Monthly Archives: August 2014

Felix the Cat

FelixTitle“How did it ever get made?” That is often said of crappy stuff. But this is actually not a bad game but I still must ask, “How did it ever get made?” Felix the Cat was a cartoon and comic book character whose most popular incarnation was probably the 1950s cartoon that this game seems based on. This version uses a magic bag that can change into anything. When Albert-Einstein-caricature, The Professor, and his blundering assistant, Rock Bottom, find out about the bag, they decide they want it.

The reason I am surprised this game ever got made was because the series of shorts that it is based on wasn’t that big a hit. I watched a lot of classic cartoons in my childhood but never did come across this one on TV. I did rent a VHS tape with many episodes upon seeing the game in Nintendo Power Magazine, but that is the limit of my childhood memory of the character. So buyers were likely confined to a modest number of parents who still remembered this show vividly. Of those, probably only those who wanted a game they might play with the kid who received it on Christmas actually bought it. Even many of these parents walked away from it because by 1992, the jury was in that licensed games often suck. Probably the reason this game was made is because the animated movie about the character was a recent release. Except that this film did poorly. So I don’t figure that Felix the Cat did so well, either.

With that said, this would not be one of the bad licensed games. It’s not great either. While not the most original of games (see the Gameplay category), it is an OK experience.

Plot: 5 out of 10

Felix’ girlfriend, Kitty, has been kidnapped by The Professor. Another game with this old idea. Another problem is the use of The Professor’s nephew, Poindexter. He wasn’t actually evil and, in fact, was friends with Felix in other media. Yet he’s a boss in this game. One redeeming factor is the sheer number of characters that are used. Felix, Kitty, The Professor, Rock Bottom, Poindexter, Master Cylinder, and King Blob all make an appearance.

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Also, why does Felix keep coming home after every level just to hear The Professor’s evil rants?

Graphics: 8 out of 10

Everybody looks just like they do in the comics and cartoons. The NES’ capabilities are stretched to make them look authentic. Regular enemies are mostly original creations that look pretty good, too. Backgrounds are likewise done really well for the era.

Sound: 5 out of 10

Plenty of songs, but all just so-so. It’s rather difficult to remember them very well. They just aren’t significant in any way.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

Felix’ magic bag is utilized with a power-up system. Floating orbs with Felix’ face in them count towards a heart jumping up and then coming down. Hearts are power ups that allow Felix to sustain additional hits and gain special attacks. Why does this seem so familiar?

Felix2Despite that, this game can be fun. Each level has one of five different environments: land (the most frequent one), air, underwater, on water, and space. Except for the one space level, each environment has at least two forms. As Felix catches falling hearts he gets more powerful weapons or vehicles. Each hit you take devalues his form by one until he is killed in the default form. Attacks also become more advanced in higher forms. On land, for instance, he starts by using a spring-loaded boxing glove in the bag, but in the fourth and final form he drives a tank.

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Anonymous tip: the point of a boxing glove is that it doesn’t hurt as much as a fist.

Controls are very responsive. And they’ve got to be since this game requires a lot of jumping. Just remember that unlike the Mario games, you have to use your weapon to attack. Jumping on enemies doesn’t kill them.

Challenge: 5 out of 10

Not being the kind of guy who can do zero-hit speed runs for many games, like some of the folks on Youtube, there were only a few games I ever beat on a three-day rental (yes, that’s how it was before Gamefly). This is one of them that I did finish in three days. That should clue you in on how hard Felix the Cat is. Plus, every heart you get in the most advanced form is a 1-Up, meaning that you’ll likely have a surplus of lives. But the thrill is there because of the fun level designs and boss battles. Just don’t count on taking weeks to beat this one. Not even the final battle with The Professor is all that tough.

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The bad guys use their fair share of impractical toys as well.

There is only one level that I recall ever having a difficult time with: the space level, and that’s really only because having only one form means only one hit before you’re dead. The fact that this is what it takes to challenge the gamer says a lot!

Overall: 6 out of 10

Actually, I can’t help but wonder if this game was meant to be rented, not bought. Not only is Felix the Cat very easy, It rips off Mario every chance it gets. It is well worth a rental. Well worth a purchase? Not so much.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Tomb Raider: Definitive EditionThis was the first Tomb Raider game I ever played. Yes, there are some gaps in my video game experience. What I know of the mega-popular 1990s games consists mostly of the famous marketing appeal built around sex appeal and the bad-but-there-are-worse-video-game-movies (for what that’s worth) that were to follow. So I really don’t know what the preceding games were like or whether this particular game is true the spirit of the series.

But perhaps I should learn, for Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Is definitely one of the best games I’ve played in awhile. There is nothing that isn’t done just right.

Plot: 8 out of 10

Lara Croft is a British Archaeologist following in her father’s footsteps to unearth an ancient mystery. Naturally, things get supernatural in true Indiana Jones fashion, causing her archaeological team to have to deal with mystical beings who follow the ghost of a queen named Himiko. Sadly, a number of members of this expedition do not survive.

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Click to enlarge and read the text and you’ll see how this relates.

What really helps the plot is Lara’s evolution from innocent novice suddenly put in a dangerous situation to a hardened, practical adventurer ready to do what it takes to get her group to safety. And it’s not an instant thing, either. We have a gradual change that makes sense. If this game is any indication, the shallow commercials of yesteryear didn’t do the character justice.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

This was originally a PS3/Xbox 360 game. I played the PS4 version. It and the Xbox One (don’t ask me how that name for Microsoft’s third console makes since) versions are graphically upgraded, a good concept that had been seemingly dead since Super Mario All-Stars but may now be catching on. I complained in my review of Call of Duty: Ghosts that it didn’t look next gen. This game is another story. The graphics are a nice step up from the last gen counterpart to show some almost photo-realistic models, landscapes, and even rain.

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The fact that Lara can’t shower during the adventure allows for a tremendous dirt effect.

Sound: 9 out of 10

Voice acting is rock-solid. As good as it gets in video games. The environmental sounds are very realistic. The music has a quite spooky tune. All said, this game sounds great.

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

Stealth, tactical shooting, platforming, and close-quarter combat all play strong roles in the gameplay of this version of Tomb Raider. and they are incorporated extremely well. Those who have played the Gears of War series and use of dive-and-roll maneuvers to reach cover will be at home here. Because Lara didn’t come prepared for a fight, she is often starved for ammo and often has to make do with a bow and automatic pistol. Luckily, she moves quickly, nimbly and can use stealth kills if she sneaks up on an enemy. All this is very fitting in a game that is as much about pure survival as “good vs. evil.”

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Lots of this throughout the game. Does she ever run out of gas?

One flaw is that that this is one of those games that does the annoying push-this-button-or-you’re-dead bit in some cutscenes that everyone seems to dislike. It’s a wonder anyone still uses it. Still, this isn’t anything super-serious and besides, you get checkpoints before this parts.

Challenge: 10 out of 10

The difficulty of the battles escalates at just the right pace. There are puzzles that present a strong challenge in getting past, along with fun boss battles that do the same. And you can be kept occupied even after completing the game by hidden stuff to find. I guess this fills the void left by the death of scores (with notable exceptions).

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Why Tomb Raider will never win a PETA game of the year award.

Overall: 9 out of 10

The first bona fide classic I have played on my PS4, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a very cool adventure from start to finish. Definitive Edition definitely gets high marks from me!

Horrible Bosses

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 Jason Bateman as Nick Hendricks
Charlie Day as Dale Arbus
Jason Sudeikis as Kurt Buckman
Kevin Spacey as David Harken
Jennifer Aniston as Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S.
Colin Farrell as Bobby Pellitt
Jamie Foxx as Motherf*cker Jones

Horrible Bosses is a comedy about three guys who are tormented by asshole employers. I’m not so sure that I would consider that a good plot. I mean, a lot of sitcoms have a mean boss as a member of the guest cast, but it’s not very often that said boss is even in the 40% of most important characters on the show (Cosmo Spacely from The Jetsons being an exception). Still, it works reasonably well in this film.

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Is this a sign that the first generation of American anime fans have grown up?

It doesn’t hurt that there’s a wealth of talent in the cast. You probably recognize a few actors I mentioned above, and the three leads do very good jobs as well. Their comic timing is strong, and the mannerisms of the characters are communicated well.

Despite the early comparison to sitcom bosses, this movie has a much darker tone. Nick, Dale, and Kurt all have bosses who are abusive in very different ways.  So the three employees seek to murder their bosses. They pay a thug named Motherf*cker Jones several thousand dollars to advise them on pulling off the hits without getting caught and so begins the careers of three of the worst assassins in the history of cinema.

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Shades and a hood probably wouldn’t throw off the cops, but I could be wrong.

I should add that I like this kind of black humor. Sure, it’s ugly to some, but I find it funny. While this doesn’t do as well some I’ve seen, it’s enjoyable enough.

The characters are well-fleshed out for a comedy. Nick is the office worker looking for a promotion, is willing to “take shit” for it, but his sucking up unfortunately doesn’t stop his boss from hating and cheating him out of the promotion. Dale is an old-fashioned lovebird looking forward to getting married (so he very much minds being the target of gender-bending sexual harassment). Kurt seems to have a good thing going until his boss dies, to be replaced by the spoiled, nepotist son who doesn’t give a shit about the company and will sell as soon as he sees a nice profit.

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Now’s not the time to play games on your phone. It probably has eyes if you know what I mean.

Most dark comedies don’t have the guts to end as perversely as the plot indicates. This is true of Horrible Bosses, but it’s less true than usual. The fate of the bosses is… let’s say not pleasant.

Horrible Bosses is definitely not one of my favorite comedies, but if you see it on TV, catch it.

Overall: 7 out of 10