Checking out the Stumptown Comics Fest.


I don’t go to very many conventions. Most of them are cost-prohibitive to me, and I’m amazed I can make PAX every year. I almost didn’t make PAX this year thanks to tickets selling out in record time, but was able to get the last few tickets. However, I’m always on board for local conventions in Portland, because it means less travel costs and is very convenient, which is always a good thing.

Earlier this month, I found out that an artist I like (Amanda Lafrenais of Love Me Nice fame) was going to be at a local comics con here in Portland – the Stumptown Comics Fest. I couldn’t resist having the opportunity to meet her in person, and get all awkward and nerdy about stuff because that’s how I usually act around people I like.

I’m not big on comics, or books in general. I don’t hate them, I just don’t have a drive to read them. I still got a copy of Ken Jennings’ Because I Said So that I got back in January when he stopped in Portland for a book signing, and got plenty of other books I never got around to reading. However, I didn’t have to necessarily be a comic book nerd to appreciate what I saw at the main show floor. (My apologies, there won’t be any con pictures in this one, didn’t bother to take any while I was there.)

In addition to meeting Lafrenais and her cohort/comic friend Lin “Ovens” Visel – whom their art styles are so similar that people frequently confuse the two – I saw several comic book artists, a few indie comics, the typical booth that sells comics at ridiculously inflated prices (Scott Pilgrim collectors editions for $100! OH BOY) and a few publications pimping their wares. Dark Horse Comics was also there, which makes since considering that they’re pretty local.

I also spotted a guy named Bill Mudron, who was selling his Hyrule and Castlevania world map posters there. They were pretty, but I’d have trouble putting them on my walls as they’re covered in shelves. Even Greg Rucka was there, writer of the Perfect Dark Zero novels (which he says are actually pretty good) and Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow (which was not so good).

At one point I saw political cartoonist Matt Bors at the con. I had a conversation with Bors about political cartoons and mocking certain artists, like he mentions in his book Life Begins at Incorporation. I also feel bad because I said I was gonna buy his book at the show, even got money so I could do that, and then I didn’t buy it. I should buy it online just to keep my promise.

You may say this is only tangentially related to video games, and you are right. Dark Horse was selling books and issues of comics based on games like The Last of Us, and there were some artists who were selling fanart of The Legend of Zelda and Sonic the Hedgehog. One of the comics I got — The Devastator — seems to be tangentially referencing video games. However, the convention itself was more general comic book malarkey, and I’m okay with that. It’s always good for people like me to get out of my comfort zone and check out things I may be missing out on.

It’s weird, but it gave me this weird creative spark about wanting to write/draw a story. Alas, my story-writing skills aren’t up to snuff, but it’s a dream I might consider sometime. It was great to see some famous artists and some cool comic stuff I might actually look into. Stumptown was pretty cool, and I might check it out again next year.


From the Archive: Late to the Party: Red Dead Redemption.

I had written this shortly after I finished the main campaign of Red Dead Redemption in mid-2011. I was intending to post it as a community blog on Destructoid, but I didn’t get around to it for whatever reason. As I was sifting through my past writings, I found this one and decide to post it here. I only changed minor grammar and spelling errors, and changed the formatted BBCode back to HTML.

So, I wrote a blog back in January on how I’ve always been behind on video games. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better this year at trying to keep up, but I can’t afford every single game at launch. Because of this, I end up getting games long after their release date, sometimes end up playing them much later after that. Since L.A. Noire just came out a week ago, I think it’s topical that I write about another Rockstar-published game that came out last year. This, my friends, is me being late to the party on Red Dead Redemption.


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Hollywood Hellfire: Another silly movie tie-in game.

Licensed titles. You know what I’m talking about: Movie games, games based on TV shows, even one based on a book series because the publisher got the book rights and not the movie rights. The lesser-known licensed titles are the movie tie-in games. The ones done by a small team usually done just to tie in with the game, and is enjoyable for about 30 minutes. A few examples that come to mind is that flash platformers of films like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid or modifications of existing games like the Underworld modification for Half-Life that was their version of Team Fortress.

While reading my usual email junk of Twitch newsletters, IGN deals and newsletters for The Hobbit, I was glancing through Sony Pictures’ email that I saw this quirky little game at the bottom of the newsletter: Hollywood Hellfire, a new movie tie-in game for the forthcoming comedy This is The End.

I am not a big moviegoer, so I didn’t know this movie existed until today. Seems to be a self-parody of disaster movies, with exaggerated versions of the actors portrayed in the film. All I got out of the trailer was stoner gags, Emma Watson robbing the main characters, and Michael Cera being impaled on a pole. Also a strange fascination with “titty-fucking” (their words, not mine).

It’s a dinky platformer where you play as Seth Rogen or Jay Baruchel, running through a wartorn Hollywood, grabbing mushrooms for points, water jugs for extra lives and food for health. You have three hearts, lose them all (or fall into a lava pit), you die. Run out of lives, its game over. While dodging fireballs and James Franco’s head, you jump on moving platforms, bounce on blue jump pads, and run away from hazards in a few areas. I only got to the third level before I finally lost, so I don’t know what the ending is like.

The game itself has a confusing sense of design: It has a chip tune soundtrack and 8-bit sound effects, yet the platforming and art style is very reminiscent of mid-to-late-’90s platformers. It’s like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a modern game or a retro throwback!

If you’re one of those people with Sony Rewards, you can get Rewards points with the game, or so I thought. I’ve been a member for years (thanks Wheel Watchers Club!) but they say I’m not eligible for these points. Bastards.

If you wanna play this yourself, you can try it out here. As always, don’t expect this to be up forever, so play it while you can. Gotta get those badges and high scores to share on your favorite social media groups!

I also found out Jonah Hill is in this movie along with Seth Rogen. I always got the two confused for a long time, and I still confuse them every once in a while. Now that they’re in the same film, maybe I should start writing that script for a buddy cop film starring Hill and Rogen. It could probably get awards. Maybe one of them Razzies…

Conquered: Chaser.

One thing I’ve been pushing to do more this year is to tackle my long, burgeoning backlog. I’m limiting this to 360, PS3, PC and Wii stuff, because if I did every game I didn’t finish, I’d be looking into finishing stuff like Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 among many other older games, leaving me with a task that may be impossible to finish in my lifetime. I’ve been making a slight dent at that backlog in recent months, tackling Borderlands and all the DLC campaigns, Saints Row: The Third (note to self: reinstall SR3 to tackle the DLC campaigns before Saints Row IV hits in August), F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Yesterday, I had completed Chaser, a first-person shooter developed by Slovakian developer Cauldron HQ and published by JoWood Productions in 2004. I had heard of the game in the past thanks to a PC Gamer demo disc featuring a demo of the game’s multiplayer. While the demo was not amazing by any stretch, it did seem like an interesting shooter for its time. Fast forward to 2012, when I see the game on a Steam daily deal for $2.50, which later got reduced even further to $1.25. I have a soft spot for bargains, and when a game hits that $2 or less threshold, it’s an immediate impulse purchase. So then it sat on my Steam backlog until recently, when I had decided to install it shortly after beating Redneck Rampage, wanting another “old-school” FPS fix.

You play as John Chaser, an amnesiac stuck on a spaceship being hunted down, with no memories of what happened prior. You eventually make it to Earth and become acquaintances with members of “The Family,” as you try to do missions to find out who you are and what happened. Eventually you find the truth, befriend a few people along the way, and find out you were doing a mission on Mars. So you get your ass to Mars, go to the Hilton and flash the Brubaker ID at the desk.

Cauldron’s CloakNT Engine makes for large, expansive levels. Impressive for a game released in 2004, however it makes later stages like the last few levels drag on considerably.

Okay, I know a Total Recall reference sounds dumb here, but Cauldron clearly was looking at the Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic for inspiration: From the amnesiac main character, to befriending people who would later be enemies, being chased through a spaceport, even having to go through murky Mars caves to find the truth. This is the closest we’llget to a “Total Recall: The Video Game” that isn’t that terrible NES game from 20 years ago.

Let’s be honest here, shooting a bunch of dudes is better than punching midgets and dodging glory holes.

The game is not perfect, though. Being made by a game studio where English is not their primary language, there’s that weird case of “euro jank” to Chaser‘s design. Voice acting is a very mixed bag, leading to awkward line deliveries and unusual word usage. Subtitles don’t always match what’s spoken. Jumping physics seem a bit off, where you might miss jumps more than you hit them. There are many points where it’s not clear where to go next, leading to lots of walking around and backtracking, among other problems that are common to unpolished shooters. Even the game’s ending is especially bleak. I won’t spoil it, but I was honestly expecting a much different outcome, preferably with a choice, like with Singularity.

Chaser is not only a rough game, it’s also very difficult. On Normal difficulty, it didn’t take much for the bad guys to whittle my full health and armor down to zero pretty quick. Enemies occasionally drop medkits and armor, but you’ll lose it as quickly as you gain it. This even applies to fall damage — later stages have you dropping down on pipes, taking off small bits of your health as you descend, making it pretty easy to miss a jump and crater, forcing you to try it repeatedly. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid playing games on harder difficulties, but Chaser was incredibly difficult to play on Normal, leaving me to go through the remaining 2/3s of the game on Easy just to get through. Even on Easy difficulty, some of the later stages still kicked my ass, with enemies having grenade launchers that killed me instantly even with near-full health and armor. Thank god for quick saves.

That isn’t to say this game is bad per se, it’s just difficult because it’s clearly made in a different mindset than most first-person shooters today. There’s a reason regenerating health and linear corridors are almost standard in shooters today, because what Chaser does hearkens back to the late ’90s era of first-person shooter design: reflexes, speed, exploration, backtracking, rationing your items, and quick saving often to make progress. The average gamer today would likely have a very difficult time playing through Chaser if they’re used to Call of Duty style game play.

Despite that challenge, I enjoyed the varied levels — from space stations, to cities, to Russian tundra, even the redness of Mars. The soundtrack was good, reminding of the MOD music that permeated Unreal Tournament, and was a lengthy game compared to its contemporaries. It’s on Steam at an affordable price of $5, it’s worth checking out if you want some old-school FPS design. Just remember that it’s gonna kick your ass, but stick with it. Despite the euro jank, it’s not a bad shooter. I’ve played worse shooters out there. Much worse. (See the Budget Hell entries if you don’t believe me.)