rangers season that could have been. If you're a long-time Power Rangers fan, you pretty much need to read it. If it had been made, it would have been one of only two seasons that were actually made that could compete with RPM as the best Power Rangers season of all time, the other being Power Rangers in Space. Oh, that a modern season with similar themes [the upcoming Megaforce] could be half as awesome.)

So I predicted that Gangnam Style would break a billion views by the end of the year, and it did last Friday.

A little earlier than I expected, really. Also, I didn't anticipate that it would apparently get its own special icon. (If you visit the page proper, there's a little dancing gif or something next to the view count.)

-Signing off.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It Was A Brandon Sanderson-Related Wiki

I don't really have much today, as I've burned the day diving into a wiki I recently discovered and driving around in a snowstorm (which is pretty stressful), as well as not getting as much computer access as I might have.

I'll provide a link, though, to this website: The SCP Foundation. It's a site that documents fictitious anomalous... things. A grim sense of humor is rather required.

If you're not interested in that, here's the Pacific Rim trailer again.

Because it's cool, that's why.

-Signing off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Game Reviews: Demon Shift

Demon Shift is a simple platformer with gameplay somewhat similar to Eversion.

In other words, you're a little dies-to-a-single-hit guy, and there are situations in which you can change your environment in fairly predictable ways.

I describe Eversion as hard, and that's certainly true; however, Demon Shift is harder. Why?

You can't kill enemies in this game, although you can wall jump, and that's helpful.

It's also possible to cheat in Eversion, and I kind of did in order to finish the game myself-here, of course, that's not possible.

Anyway, the "certain circumstances" in which you change from one world to another are simpler here-you just hit the space bar at any time in any place, and about a second later, the switch will be made. The problem with this should be obvious once I explain that you sometimes need to shift in mid-air, and that there are some obstacles that can only be avoided by shifting them away. There are only two "worlds" to shift between here, simplifying things, however.

There are plenty of things that don't change between worlds, and others that change reliably. This leaves the game simple.

It's still painfully hard, though, and you'll be seeing your character explode in a burst of guts, bones, and a severed head rather often.

The one notable thing beyond its remarkably Eversion-like gameplay is that its art style is quite nice. I quite like it, really-it makes me think of a less pixellated Demon's Crest. And see those eyes in the demon world? They're animated, and follow your character and blink. It's pretty neat.

In short: If you like difficult platformers where you can't hurt guys, try this out. If not, consider looking at the art before ragequitting.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Motion Comics = Silly, Don Figueroa = Awesome

If you're a Transformers fan, there's a good chance you've heard of Don Figueroa. He's an artist who's very good at drawing robots, and went from a Transformers fan to drawing official Transformers comics to working at Hasbro designing toys over his career. Apparently, he got tired of doing Transformers, though, and so then he went and made up his own stuff to do.

And they made a motion comic out of it.

I haven't watched the whole thing or listened to much of it, but Don Figueroa is very good at drawing giant robots. So, yeah. Stuff.

Of course, it's a motion comic, so it also looks ridiculous. But whatever.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#72)

711. Moochers. Moochers are adorable "lizard" things. They have fur (hence the quotes) and are colonial, with highly intelligent queens that produce numerous less intelligent offspring.

Apparently, when they suffered a disease that drove them insane, they were largely exterminated to protect their neighbors, the Gados. Phooey.

Rating: 4/5. This is based almost entirely on the fact that they're cute, lovable quasi-lizards that live in colonies.

712. Moogans. Moogans are incredibly thin green guys with a fashion sense that seems to be largely inspired by ancient Egypt. They're apparently greedy, and do things in the name of greed, because they're greedy.

Rating: 1/5. Meh.

713. Moorin. They are "characterized" as "intelligent, but vicious." It's apparently believed that music makes them easier to deal with. One was a mercenary who worked for Jabba the Hutt.

Rating: 2/5, if only because they're intelligent and violent both.

714. Moorjhoni. The Moorjhoni are cat people. At least one had a beard.

Rating: 3/5, because they don't have a blatant cat alien name and because that's kind of a Qui-Gon Jinn beard that fella's got going on (heck, other than the ears poking out and the shaggier mustache, that's pretty much just a full Qui-Gon there).

715. Moralan. The Moralan were conquered by the Hutts. Then, they revolted against the Hutts. Then, the Hutts exterminated them.

So their entire history is defined by the fact that the Hutts were jerks to them.


Rating: 2/5. (Pity point rules apply.)

716. Morath. The Morath live near the Koornacht Cluster, a region of space that was briefly dominated by the brutal and xenophobic Yevethans. A pair of colonies they established inside the Cluster itself were exterminated by the Yevethans.

Rating: [EDIT: Whoops, left the rating out for ages! Good thing it's basically the same as the last one.] 2/5. (Pity point rules apply.)

717. Mordageen. Mordageen are kinda uglyish pink people. One was a crook who ratted out a crime lord, and was then broken out of prison by bounty hunters so said crime lord could take revenge.

Rating: 1/5. This is because the article is more about the single identified character who is a member of the species.

718. Morellians. The only difference between a Morellian and a human is lifespan-Morellians aren't apparently considered to be "in their prime" until they're over a hundred and don't age until they're even older. Despite this minimal difference, Wookieepedia insists on mentioning that they've got things such as two arms and five fingers per hand.

Rating: 1/5. Oh, yeah, and they can interbreed with humans, too. Move along, folks, nothing to see here...

719. Morganians. Morganians are slender humanoids (in the "mostly look like humans" sense) with white skin (whether "that sort of off-pink that we call white when we're talking about persons of European descent" or "actually the color white" is unclear), "elfin" ears, and are known for their beauty.

Rating: 3/5. Eh, well, the picture of one is kind of cute (in the "attractive" sense).

720. Morish. The Morish apparently are at least somewhat primitive, though their entry neglects to mention this idea. They're short, furry, and talk loudly, and tend to pretend not to speak Basic (English) when outsiders speak to them.

One used abandoned Imperial communications equipment to pretend to be clairvoyant, hence my inference that they're primitive.

Rating: 3/5, because I can't help but think of them as noisy Ewoks, and that amuses me.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Here, Have J.R.R. Tolkien Reading Elvish Poetry

I've been reading a trilogy over the past few days, and hope to review it soon, but I can't until my sister finishes it too (the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, if you're wondering-previous works of his I'd read are The Way of Kings, Warbreaker, and the Mistborn side-novel Alloy of Law... and Towers of Midnight, if you count that).

So here's this audio of Tolkien himself reading in, erm, I can't remember the actual "elvish" language name for it. (Sindarin or something.)

It always reminds me of Arabic, for some reason.

(That's a completely neutral evaluation, by the way. I don't attach value to how any language sounds unless it actively hurts my ears, which can be sensitive.

For some reason, some Mandarin bothers me. I don't know why.)

-Signing off.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sixties Were Weird (Sometimes Even In a Good Way)

The best thing about Star Trek is probably Leonard Nimoy, and I'm not afraid to say so.

Of course, this video has nothing to do with Star Trek (well, beyond Leonard Nimoy, of course).

-Signing off.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pacific Rim: HECK YEAH!

I noted previously that I thought Pacific Rim sounded like a movie I'd want to see.

Now that the first "real" trailer has hit...

...I know it's a movie I want to see.

Because giant frikkin' robots + giant frikkin' monsters + awesome director = best movie in the history of ever, even if it's somehow still terrible. (I even just realized-the studio is the one that's working on the next Godzilla film. That's encouraging on the "will that movie be terrible or great?" front.)

I have only one reservation: It is not impossible that the studio will be trying to trademark the term "kaiju" since they're apparently using it as the term for the monsters in dialogue. I hate it when companies pull that kind of stuff.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

But Mostly Kloddwick

(I apologize in advance for how obviously crunchy these images are. I don't know if it's a function of using my sister's laptop to make them or if it's something else; whenever I make JPGs with the computer I'm using now, even with dumb ol' Paint, they turn out pretty nicely. It's a real shame, too, because the graphics are pretty nice normally.)

Recently, I've been poking around with a free game engine called the OHRRPGCE (Official Hamster Republic Role Playing Game Construction Engine-yes, really). There's a decent amount of stuff to look through, and it comes packaged with a public domain game release called Vikings of Midgard, which has some problems and weirdness but also has some pretty nice sprites (by which I mean "frikkin' fantastic"-at least, if you like sprite art).

Most content for the engine, though, is less developed or complete. Take (Moris) Shifter, for instance. A game with nice graphics... that's actually completely unplayable beyond an opening story segment. To survive the basic battles, you need to drastically modify the game's data yourself. A problem, though one I saw as more of a challenge.

Its incomplete nature will show even if you do this successfully. Case in point? If you change your lead party member from the default, a little red guy formerly known as Moris but now known as Chichou, to the second party member, Kloddwick, and then hop on the flying cloud (in a map that's only accessible if you edit the heck out of the game), something strange happens.

Kloddwick is a heavily muscled guy with undersized legs and a little froggish head mounted between his massive shoulders, while that body shape is associated with Moris/Chichou. If you dismount from the cloud, Kloddwick remains in that shape indefinitely.

Less strange but more amusing from my own perspective is what happens if you use the feature that lets you skip to playtesting (it happens to be the only one you might possibly be able to access without modifying things first, though don't quote me on that, because I haven't checked and ended up finding this via some of my editing entirely by accident):

It's possible to end up with more than one Kloddwick in your party.

See, Kloddwick normally joins as a story event, but if you skip ahead to playtest the game, Kloddwick will already be in your party... and then, if you walk around in the right places, you'll hit the story events that let him join your party, which were obviously never designed to see if "Kloddwick(in party) = TRUE." And it doesn't crash the engine to have more than one of a party member in your party, apparently.

Even better, NPCs scattered over the maps have junk data attached to them, and one of them is a story event trigger NPC that has the same "Kloddwick Joins" chunk attached to it.

This made me curious: How many Kloddwicks could join the party?

After modifying an NPC that shouts "KIEOOOOOOO" at you when you talk to it (which I found rather irritating after the fifth or sixth time of repeatedly forgetting it and then being reminded again), and then making another brand new one and sticking it in a more convenient location, I think I've gathered about a dozen Kloddwicks, and there still don't seem to be any problems as of yet. The number I'm worried about is sixty, because the engine might not be able to track more characters than the maximum default number. It does rather suggest some interesting possibilities for a game (I'm thinking generic mercenaries you can hire any number of from a guild, and/or possibly a character cloning shop), though I've yet to see what other kinds of bugs there might be associated with having more than one of a character.

But there's little more satisfying than taking a party of Kloddwicks (whose level I edited to the maximum possible, because I'm a nut and probably shouldn't be trusted with game data editing tools) and beating up the encounters with them.

I find myself wishing that the game creator had more time/energy to devote to game creation, because the game he was working on more recently (which also has Kloddwick in it) sounds particularly interesting, with all kinds of interesting magic powers and junk.

And Kloddwick. Who is awesome.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#71)

701. Mnggal-Mnggal. Mnggal-Mnggal's status as an alien species is a bit questionable by many measures, as all indications are that it has only a single intelligence; however, it exists in many physical pieces, so I'd say that qualifies it on a technical level.

The Mnggal-Mnggal is a being that is essentially a sapient ooze on a near-impossible scale. It has essentially engulfed a planet with the amusing name of Mugg Fallow, apparently consuming all available biomass for its own use, and apparently has less prominently done the same to other worlds. Pieces of it can separate off and still are part of the being's single consciousness, and are fully mobile and very dangerous. Bits of it lurk in sewers and other dark wet places on numerous worlds.

If a piece of the Mnggal-Mnggal comes in contact with a sapient being, it will attempt to infiltrate that being through any available orifices or pores. Once inside, it will consume the victim's brain and over the period of about a day will convert the entirety of the being's insides into more of itself. For about a week, Mnggal-Mnggal can control and animate the body as a sort of squishier than average zombie (after that, it just falls apart into a mess).

Mnggal-Mnggal is ancient, claiming to remember the Celestials and that the Celestials made the Unknown Regions difficult to navigate just to contain it, has wiped out empires, and has been suspected of being an extradimensional invader by the Chiss (the primary power in the Unknown Regions). It's so big and so dangerous that some cultures worship it as the "rot god."

While it proves knowledgeable on numerous subjects both current and ancient, some claim that every word it speaks is false, probably because of its habit of speaking in riddles and poetry. It's also a jerk and likes and even thrives on torturing people.

It's also speculated that Mnggal-Mnggal is somehow related to the sapient zombification virus that was created by the Sith in ancient times and later experimented upon further in an attempt to weaponize it by the Galactic Empire, though this is probably a dubious claim.

Rating: 5/5. There are two reasons I almost didn't give it a 5/5-first, it seems like these things are getting more common in fiction (the Flood from Halo, the Invaders from Getter Robo Armageddon, and I'm sure there are other examples), and second, it's really darned hard to type Mnggal-Mnggal. I mean, there wasn't a single time I didn't accidentally type two "n"s instead of one per "Mnggal" in at least one of the Mnggals. The poetry thing pushed it back over the top, though.

702. Moappa. The Moappa are hive-minded jellyfish who can combine into huge masses in self defense. They fought for the Separatists during the Clone Wars because they disliked the Mon Calamari's arrogance for claiming their homeworld, which happened to be the same-named world Mon Calamari (obviously the Mon Cal's homeworld as well), and fought alongside the Quarren (the best-known of the races who coexist with the Mon Calamari). However, the Mon Cal would eventually come to a peaceful agreement with the Moappa.

The Moappa would later (hopefully, at least) be evacuated from Mon Calamari (also known as Dac, particularly in the era in question) for the sake of getting them away from a planetary depopulation virus that the Legacy-era Galactic Empire (originally united under Darth Krayt) unleashed on the planet.

Rating: 4/5. They're sapient hive-minded jellyfish. That kind of stuff always does well in my ratings. (It's also an interesting if possibly unintentional nod to siphonophores, which are jellyfish relatives that are generally multiple animals fused together into a mobile colony with specialized sections.)

703. Modbreks. Modbreks are humanoids with sharp facial features, small mouths and noses, large eyes, pale skin, and blue hair, and are often considered attractive by humans. ...Nearly every anime character ever, is that you?

In all seriousness, exactly what the Modbreks look like is slightly questionable because they were described by a Gotal, and Gotals are hairy and mildly demonic beings with huge horns on their heads. (He thought they were strange and repulsive, of course.) Presumably they must be rather humanlike for the most part, though.

Rating: 2/5, because I like writing sentences like the second one in the introductory paragraph a little too much.

704. Moggonites. Moggonites are small (less than two feet tall), and are supposedly known for being treacherous and obnoxious. One of them wore a fez.

Rating: 3/5. Guys who are that tiny have potential for some kind of story shenanigans.

705. Molavarans. Molavarans (who may not be called that) look rather unfortunately like the stereotyped persons of African descent that you see in those really old cartoons and comic strips. You know, the ones who essentially have whistles and bells and junk for heads.

Rating: 0/5. Ugh.

706. Mole creatures. The mole creatures, as C-3PO dubbed them, apparently are sapient moles who feed people to giant carnivorous lizards as offerings.

This seems not to have ended well for the lizard that they tried to feed C-3PO and R2-D2 to.

Rating: 2/5. Heh, I needed that laugh.

707. Molemen. They have white skin and are blind, and as such presumably live underground. Some were someplace when stuff happened.

Rating: 2/5. Eh, I don't know, there's just not much to say there.

708. Moloskians. They've got eyes in the backs of their heads, which supposedly gives them an edge in piloting. On the other hand, it presumably makes finding standardized helmets rather tricky, and I'm not really sure what advantages it would give in space combat piloting unless they were in custom-built ships with extra screens put in back.

Rating: 3/5, because the logistics of figuring out how they'll apply their eyes to piloting amuses me.

709. Mon Calamari. The Mon Calamari are also known as Calamari, Calamarians, Mon Cal, Mon Calamarians, and Mon Cala. This may qualify them as the sapient species with the most variations on their regular names, but I don't know.

Their best known member is Admiral Gial "IT'S A TRAP!!" Ackbar, who is famous in our world for shouting "IT'S A TRAP!!" He's known in their world, though, as a philosopher-general who basically saved the galaxy, leading the Rebel fleet against the Empire in many crucial battles and even in his old-age retirement commanding in a decisive battle that helped break the Yuuzhan Vong forces (he would die of age-related illness within months, though he will live forever in our traps hearts).

As a group, I think the most interesting thing about the Mon Cal (other than the fact that their homeworld is inhabited by a huge horde of sapient species compared to most planets-heck, one of said species is in this very article) is that they were deeply pacifistic in the days of the Old Republic, but then became one of the major military forces for the Rebellion, even building and manning the majority of the heavy capital ships that the Rebels used decades after the death of the Emperor. They were sufficiently obscure before the Empire rose to power that the Empire felt comfortable claiming that it had discovered them (presumably, this was some kind of retcon to cover up some goofs somewhere or another), even though their homeworld was a hotly contested territory during the Clone Wars.

The main thing to like about the Mon Calamari overall, I think, is that they're a prominent amphibious species in a setting largely dominated by nearly exclusively terrestrial ones. That, and their planet is one of the most fascinating sub-settings in the setting.

Rating: 5/5. It's a trap.

710. Monduths. The Monduths are sensitive to the Bogan, have many eyes, and possess sufficient strength to hurl a man across a room. One was killed by Luke Starkiller in the Mos Eisley Cantina when...

Wait a minute, no, these guys are from back when the Dark Side was called the Bogan and "Skywalker" was "Starkiller." Ha ha, whatever.

Rating: 1/5. On the other hand, it's interesting to read the old drafts and stuff. (I'm enough of a nerd that I actually read pretty much all the early drafts of A New Hope. All of them. It also makes me feel old to realize that it's been probably over a decade since I did so, though.)

-Signing off.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Game Reviews: Incursion

Incursion is the game that's the whole reason why I talked about Monsters TD and Keeper of the Grove.

As I noted previously, each game made by this particular creator shows strong influence from the previous, with new twists each time that make for sudden significant improvements. The twist this time?

You don't build towers even though it's a tower defense game with guys going along a path as per usual. You man garrisons, by which I mean you choose a selection of guys to fill preexisting buildings.

While the art in this game is simple and cute (and genuinely so, rather than the overwhelmingly overdone attempt at cuteness from Keeper of the Grove), the gameplay is quite polished. I suppose when you have two other games to figure out what works and what doesn't, it's pretty handy to figuring things out.

When you select a garrison, you're given the choice of "hiring" one of three soldier types-the footsoldier type, the archer type, or the "sorceress" type. (The quotes are because there are frequent spelling inconsistencies, and furthermore all the soldiers are very clearly male and the magic users are usually called sorcerers.) The footsoldier is a melee warrior, while the archer and sorcerer are both ranged attackers (though they can enter melee combat, they're better off not doing so because they're not as tough and they do better damage with their ranged attacks). Once you've filled a garrison with three soldiers, you can buy upgrades for your guys in that garrison. If a soldier gets killed, he'll magically reincarnate after a little while.

Footsoldiers are a necessary part of your forces, because they're inexpensive and comparatively tough and because melee combat forces enemies to stop running, making them easier targets for archers and giving you more time to respond to them and for your ranged guys to do damage, but can't do anything against flying enemies. Archers are necessary because they do a lot more damage to certain enemies and are cheaper than sorcerers, especially when you start really climbing the upgrade tree. Sorcerers always hit a target when an enemy is on the screen, even if every single enemy in range dies before it can hit, slow whatever they hit down (both in movement speed and in attack speed for melee combat), and do more damage to most of the tougher enemies.

The balance between them feels perfect, to the point where multiple strategies feel possible. (Going for a lot of footsoldiers on early levels, then switching to a "meat shield/DPS" model-using a handful of footsoldiers to slow down enemies while pounding them with archers and sorcerers-works pretty well for most of the game.) You can mix and match guys for each garrison, though you'll usually want to stick with just ranged guys or just melee guys in one garrison. That your guys are moveable is a key to the game, as it means that each of your garrisons covers much more area than an otherwise comparable tower would. You can jockey your forces around, covering much more of the path than you might with either of the other games (and as I've noted, that's an important deficiency in those games).

One of the things in the game that's rather enjoyable is that each map after the first couple has something to make it unique. Occasionally, it's something unpleasant, such as a unique enemy, but usually it's a unique helper. Such as the tentacles in that lake.

The particularly unique thing about this helper is that you don't get money when it kills things, which is decidedly unhelpful of it. It also is completely random, only grabbing things when it darned well feels like it (also unhelpful, especially when it killsteals a low-health enemy you were about to get money from, even more especially because it instant-kills any enemy). Fortunately, most of the ally entities have better manners than that.

Sometimes, the helpers will actually be there to try to entice you to use your newly unlocked upgrades, perhaps most notably on a map where you have to deal with much larger than usual hordes of weak enemies, and there are a pair of Warhammers, big, tough melee guys whose attacks deal splash damage, hiding in the bushes towards the beginning of the path. They can die permanently, and they probably will when the nastier enemies start showing up, but for those first few waves, they're a blessing.

Within seconds of this screenshot, that dude with the big hammer (down towards the bottom, with the helmet with the red crest) turned around and killed at least half a dozen guys with one swing. That is how cool he is, and as of that level you get to fill an entire garrison with him if you want.

While each basic class has two upgrades that are pretty much "the same but more" versions of the starting version, after the second upgrade, each class splits into two lines, which are new and distinct from their predecessors and also have upgrades, and each upgrade has a new ability relative to its predecessor, capping off with powerful multi-talented soldiers capable of doing lots of damage. While I don't find the healer subclass very impressive myself, I've found uses for each of the others, and the Archmage at the top of the Battle Mage branch of the sorcerer line is the best thing ever (a single Archmage's chain lightning can stop an entire wave without significant help, and he's got a summoned buddy to do melee for him-there's one map where the best thing you can do is spend as much money as possible to get an Archmage as quickly as possible, and he plus your bonus help for that stage will take care of most of the early waves with little help).

Incursion retains the same spell structure as Keeper of the Grove, and even many of the same spells, with minor or completely insignificant changes to them. The biggest difference is that a spell that boosted your towers in Keeper has been replaced with a health regeneration spell in Incursion, and it's honestly one of the lamest things in the game, but I can live with that. It also has a similar skill point system to Keeper of the Grove's, with the added bonus of the skill points flowing even a little more freely and with some skill purchases being cheaper. (You can also cheat to get free skill points by liking the game on Facebook and such, but that's cheating.)

As I've suggested, Incursion shines on the front of its gameplay structure. This is all well and good, but does it keep up on that all-important front of the enemies you face?

Yes. Yes it does.

Incursion has a quite impressive array of enemies when you consider the number of levels in the game. The huge selection here isn't actually every enemy, either-there's one common enemy that isn't here for some reason, and there's also a boss sort of guy from one stage who doesn't show up here. But every other enemy, including the "final boss," is on this chart. There are a few of the "mainstay" enemy types that this creator clearly has a soft spot for, such as regenerating enemies, guys who turn invisible when hit for the first time, and guys who are specialized against certain of your guys (STILL HATEFUL AFTER ALL OF THIS TIME although this time it's considerably less cheap even though said specialist, the Antimage, kills your sorcerer-family soldiers in one shot from a distance and can deal good damage to any of your other soldiers), and a variety of other things, such as enemies that might respawn when killed, teleporters (much less cheap than you'd expect-in fact, they never got past me, anyway), guys who eat their buddies to regenerate, and more. The last stage, which you need to unlock by doing really well on the other stages and winning all the awards, actually has a bunch of unique enemies.

That final boss I mentioned? If he gets all the way down the path, you'll always lose immediately, because he counts as twenty guys instead of just one. (There are other enemies that count as more than one guy, but you get to find out which are which for yourself.) I got a little lucky my first time through, and had enough spells to paralyze him and keep him in one spot to be killed by my top-level archers and mages. Thus, I've seen the ending.

There are problems with Incursion, but nothing like the other games in this series. The economy is quite robust (you even make money from enemies that get past, which is handy), the gameplay is nuanced and balanced, and while it's a hard game, it's a fair sort of hard rather than being full of cheap shots. (I know it's fair because I managed to get to the last level, and that takes a bit of work.) On the other hand, some of the achievements you need to get to the final level are a bit forced (training lots of healers? No thanks), the guide is missing a few bits of important information such as the number of lives an enemy will take from you if it gets through, and there are a lot of comical typos, though that can be a plus if you're of the right mindset while playing.

My assessment is that if you like RTS games of a fantasy bent and don't mind the fact that it's about little chibi-esque guys murdering each other to death, leaving them to die in puddles of their own blood (no, seriously), this is a great game you should play. If you like tower defense games specifically, you should still consider it, though I can understand if you'd rather your defenders not be killable. (It's totally worth it, in my opinion, especially since they come back automatically for free, but your mileage may vary.) Even if you aren't particularly a fan of those things, consider trying it.

This is one of my favorite Flash games of all time, and it achieved that status shortly after I first started playing it.

-Signing off.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Game Reviews: Keeper of the Grove

Keeper of the Grove is a direct descendant of Monsters TD.

It goes in a very... different direction in terms of its graphics, but numerous aspects of gameplay are similar, albeit greatly improved. (It also discards the side-scrolling aspect, which is just as well.)

In case you're wondering, why yes, those enemies do have a striking resemblance to a purple Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. And yes, those are disturbing "cute" towers.

In this game, you're trying to keep enemies from stealing your gems. There's no real plot or indicator thereof; you're just building your creepy little defender things to fight off various weird little guys.

Balance has been much improved-the little plant towers are the least powerful and cost the least, while the stone towers are the most powerful and cost the most. Each tower has clear strengths and weaknesses (many enemies are normally too fast to be hit by the stone towers, while the water towers can slow those enemies down for the powerful stone towers to destroy them-this conveniently also makes enemies bunch up for the stone towers' splash damage to have maximum effect).

Spells are the most notable improvement over the previous game's instant option-instead of paying money for a rechargeable spell, you get spells occasionally when enemies die as a bonus. While this means you have less control over the spells, it also means they don't wreck your economy.

Also? One of them sets things on fire. The other nice thing is that the majority of the spells work quite well-in fact, several that I'm pretty sure aren't supposed to do damage still seem to. It might be a bug, but don't complain, because you're going to need every bit of that damage.

Gameplay is fairly slow normally, and this is a blessing while you're learning. The economy is also much stronger, though with an annoying twist-bigger enemies drop more coins, but you need to gather your coins (and spells, and retrieve crystals dead enemies drop) manually with the mouse.

There's another annoying twist to the economy: In order to obtain upgraded towers, such as these sprout things, you need to pay an additional fee to that mushroom thing there every level. (Worse, the mushroom is constantly doing its darnedest to distract you from what you're doing.)

If this had been a feature of Monsters TD, with its already shaky economy, it would have made an already problematic game unplayable. As it is, this game's economy can support it, but only just.

Despite its ostensibly cuddly graphics and its relatively slow gameplay, this game is hard. Its towers have range that often falls short in a way that's surprising, and in a game like this, that's a big problem. There are similar enemies to most of the Monsters TD ones-basic, regenerating, turns invisible once, armored, "too much hitpoints," guys who are resistant to towers (the worst ones this time around are probably the insanely fast water-resistant ones, because they can't be hit by stone towers and thus are close to being immune to two families of tower), though thankfully their immunity is less absolute and the "boss versions" are absent-and a few entirely new ones, such as the too-fast guys and this guy.

Whoops, sorry, in my anger I set him on fire.

Here we go, a convenient picture from the guide that even has some words and other pictures.

This is the most powerful enemy I've encountered, a boss of sorts who spews out little dudes, has a ridiculous amount of hitpoints, and makes your towers fall asleep so that you have to click around to wake them up. (If you look at the screenshot where he's on fire, you can see that a bunch of towers-close to half of them-have their eyes closed and are even emitting little "z" effects.)

What makes me twitch is that there are two more boss-type enemies that I haven't encountered, and they're probably somehow worse. (I've poked around to look at the walkthrough for the game, and one appears to be able to carry any number of crystals, while another seems to be able to steal them before it actually reaches them, maybe. But I can't tell for sure.)

This game will eat up a lot of your time until you get good enough to run it at 3X speed, because it's just slow and there are a lot of levels. In order to get to the last stage, you have to get all the game's achievements, and there are quite a few of them. (Fortunately, here they give you extra skill points and make your life easier by making stuff better, so it's not achieving things for the sake of it.)

I might recommend this game with the proviso that it's got rather unsettling graphics and surprising difficulty, but the thing is that this game is significantly similar to the game I intend to review next, and that one is where the game maker hits all the right notes. It also is an interesting evolution in a new direction from this one.

But that's next week.

-Signing off.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Darkseid is Dark

How come cartoons from this era could get away with this kind of stuff even if they aired on broadcast networks?

I'm not saying it's a bad thing; it's a very good thing. But this is an extraordinarily dark scene, darker in a subtler way than the majority of adult television. (Yeah, modern adult television has about eighty bazillion murders every night. That doesn't make it that dark.)

-Signing off.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Titled "Pacific Rim"

I suspect I will want to see this movie.

There's the obvious giant monster aspect, of course, but if the YouTube commenters are to be believed, it will also involve giant robots.

If this is even a fractionally decent movie, it will be glorious.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#70)

691. Mikoans. Ambiguously canonical green-skinned almost human beings, rather stereotypically one member of the species is named Jade. Real creative, guys.

Rating: 1/5, because there are no pictures of them, either. (A picture of a sufficiently attractive woman could have bumped it up to 3/5, for instance. I can be kind of a sucker for that.)

692. Mimbanites. There are two species called Mimbanites. One is a quadrupedal entity that is entirely incidental and would be generally called "Mimbanite" in the same sense that we'd say that, say, a cat is an "Earthling."

The other are cousins of the Coway, who are "Mimbanite" in the same sense. This particular kind of Mimbanite are also known as "greenies," and basically live as beggars, as opposed to the prouder, fiercer Coway, who go all super-Ewok on anybody who intrudes in their caves. They are helped in their begging by their big long tongues, which are handy for quickly consuming puddles of booze that jerky xenophobes dump on the ground to taunt them.

For such a downtrodden species, they've got awfully bright plumage.

Rating: 3/5. The contrast of their bright feathers with their marginalized hobo status is rather interesting.

693. Ming Po. They're basically kind of short-looking humans who wear quasi-oriental clothing.

Rating: 1/5. Boringness. They don't even consistently keep the quasi-oriental theme, with personal names like "Pieter" (German) and "Tryla" (...).

694. Minyavish. The Minyavish apparently are roughly humanoid, covered in bright feathers, have slit-pupiled eyes, and have honey-colored blood. They enslaved a species called the Jessar, which I haven't talked about because I covered the "J" part of the alphabet before the book that covered them was published.


Rating: 2/5. Reasonably interesting appearance descriptors, but they're also rather vague.

695. Miraluka. The Miraluka look essentially human, but they don't have eyes, and instead see through the Force. They can see an aura around Jedi, and a large proportion of them are sensitive enough to become Jedi or rarely Dark Jedi/Sith. (Their sensitivity gives them some degree of empathy, so they're less likely to turn to the dark side than most, though it has happened to several of them, at least supposedly. Of the five characters listed as notable Miraluka, all are trained Force users-three Jedi, one Sith, and one Dark Jedi. That doesn't actually sound like that good a track record.)

Rating: 3/5. It's interesting to note that all Miraluka wear stuff over the tops of their faces, presumably because that big patch of eyelessness disturbs the heck out of humans, to whom they have an uncanny resemblance otherwise.

696. Mirialans. They're basically human, but with unpleasant yellowish/greenish skin tones and lots of tattoos.

Rating: 1/5. They're really a smidgen pointless, as is unintentionally pointed out by the article when it notes that "some characters... bear a similar appearance to that of Mirialans, but are not officially labeled as such."

697. Mishtak. A Mishtak was hit by a blaster bolt. The event was staged to look like Han Solo or a Bothan had been responsible, but it was actually set up by an Imperial remnant group.

Rating: 1/5. This was from a Zahn book, though, and there was quite a bit of clever stuff going on there.

698. Mixtwirk. They're insectoid, hear with their antennae, and squawk to communicate.

Rating: 2/5, because the thought of squawking bugs makes me smile.

699. Mizx. The Mizx believe that iblitons, huge shelled nautilus/arthropod creatures that prey upon them and are impervious to primitive weapons, are the avatars of a being from their mythology called Hershoon the Destroyer, who upon his death put his soul in the iblitons' bodies so that he could wreak vengeance upon the Mizx. The Mizx would consecrate the corpses of those killed by iblitons in order to keep them from coming back to life as new iblitons.

However, iblitons apparently appear in the fossil record well before the existence of the Mizx species there, and so these assertions are found very dubious by the archaeological community.

Rating: 3/5. Don't be harshing on our mollusc/arthropod-based religion, man!

700. Mlukis. These hunchbacked otherwise-very-humanlike beings apparently hit adolescence by seven years of age and are considered old by thirty.

Rating: 2/5. This is mainly because the lifespan/aging thing is about the most realistic for a sapient species that lives less long than modern real-world humans that I've seen.

-Signing off.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Throw The S

For the past few days, the computer I usually blog with wasn't connecting to the Internet. This wasn't an incredibly big deal (it didn't interrupt my posting schedule, as my household has a couple of laptops that can be hooked up to our modem in impromptu fashion), but it made working on my relatively larger posts tricky, and I couldn't really do a lot of my regular browsing because I'm rather reliant on my massive bookmark collection (I go to way too many websites regularly to rely on my poor old brain to remember all of them, even if they're in browsing history, which they may not be), and my attempts to export them as I have in the past just weren't doing anything.

Today it started working again, and I pretty much was completely distracted by having access to my regular setup.

So today: A video of Superman throwing an excessively fake S-shield weapon at some guy!

(I have a general awareness that he has a name and stuff. I don't really care.)

-Signing off.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pretty Sure There Was A Lot More Than That, Too

So how can you overwhelm my capacity for listing off nerdy things?

Well, you could be the predecessor to Studio Gainax and make an animation like this one, which followed an animation I've previously mentioned.

While I was able to follow just about everything in the previous video and name it off without looking stuff up, this one is just too much. Xenomorphs? Chibi-esque anime Yoda? Doctor Nazo? One of the mutants from Metaluna?

(Yes, it's in there somewhere, in one of the massive character crowds. You have to be sharp-eyed.)

I'd meant to talk about this before now, but I don't really have much to say except 1) "Holy Pop Culture References, Batman!" and 2) I love the quality of animation. It's got little to do with how the gal in the bunny suit looks, no matter how distracting she's trying to be-those buildings blowing up? The explosive verdant growth? The big energy blasts? Yeah, I enjoy watching that kind of stuff, especially when it's just so darned sharp.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It Was Inevitable There Would Be An Official One

There's currently only rather lame phone recordings of it, but apparently, there's an official commercial for Transformers: Prime that uses and parodies Gangnam Style.

Incidentally, I thought that Gangnam Style's view rate was staggering before, but since it's made #1 on YouTube, the number of views it's accrued seems to be even faster (it's now almost 850 million, and it was less than 805 million when it hit the number one spot about a week ago-that's at least six and a half million views a day), and if it keeps up, it's actually well on track to hit a billion views around New Year's Eve.

So, yeah, crazy.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#69)

Hum, this turned into possibly the blandest article in this series. I guess that's what happens when you get so many tiny entries at once, and I've been pretty burned out on "too short entry" jokes for a while.

681. Mephitisians. This four-armed race lacks noses and has special eyelids as adaptations against their homeworld's "obnoxious" atmosphere. Apparently, this mostly means that it smells bad.

At least one Mephitisian was a "Turf Boss" on some planet other than his native one; apparently, Turf Bosses are something like crime lords with official power, which makes me think a bit of Boss Tweed. Said Turf Boss held a birthday party for an Imperial Moff (Moffs being a sort of regional governor in the Imperial government).

Rating: 3/5. There's really not a lot, and the implication that they're adapted against their homeworld smelling bad is kind of hilarious, but it's rather amusing overall.

682. Mephouts. Mephout males apparently are too hotheaded to be trusted with any kind of responsibility, so the females are the ones who do all the important stuff. How very egalitarian.

Anyway, it looks rather like they haven't actually appeared, only having been in a story that was canceled, and mentioned in a semi-related story.

Which is barely a step better than being "ambiguously canonical."

Rating: 1/5. Nothing to see here. Move along.

683. Mere. The Mere are amphibious and come from a planet that's rather amusingly named Maramere.

Rating: 3/5. They look reasonably interesting, and I like when a planet and a species have related-but-less-obviously-so names.

684. Meris. Just to clarify, "Meri" is the singular, and "Meris" is apparently both the plural and the adjectival forms, or so I'm led to believe.

Anyway, they have cartoonish big, manly heads, and are apparently associated with at least two religious groups, one of which is known for its assassins.

Rating: 3/5. They look reasonably distinct, and the detail of their associations with two different religious groups is interesting.

685. Mermen. There were mermen (of the "has fish tail instead of legs" variety) on Mon Calamari (homeworld of Admiral "IT'S A TRAP" Ackbar) at some point in that planet's prehistory, but they're now extinct. It's possible that members of the Iskalonian School might be generically called mermen as well.

Rating: 2/5. Extinct fish people.

686. Meshakians. They're famous for "exquisite" jewelry.

Rating: 1/5. So is Kay's Jewelers.

687. Mhingxin. Rodent-faced sapients with an uncannily Chinese-looking name, they apparently tend towards low self esteem because so many other races talk about their uncanny resemblance to vermin and treat them badly because of it.

Rating: 3/5. I've rated a lot of the "they're rodents" aliens pretty low, but something about the particular way these guys have been approached, combined with their unique name which gives no hint of their rodenty natures, is a bit more appealing.

688. Midi-chlorians. They're apparently sapient.

Rating: Whatever/5. Apparently, midi-chlorian-related material was present as far back as 1977. That's kind of interesting.

689. Mielps. Mielps, who are described only as "small," live on Ansion, and apparently shop there.

Rating: 1/5. You don't say. Do they eat there, too?

690. Mikans. Mikans are shapeshifting jellyfish sort of things that disguise themselves (in the case of the known individual) as alluring almost human women, then devour those that they fool into coming to them so they can steal their stuff. One used clothing stolen this way to go out into sunlight unharmed, as a Mikan exposed to sunlight apparently turns to stone or something.

Rating: 3/5. I find that terribly amusing.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Game Review: Monsters TD

Monsters TD is a game with a lot of potential that falls short in a number of ways.

It's a rare animal, the side-scrolling tower defense game. It's one of the better such games I can think of, but that's not really high praise, because they usually turn out lousy in one way or another.

The game features a variety of enemies, most of whom have various abilities that set them apart, and three families of towers that each have a basic form and three branches of high-level tower. It also has a selection of "instant" abilities that you can use at various times. Where does it go wrong?

Well, the first place it goes wrong is the limited tower placement. There's only a number of fixed emplacement locations in the game, and thus you may have trouble finding places to concentrate your towers, because there are only so many places to put them and a level may have only one or two places where it's even possible.

And it's important, nay, key to having any kind of success in the game to concentrate your towers correctly. The three basic towers are the Steam Tower, which is kind of lame, though its upgraded forms can be useful, the Tower of Fire, which has what seems to be a much higher damage per second in the form of a continuous beam, and the Eye Tower, which fires slowly but stuns targets. The Steam tower is only useful in specific situations (i.e. once you can upgrade them), while putting Eye Towers and Towers of Fire together handles most enemies in the game rather successfully-several Eye Towers can virtually paralyze an enemy for several minutes, almost always enough to kill most enemies with a Tower of Fire.

The problem is that all these towers cost the same amount. They all upgrade for the same amount. The only incentives for picking different towers come from their abilities, and as I've suggested you want to use the Steam Towers and their upgrades rather sparingly. While a fully upgraded tower from this family can be very powerful, upgrades are incredibly expensive, and will set you back comparably to the cost of a dozen basic towers.

And herein lies another problem: The game's economy is weak. It's particularly so because all enemies except "boss" enemies give you the same amount of money, whether they're the toughest or weakest. And all "boss" enemies also give you the same amount of money whether they're the weak, pathetic basic bosses or the nigh-unstoppable ones.

This weak economy makes using the "instant" features (something that you spend money on that is a temporary effect) almost worse than useless. You'll have a bit of extra money to spend, and so you will... and then you'll discover that you don't have enough money to do anything else, and a wave of tougher monsters will overrun you. And that's often the best-case scenario, when whatever instant you used actually did what you wanted it to-it's possible that the monsters you were after escaped unscathed. The game's instants are only for when you've already got every tower you can, and then they can still be worthless because they just can't contribute enough to stop anything, and they also have painfully long recharge times.

Anyway, what of the monsters themselves?

Well, there's the obvious basic ones. There are fat blue cyclops creatures called Gluttons that heal themselves over time, which is a modest challenge, but usually not very effective against properly placed Eye Towers. There are these hilariously stupid-looking guys who ride on rocks and are essentially heavily armored, reducing the damage they take from every attack, and share the same weakness to Eye Towers. There are purple Slugs that turn invisible for fifteen seconds the first time they get hit, which really just means that you need to get defenses built towards both the beginning and the end of your path. And then there are these guys:

The quirkily named Ricky-Ticky, Juggernaut (the armadillo-thing), and Imp (the winged fuzzball) are all (well, not the Juggernaut, for reasons I'll explain) really darned annoying at best and horribly game-busting at worst, because each of them is highly resistant to particular families of tower, and unlike the other kinds of monsters, their resistance ability can't be taken away by the Tower of Greed (an upgrade of the Tower of Fire).

The Juggernaut actually isn't too terribly bad. Why not? It's resistant to the brown tower family (Steam Tower and upgrades), and since you're not worrying too much about using those, they're just less-tough versions of the armored guys who are a smidgen faster.

The Imp is a huge pain. It's immune to the red tower family (Tower of Fire and upgrades) and is danged fast. Upgraded brown towers can kill them, and Eye Towers can slow them down some.

Then there's the Ricky-Ticky. I hate them so. Immune to Eye Towers, which are the staple of your defense, they just march past while other monsters get paralyzed, and they're also faster than average.

The problem with these monsters beyond what I've mentioned is that for some darned reason, it always seems like the towers that don't work well on them focus on them obsessively, wasting their efforts. It's very frustrating.

It gets better: Each class of enemy (except possibly the Ricky-Ticky, but I'm not sure on that) has a "boss" version, which is bigger and tougher, gives more money, counts as five monsters when it reaches a gate, and has a vastly amplified version of its base form's abilities... and there's no information on them in the guide. I had to have it pointed out to me that the bosses take extra lives, because I was too busy screaming in rage at them.

Just how much are the abilities augmented? A giant Glutton heals so fast that multiple Eye Towers concentrating their fire on it can't even weaken it, much less kill it, and if it gets "trapped" somewhere by the paralysis effect, it will heal up to full health while out of range of other towers. A giant rock guy takes virtually no damage from most weapons. A giant Slug will turn invisible for probably a full minute, slipping past almost all your defenses virtually unharmed (and retains a lot of health). And a giant Imp just has way too much darned health for something that fast.

And as I said, the in-game guide doesn't bother to explain a word of this.

Topping it all off is the sometimes atrociously frustrating level design.

In this particular level, enemies come from four different entrances and move to one of four different gates. Their paths are fixed-enemies from one gate always go to one gate-but it's a chore at best to figure out which is which, and only a few tower spots can be close enough to hit the monsters along any given path.

So why am I talking about this game?

Well, it does have a few redeeming features. It's got amusing cartoony graphics, and the music is pretty entertaining.

More significantly, this is the game designer's rather obvious first game, and there are two other tower defense games which are clearly descended from this one. So this is essentially a series review, except the games aren't truly a series.

I'm pretty sure I'll do the next one next week.

If you don't mind a tower defense game practicing cheap shots on you, I suppose I can recommend this game to you. If you do mind, I'm afraid I can't.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 26, 2012

But Hopefully You Figured That Out For Yourself

A note to my readers: This video is a work of fiction.

Thank you.

-Signing off.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tiny Rants and a Video

Is it just me, or does it seem like YouTube is bound and determined to become the most unpleasant video site on the internet? Lately when I visit it, it seems like each page is from a different version of the site, eighty percent of them have ads that will interrupt the video, and some of them (but not all of them) don't autoplay anymore.

Whatever. End tiny ranty aside #1.

Second... Black Friday is not a holiday. Gah! Stop doing that, media! There are actually people who really believe it's an official holiday now! It's just the term retailers use to describe the day when they've finally made enough money that they're not in the red anymore ("in the black Friday"). In other words, it's just the day they're talking about finally having made enough profits off of you, the silly-headed consumers. That's why it has a media push every year now.

Whatever. End quite small ranty aside #2.

Today, I'm going to share somebody else's exceedingly British discussion of sleeves in the "beat-'em-up" genre of video games.

Because it's funny and British, that's why.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

If you're one of those people who celebrates Thanksgiving.

Frankly, it's not one of my favorite holidays, if for no other reason than my dislike of most traditional Thanksgiving food. I don't like cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey, yams, or... hm, I can't even think of much traditional Thanksgiving food. The only Thanksgiving food item I really like is mashed potatoes, which are a special event at my house because 1) my mother makes the best mashed potatoes in all of existence, and 2) doesn't make them often anymore.

Not much else to say, because I never feel much like blogging on this kind of holiday, so I guess...

Well, I suppose I'll point out that Gangnam Style is poised to take YouTube's top spot before Monday. That's something, because it'll technically mean I can watch any video on YouTube again. Not that I'd want to watch the lone video that's currently most popular, it's just the idea of the thing.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Don't Even Mention What The Trailer's About

A sign of how few movies I really watch:

Even though the poster's username is "movieclipsTRAILERS," I didn't realize until about halfway through this that it was made up of preexisting movie clips.

And I only recognized the movie clip thing because I remembered seeing a trailer/advertisement for the movie Powder, and you don't soon forget seeing a trailer with a guy with weird-looking skin and telekinesis.

It's pretty clever, though.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#68)

671. Marasans. Marasans are uniquely ugly, with oddly jointed arms and kangaroo-like body shapes (including pouches) coupled with a rather reptilian head and skin. They apparently have essentially universal cybernetic implants in the form of computers linked to their brains, and use them to augment their navigational skills, as silent walky-talkies, and to control appliances and things.

These computers turned out to be their weakness when they were found in their isolated home nebula by the Galactic Empire, and one Imperial devised a way to attack their minds through their implants, forcing a rapid surrender of power. It looks rather like their status is in something of a limbo, because, well, there's no information on them past that point.


Rating: 4/5. They're interesting in appearance and they have a cultural trait that indirectly explains why cyborgs are pretty rare in Star Wars. That they've been forgotten is no fault of their own.

672. Marits. Marits are basically frilled lizard people, though only some of them apparently have frills. They apparently have mildly iridescent scales and have the custom of eating their own dead to "recycle" them.

Their planet was ruled for a time by a human government, but the Old Republic decided to help overthrow said government, and gave the Marits arms and other assistance; they are said to have taken naturally to the assembly and maintenance of high-tech weapons.

Rating: 4/5. There's no indication that anyone sees the Marits as evil or savage, even if their habit of eating their dead might be seen as a bit creepy by some. This is to the credit of any series creators who worked with them.

673. Markul. They don't look like Kowakian monkey-lizards.

Rating: 1/5. They don't look interesting, either, even if the only known individual of the species was eaten by Jabba for helping someone write an insulting book about him (Torture Observed: An Interview with Jabba's Cook-and yes, this is a thing that happened within the framework of the Star Wars universe).

674. Mavinians. The Mavinians created the cluster-wedding organ, which sounds intriguing and vaguely dirty. Unfortunately, all we know about the instrument is that it was considered trendy and innovative during the Clone Wars.

Rating: 2/5 for the odd and slightly disturbing name of their instrument.

675. Mawan. The Mawan apparently have pale, near-translucent skin which often shows their veins; to have visible veins is considered refined.

I have a joke (or at least the germ of one) that involves varicose veins, but I'm not going there.

They also apparently have two hearts.

Rating: 2/5. A simple act of turning something cultural on its head is not enough to get a good rating by itself, but it's not too bad a start.

676. Meeks. They're three-eyed little orange lumps with antennae, making them remarkably like various cartoon aliens from over the years, though I'd be hard-pressed to name any specific ones.

Apparently, Lando Calrissian and a cheap droid he'd purchased named Flek once inadvertently saved a village of Meeks from a rancor after falsely trying to convince the Meeks that they'd saved the Meeks' village from a rancor. (He was trying to scam them into thinking they'd been saved from a rancor that he didn't believe existed, but then accidentally caused the rancor that was really there to go running off and probably drown itself trying to find other rancors with a rancor call. [Rancors are apparently frequent victims of the galaxy's exotic animal trade, hence their randomly showing up on disparate planets, which is awful because they're intelligent enough to have a language. But I'll talk about that more some other time.])

The Meeks then gave him an artifact or artifacts he was after in exchange for saving their village, but it turned out that these were fake. Lando could appreciate a good swindle, though, and was pretty good-natured about it.

Rating: 3/5. That's an amusing little story.

677. Meerians. Meerians are basically human, but have pale skin and silvery hair (oh, wait, can't some humans at least have those things?), can be helpful and nice or bitter and selfish (oh, wait, don't humans have significant variations in temperament too?), and apparently adapted a way of keeping from dying in their atmosphere rendered toxic by pollution with some kind of adaptation involving their tongues and noses (...I didn't really need to know that).

Rating: 1/5. Not really that interesting.

678. Melodies. Melodies hatch out of eggs looking suspiciously human. They are cared for by other, older Melodies, but the adults are nowhere to be seen, because the adults are basically mermaids (and mermen), and at some point they metamorphose into them.

Apparently, sometimes their metamorphoses are interrupted by giant predatory water spiders, who eat them if they're undefended.

They're native to Yavin 8, a different moon of the gas giant that the Death Star had to clear to fire on the Rebel base in Episode IV, and that world was later taken by the Yuuzhan Vong, who probably killed rather a lot of those poor mermaids (and mermen) and humanlike children of mermaids (and mermen).

Rating: 3/5. I have to admit, the actual reason for this rating is the thought of mermaids (and mermen) having to worry about being attacked by giant spiders.

679. Melters. I'm trying to figure out what the heck the article on Melters is trying to tell me. Apparently, the Melters are energy beings who use a mineral called "meltmassif" as a physical body, and try to absorb other beings into the meltmassif to "gain access to their energy."

So, they're energy, and they live in rock and use it as a body, and they eat people?

Their minds are supposedly more alien than even other mineral beings. (The article gives a specific example, but I'm not of a mind to say anything about it because I haven't had a chance to talk about them yet.)

Rating: 3/5. I guess being people-eating rock monsters can get you surprisingly far, even if it's really obliquely described.

680. Menahuun. The Menahuun are basically lemur-people according to their description, but they look a lot more like something mildly demonic. Apparently, they were driven from their ancestral lands and even to the brink of extinction by outsiders, and seemed to disappear, but they continued to cause trouble to outsiders as nigh-mythical "gremlins" or something.

Rating: 4/5. That's kind of interesting, even if their article has stupid junk in it like "they [have] sexual dimorphism, meaning that males [are] different from females." NO DUH GUYS, that's the textbook definition of sexual dimorphism, and if you want to make sure people understand it, just link Wikipedia like you already darned well did. Gr.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Game Review: Onslaught2

Onslaught2 (which does not seem to be related to another game by the name of Onslaught on the same site-apparently the "2" is just to distinguish it in searches and such) is a fun tower defense game with depth that isn't immediately obvious.

When I say "depth that isn't immediately obvious," I mean "either you must experiment endlessly to figure out what's what, or look up stuff on various web pages and YouTube." The in-game tutorial level is simply abysmal, both in information it supplies and in explaining things beyond telling you what to find.

When I first played it, I looked at the four basic turrets (cannon, laser, rocket, and tazer-and yes, taser is misspelled even though the common misspelling of "lazer" isn't present). After some initial examination, I decided "well, the laser is awesome, but I can't figure out why anybody would use the other ones."

Why would I use lasers in the maniacal fashion shown here?

Because before upgrading turrets, lasers are the most obviously cool and nifty turrets in the game. When multiple lasers are close enough to each other, some of them will use their own fire to power up the others, allowing a map crammed full of lasers to bring most of its power to bear on a single target.

Unfortunately, even with extensive upgrades, the endlessly stronger waves of the game will wipe you out somewhere before the hundredth wave. (Incidentally, waves in this game are linearly stronger-near as I can tell, their hitpoints and the amount of money you get from killing them progresses in a simple whole-number progression, corresponding to their wave number. So the first enemies give you a dollar for killing them, the second wave's give you two, and so forth, though you can't see their exact hitpoints but instead the percentage of their health. On the subject of enemies, it's clear that the game's creator wasn't too concerned with realism or anything, as the enemies are disparate unanimated objects such as motorcycle helmets, masks, cockroaches, octopodes, printers, eyeballs, spaceships, and little stars with faces on them. There are minor variations between them-some are slower and tougher while others are faster and weaker-but they aren't important.)

So I couldn't figure out how things were supposed to get better. Sure, you could try other turrets, but the damage potential just doesn't seem to be there. In fact, the game claims the others have special abilities the same way that the lasers do, and I couldn't figure out what they were actually supposed to be doing, because they never seemed to go off. And what are these "combos" that the guide claims you can use, anyway?

After slogging through the tutorial (which isn't any fun), I found out that upgrading turrets was necessary to gain access to any of their special abilities besides that of the laser's. This is not a good, intuitive way to put a game together, guys.

If you upgrade a cannon or a tazer in a certain way, it will gain the ability to "frenzy," which means that periodically, its firing rate will spike sharply and it will be able to deal a lot more damage for a few moments (and look like they're having turret seizures). Happily, they do this often enough that you can actually set them up so that if you have enough of them and time their upgrades properly, there will nearly always be an active "frenzy" going.

A properly upgraded rockets will launch missiles that, when there are no targets in range, will go into a "holding pattern" and wait until there's something available to attack. In the right circumstances, this can lead to dozens of rockets hovering in mid-air at a time and wiping out the first few guys in a wave.

So yeah, much better than first impressions.

It gets better: If you put turrets with fully upgraded damage next to each other, they will periodically fire off "combos," special weapons or attacks that are basically the main point of and most powerful thing within the game.

So the game is fun, but only if you can figure out and learn all this stuff, with either guides from other sites or by trial and error.

There's actually a bit more. There are numerous "utility" turrets that amp up your other turrets and must be unlocked after a certain number of waves/kills, but I can't bring myself to use them because they're boring. There are also three massively expensive "super turrets" you can unlock, and a special turret called the "combonly" that magically absorbs other turrets nearby and "learns" an attack based on what combo those turrets perform in the correct circumstances. (That makes no sense without context, but it's actually a fair bit more intuitive than it sounds, once you've seen somebody else do it. For information on this kind of thing, go to this site.)

The purple turrets in the above screenshot are a set of combonlies that have been set to the powerful "black hole" combo, which is the only attack in the game that doesn't score kills or make money because it wipes things out regardless of hitpoints. If it did score kills, it'd be pretty simple to play the game forever once you had enough of them set up. (In a rather neat touch, the black holes not only eat all enemies in their reach, they also gobble up weapons fire and mines. Those little gray circles you can see on the path in some of the screenshots are mines, which are among the combos you need multiple cannons for.)

If the game isn't progressing quickly enough for you, there's also the fairly standard "send next wave" feature. I actually have lost more often by overzealously clicking or accidentally double-clicking this button than probably any other way, because there's no limit on how often you can push that button. Case in point:

This technically wasn't actually one of the times I lost... because the game crashed Flash Player within seconds of taking that screenshot because of the sheer volume of enemies.

In fact, Flash crashed so badly that when I refreshed the page, it didn't get better. So I restarted Firefox.

It still wasn't working.

I had to restart the whole computer to fix Flash Player.

Anyway, there are some bad things, too. First, the interface is straight-up awful. The basic menu that you use to select your turrets can only show one at a time and must be clicked through one at a time, and so you have to use another dialogue box in the game which is only marginally better (well, it's much better for browsing through turrets, but it's awful because it gets in the way and is generally obnoxious unless you minimize it). You're supposed to be able to move turrets, but even with the online guides, I still haven't figured out how to do so. And as noted, the game's balance and design is basically completely unintuitive.

The game also lacks music, but I reckon you can take care of that yourself with a YouTube window or a playlist or an iPod or whatever.

So in sum, a fun game with significant problems that can mostly be worked around if you're willing to look things up and learn stuff. If you have a fair bit of energy to invest in it, this is a good tower defense game, but if not, you should probably avoid it.

-Signing off.