Month: June 2015

Mad’s Greatest Writers: Frank Jacobs (Book) Review 3

Mad’s Greatest Writers: Frank Jacobs (Book) Review

In 21st century North America, it’s the online website The Onion that most people think of when it comes to satire, but for decades, Mad Magazine has been one of the venerable institutions of this fiendishly clever and difficult form of comedy. So it’s an unexpected, pleasant surprise when something like Mad’s Greatest Writers lands on the desk.
mafbookinsert1Touted as being the first volume of a series, the title says it all. Mad’s Greatest Writers is a “greatest hits” book that compiles the best work of Mad Magazine’s alumni over the years, and for this opening title, they’ve gone with Frank Jacobs. Jacobs has contributed to the magazine from its earliest years, and in many ways is one of the seminal voices that informed the biting, scathing style of the magazine. It’s telling that “Weird” Al Yankovic has written the introduction for the book, as one of Jacob’s great strengths has been song parodies asking readers to imagine the lyrics set to some of the great show tunes of popular culture. It’s enormously difficult to craft a series of lyrics that fits so perfectly with a well-known melody that it “sings” itself in the reader’s head. Jacobs makes it look easy.

The breadth of work Jacobs has contributed over the decades is enormous, with the book starting in the 50s of the 20th century and ending with the 00s of the new millennium. Nothing is sacred to Jacobs, and he runs the gamut of merciless insights into Western culture, with classic pieces such as fairy tales interpreted by psychoanalysts and union leaders, or obituaries for classic comic and news strip characters that depicts their life and death taking their character and history to its logical extreme. The work here might be all comedy, but the range and method of comedy tackled is almost intimidating.
madbookinsert2The book is not just a testament to Jacob’s own prolific body of work, it’s a fascinating—sometimes brutally honest—time capsule of cultural highs and lows. For example, casual, institutional racism was has, at times, been an everyday component of American culture. Where companies like Disney white wash this by pretending that movies like Song of the South don’t exist, Mad bravely includes satirical pieces pointing out racism that still use words like “nigger” to get the point across. No one would write this now, but in the 70s, it was perfectly acceptable to use this un-ironically in everyday writing and Mad is willing to acknowledge that they did too.

Of course, as a book documenting over 50 years of popular culture, it has a certain historical value, but for pure entertainment purposes, that can work against it. Pop culture is, after all, trends, concerns and fashions of a given era. Most people of the 21st century don’t need any coaching about who Justin Bieber is, or why a joke lambasting him is funny, but famous politicians of the 60s re-enacting a United Nations version of West Side Story will probably require the kind of explanation unneeded 50 years ago, when everyone was aware of who these people were, what the political situation was, and the lyrics to “Maria.” In the same way that some Dreamworks animated features dated themselves by making pop culture references during the 90s, skewering the concerns of the day over the decades will inevitably require a bit of a history lesson, especially for a new generation that never knew a world without an Internet.
madbookinsert3Despite the danger of some humor being too timely or specific to a decade, this compilation also contains a lot of universal wit and wisdom that comes from the very best comedy. Mad Magazine has been a seminal influence on a lot the comedy we enjoy today, and Frank Jacobs has probably stuck in more people’s minds than they realize. Now they can remember exactly how.

Predator Breaks Bones in MKX Gameplay Video - 2015-06-30 12:13:51

Predator Breaks Bones in MKX Gameplay Video

NetherRealm has been making this Scream Queen’s dreams come true. The crazy folks over there have been merging the violent world of Mortal Kombat and iconic horror characters. In MK9 we were treated to a playable Freddy Krueger, this time around in MKX we get Jason and Predator. Wait, aren’t predators a race? So we are treated to a predator, not The Predator? Either way here is 20 minutes of Predator gameplay to warm your morbid soul.

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review 8

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review

Over the past decade, UK based-developer Traveller’s Tales (a.k.a. Tt Games a.k.a. “The LEGO Game” company) has been well known for and wildly successful at translating several iconic intellectual properties into smash-hit LEGO Universe franchises, with Star Wars, The Hobbit, Marvel Universe and DC Universe among them. But TT Game’s most recent game, LEGO Jurassic World may be one of the most bold and ambitious projects the developer has attempted yet, as not only was it timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Jurassic World (often the development kiss of death for any movie-based game) but it also dares to encompass all four existing Jurassic Park films: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Jurassic Park 3 and of course, Jurassic World. No easy feat for any developer, but then again, if there’s any studio that has a chance of pulling it off, it’s TT Games. So how did they fare?
legojurassicinsert2LEGO Jurassic World follows the same proven formula of many previous LEGO games. General progression through each of the game’s four campaigns involves solving one environmental puzzle after another, many of which can be only resolved by uncovering hidden LEGO pieces in the world in order to build outlandish contraptions that in turn surmount obstacles in the player’s way. The game features a cast of over 100 characters (the majority of which are unlocked through campaign play), including all the main protagonists, antagonists and dinosaurs (!) of each Jurassic Park film, and each main character or creature has two or three special abilities specific to them alone. In order to unravel the puzzles that lay before them, players need to utilize each character’s distinct abilities in concert by switching between them as the need arises, which can be accomplished in either solo or co-operative play. Once a chapter is completed, players can then revisit those levels in Free Play mode and uncover even more secret items, game modes and extras by using newly unlocked characters to solve puzzles that were inaccessible to them previously.  As one would expect, there are also nearly limitless objects in each level to pulverize into LEGO 1×1 studs, which can be used as currency to unlock even more goodies, such as vehicles for getting around the park in to smash even more stuff.

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review 4
LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review 1

TT Games’ many years of experience translating movie properties to the LEGO game universe are very easy to appreciate in LEGO Jurassic World. Despite the simplified LEGO look, the visuals and colour palette are stunning and truly faithful to the look of the films. When coupled with the game’s equally faithful film audio and soundtrack, they are bound to hit long-time Jurassic Park fans in the heart with a huge shot of nostalgia. That said, interested gamers who have not seen one or more of the films beware; LEGO Jurassic World contains numerous huge spoilers, even though it takes several liberties with the plot for the sake of comedy.

Surprisingly, for a movie-based game, there is very little that LEGO Jurassic World does wrong. In typical LEGO game fashion, it’s simple to play, requires very few buttons, and at most times, the game is great at teaching the player how to play without getting in the way. It even uses the animated character Mr. DNA from the first Jurassic Park to provide friendly guidance during load screens as well as in the field (another nice touch of fan-service players will experience throughout the game).  Enjoying the game with a friend is a breeze thanks to local 2-player drop-in, drop-out co-op, and while there’s no online play it’s likely that PS4 players can get around this unfortunate flaw by using the console’s built-in Share Play feature. Coincidentally, co-op play is highly encouraged to get the most out of LEGO stud collecting as well as the game’s various film-based chase sequences (which can be unlocked and replayed on their own).

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review

There are just a few “mosquitoes in the amber” that mar the experience. Due to their age, the dialogue clips of the earlier films are not as clear as those of Jurassic World, coming across as muddy and at times easily drowned out by the far superior sound effects and soundtrack. Sadly, Ian Malcom’s hilariously bizarre mumbles and rants are among the most tragic victims. More troubling however is the game’s tendency to not honour its checkpoint save system when playing through a campaign, often ignoring the most recent manual save and loading a player’s game from the previous checkpoint, often making it necessary to replay an entire section of a level. It’s recommended that players play an entire campaign straight through to completion, or if they are playing on a PS4, to use the console’s “quick resume from standby” feature in order to continue the game from exactly where they left off in order to save time.

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review
LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review 3

To conclude, LEGO Jurassic World is a fun, wild romp through the Jurassic Park films that not only lives up to their legacy and the expectations of fans but also those of TT Games’ LEGO franchise as a whole. It’s the perfect game for both the young and young-at-heart to re-experience the magic of those movies while making the darker sides of those films non-threatening for children, and if you don’t mind spoilers, it might also be the best way to introduce a young child to the aforementioned films.

So after careful consideration, I’ve decided to endorse this park.

Look for Khari’s extended review of LEGO Jurassic World in the June 2015 issue of CGM.

God Eater: Resurrection PS4/Vita Trailer - 2015-06-29 11:54:51

God Eater: Resurrection PS4/Vita Trailer

Back in the days of the PSP there was God Eater: Burst, now there is God Eater: Resurrection and it has a trailer! Resurrection is an enhanced release of the remake God Eater: Burst. Confusing right? Re-release, remake, souls of small children, whatever you call it, it looks fantastic hitting 1080p on the PS4.

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