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The Darkness II Darkling Collectible Unboxing October 31, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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2K Games sent me this nice Halloween surprise today.  I now have my own personal Darkling!  The Darkling, you may remember, is a major character in The Darkness games.  Originally from the comics, it can assist you during gameplay in a variety of ways (in the first game they could carry chainguns, destroy lights, or blow themselves up).  They also have the disinction of being parodied in one of the very first Zero Punctuation reviews (I believe they were the basis for the imp creature which have appeared in pretty much every other ZP review done).

These Darkling statues were made to promote The Darkness II and were first announced just before this year’s San Diego Comic Con.  Only 1,800 of them will ever be made, and I’ve got one of them.

Special thanks to 2K for having these made, and giving one to me!  I’d like to thank David Eggers and Elizabeth Toby in paticular for running the promotion, and for putting up with me at the NY Comic Con!  Expect a Darkness II preview soon!

The Darkness II is going to be released in February, 2012 for the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.


My Date With The Calendar Man: Day 1 – Halloween October 31, 2011

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Julian Day, The Calendar Man, is my favorite obscure Batman supervillian in Batman: Arkham City.  True to his name, he will only talk to you on holidays, and since today is Halloween, this is the first day since the game’s release he will talk to you on.

Here’s a tip for people interested in finding him.  If you talk to him on all twelve holidays, it will earn you an achievement/trophy.

Nightwing Coming to Arkham City October 28, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Dick Grayson, yes the Dick Grayson formerly known as Robin The Boy Wonder, is coming to Arkham City in his current vigilante incarnation, Nightwing.

Nightwing has been previously seen in incarnations ranging from appearances in Batman: The Animated Series (when it was moved to the WB channel) to getting name dropped in other Batman video games like Batman: Dark Tomorrow.

But this is not just a reskinned Batman texture, Nightwing has his own style of fighting and his own special weapons, take a look for yourselves what he can do.

Alternate Nightwing costumes will be included with the Nightwing pack (similiar to what was included with the Catwoman pack), such as a version of him from the Animated Series.

One last thing I’d like to mention is does anyone else think that the model used for him in this game looks a lot like Aaron Scheonke, who played Nightwing in the recent fanfilm Batman: Seeds of Arkham?

Nightwing DLC is coming November 1st to your respective platform.  A copy of Batman: Arkham City will be required.

Science Check: Portal 2 October 27, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Science Check.
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Sometimes, you’re forced to make some severe leaps of logic as to just how plausible a video game’s grounded reality can be.  Some things we’re willing to take for granted, like enemies will simply just carry health and ammunition supplies with them at all times, and you will be immediately able to make use of them.

But then sometimes there will be moments in gaming which skirt the bounds of reality and you are forced to ask yourself…COULD THAT REALLY HAPPEN?  Fortunately for me, I happen to have a bunch of friends on speed dial with science backgrounds and when I ask them questions, they have no problem filling me in on just what reality would do in these situations.

So this is Science Check, where I take a look at the leaps and bounds of scientific logic that games have made over the years and check if it would indeed work, or if you tried doing it in the real world, you’d be totally screwed.

Today, we’re going to be talking about the game that has been the most requested for this series.  Portal 2.  Don’t know anything about Portal?  Take a look.

First off, I want to tell everyone right now that this is going to be a very different Science Check than what I have done before.  Science Check has prided itself with grounding all components of scientific leaps in video games to what already exists, I am at a loss for what to write about here.  Portal prides itself with taking theories and putting their own theories on top of those for the sake of the fun of gameplay, and as a game it works fantastically.  In reality however, I honestly don’t know if it would work or not, and I don’t think any modern scientist could either.

In the game, the player has control of a Portal Gun created by the Aperture Science Enrichment Center.  The company was founded by Cave Johnson who believed in “throwing science to the wall and seeing what sticks.”  A noble endeavor, his company didn’t waste its time with theories on top of theories (like I’m going to have to with this article), his philosophy was to learn by doing.  If it works, make it better.  If it doesn’t work, throw it in an incinerator and board up access to all the lower floors it was developed on.  The gun allows the player to create two holes in space (on top of any compatible surface material, moon dust working the best) which automatically bridge between the two points, no matter how far away they were.  They could only be disrupted if the gun passed through a special field which if passed through, reset the gun and removed all existing open portals in the area.  Any momentum earned while passing through a portal (even in regards to orientation and gravity) would sustain itself on the other side, either to the benefit or despair for its user.

Now the closest thing that has been theorized to exist as a way to link two points that are great distances apart in space has been dubbed an Einstien-Rosen Bridge, or simply a Wormhole.  You’ve probably seen them or things like them in various science-fiction movies or shows.  Sometimes they are depicted in these fictional stories as existing naturally in space, and in others they can be created artificially by intelligent beings as a way to travel great distances.  In reality, an Einstien-Rosen Bridge is something that has not even been SEEN existing normally in the universe, nor has mankind been successful in creating one, and that is the basis of the problem I’m in right now writing about this.

I have no idea if a human would simply be able to pass through a naturally existing Einstien-Rosen Bridge let alone an artificial one without being killed in thousands of ways that are possible and even a few ways that may be impossible!  Since we haven’t found any, there are no studies I can look up.  It would be useful to know if probes survived going through them, if they could transmit from the other side.  Portal depicted going through one as instantaneous (and you would be able to see through to the other side).  For all we know, traveling through one could take thousands of years.  In Portal, momentum (either by human power or external forces like gravity) could be sustained for a time after going through.  There’s no way to know if momentum would continue to exist while passing through a portal, it’s just as likely momentum could be stopped completely at the moment the test subject entered!

Other interesting things to ponder would be about the device that created portals itself.  What could power something that powerful and yet be so small?  Older signs in the lower floors of the Enrichment Center depicted a portal gun much larger and bulkier than the sleek, handheld recent design you get to make use of, so like with everything techie, it can be made smaller over time.

The device would need to have some kind of internal memory for the spacial coordinants of where the portals are, because the portals will erase themselves when you pass through the force fields at the end of each testing area, showing that it is indeed the gun which is controlling them.  If the fields in question were electromagnetic in question, this might cause any internal power source to blink out for a second, erasing the internal memory in the gun and with it the control over the placed portals.  This is given credibility to the fact that the portals will only erase when going through the field, simply going around them will do nothing, and if you don’t pass through it, you would be able to place portals on either side of it without the danger of them getting erased.  It could also be blocking the wavelenths that the portal beams fire at (similar to how a pair of sunglasses block certain wavelenths of light), which is why you can’t fire a portal through them, but that’s just my theory (Looks like I got into theorizing myself now! -ed).

Moon dust in itself is quite reflective in nature.  We know this because we can see the moon at night so long as the light of the sun shines on it (the Earth will sometimes partially or fully block that sunshine).  We’ve even seen its effects in pictures taken by the men who visited the moon (that’s the reason there’s no dark shadow on the man on the ladder).  This could be the basis of why it is such a good portal conductor, but by that reasoning metallic glitter could be the absolute best, and I don’t think you could place a portal on a metallic surface.  You could however, place a portal on the moon itself (in SPACE!), which is what happens in the game’s finale.  However, if you look closely at that final puzzle moment, you’ll notice that Valve intentionally altered the perception of time at the moment the gun fires, you know, because of that whole speed of light thing.  Nice little touch.

I know it’s not as factual a Science Check as I usually do, but this is a game where the mechanics are based upon theories, which while may be scientifically valid, may be just as realiistically invalid.  Its still a fantastic game and a lot of fun, and I recommend it to anyone interested in picking it up!

Movie of the Week: Brainscan October 26, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Reviews, Site Videos.
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It has been a year since the last Movie of the Week, and we decided that with Halloween coming the time was ready to check out yet another gaming movie, and yes, this one is horror themed as well.

Brainscan is another movie I originally watched as a kid on HBO many, many years ago.  Based on the early interactive CD-ROM craze of the early 90s, the movie was about the latest video game which promised to put the player into the role of a violent killer.  When Michael (Edward Furlong) plays for the first time, he is shocked to realize that the murder he had committed in the game actually happened.

As absurd as the premise was, the acting was pretty decent, the direction was atmospheric (they did a really good job with Michael’s bedroom) and overall it was a pretty tense movie.  For legal reasons movie clips are not included in the review (sorry), but if you want to watch the movie for yourselves, as of this writing, it should be legimatly watchable on Crackle or you could just get the movie on DVD.

Can Somebody PLEASE Identify This Disney Channel Movie? October 24, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Back in the early ’90s, The Disney Channel was actually a paid premium service on par with HBO or Showtime, and when I was a young kid, my parents had access to it.  They still had their own unique selection of classic television shows for kids, as well as Disney Channel movies.  The movies they broadcast could have been Disney movies that were in theaters, but Disney Channel also broadcast their own unique movies which were produced exclusive for the channel.

Some time in the very early 90s (probably 1990 or 1991, 1992 at the absolute latest) the Disney Channel played a very interesting movie I have since been unable to identify which was one of the first movies I ever saw which tackled gaming as a subject matter.  Astonishlingly enough it wasn’t a horror movie!  Now I know this wasn’t the first gaming movie (Wargames probably beat them to the punch ten years prior) but seeing gaming recognised in an established medium for the first time was an awesome experience for my eight year old self.

The movie revolved around a bunch of teenagers (they may have been adults playing teenagers) who had an arcade in their basement.  This was no small operation, they had a lot of full sized arcade games down there.  Heck, I specifically remember they even had a full sized SEGA motorcycle game (Hang On)!

The cool thing was that all the games were actually linked together (somehow), and it allowed them to play a continuous game on all of them.  They controlled a character (I will call him an avatar) through various problems, and made decisions for each situtation he’d find himself in out of a multiple choice list.  When he would move from task to task, it would be represented as a different arcade game.  Each of the gamers had their own specialty.  When the avatar got on his motorcycle for example, one of the players would hop on the SEGA motorcycle game and guide him to his destination.

Because it was an earlier movie, the avatar was represented as a live-action human being.  Even though he was played by a human, he was still a game character, so anyone trying to draw parellels to the movie Gamer can just stop there.  The avatar, played by a different live action actor, was monitored by the players on a seperate TV screen.  When he reached a decision point, the players would decide amongst themselves what the avatar should do and select the decision out of a list.  That would lead the game to its next setpiece, and one of the players would have to complete one of the arcade games (which game was played was dependant on what the avatar had to do in the game).

At the end of the movie, as the players reached the conclusion of the game’s story, a game character came back that they weren’t expecting, and it ruined the outcome for the avatar.  The game ruined, all the players start packing up.  When they all start to go home a teenager’s father (who looked like a businessman) comes by to pick him up and tells him that he is willing to give him a good paying job, and with the money he could earn from it, he can afford to buy new equipment to upgrade the arcade.

A very lengthy wikipedia search of every Disney Channel produced movie since the channel was founded has turned up nothing.  No movie synopsis for any of the movies the channel produced in the last twenty years came close.  I also tried to match it up with any television shows produced exclusive to the channel and turned up nothing close, but that was kind of futile since Disney Channel rebroadcast shows made by other production companies at that time, and those would not have been listed.

Can ANYONE identify this?  I’d love to find a copy of it somewhere so I could review it for the site, but I don’t even know the name!

Maniac and Twitch Discuss the Super Nintendo October 23, 2011

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I’m joined once again by my good friend Twitch of TwitchGaming.  In it, we go 16-bit and discuss the Super Nintendo.  He has quite a collection of what are considered some of the best games for the console, and we discuss the history behind them.

Small postscript to this.  Twitch and I shot this SEVERAL months ago, back when I had the ability to upload videos on YouTube in excess of fifteen minutes.  I lost that ability while in the process of uploading this video and held it off.  Now that I have the ability back, I intend to use it before its taken away from me again.

Because of that, my plea at the end of the video is obsolite, please ignore it and rest assured it was answered some time between the video being shot and when it was uploaded for all to see.

How to Control a Playstation 3 With Your Playstation Portable October 23, 2011

Posted by Maniac in How To, Site Videos.
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With the PSP on its way out, I decided to do the next site How-To on one of the most underused and yet easy to set up features for the PS3, the Remote Play feature.  This allows you to use your Sony PSP practically as a complete control system for your PS3, and allow you to view it all on your PSP’s screen.

During Remote Play, pushing the Home Button on the PSP will allow you to adjust things like latency and control settings.  While this will allow you to access your PS3 remotely very few games are actually playable with this feature(LAIR may be the only one), but all PS1 games should be compatible (either through disc or PSN download), so feel free to crack open those old PS1 game cases and give it a play.

You Will Be Missed (Part 3) October 21, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, You Will Be Missed.
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I’ve been following gaming news for over ten years and I’ve been involved in the industry for over eight years as a staff writer on various sites.  I understand that not all companies last forever, but there comes a time when you are so caught up in the activities of an organization that when it shuts down, a part of you goes with it.  It’s happened to me more times than I can remember, but here’s a list of companies from my experiences that are no longer with us.  They’ve either been shut down, gone bankrupt, or were taken over so badly that they are no longer the same company I loved.  It is a sad story to see such great potential end abruptly, but like life we have to move on, but we will never forget.

Rare:  This one was requested by one of my commenters on an earlier You Will be Missed.  Rare was one of the best Nintendo exclusive developers in the US for the SNES and N64 generations producing hits that were not only critically acclaimed but fan favorites of their respective platforms.  They produced such hits as Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Killer Instinct, Perfect Dark, and of course GoldenEye 64, considered by many the greatest N64 game of all time.

Then Microsoft bought them for $100 million ($40 million more than they paid for Bungie) and made them an Xbox exclusive developer.  They started off by releasing updated games for the Xbox 1 platform like Conker: Live and Reloaded, but when the Xbox 360 came out of the gate they launched two major exclusives, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo, one of which was a critical disappointment and the other was not a major seller.  After that, Rare released Viva Pinata, which was a very good seller.  The problem was, Viva Pinata was very different from the action games that Rare’s fans wanted them to continue making.  Since then, Rare has been working on very different kinds of games for the 360 platform.  While games like Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie have been ported to Xbox Live Marketplace, Rare’s recent resume has been working on games like Kinect Sports.  While the company is still very much alive and kicking, it has been clear many fans would like for them to go back and continue releasing the unique action games that made them successful.

Lechmere:  This one may be a bit of an obscure one, as with the research I’ve done told me that this place spread only as far as the Northeastern US.  Lechmere was an electronics store on par with what we would consider a Best Buy or PC Richards nowadays, but only it did it years before Best Buy even came to my state.  The difference between this store and more recent electronics stores is that this place knew what it was selling but still operated in a mass market mindset.  The stores were huge, twice as big as what a Circuit City was, and there was nothing electronic they wouldn’t sell.  You could even stock a brand new kitchen with appliances, or demo a video game over at the Nintendo 64 alcove.  My first exposure to most of the major devices in the 90s was in Lechemere, including the Virtual Boy, Playstation, Nintendo 64, CD-i and 3DO.  This is where I would go to see those early PC FMV games demoed as well.  I remember being wowed off my rocker to see movies being released on CD-ROM there for the first time (boy those never took off!)

So if it did everything right, why is it the company’s been dead since back when I was in middle school?  Well, you can blame big business for that.  The story I was told at the time was there was a major conglomerate (I don’t know which one, and they’re bankrupt now so who cares?) who wanted the Maytag name but couldn’t get it.  Because Lechmere had it, they chose to buy the company to acquire Maytag in the process.  When the conglomerate filed for bankrupcy, they took Lechmere with them, and even though the stores had plenty of customers and sales, they were shut down.  My own research did confirm part of this story, but I cannot verify the reason why they were purchased was because of Maytag, so for all I know that story could be bullshit.  Regardless, the company shut down in 1997 and has not been seen since.

In my opinion, no electronics store since has been organized as well as Lechmere did.  Their mindset was big and it worked well for them.  Prices were affordable for items, like music or movies, they actually had a large amount of cash registers open at any given time (you know, because there were people buying things).  This was a lot different then when I had to start dealing with stores like Circuit City, which never had registers open under any circumstances.  They would instead force customers to go to Customer Service to buy their items, and have to wait forever behind people returning a printer they never should have bought in the first place.  I miss you Lechmere, come back, we need you in this world!

FASA Studios:  Formed by Jordan Weisman in the 80s, this company was responsible for the Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, and Crimson Skies games, all of which are considered some of the best games ever published by Microsoft.  The company was bought by Microsoft and for a while they were given a lot of liberty with what they could do.  In 2006, after completing Shadowrun, Microsoft had no further projects for them (even though they wanted to make another Crimson Skies game) and chose to shut the company down.

You can find a FANTASTIC video about the life and death of this company on YouTube, done by someone who calls himself Research Indicates.  It was done very similar to documentaries directed by Ken Burns and provided a lot of great information and factoids.

A lot of the people who were a part of the Crimson Skies team became a part of Bungie Studios and contributed to the space dogfight segment of Halo Reach.  Weisman has since formed a new studio and recently released Crimson Steam Pirates for the iPad (with the backing of the now independant Bungie).

I’d also like to make a small update to some of the earlier You Will be Missed articles I have written in the past.

The Little Miss Gamer blog from PBC-Productions has gotten some life back into it.  Lindsey Briggs has posted a tidbit or two on it as of recently after over a year of lapse.  Unfortunately, PBC has not made any Little Miss Gamer or Captain S videos in quite a while, but I hope to hear more from it!

Barry Smith’s InkTank site is back online, and some of the archives of the older Angst Tech are back up as well.  Barry even put up a new strip shortly after bringing the site back up.  Unfortunately that is all that was added to the site in several months, as the majority of the Angst Tech archive has not been restored, and no further new strips have been posted.

Batman: Arkham City Collector’s Edition Unboxing October 20, 2011

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Maniac unboxes the Xbox 360 version of the Batman: Arkham City Collector’s Edition, and gives his review of it.

Two small afterthoughts.  The box says the copy of Gotham Knight is a Blu-Ray, that is incorrect.  When I investigated the included disc it was a DVD, not a BD.  My guess is that the PS3 edition must come with the Blu-Ray version of the film, but if you already have a copy of the Blu-Ray (which I do) you’re not going to get anything extra out of it.

Also the complete soundtrack was very easy to download and did not include DRM.  It was properly organized for iTunes syncing, but the files did not include any album artwork.  If you intend to sync the songs to an Apple music device, I recommend adding the words “Various Artists” (no quotes) to the Album Artist setting in iTunes for each song.  With that in place you can get iTunes to “Get Album Artwork” for each song.  The album artwork is AWESOME.