Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game

In the late 80's and early 90's, Beat 'em ups were king. You couldn't walk into a pizza parlor, a 7-11, or traditional video game arcade without seeing such classic titles as Final Fight, Golden Axe, or Double Dragon lined up ready to engorge themselves on the pocket change of 10 year old kids. Complicated combos, ultra realistic graphics and complicated plot lines weren't required. All you needed was one to four protagonists armed with a punch, jump, and kick button against an unending sea of easily dispatched henchmen and incredibly punch resilient bosses. As video games moved beyond the 8 and 16 bit era, the classic beat 'em up became a dinosaur of simple game making, consigned to the occasional appearance at Dave and Busters. So it comes as no surprise that a game based on Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Bryan Lee O'Malley's seminal graphic novel series, would chose this genre.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World isn't just a love letter to nerd culture and video games, it's also a love letter to one of the best classic NES games of it's time, River City Ransom. Like RCR, it incorporates RPG elements, allowing a player to level up and unlock more special moves while earning experience and money from defeating bad guys to buy items. One to four players can play as Scott, Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine, or Stephen Stills as they navigate through legions of Canadian hipster baddies on their quest to battle Ramona's evil exes.

If you never heard of Scott Pilgrim, do yourself a favor and go buy the graphic novels or at minimum, go see the Michael Cera movie. Not only does this game follow the art direction of the graphic novels perfectly as well as incorporate many little video game and geek references, it manages to do so in a very 8-bit style. Fans of the books will notice references to the novels and games such as Super Mario Bros sprinkled throughout the levels while uberdorks will have their minds blown at playing a video game based on a comic series whose plot plays out like a video game.

The game play itself is fairly standard to all Beat'em ups. You punch, you kick, you occasionally jump (and kick). Weapons are sprinkled all over the ground and health can be replenished by visiting shops and purchasing food bought with money gained from defeated enemies. The music is phenomenal, with frenetic upbeat tracks composed by Anamanaguchi pumping out beats you can stomp your enemies to. And at a modest price of 10 dollars, there's no reason to not get this game.


-Follows the plot of the comics

-Great music track

-Beautiful colorful 8 bit animation

-A love letter to 8 bit video games and River City Ransom


-Has all the things you hate about beat 'em ups: very few lives, bosses that can kill you multiple times with no effort, and attacks that can't be blocked if you happen to stand in the wrong place.

-Fairly short game play

-Is less fun in single player.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kick Ass (2010)

Sickening violence: just the way you like it! Fuck yeah Mark Millar, I concur. From the hot sweaty feverish union of Mark Millar's graphic novel, Matthew Vaughn's direction, and the Internet, comes Kick-Ass; a movie that could only work in a world where geeks are the dominant species. But really this movie should be called Hit Girl and Friends. Because Hit Girl makes this movie.

Super dork Dave Lizewski, who isn't Hit Girl btw, goes through the typical high school hell displaying talent for nothing except being invisible to girls. Why he hasn't tested this ability in say the girl's locker room when he's a nerdy virgin loser is beyond me but I digress. Dave loves comics, Dave wants to make the world a better place. Problem is, Dave is Dave and not a superhero. So one day he gets it in his head that all he needs to be a superhero is a suit and a cool name. So after buying a svelte scuba suit, because all superheros might need to scuba on the streets of New York, Dave goes out to bust crime. Problem is he's less Spider Man and more like one of the Mystery Men from that Ben Stiller movie.

Dave goes out, Dave gets stabbed, Dave doesn't learn from the whole being stabbed ordeal and goes out again, only this time he learns he can take a beating because his nerves are fried. So now Dave goes from being Dave the supernerd to Kick Ass the supernerd who can be a human punching bag. But it works, he saves a dude, starts a myspace account, and gets the attention of the Internet and the attention of two real super heroes.

Which brings us to Hit Girl and Big Daddy. Hit Girl is well bad ass. To get an idea of how bad ass she is, imagine if a dinosaur crapped out lightning which struck a robotic unicorn that exploded in a shower of magic which rained upon a Journey concert attended by the cast of Firefly. Then imagine if a 11 year old girl was more awesome than that image. That's Hit Girl. She's like every gun toting sword swinging bad ass chick cliche crammed into a carry on sized package. She swears, she stabs, she can catch ammo clips with her gun and reload in mid air. She also resembles that chick from Lazy Town, except she doesn't bake pretty cakes. Hit Girl and her father, Big Daddy, played by a less annoying than usual Nic "my kid's named Kal El" Cage go around putting the ante in vigilante justice as they waste an increasingly large number of mobsters around town. Big Daddy is not only a bad ass in his own right, he imparts his bad-assery to his child, to a point where her chores include learning to take a bullet and knowing the origins of assault rifles. It's pretty much the childhood I wish I had.

So does the movie work? Fuck yeah it works. Will fan boys get annoyed that the movie is less about Kick Ass, like the graphic novel was, and more about Hit Girl? Probably, but Hit Girl would probably say they could suck her non existent left testicle because she's such a darling. There's explosions, there's shoot outs, there's dismemberment, Mclovin's in it, and there's swearing, good god there's swearing. This is not a movie to bring kids to, and as a society everyone should throw rotten fruit at anyone who does for fear of child endangerment. But this movie definitely lives up to it's name.