Fireside 2.1 (https://fireside.fm) Nerd Overload Blog https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles Tue, 29 Oct 2019 16:00:00 -0400 Nerd Overload Blog en-us Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD (Switch) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/super-monkey-ball-banana-blitz-hd-switch-review Tue, 29 Oct 2019 16:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com c128e92c-55af-47b8-b6f4-0e4ec68c926b A review of the Nintendo Switch game Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz by SEGA. Super Monkey Ball is one of those Sega franchises that doesn't seem to get enough love from the company itself despite being an excellent franchise. Debuting first as the arcade title Monkey Ball in the far off year of 2001, it took the simple concept of the old skill game Labyrinth (you know, the one with the ball bearings and the maze-- not the movie with David Bowie and contact juggling),added a colorful cast of monkeys inside of transparent balls, and simple movement only controls via a banana-shaped joystick. While successful, it didn't really hit its stride until released in Japan as a launch title for the GameCube, where it spawned many sequels and spin-offs, the best of which, in my humble opinion, is Super Monkey Ball 2. We haven't heard from the ball imprisoned AiAi, MiMi, GonGon, and Baby since 2014's mobile game Super Monkey Ball: Bounce that had more in common with Peggle than it did its own franchise. So after 5 long years, the monkeys are back, in an HD remaster of a Wii game, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD. Let's discuss.

Super Monkey Ball is one of those games that takes a simple concept and polishes it to a blinding sheen-- sure you've probably played a game about navigating a sphere in a maze, you've got your classics like Marble Madness or more contemporary stuff like Marble Blast but SMB outdid all those with pitch-perfect game control and physics. Rather than having direct control over your selected ball-imprisoned ape, you control them by tilting the world around them. All of these are masterfully implemented into a perfect skill-based game of navigating monkeys to goal points, and Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD is no different. This is that mechanically perfect Monkey Ball maze navigating you loved, now with HD graphics.

There's plenty of levels here with a good difficulty curve that is absolutely enjoyable. Unlike the original titles this one actually has a jump button as well, which is okay, I guess, a lot of the fun of previous games was trying to find out how to build up speed and hit an obstacle at just the right angle to perform a jump. The jump button overall does add a bit of a traditional platform game style challenge to the Super Monkey Ball formula, but it doesn't really feel necessary. It probably seemed like a more innovative feature in the game's original Wii version, where the monkeys would jump with a flick of your Wii remote. That's right, this game was designed to be controlled via motion controls-- which brings me to one of my main issues with this game-- why give the HD treatment to a motion-controlled black sheep of the Monkey Ball family-like Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz when you could of went with one of the more acclaimed and fan-favorite titles like Super Monkey Ball 2? I mean, the switch from Wii-mote controlled motion hijinks to more precise traditional controls makes Banana Blitz infinitely more playable than it was before, but if you are going to skip the motion controls (they aren't even an option in Banana Blitz HD) why not just port over one of the games that was designed with traditional controls in mind? It's also is the only Monkey Ball game to have boss fights, but they aren't terribly interesting, and really just seem to get in the way of the meat of the game, the pitch-perfect monkey ball rolling.

Let's talk about those mini-games too, shall we? The Monkey Ball franchise has always come with a real scattershot collection of mini-games to go along with the monkeys-in-mazes single-player mode. They usually consist of stuff like the mini-golf inspired Monkey Golf, Monkey Billards, or fan-favorite Money Target, where players sort of ski-jump their monkey ball and then hang glide onto a target for points. Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD doesn't have any of those. It's got a sad little collection of 10 mini-games that are uninspired and generally boring. Even the aforementioned Monkey Target feels off. Instead of fun stuff like Monkey Bowling or Monkey Fight, we get stuff like an uninspired top-down shoot'em up or a snowboard game that is barely as fun as the one in Final Fantasy VII. This is equally disappointing because the original Banana Blitz had 50(!) mini-games, but since they ditched the motion controls, they had to toss the majority of them.

For coming back from a 5-year hiatus, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD isn't really putting the franchise's best foot forward. The single-player is fantastic fun, and absolutely the monkey magic you remembered-- it's just the rest of the package is skimpy at best. Why they remastered Banana Blitz and not one of the better Monkey Ball titles I guess we'll never know, but the single-player monkeyventure is at least worth the price of admission. And hey, at least you can unlock Sonic the Hedgehog.

3.5-star

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of Wizard World Columbus 2019 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-columbus-2019 Sat, 26 Oct 2019 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 113382e9-1d97-49a6-973b-987eae627a3a Photo gallery from Wizard World Columbus 2019! Last weekend, we took a break from our busy schedule to venture down to Central Ohio to attend Wizard World Columbus 2019, one of the largest touring comic book and pop culture conventions in North America! Not only were we able to take in all that the con had to offer, including excellent panels, celebrity meet-and-greets, etc., we were also able to get a plethora, a veritable smorgasbord of AMAZING cosplay pics, ranging from characters made popular from comic books to anime, from movies and TV to pop culture AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!

Check them out below, or go follow Nerd Overload on our official Instagram page!

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of Steel City Con - April 2019 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-steel-city-con-april-2019 Mon, 15 Apr 2019 10:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 14c428bc-9b8d-4123-9009-4ec57bd331d7 Photo gallery from Steel City Con - April 2019! Last weekend, Sam for Nerd Overload drove over to Monroeville, Pennsylvania to attend Steel City Con's April 2019 show! While there, he was also able to get a gander at a plethora of excellent cosplay, ranging from characters made popular from comic books to anime, from movies and TV to pop culture AND MORE!

Check them out below, or go follow Nerd Overload on our official Instagram page!

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SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy (Switch) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/snk-heroines-tag-team-frenzy-the-nerd-overload-review-switch- Sat, 08 Sep 2018 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com e27f6c36-b2e3-4f15-9120-35a97db5ef68 Much like Mia Wallace's quote about the Beatles and Elvis, there are Street Fighter people and King of Fighters people. It's unfortunate, though, that while there's definitely fun to be had here, SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy isn't going to convince anyone to be a King of Fighters person. In the fighting game world, the two biggest hitters are of course Capcom's Street Fighter series and SNK's King of Fighters franchise (at least back in the day, anyway). It's a real Coke or Pepsi situation, you usually pledge allegiance to one or the other. Much like Mia Wallace's quote about the Beatles and Elvis, there are Street Fighter people and King of Fighters people. King of Fighters people can still like Street Fighter, and Street Fighter people can still like King of Fighters, but nobody likes them both equally, somewhere you have to make a choice-- and that choice tells you who you are.

It's unfortunate, though, that while there's definitely fun to be had here, SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy isn't going to convince anyone to be a King of Fighters person.

In the interest of transparency, I am a King of Fighters person. While I do enjoy a Street Fighter, I've always preferred SNK's zanier, more interesting, and off the wall cast of characters to Street Fighter's multi-cultural cavalcade of bruisers. I mean who wouldn't want to play a fighting game with a guy who wears pants that are strapped together and laughs like a maniac when he wins? I thought for sure I was in the direct niche audience this game was targeting-- and on top of that, a lot of SNK's female fighters are my favorite to chose from! It's too bad SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy sort of has a crisis of identity on its hands.

You see, it plays like a Super Smash Bros. game -- it's super accessible, has simplified controls, and wacky items that pop in randomly. You won't have to memorize a bunch of button combos (no quarter circle heavy punch to a back charged light kick or whatever here), your specials are mapped to one button plus a direction. No separate punch or kick buttons, just a light attack, a heavy attack, and a throw, all on their own individual buttons.

Now I'm in no way knocking this-- as a matter of fact, I think it's great! Memorizing a bunch of inputs is a bizarre way to gatekeep becoming skilled at a game, but I also think it is at odds with what SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy is at its core-- a heaping helping of ridiculous fanservice.

It is a fanservice game through and through. The costumes are skimpy, the camera shots in the cutscenes can be leery, heck the heroines themselves are constantly commenting on how ridiculous and shameless the whole situation is. That being said, the fanservice content is never too extreme. It never feels overtly gross like a Senran Kagura game or like Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. The cast of characters are still there to fight and that's what they do.

It's the meeting of these two elements that confuses me the most about SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy. You've got a fun and new player friendly simplified control scheme buried under a pile of ridiculous fan-service content. This game would be an excellent place to introduce new players to the cast and characters of SNK's world and The King of Fighters but have fun trying to get new (non-pervy) people into a series or to take that new series seriously when a character's default costume is a cosplay fetish-y cow costume bikini (that's right, Mai's cow bikini costume shown in all of the previews and trailers isn't some kind of unlockable, it's her default outfit). The whole situation is at odds with itself. It's too weird and self-referential to be accessible to new players, and the fighting system is too simplified to be all that interesting to longtime fans of the franchise.

Despite all this, it still can be a fun game with some fun ideas at play. The tag-team aspect is fun and having the two tag team characters share health is an interesting choice and the fact that a match is won only by hitting the other player with your finisher move (accessed just by pressing one button, of course) changes up the formula and keeps matches from ending too quickly. I didn't have time to test it out for myself, but I'm sure the game would be pretty darn fun to pass back and forth between friends in a party setting. The items are great fun and are pretty funny too, with stuff like banana peels to slip on and pie pans to drop on the other player's head. I'd love to see items like this be a thing in a regular fighting game-- it really spices things up.

So we've got a really self-contradictory game with fun, solid gameplay here, but unfortunately there just isn't enough content here either. You got stuff like a story mode (which you can blast through with one character in like 20 minutes) and a not terribly interesting survival mode for single player and then, of course, regular local multiplayer and online multiplayer options. I couldn't get connected to another match in online multiplayer, so I can't really tell you how well that works, but I can't see there being a huge online following sprouting up here-- it's just too shallow. There's plenty of costume parts to unlock with money you earn from playing, but not enough to make it interesting or to make the characters seem super customizable or anything. Everybody has a couple of unlockable full costumes (one of which is usually just their regular outfit too) and then everything else is just an accessory or a hat. You won't be playing full-on dress-up with your favorite SNK ladies here, so the quest for the perfect outfit isn't going to be the big draw that keeps you playing.

The whole experience just feels kind of barebones, which is a real shame. If they're going to change things up and get weird with it, why not go all out? Give me a challenge mode with interesting objectives to complete, give me a goofy beat'em up game made in-engine, stuff like Tekken did back in the day. This is a spin-off so they really shouldn't have been afraid to just throw everything at the wall!

At its most basic, core experience, SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy is a solid and fun game, it just finds itself in a real identity crisis, and while what is there is good, they're certainly not enough of it, unfortunately.

3-star

SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy was reviewed using a digital download code provided by NIS America.

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of Indy Pop Con 2018 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-indy-pop-con-2018 Mon, 11 Jun 2018 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 6774bbc7-4a9d-4433-be68-926d52e1aee2 Photo gallery from Indy Pop Con 2018! Last weekend, Sam for Nerd Overload made the trek to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend Indy Pop Con 2018, a convergence of innovation, pop culture, and fandom celebrating its FIFTH year of operation! While taking all that this convention had to offer, including the amazing panels, celebrity meet-and-greets, gaming areas, etc., he was also able to get a gander at a plethora of excellent cosplay, ranging from characters made popular from comic books to anime, from movies and TV to pop culture AND MORE!

Check them out below, or go follow Nerd Overload on our official Instagram page!

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Hey You Should Play This - Shadowgun Legends https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/hey-you-should-play-this-shadowgun-legends Sat, 19 May 2018 14:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com e3312f9c-14f5-4e44-95c7-4188cd313e4c Shadowgun Legends is a mobile first-person shooter by Madfinger Games that-- wait, no, don't leave! Hear me out on this one. Shadowgun Legends might just be the best, most substantive mobile experience I've ever had. Shadowgun Legends is a mobile first-person shooter by Madfinger Games that-- wait, no, don't leave! Hear me out on this one. Shadowgun Legends might just be the best, most substantive mobile experience I've ever had.

Most iOS or mobile games are just complete time-wasters that barely feel like full games. Sure, there's a lot of phone games that can be fun and a great way to kill five minutes, but you never get that same whole feeling you get from playing a game on a real game console. Almost every phone game feels like it has been paired down or neutered in some way to either appeal to the great unwashed masses or to fit in with some inane free-to-play marketing scheme. Shadowgun Legends is the first mobile game I think I've ever played that doesn't feel that way. It feels like a real honest-to-god video game that just happens to be running on your iPhone (or Android).

I'll not beat around the bush as to where Shadowgun gets its mechanics from-- it's pretty much all cribbed from Bungie's Destiny games. You shoot and loot, get new equipment, and level your character, gaining new skills and abilities along the way. Your quality of equipment even adds up to a certain power level rating you'll constantly be trying to improve, just like Destiny. But this isn't just Destiny, Shadowgun Legends is Destiny you can play on the toilet-- and what else could you possibly want in a game? (There's a hell of a pull quote. You can put that on your app store page, Madfinger Games).

Of course, the game does make concessions for the fact that it's a game you are playing on a phone, but only in smart ways that really work for it instead of against it. Shooting your primary weapon is automatic-- instead of pointing and shooting, you're just pointing. It makes gameplay feel faster and leaves more screen real estate for you to actually see what is happening rather than look at a big digital shoot button. Of course, if you don't like that you can always turn on a shoot button as well, heck, there's full controller support if you are looking for that. The level's lack a lot of the verticality that Destiny has, but they are designed smartly to where it doesn't feel like it's missing something.

Shadowgun Legends mechanics may scream Destiny but it does make itself stand apart in terms of setting. Shadowgun doesn't take itself nearly as seriously and takes place in a sort of scummy future where fame is everything. After each mission or activity, you are awarded fame points which put you on a leaderboard with all the game's other players. The center of the game's multiplayer social hub has an enormous statue of the highest ranking player. Surrounding the statue is some very Hollywood Walk of Fame-style stars with the rest of the game's top players. Video screens all over the world project images of players as they log in and off. High ranking players are announced like royalty when they log in and out of the game. It goes a long way into building an interesting world. The social hub exists for more than picking up missions and buying and selling guns too-- there's a functioning casino where you can gamble away your hard-fought credits and a bar where you can get your character drunk and get food for buffs on your next mission. There's even a premium item called a money bomb that makes explodes money out to all the other players in the area, effectively allowing you to "make it rain" in the club.

The game is surprisingly fully featured too. Not only is there plenty of single-player missions, but there's also PVP deathmatch modes and PVE dungeons as well. As I said, there's so much to do here it feels like a whole full featured game experience and not the cheesy mobile ripoff the majority of iOS/Google Play games feel like.

I've only had the game for four or five days and it still has its hooks in me, which is more than I can say for most mobile games. It is of course supported by a premium currency, but so far to me, it seems fair and is mostly used for cosmetics or to buy keys to random loot boxes you find during gameplay, not unlike F2P classic Team Fortress 2. It seems too good to be true and I keep waiting to hit a paywall or find the point where the other shoe drops and the kind of stuff that ruins these type of experiences rears its ugly demonic head. So far so good, though, and I can safely say Shadowgun Legends is definitely worth checking out.

You can download Shadowgun Legends here: iOS/Google Play

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Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (Switch) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/donkeyongountryropicalreezewitchheerdverloadeview Sat, 12 May 2018 01:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com e9d1a973-f4bc-4a23-b7d0-7e993c45af09 Donkey Kong is back again, collecting bananas, balloons, and punching seals in the face in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze! Donkey Kong is back again, collecting bananas, balloons, and punching seals in the face in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze! In this brand new adventure, you'll find the titular ape trying to return to his home island after it has been taken over and flash-frozen by a group of artic Viking animals known as the Snowmads. Wait a minute... this isn't new at all! Yep, it's yet another Wii U port being barrel-cannon blasted on to your Switch. At least it's promising a new Funky Mode, right?

So you want to know what I think of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze? Well, you could always read** this review I wrote of the Wii U version four years ago**, because they are basically identical aside from the aforementioned "New Funky Mode", which is exactly what it sounds like, a new mode featuring the cutoff jorts-sporting surfer-dude gorilla Funky Kong as your main playable character. What does Funky Kong bring to the table (aside from 90s surfer dude attitude and a killer pair of shades)? Well, he basically removes all challenge from the game. He has a whopping total of five hit-point hearts from the start (DK maxes out at three and gets three more if he's traveling with a buddy (at least when playing in Funky Mode, anyway), he can double jump, slow his fall by propelling his surfboard, has an endless underwater corkscrew attack (DK's only propels forward a set distance) and has a snorkel that lets him breathe underwater. If that sounds overpowered to you, well, that's because it is. This mode is surely ideal for newbies or kids because the original version of the game (which, thankfully, is still there) can definitely be fairly challenging, although I never found it to be unfairly so. Unfortunately, if you are a skilled player or someone who played this game back when it was on the Wii U, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze's "New Funky Mode" brings nothing interesting to the table for you. He's definitely over-powered for a guy who has previously claimed he disliked adventures. Maybe because he finds them lacking in challenge?

Aside from the inclusion of Funky Kong and his Funky Mode, you can expect the bare minimum of performance enhancements. The game looks great and runs at a full 1080p when docked, which is a marked improvement over the original which maxed out at 720p. The load times are also significantly better, which keeps the game moving with the kind of enjoyable flow you would expect from a game like this. That's about it though, unless you get really excited about idle animations (Donkey Kong plays a Switch now!). Still no Engaurde the Swordfish (even though there's plenty of water) or new levels or the kind of new additions you would expect when you are paying a full $60 for a game that originally retailed for $50. They really should have included the original Donkey Kong Country Returns in this package like how Bayonetta 2 came with a download code for the first game on the Switch, that would have definitely made it worth the price of admission.

It sounds like I'm being really down on this game, but only because it is asking full price (which is actually $10 more than what the Wii U version retailed for) while doing the bare minimum, port-wise. The game itself is still incredible-- I'd go as far to say that Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is one of the most masterfully crafted platformer games ever created. I'd even say that it's better than anything the_ New Super Mario Bros._ series ever offered -- and this is a lot coming from somebody who has been an enormous fan of Mario's adventures since I was old enough to hold a controller. The art direction makes every level seem like a real and distinct place, unlike the cookie-cutter building block constructions that previous two dimensional Mario outings have. Tropical Freeze's levels are constantly introducing new elements and mechanics, then combining and remixing them into wonderful challenges.

As a huge platform game fanatic, any excuse to play through this game was good enough for me. It's just unfortunate the price of entry is pretty steep for a game that you might already have bought on the Wii U (although I suppose statistically that's pretty unlikely). If you still have it, or played it already, be aware you are getting mostly the exact same experience for more money. If you didn't own it before or skipped out on the Wii U generation, well, you're in luck because this is one of the greatest 2D platform adventures ever created-- with or without a New Funky Mode.

4-star

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was reviewed using a retail copy of the game I had to buy with my own damn money. Full disclosure here at Nerd Overload.

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The Alliance Alive (3DS) - The Nerd Overload Review https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/helliancelive3-heerdverloadeview Fri, 13 Apr 2018 01:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 6424d599-bce8-4f89-a697-5ea7a39fa628 I know we live in a post-3DS, Nintendo Switch world, but maybe there's a game out there that screams at you to not pack your 3DS away into storage. Maybe that game is Atlus' The Alliance Alive. I know we live in a post-3DS, Nintendo Switch world, where every game announcement that doesn't have a Switch release date attached to it is met with a sigh or a groan-- but hear me out on this one. Maybe there's a game out there that screams at you to not pack your 3DS away into storage (or sell it off to GameStop if you are one of those people). Maybe that game is Atlus' The Alliance Alive.

If you like JRPGs I'm going to not beat around the bush here and say you're going to have a cool, fun time with The Alliance Alive. Its gameplay rides the line between recognizable and different turn-based JRPG battles, its story, while not incredibly complex, throws enough interesting ideas and world-building concepts at the wall to where it definitely feels different than most JRPG adventures you may have taken in the past. If you enjoyed Square-Enix's Bravely Default games or this game's spiritual predecessor Legend of Legacy than you should start getting excited for The Alliance Alive right now.

This game does share a lot of pedigree and concepts with the aforementioned Legend of Legacy but manages to surpass it in almost every way imaginable. Where Legacy felt shallow in plot (heck, it was almost non-existent) Alliance builds an interesting, sectioned world with 3 races in conflict. While its nothing that will blow you away (I'd say it's on the level of something like a Final Fantasy V) it balances well with its gameplay and its unique cast of characters -- and they are a unique bunch!

Your group will fill with varied individuals that go from generic anime swordsman to blinded spellcaster to a cute girl inventor who has a monocle and stomps into every battle in huge power armor that looks like a bright yellow rubber ducky. Oh, and a married penguin father of three. The battle system allows you to use 5 characters at a time as well (instead of the traditional 4) which helps set things apart.

Speaking of the battle system, this game was designed by Kyoji Koizumi who worked in the SaGa franchise, and like those games, Alliance isn't afraid to throw in new systems and buck traditions to change things up. All your party members start every battle at full HP and death in battle leads to their max HP being dropped until they can rest up at an inn. New moves and attacks (each corresponding to one of the game's several weapon types) are learned at random just by using said weapon, and the probability that those random new moves will be learned can be tweaked thanks to the Talents system which lets you unlock perks for each character with Talents points you acquire by winning battles. Experience points are not a thing in the world of The Alliance Alive either, instead the game will randomly reward your characters with boosts to their maximum HP and SP when you win battles. You also arrange your five battling characters on a 3-by-5 grid, where different battle formations have different effects on the party members. It's just the right amount of complexity to keep things feeling fresh and interesting mixed with enough familiarity to push the right nostalgic buttons JRPG games like this love to hit. Any issues you might have with the story's depth or writing (which really isn't bad but isn't breaking any new ground, either) is more than made up for with the game's many well designed and interlocking systems -- and we haven't even gotten into Guilds yet!

You see, the "alliance" part of The Alliance Alive is where the Guild Tower system comes in. Throughout the game, you can get various guild towers (stuff like Recon, Tactics, or Blacksmith guilds) to join your cause-- giving you all sorts of perks and benefits during battle. Later in the game, you'll be finding characters to recruit to different guilds to raise that guild's level and even building guild towers of your choice at specific points on the game's world map. It's all very cool and you'll end up building a huge network of allied Guild Towers.

Speaking of the game's map, it actually does a couple pretty cool things you don't normally see in JRPGs, the most notable of all being vehicles! Early on in the game you are given an ornithopter (one of these) that allows you to glide around the map from one high point to another, letting you reach other parts of the world you couldn't get to by walking-- it's sort of like Zelda: Breath of the Wild's glider on a 3DS JRPG world map scale. You'll also get stuff like a cool boat, or use that aforementioned duck themed power armor to float on lava. The game's map has a rarely seen level of depth with these features (and the Guild Towers) rarely seen in games like this (it's definitely a lot more interesting than some chibi-fied character sprites sliding over pictures of trees or mountains like you usually get).

I guess this leaves us off at stuff like graphics and music, huh? Well, I'm happy to report those too are pretty great even for the late in its life 3DS. The backgrounds have this great 3D yet hand-drawn look not unlike Bravely Default and the character models and monsters strike a great balance between cute and cool. With artists whose past credits include both Final Fantasy and SaGa games you know you are in good hands. Great character designs like Tiggy (the scientist with the aforementioned power armor) and smart but absentminded daemon Viviana endear you to them almost instantly. Music-wise, the score is by Masayo Asano, whose past work is all over Square-Enix's back catalog and it shows. It's all good stuff.

If you are ready to tackle some new and different RPG systems, then The Alliance Alive is definitely worth a shot. The only downside is it can take a bit to wrap your head around the game's defiantly tradition-bucking systems, and sometimes the game can be a little obtuse about where you need to go next on your quest. It took me much too long to realize that the game wanted me exploring blindly into the unknown to find a new location, rather than trigger some event within the realms I had already discovered --especially when I had to dodge several extremely powerful water demons to get there.

If you are looking for a new JRPG experience that isn't afraid to try new things and break the rules, The Alliance Alive is something you should absolutely check out. If you are worn out by the re-used conventions most JRPGs religiously cling to, Alliance might be a breath of fresh air. After mainlining the first five classic Final Fantasy games and obsessively plowing through the first Wild Arms, it definitely was for me.

 4-star

The Alliance Alive (3DS) was reviewed using a digital download code provided by Atlus.

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of Wizard World Cleveland 2018 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-cleveland-2018 Mon, 12 Mar 2018 11:45:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 5f2dc320-7f2e-4bc7-a08f-0b568ed55255 Photo gallery from Wizard World Cleveland 2018! Last weekend, Sam from Nerd Overload made the trek up to Northern Ohio to attend Wizard World Cleveland 2018, one of the largest touring comic book and pop culture conventions in North America! While taking all that this convention had to offer, including the amazing panels, celebrity meet-and-greets, gaming areas, etc., he was also able to get a gander at a plethora of excellent cosplay, ranging from characters made popular from comic books to anime, from movies and TV to pop culture AND MORE!

Check them out below, or go follow Nerd Overload on our official Instagram page!

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Yakuza Kiwami (PS4) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/akuzaiwami4eview Mon, 04 Sep 2017 02:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 187ff672-f3fc-4d0f-97df-1f4d26c4ecf7 Review of Yakuza Kiwami for the PlayStation 4. The Yakuza series is a vastly underrated collection of games that seems to have come into a new renaissance as of late. Always a niche title that we were lucky if SEGA even decided to localize (an in a case of a few of the games in the series, got localized with chunks removed for cost and “cultural” reasons). Lucky for us though, the last several entries in the franchise (Yakuza 5, Yakuza 0 [the set in the eighties prequel I reviewed here] and even the zombie spin-off Yakuza: Dead Souls) did get to make the trip to our shores, and thankfully the game we’re here to talk about today, Yakuza Kiwami, got the US localization treatment as well.

Yakuza Kiwami _(Japanese for “extreme” I am told) is a remake of the original PS2 game in the series, simply titled, _Yakuza—which kind of puts it in a weird place. It has to go up against the recently released Yakuza 0, all while being a remake of the oldest game in the franchise. That’s a lot to juggle, but luckily Yakuza Kiwami mostly succeeds.

The Yakuza _series is sort of a delicious gameplay soup of _Final Fight style beat-'em-up mixed with a Grand Theft Auto style open world city (or more specifically a district of a city), and an intense Japanese crime drama filled with a lot of angry Japanese organized crime types giving each other intimidating grimaces while shirtless and displaying their intricate back tattoos. It’s a formula that sounds like it could be a mess, but it absolutely works – mostly because outside of its over-the-top serious storyline, it’s not afraid to stop taking itself so seriously every once in a while.

Yakuza Kiwami doesn’t stray from that formula (which being a remake is no surprise). You’ve got the excellent fighting system that seems like it would get repetitive fast but somehow doesn’t, you’ve got the district of Kamurocho as your playground once again, with plenty of ridiculous mini-game diversions, and you’ve got the fantastic crime drama as well. The only problem is, when you set it up against its older brother Yakuza 0, things just don’t stack up.

Yakuza Kiwami has a lot of the features that Yakuza 0 had, but it just doesn’t have as much. Sure it’s got the same kind of amusing sidequests, but they don’t seem to come nearly as often or be as entertaining. It’s got some great mini-game diversions—darts, bowling, batting cages, hostess clubs, heck even a collectible card battle game (that reuses the female wrestling mechanics of Yakuza 0) where scantily clad women dressed as different kinds of bugs wrestle it out for superiority. They’re all well and good and make it feel like Kamurocho is a real live place, but no of them are as good as stuff like Yakuza 0’s real estate or hostess club management games. Even the arcades seem sadly empty—gone are Yakuza 0’s timeline appropriate SEGA classics. Only the UFO catcher remains (and of course the lady-bug wrestling game, MesuKing). I know SEGA wants to hold on to its later classics so they can make you buy them again in poorly emulated iPhone ports, but would it of killed them to put at least one original 2005-era-appropriate game in there? When was the last time you did anything with Super Monkey Ball?

Speaking of things being “timeline appropriate”, this may seem like a nit-pick, but Yakuza 0 just doesn’t have the same sense of time as Yakuza 0. Sure, the 80s were long ago and a 1980s economic boom is much easier to characterize than the sort of nebulous mid-aughts are, but Yakuza Kiwami doesn’t give you the same feeling of being in a certain place AND time as Yakuza 0 does. I’m interested to know the Yakuza developers interpretation of being a Yakuza dude in Japan in 2005. Yakuza Kiwami feels like it could take place anytime between 2005 and now. Even the map doesn’t feel like much has changed in all that time (barring the Millennium Tower, of course).

Yakuza Kiwami is still a great game that is fun to play, and if you loved Yakuza 0 you’re going to have a good time with Kiwami too. It’s just missing a few things that could make it truly great. It actually makes a great starting point for beginners (being a remake of the first game and all) because you won’t come into it with the expectations that Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 5 create. Then you can be wowed by Yakuza 0’s larger breadth of content and amazing sense of time as well as place. If you like beat-'em-ups, ridiculous Japanese drama, or just have an off-the-wall sense of humor the Yakuza _series is worth checking out if you haven’t. _Yakuza Kiwami isn’t the best game the franchise has to offer, but it is a good place to start.

4-star

Yakuza Kiwami was reviewed using a digital download code provided by SEGA.

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Galaxy of Pen and Paper (PC) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/alaxyofenandapereview Thu, 27 Jul 2017 02:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com ccdb9a8c-67c9-44b7-a472-a0019b93b298 Galaxy of Pen and Paper takes the formula of the previous two Knights of Pen and Paper games and goes where no man has gone before-- space! Or to be specific, sci-fi parody space! Galaxy of Pen and Paper takes the formula of the previous two Knights of Pen and Paper games and goes where no man has gone before-- space! Or to be specific, sci-fi parody space!

You see, in both Knights and_ Knights II_ played with a very interesting premise, and that is that the entire game you were playing is a tabletop Dungeons and Dragons-style adventure being played by a dungeon master and his friends (which are fully customizable, adding a layer of fun personalization to your game). The whole game itself exists in the imaginations of these characters, which is a fun device that adds a lot to the game. These two games also reveled in some pretty witty and fun and extremely self-aware dialog and of course, Galaxy of Pen and Paper is no different, with entertaining real-world asides from the players and DM interspersed with the game's actual story itself. The whole thing is a light and fun affair that is entertainingly written, full of references to Star Wars, Star Trek,_ Doctor Who_ and hell, even The Magic School Bus. If anything will keep you playing this game it'll be for the story and see what jokes Galaxy of Pen and Paper will throw at you next. It's just as equally stellar in the graphics department as well, full of crisp, large, and well-animated sprite work that just looks excellent. Pixel graphics is a style that is done to death (especially for indie games like this) but when you do them this good that isn't really an issue. Musically it bucks the retro aesthetic and goes for high-quality instrumental tracks that sound great, fit the tone of the game, and are fairly catchy. Galaxy of Pen and Paper excels in all these categories.

Unfortunately though, it falters in the place that's the most important, the gameplay. You see, since you are playing as not just the adventuring party but also the dungeon master, all of the battles must be generated by you by picking the available monsters for an area off of a list, which does allow for an interesting risk/reward dynamic (how many creatures do I think I can handle for cash and prizes?) it creates a huge disconnect between the game's story and the meat of the game. Everything basically bottlenecks to a point where you are going to have to kill x amount of y creatures to advance the story, making the actual battle gameplay feel like busywork to get to the stuff that's good (the plot and the jokes). Sure the battle system is a fully featured affair with different skills and stats and all that stuff but the way that the encounter creating works it just sucks the fun right out of it because the game doesn't feel like a cohesive whole unit. It's the kind of formula that might work really well for a mobile game you can play on the go, where you can drop in and out for a couple battle you get to specify the complexity of, but as a game I have to sit down at my computer to play it kinda has all the fun of ticking in boxes on a spreadsheet, which is a shame, because Behold Studios previous game Chroma Squad  was fantastic fun, and also played with a similar real-life TV show/ imaginary sentai battles dual layer concept. That experience gelled into a cohesive whole, where Galaxy of Pen and Paper does not.

There's really fun writing, great pixel art graphics, and wonderful music in Galaxy of Pen and Paper. It's too bad you'll have to stomach some pretty tepid and mechanically dissonant gameplay to experience it. I'd honestly recommend picking up Chroma Squad instead.

3-star

This game was reviewed via digital download code provided by the game's developer or publisher.

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of Indy PopCon 2017 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-indy-popcon-2017 Tue, 11 Jul 2017 16:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com e64b6f70-2de3-4f5f-9072-51462429cf6d Photo gallery from Indy Pop Con 2017! Well, it's another year, and once again Sam from Nerd Overload made the trek to Indianapolis, Indiana to experience Indy PopCon 2017! Entering its fourth year, PopCon is a celebration of all aspects of pop culture, featuring comics, gaming, sci-fi, anime, internet culture, movies and television, music AND MUCH, MUCH MORE! From great guests and panels, to excellent artists and a wide variety of vendors, this year's PopCon was the best yet! And of course, wherever awesome fandom is found, a multitude of amazing cosplay is sure to follow!

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Puyo Puyo Tetris (Switch) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/puyo-puyo-tetris-switch-review Wed, 17 May 2017 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com abb4c991-bc04-431d-9101-925bc1abd3b7 The Nerd Overload review of SEGA's Puyo Puyo Tetris for the Nintendo Switch. Crossovers are fun, right? The Flintstones have met The Jetsons, The Simpsons have met Family Guy's Griffins, Steven Universe has met Uncle Grandpa, and hey, Amalgam Comics was a thing, wasn't it? There's no better way to get people psyched about something than that something being two respected and well-loved brands smashing into each other. It's why we get toys called Angry Birds Star Wars Jenga. That's three brands-- triple brand score! To get more to the point, the two biggest names in the puzzle game world have to be Tetris, the immortal block stacker, and Puyo Puyo, the classic blob juggler (which you may also recognize as the 16-bit era classics Kirby's Avalanche and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine). Why not bring those two all-time greats together into an explosion of falling object puzzling? It's seemingly a no-brainer but does Puyo Puyo and Tetris go together like peanut butter and jelly, or is it more like an orange juice and toothpaste style situation?

That depends on how much you personally like each title, honestly. You see, I'm a pretty die-hard Tetris guy. I love dropping and sorting those blocks as fast as possible (the very NES inspired Tetris DS is one of my all-time favorites). Puyo Puyo, on the other hand, it turns out, I'm not so hot on. The gameplay doesn't use your brain the same way Tetris does, where it almost seemingly reprograms your brain to identify, sort, and place tetrominoes, Puyo Puyo is all about laying the puyos (those little googly-eyed colored blobs) in patterns so once you line up enough to make a set disappear, it combos to make another disappear and so on and so on. These combos are what makes the largest amount of junk fall over on your opponent's screen and is the only way to come out ahead in versus mode. It requires an entirely different kind of thinking than Tetris and something that just isn't as enjoyable to me.

That said, though, that's just my own personal problem-- if you like Puyo Puyo (and there's nothing wrong with that) you'll find plenty to enjoy here in probably the best presentation the game's ever had. The high-resolution HD graphics make everything look super crisp, and the playable character art and design are great and super on point. The music is appropriately peppy and upbeat, and yes, it absolutely has that Tetris song.

It also has just an absolute ton of play modes. You can play regular Tetris and regular Puyo Puyo in regular and versus mode of course, but there are also modes that jam the two games together in a proper crossover fashion. Fusion mode puts puyos and tetrominoes together on one board, where 'minos sink to the bottom and colored puyos sit on top, effectively making you juggle both games on the same board. The other mode, Swap, make you play both games on two separate boards, which will switch out at different intervals. These two modes give you a very interesting and fun new way to enjoy both of these puzzle classics together, in a way you can't anywhere else. Included also are all the requite multiplayer modes (both online and off) with the local multiplayer making excellent use of the Switch's detachable Joy-con controllers. The simple controls aren't at all hampered by playing them on the tiny Joy-con. The only thing that irked me, control-wise, was the lack of a full d-pad, the closest thing being the Joy-con's plus-shaped layout of buttons. They work alright, but the feeling is just off. The control stick is fine, sure, but these kinds of 2D puzzlers are best played with the traditional cross-shaped D-pad, I think.

There is, of course, a single-player adventure mode that doles out 100 levels of different challenges (mostly pulling from the game's different play modes) with a healthy and reasonable difficulty curve. I especially like how each level gives you a star rating, giving you the incentive to come back and best your previous scores. These different levels are dished out between visual novel-style story cut-scenes which range from slightly charming to mostly annoying. While the characters are well-designed and cool looking, they're personalities add up to be mostly obnoxious tropes and generally annoying speech patterns. It's goofy, stupid, inane, and at it's worst annoying-- but it does manage to be relatively cute, and I suppose is better than nothing. The voice acting (and it is fully voiced, which is a nice touch) is good but it is your standard anime-style dub-job.

In the end, your mileage will vary depending on how much you enjoy the two puzzler franchises that are coming together. If you are a fan, you aren't going to find a more fully-featured and well-presented version of these two games-- and if you aren't, this crossover isn't going to change your mind.

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of Indy Pop Con 2016 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-indy-pop-con-2016 Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 0ecf910a-a068-4536-8e82-d1ea3eeffabe Photo gallery from Indy Pop Con 2016! Last weekend, I, Nerd Overload's resident Editor and self-described "Web Wizard" (or Webizard, if you will) Sam, made the trek out to Indianapolis, IN to attend a celebration of geek and pop culture, otherwise known as Indy Pop Con 2016! Celebrating it's third year, Indy PopCon is a host to a plethora of celebrities from all walks of life, from actors and musicians to YouTubers and podcasters, and of course, multitudes of fans in amazing cosplay!

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of #WizardWorld Columbus 2015 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-columbus-2015 Thu, 24 Sep 2015 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com af2ae698-7f3b-45a4-ae75-407436ce2f7c Photo gallery from Wizard World Columbus 2015! Once again, Nerd Overload in one way or another made it to Wizard World Columbus where we took in all the sights, sounds, and smells that Wizard World had to offer! While the bounty of wonderful cosplay pictures isn't quite as large as it has been in the past (thanks to colds and less of our staff members actually going), we've still got some fantastic cosplay from some fantastic cosplayers to show you thanks to the hard work of Sam and a new contributor Lori. Great work, guys!

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of #WizardWorld Cleveland 2015 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-cleveland-2015 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 004990d8-a3db-4837-9b87-f4dba49237b9 Photo gallery from Wizard World Cleveland 2015! Hey folks! Your favorite team of intrepid nerd reporters (the Nerd Overload staff, naturally) just got back from the annual Wizard World Comic Con in Cleveland Ohio! As you might expect, there was tons of great cosplay and NO staff members Sam and Samantha had their respective cameras at the ready to capture it all, just for you!

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of #WizardWorld Ohio 2014, Part 3 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-ohio-2014-part-3 Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com c35f7f3b-9042-464b-869a-5fce0db44561 Day 3 photo gallery from Wizard World Columbus 2014! So here it is everyone, the final roundup of awesome cosplay from this year's Wizard World Ohio Comic Con! Gonna make this short and sweet (cause I'm crazy exhausted and, let's face it, you're not here to read this), but I just wanted to say what an absolute blast this year's con has been! Over the course of the three days (or four, if you want to count the pre-party) I saw cool stuff, met some super rad people, and, most importantly, just flat-out had a good time.

Unfortunately, all good things have to end eventually, though, but hey... there's always next year, right?

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of #WizardWorld Ohio 2014, Part 2 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-ohio-2014-part-2 Sun, 02 Nov 2014 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 894151bc-1710-472c-a080-0904d6cc979f Day 2 photo gallery from Wizard World Columbus 2014! We're back for day two of this year's Wizard World Ohio Comic Con 2014! There were so many people wandering around in excellent costumes that we couldn't keep up, but we braved the crowds (and fought with a semi-faulty camera) to get the best cosplay pics the Con had to offer! Check 'em out!

(Oh, and apologies to the guy dressed as Instagram, there aren't enough filters in the world to salvage your pic. Sorry man.)

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Photo Gallery: The Cosplay (And More) of #WizardWorld Ohio 2014, Part 1 https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/photo-gallery-the-cosplay-and-more-of-wizard-world-ohio-2014-part1 Sat, 01 Nov 2014 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 553f6bb4-ae1f-43c1-8017-91937b5cf8d6 Day 1 photo gallery from Wizard World Columbus 2014! Well, folks, it's that wonderful time of year once again... no, I'm not talking about the pre-pre-Christmas holiday formerly known as Halloween. That's right, it's CONVENTION SEASON! And if there's one thing I've come to appreciate over the years of frequent con-going, it's cosplay. The sheer amount of time and effort these fine folks put into their costumes each and every year is just astounding, and the pics I've gotten of them this year are too good to keep to myself.

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Wizard World Ohio Comic Con 2013 Cosplay Extravaganza! https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/wizard-world-ohio-comic-con-2013-cosplay-extravaganza Tue, 24 Sep 2013 12:00:00 -0400 staff@nerdoverload.com 5913cdf9-4fd6-4ee3-901d-18f173daf295 Photo gallery from Wizard World Comic Con 2013! The Nerd Overload staff hit up Wizard World Ohio Comic Con last weekend, and it was totally awesome!  Our photographer extraordinaire Samantha managed to snap plenty of pics of the great cosplay going on, including our own Star Trek costumes.  Go ahead and hit the jump to see the gallery of great costumes, and be ready for more articles from the con in the coming days!

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Friday Clip-Show - Space Stallions [Video] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/friday-clip-show-space-stallions-video- Fri, 10 Feb 2012 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 449f5dcd-5162-42cb-9084-0cc311313fa9 It's Friday! Here's an awesome animatic for a fictional animated series called Space Stallions! This short film project from The Animation Workshop makes me all kinds of nostalgic for the ridiculously awesome cartoons from the 1980s.

And yes, I totally would've had all of the action figures.

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Gotham City Impostors (PS3)[Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/gotham-city-impostors-ps3-review- Wed, 08 Feb 2012 18:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 22f4ca0c-2975-408e-a534-c814097c1b02 Review of the game Gotham City Imposters. Sometimes an idea can just sound absolutely awful on paper. A Batman first-person shooter?  Batman doesn't even use guns!  Well, the developers at Monolith dodge that issue completely by making the combat go down between two the Bats and the Jokerz, two rival gangs, each fanboys (and girls) of either Batman or the Joker, donning ramshackle handmade costumes and fighting to the death throughout different areas in Gotham City.  So does it work?

Yeah, it pretty much works.  The gameplay itself is way solid, the controls are spot on, the shooting mechanics are pretty much flawless, and the three multiplayer-only game modes offer a decent amount of variety.  Once you're in the game itself everything is pretty excellent-- it's the fact that you have to unlock every damn feature by leveling up that sucks.  A lot of what I would consider the main selling points of the game are locked from the start!  Don't expect to be able to customize your Bats or Jokerz character until you reach level 8.  It's not that difficult of a feat to actually reach level 8, but it's annoying that you have no control over the look of your character until you've played for nearly an hour.  The content is served to you drip by drip through experience point unlocks, which is usually a good idea and a reasonable way to design your game, but when you start with literally jack squat and the inability to access almost everything on the menu put in front of you.  I'm surprised I didn't have to start the game weaponless and punch other players to earn the right to have a gun.  It's that ridiculous.

The graphics and sound are pretty stellar as well-- character designs are pretty funny, with some characters wearing cardboard box Batman cowls and all kind of craziness for the Jokerz.  The level art is kind of bland though, the colors all kind of run together and they lack the sharp contrasts and smart directional guideposts that Team Fortress has.  There's enough HUD information to keep you from getting lost, but TF2's maps are so well designed you hardly even have to think about where you need to go.  Sound-wise the voice work is fantastic, which is unfortunate because the writing isn't very funny.  As for music, I honestly can't remember anything about it, which I suppose means it isn't bad but definitely not at all fantastic.   The most standout thing about the gameplay is the unique ways a player can traverse the game's maps-- via grappling hook, glider wings, and roller skates.  On top of that, the levels are littered with air vents and trampolines that make getting around the stages a blast and makes me wish this game had a single player mode, or that somebody makes an FPS that the main character is always wearing roller skates. (Rollergirls vs. Aliens, anyone?)

The game itself is surprisingly similar to Valve's Team Fortress 2-- It's a class-based multiplayer FPS so it's naturally going to draw that comparison.  It's also really cartoony ( coming from a comic license you can expect that) and offers a barrage of character customization parts that can be earned in game or purchased with real cash.  The main difference between GCI and TF2 though is that TF2 is free to play and GCI has a $15 entrance fee, which begs the question, why even bother with Gotham City Impostors?  I mean it does a few things differently (like the unique ways to move around the level), but unless you are a huge Batman fan (and chances are if you are coming to this website you probably are) you might be better off playing Team Fortress for free.  Of course, if money is no object for you, then definitely check it out if this kind of thing appeals to you, it's totally a surprisingly solid experience.  I'm just saying there's a lower priced (free!) alternative out there that is just as good if not better.

Title: Gotham City Impostors
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform reviewed: PS3
Released: February 7, 2012
PXT Final Verdict: 8.0/10

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Friday Clip-Show: My Fandom Is Like Voltron [Video] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/friday-clip-show-my-fandom-is-like-voltron-video- Fri, 16 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 73ab59cc-c631-41c6-b767-f2e73b808ee9 It's Friday! Here's a music video for the song 'My Fandom is Like Voltron' by Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub. Have you ever tried to start an internet meme? Well, webcartoonists Kris Straub (Starslip, chainsawsuit) and Scott Kurtz (PvP, The Trenches) tried, and it looks something like this:

Actually, this is part of their comedy web series Kris and Scott's Scott and Kris Show. You can see all of their episodes over at Penny Arcade: PATV. Check it out!

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The Pull List #2 - “Electric Boogaloo” [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/the-pull-list-2-electric-boogaloo-review- Thu, 15 Dec 2011 13:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com d6c6990a-489a-4bd7-9b90-698ac316f5da Reviews for Resurrection Man #4, Uncanny X-Force #18, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #4, Suicide Squad #4, Green Lantern #4, Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #3 [of 6]. I'm going to be completely honest, I almost skipped this week's installment of The Pull List. You see, I have been fighting a real killer cold for the last week or so. Headaches, neck aches, nose and throat full of gunk... it's really affected my mood in new and interesting (and when I say interesting, I mean mostly negative) ways. But here I am, ready to review six randomly selected comic books from my weekly subscriptions. And why am I doing this, when I could have just as easily knocked myself out with some cold medicine and fallen asleep while watching reruns of Family Matters? For you, dear readers. All six of you.

Anyway, you're here, I'm sick... let's get this over with.

  • Resurrection Man #4 (Abnett, Lanning, Dagnino)

Plot: Every time Mitch Shelly dies, he comes back to life with a different superpower. He was hunted constantly in his previous book from the early-to-mid-90s, and this series is no different. Although this time, it's not just evil military sects and power-mad kinda-sorta zombie guys after him, but also agents of Heaven and Hell as well.

This book picks up in the middle of a battle between the Body Doubles, two supermodel mercenaries with deadly skill with firearms and vague superhuman abilities, and the newly-introduced Transhuman, an old guy in a robot suit who had befriended Shelley. There's some fighty-fighty, then Suriel, one of Heaven's collection agents, comes down and disintegrates our hero.

Opinion: Resurrection Man has, thus far, been pretty great, with a nice mix of action and exposition. Unfortunately, this issue kind of stumbles for me. There's a character reveal about halfway through the book that I think would've fallen a bit flat for anyone who was not familiar with the previous run (I, on the other hand, was delighted by it). And the cliffhanger would normally be great for other books, but when your main character regularly dies, all of the suspense was gone. On the other hand, there were a lot of panels of hot chick fighting an old robot guy, and that's awesome.

Grade: Skim

  • Uncanny X-Force #18 (Remender, Opena, White)

Plot: X-Factor is currently a team of mutants led by Wolverine who are willing to take on missions that the other X-Men teams won't, namely missions that involve killing. Right now, the team is neck-deep with problems dealing with a major baddie named Apocalypse and an alternate timeline wherein Apocalypse took over the world. I'm skimming over a lot of stuff here, but to be honest, a lot of this stuff is ridiculously confusing.

Anyway, on our Earth, Apocalypse has been killed, however, a member of X-Force named Angel (or Archangel depending on his mood) has become the new Apocalypse. Angel-pocalypse is currently trying to wipe out humankind in order to rule whoever is left over. The leftover team of X-Factor are in the process of stopping him and are currently being helped out by the alternate timeline's version of the X-Men. This issue is the conclusion of this story arc. Not gonna spoil it, but here's a hint... good guys win, bad guys lose, sacrifices are made.

Opinion: First off, this comic was poly-sealed, meaning there was a solid plastic bag preventing a reader from actually reading this book. This is done to make collectors think they have purchased a rare item. Now, I can understand why DC pulled this stunt for the Death of Superman arc, and why Marvel did to more recently for the return of the Human Torch in FF #600. But Uncanny X-Force #18? That is just dumb.

This book is OK. Super confusing and near impossible for a non-X-Men fan to crack, but the art is very nice, especially the few panels that take place inside the mind of a character. Also, I hope to see more of the new hero Genesis and his crazy southern accent.

Grade: Pass* (The asterisk is because this would definitely be a Skim, but in order to read it you have to buy it, and if you're not a die-hard fan, there's no reason to drop $4.)

  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #4 (Lemire, Pontichelli)

Plot: Frankenstein's Monster is a member of a supernatural peacekeeping agency and leader of a unit consisting of a suck-up Werewolf, a surly Vampire, a genius Creaturette (of the Black Lagoon), a mystic Mummy, and Franks's ex-wife, who is a four-armed Bride of Frankenstein.

If this doesn't sound awesome to you, I don't know if we can be friends anymore.

Currently, Frank and Co. are fighting an alien planet made out of monsters. That is all.

Opinion: Pure joy. That's what I feel every time I read this series. Lemire doesn't pull any punches with the off-the-chain action and insane concepts. The art, while not my favorite, works with the style of story that is being told.

Grade: Buy

  • Suicide Squad #4 (Glass, Dallocchio)

Plot: Task Force X, codenamed The Suicide Squad, is a reluctant team of supervillains who do impossible jobs in exchange for time off their prison sentence.

The team has infiltrated a bland secret society and abducted a scientist. Flash villain Captain Boomerang is left for dead, and no one really cares.

Harley Quinn's rebooted costume still sucks, but at least she's not referring to her ladyparts as a clown car.

Opinion: I don't know why I keep buying this book. It's like a train wreck, I guess... it's horrible but you just can't look away. Easily the worst of the rebooted DC titles.

Grade: Pass

  • Green Lantern #4 (Johns, Mahnke, Alamy, Champagne)

Plot: Green Lanterns are space cops. Hal Jordan of Earth was recently fired during a storyline that is too long to explain here and was replaced by long-time baddie Sinestro.

Sinestro has recruited Jordan to help clear out his old throng of evil Yellow Lanterns, who have taken hold of his home planet. Right now, that's not working out too well for either of them.

Opinion: Much like Red Lanterns from last week, this book is nigh-impossible to crack without a lot of pre-reading. However, I think maybe a little bit of enjoyment from a casual fan can be gotten from this book. And I trust Geoff Johns enough to ultimately write a satisfying Green Lantern story, even if it takes way more issues to tell the story than it should.

Grade: Skim

  • Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #3 [of 6] (Robinson, J. Moy, P. Moy)

Plot: The basics – the Legion of Super-Heroes is a team of teenage aliens from the future who, back in the 1960s, time traveled to the present to pull pranks on a young Clark Kent. There is a versed and extensive history behind this team, most of which I know nothing about. And the Star Trek in question here is the original, William Shatner cast.

This is the point where the two groups square off, believing each other are enemies. The soon discover they're on the same side, then team up to fight some amalgamated Legion/Trek villains. Eventually, they discover that somehow both their timelines have been mixed up, and they need to split up in order to save the day.

Opinion: I don't know how this book exists. By all accounts, this book shouldn't work... but for the third issue in a row, it does. I just hope the quality and story will last another three issues. There's really only one qualm I have with this crossover: NO SCOTTY.

Grade: Buy

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The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (1972) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/the-fighting-fists-of-shanghai-joe-1972-review- Tue, 13 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com a5389d2f-ffb1-43ef-acf9-e74bb174718e Review of the 1972 spaghetti-kung fu-western The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe. Some movie are, by design, rooted in the real world. For example, classic films like Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars or Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai are totally fictitious, yet are easily accessible to audiences because they are anchored to real-life places and time periods. And then sometimes, you get a film about a kung-fu master who travels to the Wild West in order to protect Latino farmhands from incredibly racist ranchers.

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe is one of the latter.

The Fighting Fist of Shanghai Joe (also known as My Name is Shanghai Joe, To Kill or to Die, and The Dragon Strikes Back) is the story of Chinese immigrant Chin Hao (Chen Lee) and his attempt to live the American Dream by traveling to Texas and start some sort of barely-defined farm or ranch. He is met with a ridiculous amount of racism and abuse from nearly everyone he meets. Eventually, he is duped into becoming a near slave by probably the most corrupt Texas rancher/cattle smuggler stereotype I've ever seen (Piero Lulli). The film really starts to pick up at this point, as Hao injures/humiliates the rancher, escapes, and picks up an attractive Mexican sidekick Cristina (Carla Romanelli). All is not well for Hao, however, as the rancher hires a cadre of murderers and bounty hunters to eliminate our heroes, including crazy characters such as Pedro the Cannibal (Claudio Undari) and Scalper Jack (Klaus Kinski). Of course, these men are no match for Hao's skill. Oh, did I mention that Hao is one of only two people in the world who is a part of a super-secret society of kung-fu called the Fire Lotus? Didn't I? Well, that's because the film doesn't tell us until this point either. And guess what? The other Fire Lotus guy (George Wang) just happens to be moonlighting as a mercenary in Texas. What a coincidence! What follows is an epic-ish showdown that has to be seen to be believed.

This movie is ridiculous. First off, I really enjoy the wacky results of this genre mash-up between Kung-Fu flick and Western. I think the two genres work very well with each other, much like peanut butter and chocolate, or Skittles and Sprite (seriously, try it). As an added bonus, The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe was filmed in Italy during the 1970s, which only adds to the campiness by supplying the film with odd shots, crazy voice overdubbing (which actually adds to the off-track nature of standard kung-fu films), and chintzy special effects on par with the ever-popular Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Puma Man.

In short, this is a pretty cheap, technically awful B-movie. I'm not going to argue that one bit. However, this film has a very engaging story, and Chen Lee plays the titular character quite well. He is heroic and disciplined without becoming completely emotionless and two-dimensional. This may very well have saved the movie from being complete dreck. Another standout is Klaus Kinski as Scalphunter Jack. Kinski's role was minuscule (clocking in at just under 10 minutes out of the 1 hour 40 minute running time!), but he somehow gave the character depth. The score by Bruno Nicolai is pretty epic as well, with heavy acoustic guitar and trumpet, which is actually pretty common with Spaghetti Westerns.

Shanghai Joe would be great (well, great for low-budget fare), if not for the overabundance of racial slurs. I mean, I'm no prude by any means, but there is at least one derogatory term (all of which I've decided not to include here) every 30 seconds. That is not an exaggeration. Asians, African-Americans, Latinos, Caucasians, the Irish... no one is spared. I guess that makes it OK, right? (Don't answer that.)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the final fight between our hero and the rogue Shaolin master Yang. This duel plays like a standard western showdown, except the characters are trading blows, not bullets. There is extremely choreographed karate, “expert” knife throwing, swordplay, and yes, at one point the evil Yang pulls a gun on Hao. The gun is only revealed after Hao straight cuts off Yang's hand, only to have Yang cauterize his wound by shoving his bloody stump into an open fire. And the culmination of the scene where – SPOILER ALERT FOR A 40-YEAR-OLD MOVIE – Hao catches a bullet then punches clean through Yang is pretty hardcore.

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe is, in short, a goofy, cheaply made film. It was never intended to set the world on fire or radically change anyone's perception of cinema. However, it is a different take on the Western and Kung-Fu genres, and a whole, it gets it right more times than not. And honestly, I'd rather watch an interesting mess than a boring, formulaic big-budget blockbuster. That's why I'm giving The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe 3 ½ stars out of 5*.

*When it comes to rating B-movies, I will be determining the score based on other B-movies, meaning this film and, say, for example, Ghostbusters II can both be worth 3 ½ despite their staggering differences in quality. It's all relative, guys.

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Friday Clip-Show - Italian Spiderman [Video] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/friday-clip-show-italian-spiderman-video- Fri, 09 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 2bd3d905-bb45-4f24-9927-0c2a6bf706f9 It's Friday! Here's episode 1 of the internet sensation Italian Spiderman! It's Friday, and I don't have anything to write about, so here's a YouTube video for you all! This week, I give you the classic Italian Spiderman. Enjoy!

Italian Spiderman is a film parody of Italian action–adventure films of the 60s and 70s, first released on YouTube in 2007. The parody purports to be a "lost Italian film" by Alrugo Entertainment, an Australian film-making collective formed by Dario Russo, Tait Wilson, David Ashby, Will Spartalis and Boris Repasky.

Ostensibly an Italian take on the comic book superhero Spider-Man, the film is a reference to foreign movies that misappropriate popular American superheroes such as the Indian version of Superman (1987), I Fantastici Tre Supermen (3 Fantastic Supermen) (1967) and La Mujer Murcielago (The Batwoman) (1968). It also resembles the movie The Bathman dal pianeta Eros (1982).

A trailer was released, followed by a full-length feature made up of ten mini-episodes.

  • From Wikipedia
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The Pull List #1- “Pull List Begins” [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/the-pull-list-1-pull-list-begins-review- Thu, 08 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com c616a7ca-b04c-4ed2-aba0-454d3e56aacd Reviews of Defenders #1, Batwing #4, Daredevil #6, Red Lanterns #6, Green Arrow #4 and Animal Man #4 Hiya, folk! Welcome to Nerd Overload's first weekly special column, one in which I take a look at six randomly selected comic books from my weekly subscriptions and do super-quick reviews on them. This article will run every Thursday (the day after New Releases are out), and I'll also be rating each book as a Buy, Skim, or Pass.

Now, before I begin, there is one little point I'd like to make so that I don't get a deluge of e-mails later. As the weeks go by, those of you who read this column will notice that I will be reviewing more DC Comics books than Marvel, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, IDW, Image, or any other publisher. No, I am not in any way affiliated with DC Comics. Yes, I enjoy Marvel books a great deal. Yes, I know that I may not read what is widely regarded as “the best books being made at this time.” Finances being what they are, I simply can't afford to pick up and review a comic outside of my current subscriptions. I'm sorry, I just can't do it.

OK! Enough of the prologue, let's get into some comic books!

  • The Defenders #1 (Fraction, Dodson, Dodson, Oback)

Plot: Almost a year ago real-time, a number of heroes and villains were possessed by evil Asgardian entities and wrecked havoc across the Marvel Universe. Or something like that. I don't know. I didn't read it. Anyway, the entity that had possessed The Hulk has split from him and is preparing to destroy the world. Doctor Strange (magic guy), Namor (angry Atlantian king), Silver Surfer (galactic powerhouse), Red She-Hulk (don't ask), and Iron Fist (super-rich kung-fu master) are thrown together to save the day. Hasn't worked out well for them so far.

Opinion: Not knowing anything about the Fear Itself crossover event from Marvel did not hamper my ability to catch on to the plot at all. Matt Fraction's takes on our lead characters are fresh and interesting, and Terry and Rachel Dodson's pencils/inks are outstanding. Looking forward to the next issue.

Grade: Buy

  • Batwing #4 (Winick, ChrisCross, Winn) Plot: Batman has set up bat-themed agents in each country to help spread his brand of justice. David Zamvimbi is the jetpack-wearing “Batman” of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Batwing is currently on the hunt for a madman named Massacre, a guy who is murdering former members of the now-defunct African team The Kingdom. But that's not important right now. What we learn in this issue is that Batwing used to be a ruthless killer for a warlord when he was a kid, and as a reader, we know he'll find Massacre because Batwing is a bad***.

Opinion: This issue is filler. Batwing is a pretty new character, but I didn't really need to read his shady past and his abilities as a fighter at this point. Batman hand-picked him to be a hero, that should be enough. Also, it only took Judd Winick four issues to sneak AIDS into the story (a plot point that is evident in almost all of Winick's writing).

Grade: Pass

  • Daredevil #6 (Waid, Martin, Vicente)

Plot: Daredevil fights a luchador. Sure, There's this whole other thing where five to the most dangerous gangs in the Marvel U wants a flash drive made out of a Fantastic Four emblem, but the real story is that luchador fight.

Opinion: This one of the best books Marvel is putting out right now. Mark Waid has recaptured the fun and excitement that has been lacking in previous incarnations of this book. Also, did I mention that Daredevil fights a luchador? 'Nuff said.

Grade: Buy

  • Red Lanterns #4 (Milligan, Benes, Bernard, Hunter)

Plot: Red Lanterns are like Green Lanterns, only powered by rage. It's basically a bunch of mindless aliens vomiting red hate-energy all over the place. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Atrocitus, leader of the Red Lanterns, starts chucking members into a lake of either lava or blood (probably both) so they can have sentient thoughts, then travels to Earth to possibly induct an angry British man into his crimson club.

Opinion: Believe it or not, I kinda liked it. But for anyone else to understand what the heck is going on, be prepared to read 5 years worth of Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Ion, and Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors back issues, as well as the Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and War of the Green Lanterns crossover event books. Or spend, like, a day and a half on Wikipedia looking it all up.

Grade: Skim

  • Green Arrow #4 (Giffin, Jurgens, Perez)

Plot: Oliver Queen is essentially DC's version of Steve Jobs if Jobs was a lazy jerk. He's also a Batman-Meets-Robin-Hood superhero, who is also a jerk.

This issue, Ollie finally has to catch up on his “day job.” An assassin named Blood Rose tries to injure Oliver, then kill Green Arrow. His's sidekicks tell him via headset which trick arrows to use because I guess he's not smart enough to think on his own. The end.

Opinion: This book is in a flux, which is weird since it's only the fourth issue. It's serviceable, with decent art and an OK plot. I like Keith Giffen's other work quite a bit, so I'm not ready to give up on this one yet. I hate his costume redesign, though.

Grade: Skim

  • Animal Man #4 (Lemire, Foreman, Huet)

Plot: Buddy Baker is a part-time stuntman, part-time superhero with vague animal powers. Everything was fine for him (relatively) until his daughter Maxine started displaying disturbing powers of her own. Now they are entrenched in a battle between The Red (source of animal life and Buddy's powers) versus The Rot (essentially decay and death).

This issue, Buddy battles a grotesque being inside The Red, we learn the origin of the book's villains, and Maxine gains an otherworldly mentor because I guess she's the chosen one or something. Also, Buddy's son is eaten/absorbed by The Rot.

Opinion: Past incarnations of the Animal Man title has always been a bit of a head-trip, and this one is no exception. Travel Foreman's art is very sketchy and detailed, and he does deform monstrosities very, very well. This is not a superhero book, but rather a supernatural horror story in which the lead character just happens to wear tights. It is also one of the best books being put out by DC at this time.

Grade: Buy

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PS3, Singleplayer) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-3-ps3-singleplayer-review- Tue, 06 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 844b9833-8203-4608-8587-eb2e80814731 Review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I'm going to be completely upfront here with this review, I haven't been a fan of this franchise or genre.  The idea of a military first-person shooter just doesn't appeal to me. I've never been one to play "war" as a kid, why would I want to play a glorified expensive version as an adult? Plus I don't feel like I fall into their target demographic, being neither a frat boy or an angry, angst-filled 14-year-old.  I thought though, why not broaden my horizons?  Plenty of people seem to like these games, hell, some folks buy consoles just to play them! Maybe there's something I'm missing, being that the last Call of Duty game I played was on the PS2 and had me storming the beaches of Normandy...although that could have been Medal of Honor, I dunno.  It was a long time ago. Regardless, I'm sure you get the point, this is not my genre-- but why not give it a shot?  I'm going to be open-minded about it.  Maybe it's not as bad as I think.

Initially, I did have a little bit of fun, I mean, the graphics are good and the shooting mechanics are definitely solid.  It's nearly impossible to distinguish your enemies from your squad mates (who have names like "Grinch", "Truck" and "Sandman"-- you know, stuff that only an 8-year-old would think is cool)  though-- everybody just looks like grey army guys.  The opening level takes place in New York, which to me feels like the developers just trying to be post-9/11 edgy, which is lame.  Also, I can't interact with the environment in any way-- can't open the cupboards, flip switches, or mess with anything.  It certainly doesn't help immersion any.  The only way you can interact with anything either by shooting it or blowing it up.  It's like I'm playing as a person who only has one verb in their vocabulary: shoot.  Occasionally you'll place a bomb or give a guy a life-saving injection or something, but this just involves pushing one button.  Why not have some sort of mini-game?  Hell, even the generally disliked Quick Time Event would spice these moments up and make it feel like you are capable of doing more than firing a gun.  You play as multiple characters throughout the campaign too, but since all they do is shoot, shoot, shoot, there's nothing that makes any of them feel any different from the others, from both a character development or gameplay standpoint.

The pacing is horrendous as well.  It never slows down!  You'd think that'd be a cool thing, I mean amazing action all the time, right?  No.  When you have over the top bullcrap happening all the time, you kind of get desensitized.  I mean, when you get no downtime to calm down, it dulls the impact of the amazing moments.  Give me a hallway to walk down where there aren't guys trying to kill me.  Build some suspense and give me a chance to decompress and think about all the awesome stuff going on.  There's no arc, it's just a straight line.  Every good entertainment experience follows a given arc for maximum enjoyment. Here's the arc for the nearly universally acclaimed Star Wars: A New Hope (you know, one of the good Star Wars movies!):

See how it builds up and calms down, all while maintaining constant escalation.  This is how you pace a game, movie, anything.

This is Modern Warfare's pacing.  It just doesn't work-- it takes away from the cool moments, sets the base expectations too high, and just stays there the whole time.  Give me some cooldown time, have me walk down a hallway and listen to some exposition from my squad mates, anything.  I don't have the attention span of a gnat, I don't have to always be shooting something.  If you want some great information about video game pacing (or any pacing for that matter) check out this episode of Extra Credits. (Which also gets credit for the amazing Star Wars pacing chart.)

It's not like MW3 isn't enjoyable though, you just have to straight up turn your brain off.  It's the Micheal Bay movie of video games.  If you just want to play a game where you shoot some stuff and things blow up a lot, it probably doesn't get better than this (except maybe Duke Nukem Forever-- at least it knows how dumb it is).  If you're looking for an engaging plot or innovative and new gameplay experiences, you'd best look elsewhere.  I can see the game's appeal, but it's just not for me.  There is a lot of room for improvement though.

Title: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Developer: Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activison
Platform reviewed: PS3
Released: November 8, 2011
PXT Final Verdict: 6.0/10

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The Muppets (2011) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/the-muppets-2011-review- Mon, 05 Dec 2011 12:15:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 1bcf0005-6965-4448-8474-27addc8b862e Review of the 2011 film The Muppets. Ever since I was a kid, there have been three main major pop culture constants in my life: Adam West's Batman, the musical styling of Weird Al Yankovic, and the Muppets. Sure, as I grew older, other facets of geekdom crept in and molded me into the fully-functioning manchild that I am today... HOWEVER- Adam West, Weird Al, and Muppets have been there since the beginning. When it comes to the Muppets, I have bared witness to the veritable roller coaster of quality that the franchise has gone through, from the good (the first two movies, Muppet Christmas Carol, and even the short-lived Muppets Tonight!) to the bad (Muppet Treasure Island, Muppet Wizard of Oz, Muppets from Space... pretty much anything after 1999). And then, save for a few brief appearances, Kermit and the gang disappeared from the public eye.

And sadly, I went on with my life, resigned to the reality that the Muppets were old news. And then, around a year and a half or so ago, I read a brief article stating that someone, namely that guy from How I Met Your Mother that's not NPH, had written a script that would, hopefully, invigorate the Muppet franchise... and I couldn't be happier. I waited for the film to be released, sometimes literally on the edge of my seat. I finally got a chance to check out The Muppets last week, and I'm here to tell you, it was worth the wait.

The Muppets is the story of Walter, a small nose-less Muppet, his human brother Gary (Jason Segel), Gary's girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and their attempt to save the run-down Muppets Theater from being demolished by an evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Well, I guess it's less of a story, and more of a general framework so that Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo the Great, Miss Piggy, and the rest to sing, dance, and get into various forms of mayhem. There was also a secondary plot involving Gary and Mary's troubled relationship, but I'll get into that a little later.

First off, the writers and director really nailed the right tone for the film. I was a bit worried that because the Muppets are currently property of the House of Mouse the film would come off a bit too sweet and “kiddie-fied,” and while it had its moments, it balanced out the humor for kids and adults nicely. I will say that there were a few downright depressing moments as well, especially a scene early on which involves Kermit singing about how he will probably never see his friends again to a hallway filled with paintings for said friends, all who sing back to them. This reviewer may have shed a man-tear at that moment and is not ashamed to say it.

It wouldn't be a Muppet movie without the myriad of celebrity guest stars, and The Muppets does not disappoint. While I'm not going to spoil all of them for you (there are Wikipedia and IMDB for that), I will say that my favorite celebrity appearance was by Zach Galafanakis near the end of the film. His part was very, very small and completely non sequitur, but struck me as incredibly funny. The songs were catchy and well done and added to the nostalgic feel of the flick.

The movie isn't perfect, though. The newest character, Walter, is pretty bland, both in personality and looks. He is very clearly the “Mary Sue,” the writer's way of inserting him/herself into the story, which is odd because Segel already wrote himself into it! Also, the Muppets themselves don't entirely sound the way they used to, however, this is both well established from other pop culture references and completely understandable. The biggest problem I had with this film was not with the Muppets, but with the human character side story. In a nutshell, it revolves around Mary general disdain for Gary's fascination/obsession with the Muppets and his inability to grow up and marry her. While I understand that there's a time and place to act like a kid, and a time and place to act like an adult, there is no reason why Gary should be forced to choose between the two. I mean, I have a job (or two), I have bills to pay, but that doesn't mean I have to give up any of the things that I am interested in, and neither should Gary. Finally, the fact that Walter the Muppet came from two human parents raises some very weird questions, but I've decided to let that one go because, hey, it's just a movie.

All in all, The Muppets is a fun, nostalgia-filled romp that will delight audiences both young and old, and worth of 4 out of 5 stars. I for one look forward to where the franchise will go from here, whether it be in the form of another film or (fingers crossed) a revival of the weeknight TV show. Only time will tell.

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Kirby's Return to Dreamland (Wii) [Review] https://www.nerdoverload.com/articles/kirby-s-return-to-dreamland-wii-review- Mon, 05 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500 staff@nerdoverload.com 86fe9605-18ca-4f82-a77d-8ef953459ccf Review of Kirby's Return to Dreamland for the Nintendo Wii. Kirby, Nintendo's bouncy pink ball of fun has been in a lot of strange games lately. He's been turned into yarn, split into ten smaller versions of himself, and rode rainbow lines drawn by the player in Canvas Curse. Heck, even before that he was tilted around in an early motion control experiment for Gameboy Color called Kirby's Tilt n' Tumble. All these games though are deviations from the original Kirby formula, the one created in Kirby's Dream Land and perfected in later titles like Kirby's Adventure and Kirby's Super Star. There hasn't been a new traditional Kirby game since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards in 2000. After his 11 year experimental phase (perhaps he was finding himself?) Kirby is back in a traditional platforming, power-stealing adventure! But how does it hold up, and was 11 years worth the wait?

At first glance, yes, this is the Kirby game that fans of the series have been clamoring for. Kirby's power stealing abilities are back and better than ever, with even a couple new ones thrown in. Not only that, but littered around the levels are Super Abilities which act as amped-up versions of other powers throughout the game. They grant Kirby amazing screen-clearing super moves that are quite fun to unleash on Kirby's unsuspecting enemies, from humongous hammers to giant swords that cleave both the enemies and the ground itself in twain. The whole thing is controlled with a sideways Wiimote, like New Super Mario Bros. Wii or Donkey Kong Country Returns. It works well, Kirby controls just as well as he did eleven years ago, and it doesn't have the awkward remote shaking like in NSMB (used to pick up objects) or DKR (weird blowing move). The only time shaking the remote is required really is when having Kirby perform a charged up version of his regular suction attack-- and since you can't walk or jump anyways while inhaling, it never gets in the way or happens accidentally.

Challenge-wise it's perfect for a Kirby game, fairly easy for beginners but with hidden challenge for experienced Kirby fans. Each level has a set number of energy orbs to find, and finding those orbs is where the challenge lies. They are well hidden, and never feel cheap or obnoxious to have to go back and collect. The orbs are used to unlock really cool and innovative challenge levels that really tax your Kirby skill-- these levels track you for speed, collecting hidden coins, and not getting hit-- then reward you with a medal rating based on these factors. It's a really cool little bonus that adds greatly to the game's replay value. The other orb unlockables include 2 mini-games (one that is incredibly boring and has been in probably a half-a-million Wii games already, and one that is pretty neat and a lot like the SNES Super Scope game Battle Clash.) and rooms that let you pick up one of Kirby's abilities whenever you want, which is purely added convenience. The game's challenge does ramp up toward the later levels but is never anything all that fierce. It's a decently long game as well, and just when you think it's over it throws some more worlds at you to complete, which is always fun. Who doesn't love to be surprised by more content?

There's multiplayer as well, were your pals can jump in at any time in the form of King Dedede (identical to Kirby's Hammer power), Meta Knight (sword power), Waddle Dee (spear power) or another different colored Kirby. If you aren't a Kirby though you are stuck with one moveset throughout the entire game, which is kind of disappointing, but they are given some moves that Kirby can't do when he has their corresponding ability, which I guess eases the sting of such a limited moveset. The multiplayer is really nothing to write home about, it works, and you can jump in and out whenever you want. It isn't quite as involved as New Super Mario Wii's (you won't be bounding off each other and doing the co-op/competing thing) but it's a lot better than say, Donkey Kong Country Returns. It's just there because at this point, it's expected in these modern 2D platformer throwback games. It's competent and that's about it.

So it all sounds pretty good, right? Well, for the first several worlds it is. I was enamored with this game, it was nonstop smiles and excitment for at least 3/4 of the game. Then something happened. I realized I was getting bored. There just becomes a point where the game just runs out of new stuff to show you and interesting experiences for you to have. I felt like I was going through the motions at that point. No game should give you this feeling, let alone a Kirby game. I think the fault comes in predictable level design. All the puzzles keep using the same few elements (cannons, ropes to be cut, certain blocks need exploded) that become predictable by about the fifth or sixth world. I mean how many times, really, can it be fun to light a fuse then run to a cannon? Playing multiplayer probably helps this from happening, but it really shouldn't be a necessity. The level's graphic design isn't all the spectacular either, and while some of the backgrounds are lush and cool looking, the actual play areas are made of obvious building blocks and aren't as creative and interesting as the ones in Donkey Kong Country Returns where each level's backgrounds seem specifically designed to each be uniquely interesting, original, and memorable. They could stand to make use of multiple layers of the environment as well-- when Kirby rides a warp star it should look as cool as DK being shot out of barrels.

Overall, though, it's really not a bad game. Before it started repeating itself I had a great time with it. The gameplay is pure old school Kirby fun, and if you have ever enjoyed a Kirby game in any capacity you'll find stuff to like in Kirby's Return to Dreamland. There's plenty of additional and unlockable content to extend the replay value too, so you're definitely getting enough Kirby bang for your buck. There's just some niggling design flaws and things that could be better, but for what it is, it's decidedly not bad.

Title: Kirby's Return to Dreamland
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii
Released: October 24th, 2011
PXT final verdict: 8.0/10

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