Samstag, 15. November 2008

Super Mario Galaxy Revisited

When Super Mario Galaxy came out for the Nintendo Wii last year, I was super excited. Ever since his first adventure for the GameBoy I have been a huge fan of the little plumber from Brooklyn and just like Nintendo wants me to, I celebrate each Mario game for the new console as one of the absolute highlights in their line-up.

While I was a little too young to woo for Mario's adventures for the NES, I loved both Super Mario Land 1 and 2 for the GameBoy. Then came the SNES and with him Super Mario World. Like Tetris came with the GameBoy, Super Mario World came in a bundle with the Super Nintendo. Only Nintendo would include one of the best games for a console with the console itself and therefore ensure that nobody missed out on what I think of as maybe the single most perfect Jump and Run of all time. There were no flaws in Super Mario World, nothing to improve. The learning curve was perfect, the graphics were awesome, the music was brilliant, and the gameplay was just out-of-this-world amazing. I think Nintendo realized that with SMW they had created the perfect Jump and Run because after this game, Mario games were developed with a much lower frequency and always tried a different angle towards the Jump-and-Run genre than their predecessors did.

One more Mario Game would come out for the Super Nintendo: "Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island" put Mario's dinosaur Yoshi in the spotlight, but Baby Mario, precious fright and active player, still played a major role in it and the game should therefore be treated as a proper submission to the franchise. Mario World 2 was stunningly beautiful and featured some of the most original gimmicks in the Mario universe. The egg-shooting-system was a welcome novelty, and the baby-rescue-scheme kept the players on the toes. All in all SMW2 managed to be as different from its predecessor as it could be without taking a dive in quality.

Then Nintendo took the long overdue step into 3d. I'm not saying that because I wanted them to, since I am an absolute sucker for everything 2d, but because Sony kept feeding of Nintendo’s market and all of a sudden Nintendo got renown for only producing kiddy games while neglecting the grown up player. Super Mario 64, again sold in a bundle with Nintendo’s new baby the N64, was simply a masterpiece of a 3d Jump 'n Run and still puts a lot of games of this genre on the next gen consoles to shame. Nintendo put the focus on handling and gameplay, making it an absolute joy to maneuver the plumber through the multitude of colourful levels in Princess Daisy's castle. A lot of moves which were created for M64 would resurface in Mario Galaxy.

Sadly enough, Mario 64 was the only Mario-Game for the N64, which says something about how carefully Nintendo treated its mascot, since even Link got a second go on the N64 after pulling off perhaps the best game ever with "Ocarina of Time". Mario's next adventure, again the only Mario game for the Game Cube, left the players a bit disappointed. "Super Mario Sunshine", the Game Cube appearance of Mario, was seen as being too difficult at some points, the new feature of the water-boost-device was deemed tedious and many thought that the game lacked the ingenious gameplay that made all the other Mario games so special. As for me, I thought that Sunshine was the best Mario Game to date, even better than SMW or M64. I completely dug the new way of controlling Mario with the help of the water pack FLUDD and I loved, loved, loved the graphics. Sunshine had something that I thought and still think of as something very important for a Mario game: a widely accessible overworld. Delfino Plaza was huge and held loads of secrets, so that, even when you were not playing a level, you could still explore Mario Sunshine and discover new things.

Super Mario Galaxy, the first, and hopefully not the last Mario title for the Wii, got only top reviews when it first came out. EDGE magazine gave it a 10/10 and called Galaxy a platform game "More so than Mario 64 is; more so than any truly 3D videogame ever made". True, on some level Galaxy is innovation in its purests form. Since Mario in space defies gravity, one of the key elements in the earlier Mario games and any other Jump and Run, the developers replaced the obstacle of falling down with a bizarre multitude of possibilities how to explore the levels. Mario can be pulled into different stratospheres, jumping from one tiny planet to another. He can be pulled towards little stars via tractor beam, all coordinated by the wiimote, he jumps into a tube on one side of a planet and comes out on the other side, heads down and feet up and last but not least, he can get sucked into a black hole and like that, technically, fall down anyway. Perspective and controls really took a big leap in Mario Galaxy and still the game leaves a stale taste.

When I played it last year, I was soon annoyed with how easy about 90% of the game is. There are just a handful of real challenges. Allowedly, these challenges are tough, but they don't make up for the countless boring stars that are basically handed to you after climbing up a mountain or swimming through a lake. Some stars are obtained in about a minute, I'm not kidding. But the low difficulty rate is not the strongest point of criticism. Mario Galaxy, as dumb as that might sound, simply lacks the Mario flair that defined M64, Sunshine or SMW. Mario feels strangely displaced in the floating... well... surrounding, that is the Galaxy overworld. As opposed to M64 and Sunshine, the overworld of Galaxy is rather necessity than part of the game and like in SMW is just used to get Mario from one point to another. And that is a perfect example for the strange isolated feeling that the elements of Galaxy bare.

The levels are less worlds that Mario explores and finds new paths in and that open up to him in their entirety only after visiting them again and again but more like narrow paths that are sometimes to be taken in this direction, and for the next star to be taken in the other. Knowing that the worlds were far less developed than in the last two Mario console games, the team behind the game hid a lot less stars to be found in one level. Instead, different comets who altered the circumstances in one level or the other randomly approached the levels, so that another star could be obtained by fulfilling a task already done, with a time limit, faster enemy movement, or with a low energy bar. Some people might have gotten a kick out of it, i found it boring and uninteresting. While I couldn't wait to explore the little worlds that were the levels in Sunshine or M64, I never warmed to those of Galaxy, simply because often there wasn't anything to warm up to. You know how sometimes less is more? Well, in this case it definitely is not.

Whenever there was a bigger planet to explore and run around on, which made for the best moments in this game, Galaxy irritated me with the transformation mushrooms. As a bee-mario, or even worse elastic-spring-mario, or even much much worse ghost-mario, Nintendo evidently wanted to eradicate the last bit of nostalgia that the more down-to-earth (literally) levels provided, and forced you to transform Mario into one of those new forms to get to the star and complete the mission.

Not only were those new forms completely different to the more psychedelic and futuristic feeling of Galaxy, and felt more like an idea that didn't make it into Super Mario Bros. 3, they simply were not fun. I wanted to be able to acquire, advance and master the controls of the Mario character and thus be able to move on to harder levels that recquired for you to be good at double and triple jumps, saltos and air kicks. I really missed everything that made M64 and Sunshine so special. Instead they gave me elastic-spring-mario or ghost mario, which reduced and altered the movement and abilities of Mario and on top of that were so scarcely included in the game ( I think ghost mario could be played on two occasions max) that I thought of them as a tasteless joke.

The lack of secrets that have always been such a big part of Mario games, I'm just gonna mention in this tiny sentence, because I'm tired of listing the flaws of Galaxy. It makes me sad.

The reason I write this review, more than a year after Galaxy was released, is, that I started playing it again yesterday. When you finish Galaxy it allows you to play the whole game again, as Luigi, with awfully wobbly controls, which definitely increases the games difficulty. But, come on: more difficulty through awful controls? Tsk, tsk, tsk. An absoulte no-go for a Jump and Run. Anyway, I played the first couple of missions and was delighted by the feeling the game gave me, simply because I haven't played a Jump and Run in ages, and so I thought that what I felt about Galaxy when I played it last year, was just a phase that I grew out of and that I could appreciate Mario's new adventure much more so, than I could a year ago. But after an hour of playing, all those things that I disliked about it, came back to haunt me, and so I sat down and wrote this review. Mario Galaxy is a very good 3D Jump and Run for those who do not follow the adventures of the plumber since the dawn of the Super Nintendo, and for those who are new to the genre. But for everybody who loved Mario Games since they were little, and who can identify the quality of Mario games with the same things that I do, Mario Galaxy is a disappointment: A game that took millions of little innovative ideas, and failed to create a whole, but ended up with those millions of little ideas scattered throughout space like the stars in the milky way.

Mittwoch, 22. Oktober 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield

As a kid I was a huge fan of Garfield. I really dug his dry sense of humor, and also loved the whackier physical comedy of the strips. As I got older I kind of outgrew the fat cat a bit, since the strips are a bit repetitive and comics like Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts are much more thought through, deeper and eventually more beautiful. I haven't really read any Garfield in the last couple of years, until a friend of mine asked me last night: ever heard of that website When I said I had not, he showed it to me and... man it's genius. A guy named Dan Walsh came up with the idea of how the Garfield strips would be like if you would eliminate the main element in it: Garfield. The result is a depressing, sometimes disturbing and always hilarious look at Jon Arbuckle's life, which is in fact so sad, that his talking/thinking cat is the only being that really interacts with him. So what would Jon do without him? Go visit the website to check it out. I'm posting my ten favourite strips right here. Copyright lies with Paws Inc. Jim Davis is the creator and Dan Walsh the man behind the alternated strips.


This one gives a perfect example of how sad Jon's life really is. You gotta love the innocent, almost boyish smile in the last panel. He is so pleased with himself.


Uhhh, this one is hard. Allowedly, it is way more depressing than it is funny, but hey, the fact that it is a portrait of an isolated, lonely, pathetic man put into a three-panel-strip deserves some kind of price.


I love this one. What happens here? Is Jon too dumb to figure out how the telephone works? Is it ringing for the first time in his life and he just doesn't know how to handle the situation aka. the phone? Glorious.


Ah, and here is the physical comedy. I love, how much better it is delivered without a sarcastic comment by Garfield. This shows the brutal truth. A picture of a man, who has nothing going for him. A man who's day is over before even having a breakfast! Yes!


This is a completely new style of comedy for a Garfield comic that Walsh creates. This one doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. What is Jon thinking in the last panel? Is the content of the bowl his girlfriend? Is he catatonic? Or just crazy?


This one might be the best strip to show how weird Jon really is. There is nobody in the whole house, yet he forces himself to sit in the cat bed. Why on earth would he do that? Also we learn that Jon might be mildly schizophrenic.


Hmmm... Jon seems to talk to his coffee mug in this one. I love how it seems as if in Jon's head the coffee mug knows "what it means." Jon looks pleased.


Dan Walsh managed to create a new joke out of this strip, that fits perfectly with the depiction of Jon in the other strips. In his progressing isolation, Jon even starts talking to salad and enquires about its well being. Awesome!


There are many more like this one, but I like this best. It features Jon talking to nobody in the first panel, a classic grimace in the second one (for no apparent reason too) and an empty third panel. If you don't find this funny, I cannot help you.


Ah, number one. Given, this strip is pretty funny even without cutting Garfield from it. But leaving out the initiator for Jon's egg and bacon face catapults this strip into a whole new level of hilarious. We have to assume that Jon put the eggs and bacon on his own face, and know after reading the whole thing, that behind that newspaper it's there already from the first panel on. For me, this takes the cake. Now go and check out the website.

Donnerstag, 16. Oktober 2008

Who the §X!?*+$% cheats at Mario Kart?

Seriously people. Who is that sad, that (s)he has to cheat at Mario Kart online? I bought this game right when it was published and for the first two months or so, it was hack-free. But disappearing and reappearing players who just vanish when they are right in front of you and then reappear quite a bit further down the road. While i can imagine that player falling in the pits and reappear a second later as if nothing happened are due to time glitches and do not really mean an advantage for anybody, there are now videos at youtube, showing how some morons screw other people over with a hacking tool called ocarina or something like that. And after being tollerant with all those who i clearly pushed into the lava and who then came back in an instant miraculously and stole my well-earned first place, today I just about had enough, when i played a couple of guys, one being called "up is down" beating them fair and square in a tight race on Bowsers Castle N64 only to let the ranking show me that i came in last, for whatever reason. So, what the frick? If you have to cheat, then go hack a bank or something, rob a casino. But down ruin online fun for other Mario Kart users. That's just plain mean. And stupid.

Mittwoch, 15. Oktober 2008

Second Page

Here's the second page of VOTPW. I wish there was a way to increase its size...


Guys, can anybody remember these obscure and violent screenshots of people getting decapitated and evil Terminator-like robots grinning at you in the video game magazines of the early nineties? Well, i can. Little did I know that over ten years later I'd find out, that they belong to one of the finest adventures ever made: SNATCHER - A Cyberpunk Adventure. The guy responsible was nobody else than Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame, only that SNATCHER never really got the attention that it deserved. Now it's 2008 and SNATCHER actually celebrates its 20th birthday. Hard to believe that the game is such an old timer when you pop it in nowadays. Given, the graphics are a bit oldschool, but the music and voice action are top notch, and, man, the story is awesome!

You are playing Gillian Seed, a Police Officer who is responsible for hunting and eliminating the Snatchers in Neo Kobe, Japan. The Snatchers are these really nasty biodroids, which kill people and then steal their identity. Thanks to artificial skin, nobody knows, that under the facade of a human, there might hide a metallic killing machine. Diving deeper into the story would take too long, but it is a great mixture of film noir detective story, action, thriller and romance. Although the game was released on half a dozen different systems, including the Playstation and Sega Saturn, the only available english version is for the Mega-CD, which makes it kinda hard to obtain. You can find copies on ebay from time to time and thanks to emulators, such as Gens, you don't even need a Mega-CD console to play it. But if you give it a try, you might even find it for free on the world wide web. Websites like are a good place to start searching.

The game only needs a joypad or a keyboard, although back in the days you were able to use the lightgun when the game switched into action mode. I didn't find aiming or shooting harder using the keys though. It propably is even easier. So if you have some time on your hands and if you love movies like Blade Runner, Terminator or They Live, then you should definitely check out SNATCHER. Once you start playing you don't wanna stop until you found out everything about the menacing snatchers, Gillians mysterious past and the hot dancer in the bar! So stop reading now, and get SNATCHER. You know you want it!

Freitag, 3. Oktober 2008

First Page

And here's the first page of "Veteran of the Psychic Wars". I'm not really happy with the result, because the programm I used, "Comic Life", is pretty crap. If anybody knows a better device to insert bubbles and lettering, lemme know.

Dienstag, 30. September 2008

The never-ending Bust-A-Move

Does anybody remember the good old Puzzle Bobble, or "Bust-a-Move" as it is called on the DreamCast and some other platforms? Well I guess you don't really have to be nostalgic as the game is still all over the shop. I swear, you can purchase it as one of those tiny digital watches with a game inside. Anyway, a while ago I got a version for my mobile phone, because I was bored and had to pass time. I really dig Puzzle Bobble, it's a really cool game. I played it in the arcades and had a copy for my DreamCast as well. It's a good alternative to Tetris and at least to me, one of the finest puzzle games of all time. But the one I downloaded for my mobile phone lacks one particular feature which made the game go less interesting the more often I played it (and that's not a good thing for a puzzler): you cannot win. I swear to God this shitty version of Puzzle Bobble is rigged. Normally it takes you ten hits for the next row to come down, so you have plenty of time to build up chain reactions and clear the screen. When you have fewer balls on the grid then the number of hits you get drops from ten to nine to eight. Which is fair enough. But while you would be still able to finish the game at one point this one doesn't let you, because whenever you get close to clear all the balls, it drops a new row. EVERY SINGLE TIME. And it doesn't even give you a warning. Sometimes I had 2 whole hits between one row and the next one coming down. What the hell? Not only can you never finish a game, you'd have to play longer and longer and longer to beat your highscore. Honestly I don't even bother playing it anymore because I once played as long as an hour and a half and I can never be bothered to spend that much time on it again. Bah, what a way to mess with such a cool game :-(

Samstag, 27. September 2008

Title Page

Here's the title page from "VotpW". Maybe you guys can help me coming up with a name for the protagonist, since I have to use an alias because the guy i based it on is now in prison for sexual harassment...

Veteran of the Psychic Wars

I'm working on a new comic about a ficticious war on a ficticious planet fought by ficticious people... well, except the hero. He's real. Last night he climbed through my bedroom window and urged me to make a comic about him, so that he could impress chicks with it. I thought that was pretty sad, but the ideas he had for the story sounded cool, so i thought: "what the heck. i'll do it!" Anyways, I'll be posting my progress on fresh meat explosion from now on, so you guys can check it out and tell me how stupid the story is, how there is no character development, how abysmally bad the drawings are and all that shit. See ya.

Sonntag, 21. September 2008

One Trick Ponies

I finally came up with a scheme to get rich quick: One Trick Ponies! It's the most awesome idea a human mind could have thought of. I breed tiny ponies, down to a size where you could easily place them on your desk or your nightstand. Then they get taúght one trick each. For example 'do a somersault', 'sing ode to joy' or 'dance lindy hop'. I pack them up in a kind of kinder surprise egg and sell them. People will go nuts over those tiny adorable ponies and the one trick they can do. But after a while they'll get tired of the pony doing somersaults over and over again. So, what should they do? They don't wanna get rid of that tiny bugger, because they became attached to it. So they'll just buy another one. That and the fact that they come in different coloring (based on the edition) will quickly make them become a highly sought after collectible item. Some of them are going to be 'rare' (like the maroon version of the bongo playing pony) others are 'common' (the strawberry colored roller skating pony). Soon they'll be a big hit and I'm going to be filthy rich and buy the moon.

Freitag, 19. September 2008

I Am Sick

Hey Folks. I've been sick for the last couple of days. Nasty infection of some inner organ of mine. Dunno exactly what's going on there but in the end they had to amputate my stomach. Not a nice feeling, I can tell you. Well, since I'm still recovering and can't entertain you, here is Intermission Piglet do do the job for me.

Sonntag, 14. September 2008

I just love the seaside

Where I live, there is an ocean just around the corner. Apart from the smelly seaweed and the weird creatures that come to the shore at night, it's actually a really neat place. I went this morning and took my camera with. The photo is kinda blurry but I think it captures the mood quite well. Enjoy.

Sorry for the red-eye on the seademon but my camera is pretty crappy.

Welcome to Fresh Meat Explosion

It's always interesting to watch a new website explode. You haven't heard of it? Well, since there are like 6,7 billion people on this weird planet and each of them has about 4 different websites on which they post the length of their toenails, photos of their pet-skunk or a new song they made with a plastic bag and a wounded ocelot, and the internet is a fragile dark matter space which can only hold so much information, bad websites who contain nothing but crap explode every second. It is necessary! So I thought I'll just beat the internet police to it and detonate mine manually. It's a weird feeling to blast your site into oblivion, weird but also good. Like stars explode in space to give birth to other stars which eventually develop an atmosphere to grow life in just so that some weird species can invent jelly beans which taste like toothpaste. I'm serious. I read it on another website. Anyway as I watch my site slowly evaporate you may still enjoy the stuff that was once on it since it takes a while for a supernova to be visible on your screen and while you are reading each and every post be aware that it has posted trillions of years ago and the fact that you are reading it just now is not because the internet is so damn slow, but because your eyes are so incredibly lazy. Wait, is that really how it works? Hang on, I'm gonna check that on wikipedia.
Meanwhile watch this dot ---> o