Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 Is Sad, Goodbye Gene Wilder

I was going about my day when I saw this article:

2016 is sad and it seems that many of the iconic people that I grew up with are passing away. I mourned David Bowie and Prince; artists that showed that it was okay to be different, that it was okay to be yourself, and they made so much incredible music that was a gift to the world. Now, I am mourning Gene Wilder who was funny, smart, and a pretty great person.

I have so many fond memories of watching Gene Wilder movies with my grandmother. Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory was a favorite in our house and every time it was on we would watch it. We would also watch all the Mel Brooks films he did because those were favorites too. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers were staples in our home and were watched often. I still watch those movies and I love them as much as I did when I was a kid.

My heart goes out to Gene Wilder's family; it's incredibly hard to lose someone you love. 83 isn't a bad age to go out; he had a life well lived, but it's still hard to say goodbye. Thank you Mr. Wilder for all the wonderful memories I have of watching your movies with my grandmother who I loved dearly and for all the smiles and laughs we shared together watching them. Thank you for your humor and your quiet, charming kindness. Thank you for being you; we will miss you. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Puppeteer, Whimsical And Fun

 I was perusing games on Amazon when the game Puppeteer was suggested to me. I was intrigued by the cover and looked at the game description to see what it was about. It sounded interesting and it was on sale so I purchased it. I started playing the game and I was blown away by it because it's not like any game I've played before. The whimsical aspect of it is charming and it made me think of Little Big Planet which is also a fun and whimsical game. If you're a fan of Little Big Planet like I am, you will enjoy Puppeteer.
 Puppeteer is a side scrolling platform game and you play as a boy turned into an animated puppet who loses his head named Kutaro. Kutaro gains a variety of puppet heads to replace his own throughout the game. You have three puppet heads and when you lose a head, you have thirty seconds to grab the head and put it back on or you lose it forever. Your heads are basically like lives so when you lose all three heads/lives it's game over.  
 The story takes place in a fantasy world representing Earth's moon which is inhabited by a myriad of folklore style characters and they are all puppets as well. The game is set up to look like a faux stage with red curtains and you can hear an audience reacting to the events that happen in the story along with commentary from the narrator. It adds to the charm of Puppeteer, making it feel like a complete theater experience while playing a video game.  The first half of the game is on the dark side of the moon while the second half is on the Earth side. When Kutaro's story begins, the narrator explains that the Moon Goddess was overthrown by by her servant Little Bear who then seized her black moonstone and the scissors called Calibrus and dubbed himself the Moon Bear King.

Kutaro exploring the first level of the game. 

The Moon Bear King is the main villain, but there are several villains you have to battle before you get to him; twelve of his generals based on the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Each of them has a piece of the Goddess' white moonstone which Kutaro must get from them. Kutaro does get tools that can help him and eventually he does get Calibrus which are essentially a weapon for him. There are creative ways in which they are used besides as a weapon such as jumping to cut clouds to get to a high ledge or cutting seams to move faster while battling an enemy. They are also used to free the other animated children like Kutaro by cutting the puppet strings so they can return home. 
 There are other tools that are used as well such as ninja bombs which can open pathways for you and a pirate hook which can hook items or secret doors. They are smartly and creatively used with simple puzzles in various levels of the game which makes the game play entertaining and interesting. 

Talking with Ezma Potts, one of the many characters in Puppeteer.

The environments in Puppeteer are bright, colorful, and filled with beautifully done imaginative things. They're fun to explore and you can go back and play previously beaten levels because there are so many puppet heads and bonus items to collect. A couple of levels were my favorites such as the pirate one and the Halloween one because they put a smile on my face while playing and the Halloween one gave a Nightmare Before Christmas vibe that I loved. There are a few moments of frustration here and there with a couple of the boss battles and depth perception issues in a couple of levels, but it's not a huge deal because the execution of how the game plays and how well the story flows makes Puppeteer worth playing. 

Avast! Hanging out with pirates. 

 The game is about nine or ten hours of story and if you really want to explore to get every single puppet head out there, all the trophies, and bonus stages that can add a little more extra time and keep you pretty busy. The voice acting and music for the game is superb and there are even moments of humor that will cause you to laugh. It's quite clear that the developers of Puppeteer loved this game and enjoyed designing it and their imaginations really shine throughout the entire game; making Puppeteer a wonderful gem for gamers like myself who appreciate the fun and whimsy. 
 While some of the art can be dark and spooky like the Halloween level, there's plenty of light and fun levels making the game enjoyable for people of all ages. Overall, Puppeteer is a delightfully charming game and so much fun to play. It is worth buying and playing more than once because it doesn't take itself seriously, celebrates all things whimsical and fun, and is a terrific game. 

Kutaro having fun!

*Puppeteer is playable on these platforms: Playstation 3


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mother Gamer Plays Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition

Once I finished Fallout 3, I went on to playing Fallout New Vegas. I really liked the opening introduction to the game's main story line because it hooks you in right away showing just a glimpse of the underlying chaos in the Mojave wasteland with a pretty badass introduction narrated by Ron Perlman. Then you get to meet your main character the Courier who is in a messed up situation as they're getting mugged for a platinum chick they're delivering and some jerk in a checkered suit is explaining that the Courier has made their last delivery and while it may seem like bad luck, it's just that the game was rigged from the start. I knew right then it was going to get worse and it did as he shot the Courier in the head. I admit my initial thought was, how the heck is this going to work if the main character is dead? I got my answer fairly quickly as it showed the Courier waking up in a bed with an old man hovering over her looking concerned and asking if she was alright. The man introduced himself as Doc Mitchell and explains how the Courier survived thanks to a Securitron robot named Victor and the adventure of Fallout New Vegas begins in a town called Goodsprings.

The Courier explores Goodsprings.

Goodsprings of course gives you a chance to explore and get familiar with the game controls and how everything works. The controls are much better here than they were in Fallout 3 which made me happy. It also introduces you to the people in the town and you get a couple of quests from them. You also get a chance to speak with Victor the robot who saved your life. Honestly, I found Victor to be really creepy. He seemed friendly enough with his cowboy icon face and talking in a friendly cowboy drawl, but there was just something weird about him. It also didn't help that he kept popping up in odd places during my adventures and seemed to be following me. He did own up to it which I will give him, but he was creepy. 

Once the tutorial introduction and quests are finished, you get to really explore the Mojave with the main goal being to find Benny; the man who stole the platinum chip from you and shot you leaving you for dead to get answers. For me it was to get answers, get the platinum chip back, and beat the crap out of him. I was still pretty ticked off about that whole ordeal with him shooting me. 

To say that the world of Fallout New Vegas is big is an understatement. It is huge and you get an immediate sense of just how vast the Mojave wasteland is as you explore it. There are three big main factions fighting for control of the Mojave and the Hoover Dam and your decisions throughout the story affect which side you will help. There's the NCR a military expansion government, Caesar's Legion a group of Roman style slavers, and Mr. House the mysterious ruler of New Vegas. 

There are minor factions as well which can be recruited as allies depending on how you're playing the game. There's the Brotherhood of Steel, Followers of the Apocalypse, Enclave Remnants, Great Khans, and Boomers. You also have companions who join you and that includes a canine companion named Rex; a cyborg dog. 

The future contains awesome cyborg dogs like Rex. 

There are so many side quests to do alongside the main story quests which isn't a bad thing. A lot of them were fun to do and the companion quests are interesting especially for the character of Boone. I liked Boone a great deal. There was a complexity to him that was intriguing and as my Courier got to know him better there was an understanding of why he was the way he was and a path towards him atoning for some of his past. It made for a great companion story and by the end of Boone's personal quest I liked him even more. 

There are quests that are hilarious too such as the quest where you need to find a sex robot for someone in a town called Freeside. Fisto was absolutely hilarious and I could not stop laughing during that entire quest. It definitely made adventuring in the Mojave a lot of fun. The environments look okay and there are some impressive sights such as the Ranger Unification Treaty monument. 

The Ranger Unification Treaty monument looks amazing.

While I enjoyed Fallout New Vegas, there were many frustrating issues with it that had me swearing up a storm when they happened. The major thing were the constant dropped frame rates and freezing that caused the game to crash. When the game worked, it was a lot of fun to play. It just killed it for me when the game would freeze every couple of hours. I make sure to save my game often anyway with my games and I think that games like New Vegas are why. I did all the tricks too with clearing the cache on the PS3 and rebooting and it would still crash after a bit of time. That's incredibly irritating when I want to fully enjoy a game. 

Then there's the weird quest bugs. I couldn't finish a quest for a couple of my companions because in one the quest item was nowhere to be found and in the other a quest the NPC I needed to complete the quest had disappeared completely. There were also occasions where I would get stuck in a wall or my companion would and I would have to reload my last save. I understand that there are going to be bugs and glitches in a game sometimes, they happen. However, the vast amount of glitches, bugs, and technical difficulties is inexcusable. I know that Obsidian the developers that worked on New Vegas apologized for all of that, but the thing is slapping a band aid on it is not going to cut it. For as long as the game has been out and the patches they had to fix the game, it should be fixed and yet those irritating issues remain. 

I also did not like the fact that they mess with the story line a bit with the fact that I had to play the four DLC quests before the final fight at Hoover Dam because a couple of those quests clearly happen AFTER the final battle. It wasn't a big deal, but I found it odd because with Fallout 3 and 4 you can continue to play the game after the main story is finished. When I realized that, I just reloaded my game save and went back to play them and then finished up the final main story quest. 

Speaking of the DLC quests, I wanted to like all of them. I really did, but there were so many flaws. I only really liked two of the quests out of four. That's saying something. One of them I just could not stand at all. That was the Dead Money quest. I could not stand Dead Money. It was very clunky with the navigation and hard to see at some points. Getting gassed and waking up in a strange place without any of my gear and some crazy ex Brotherhood of Steel jerk was not good.  As part of the story you also have a slave collar around your neck that happens to be on the same frequency as the radios in the surrounding areas and if you don't destroy the radios the collar will explode and kill you. This is an exercise in futility as every damn five minutes the collar beeps and you have to figure out exactly where the radio is. I found this tedious and slow which made this quest one of the worst I have ever played and I played Dragon Age The Descent. Yeah, I said it. The ending was a little satisfying, but not much because you don't really get anything out of it except a little payback to the egomaniac who put me through that nonsense. 

Old World Blues was alright, but I hated the fact that once again I'm basically drugged and wake up in a strange place without all my gear. Seriously, was this the same writer for Dead Money? So I had to figure out where I was and I met the insane scientists in robot bodies who had brought me there. The thing that kept Old World Blues moderately entertaining for me was the humor. There were moments that had me laughing especially when one of the scientists claimed that my toes looked like tiny penises. There were some cool places to explore and some interesting things to see. The big thing that makes Old World Blues shine are the smartly written jokes and the humor about trying to understand another species and the differences between you. That's what made it fun for me. 

Open Hearts was my favorite. I loved Open Hearts because it tackled the subjects of religion and strength of conviction in an interesting and subtle way that makes for a good story. I loved exploring Zion because it was a nice change from the Mojave with areas that were actually lush and green with trees and plant life. The characters for this story were quite interesting as well and I found I really liked the one companion character Follows Chalk because there was an innocent curiosity to him as he asked about civilization in the Mojave and stated he wanted to see for himself. I liked how the story was presented as there isn't really a completely good or completely bad scenario; that sometimes you make difficult choices and do the best you can so there's some gray areas. Overall, I enjoyed this DLC quest a lot. 

The Lonesome Road was disappointing for me. It started out strongly with the introduction of this other mysterious courier, Ulysses demanding you show up to answer for what happened in a place called The Divide. There isn't really a strong urge to explore and it just seems to be travel from point A to point B. During that time you get to hear Ulysses drone on and on about the NCR, the Legion, and how you were the catalyst for nuclear missiles blowing up in the Divide. I like history a lot, but Ulysses made it freaking boring because he kept harping on the same thing repeatedly. It shows just how nuts Ulysses is because essentially he's blaming a mailman for something that had nothing to do with them. What happened in the Divide was an accident and while yes the Courier was delivering the package (a detonator) that awoke and caused all that, they had no idea what it was. The NCR did however and probably the Legion, so that's on them. Look, I get it. Ulysses had something very traumatizing happen to him and he needed something or someone to blame in order to be able to wrap his head around it, but when I was there face to face with him all I could think was, this whole thing was not my fault and you're crazy! I mean he wanted to punish a bunch of innocent people for the traumatizing thing for just a chance to wipe out the NCR and the Legion; that does not sound like someone who is operating at full capacity. Luckily, my speech, intelligence, and science perks were high enough that I convinced him peacefully that destroying all those people would help and even earned his respect. It's obvious in the writing that they meant for Ulysses to be a companion, but I guess they couldn't quite figure out how to make it work and this is what happened. It was okay, but it wasn't perfect and they could have made this a great story instead of a mediocre one. 

Once I finished all those, I wrapped up the game with the final quest which was the battle for Hoover Dam. I had decided to help the NCR because while they're far from perfect I felt that they were a better choice than the group of rapist slavers that represented Caesar's Legion. I also liked and respected the fact that the NCR seemed to be protecting the idea of democracy and while they had their flaws, they were at least trying to do something good. The battle for the dam was epic and because I had successfully convinced the minor factions to join the NCR I had a lot of help battling Caesar's Legion. I totally loved the Boomers with their salvaged airplane taking out Legion soldiers from the sky. We fought hard and the battle was won; the NCR still had control of the dam. The game ends then showing all the different things that happen to the people and areas in the Mojave depending on your choices. Overall, the ending was pretty good and I was glad to see that many of my choices helped a lot of people who needed it. I can honestly say that I enjoyed playing Fallout New Vegas in spite of the technical issues and I'm glad I only paid 10 bucks for it. When the game works, it is worth playing and there is lots of adventuring to do with a great main story and solid side stories. Play through it at least once is my take on it. 

A great view overlooking the Hoover Dam. 

*Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition is playable on the following platforms: PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360