Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy (PS4) Review

The first time I played Crash Bandicoot was the first two games around late 1997, early 1998. They were also some of the very first titles I played on the original PlayStation. Last month, I bought a PlayStation 4 and the main reason was to get Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy, which has been out for a little over three weeks at the time of this blog. If you love the original trilogy, this is one to pick up. You're going to get a lot of bang for your buck with what Vicarious Visions and Activision were able to do.

Playing as the title character, Crash must outwit the sinister Dr. Neo Cortex in order to save a female bandicoot in the first.  He must help save the world with the scientist in the second game... or so he thinks. Then, he must keep the space time continuum from falling apart because of Cortex in the third game.

Vicarious Visions rebuilt this game from the ground up. When you look at the graphics, it is beyond amazing of what they were able to do. While I do think it's not pushing PS4 hardware to its limits, there is more than enough power to show off the various lands and jungles compared to the 32-bit originals. (which were great looking for their time period) There's better lighting, smoother animations. It's the little things that help this game out.

On the other hand, N-Sane Trilogy's audio, while decent, doesn't feel the same. Like the graphics, the music is all re-done. They capture the level themes well, but the ambiance is not like it was on the original PlayStation. Sound effects are cleaner and clearer. The voice acting is not its strongest suit on either version, but there is more emotion on this one than the original. Your mileage will vary on this part.

As far as playing the games go, Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy is the exact same games as what was seen from 1996 though 98. There are a few minor changes, but it's still what you remember them as. You break boxes and once you get all of them, you collect a gem at the end of a level. Crystals would become the main requirement starting with the second, but both are equally important. These are not small games, as they each contain over 30 levels. None of the boxes have changed so there are still good ones like Aku-Aku masks, and the bad ones like TNT crates. Wumpa fruit is still there for Crash to get and collect extra lives.

With the first two games, there are a few additional things added in. The first one now requires you to complete the bonus levels, which can be done at anytime and not just a one time thing. Saving is easy as it is like the other two where you save at any time when you are on the level map screen. Time trials are now given in the first and second one and the goal is the same. Get through a level quickly to get a time relic. For the second game on its own, boss fights now have their own entry in a warp room rather than going up another warp room, giving it a similarity to what the third game did. All three games allow the choice of playing as the sister, Coco. She doesn't have anything unique, but you're not forced into using her.

Are these games perfect, though? No. Each has their own issues, but let's begin with the first game, which has the biggest problem out of any of the trilogy. As mentioned earlier, Vicarious Visions did the game from scratch, but the difficulty feels a lot higher than even the original. While it fixed the save mechanic and the way of collecting most gems (some levels require beating them without dying to earn a colored gem), the jumping is nerve racking. You either slip off an edge or barely make it onto a platform. This has a lot of precise platforming and it gets very uncomfortable after losing many lives in certain levels. It's not impossible, but with practice, it shouldn't be a huge issue. You'll still lose lives, but not as much.

The second game feels a lot more fluid in jumping. There are a few times where timing jumps are a problem, but it's not a big headache compared to the first. It's still a difficult game in certain levels. My only complaints are some backtracking and the time trials feeling a little cheap in a few of the levels as if the time requirements are too strict. For the third game, there's not much to complain. Some small nitpicks are a few levels feeling more difficult than the PlayStation original and some of the backtracking. With that in mind, this is still a very solid remastering of games that most people grew up and loved in the mid to late 90s.

You're going to sink some time into this. This can be from 20 to 40 hours, especially if you want to go after those platinum times in time trial mode. Trophy support is for all three games. If you're looking for a fun game, definitely get Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy. Hopefully it brings a new audience to the marsupial and the franchise continues on with new entries.

Score 8 out of 10

The Simpsons Shorts: The Art Museum, Zoo Story Reviews

Short #28: The Art Museum

There isn't much to this short. It's the family going to the art museum and the kids messing around in it. Bart likes a nude painting and Lisa almost breaks a vase. There might be one or two chuckles you will get out of this, but otherwise, not one of the best shorts of the season.

Score: 6 out of 10

Short #29: Zoo Story

This was a great way to end the second season of shorts. Homer is a jackass to the monkeys who look like the family and Bart feels bad for his counterpart. Everyone knows that one person that teases an animal until something bad happens. It's the kind of thing that could have been expected on the show. That's how good this minute long short is. Definitely watch this.

Score: 8 out of 10

Two seasons of shorts down, one to go. Next week kicks off the last season of shorts. The family annoys each other in Shut Up Simpsons and Bart toys with Homer and Marge in Shell Game.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TV Movies: Cheap Low Quality

There is a joy to seeing a movie in a theater and enjoying one if the quality is there. Unfortunately, not every movie gets put on a screen at your local mall or small theater. Direct-to-video is one option for some and others might find one on TV that you will only find on the small screen. The television movie is one of the bigger money makers for some companies, but it's also one that merits low quality.

Is every television movie bad? No. One of the biggest examples of quality was the 1971 movie Brian's Song. It was the story of Brian Piccolo and the friendship he had with Gale Sayers. They were both running backs for the Chicago Bears and formed a bond that ended when Piccolo passed away from cancer. The film was part of ABC's Movie of the Week program, which showed films made for that network every week from the late 60s up until the mid 70s. For the effort, it won awards, which says a lot.

So why do we have to sift through a lot of crap? That was the thing that canned ABC's program, even though television movies started long before they started running weekly ones. It's like anything. People want to see something top notch or exceptionally good. Even with some big stars in some of them, the quality wasn't there and that's what turned viewers off. Prime time networks have not done this stuff in a long time, but there are cable networks that continue on with this concept.

Now these days, you can look to Hallmark, Lifetime, Syfy, and Disney Channel for TV movies. I think people do go in, expecting lower tiered stuff for being on cable, though the examples mentioned are making the same movies over and over (Disney really depends on what they are making). It's the same romantic crap on Hallmark. Lifetime's lifeline is having these movies where there's abuse in women and they have to triumph over it. They need something in order to keep reruns of Grey's Anatomy exclusive on their channel. Syfy is cheesy and over the top, and they have embraced it. When you consider the Sharknado films to be some of their biggest money makers, they will milk whatever is big for them and continue to do so until it runs dry. They do run theatrical films, though some don't make sense being on that channel like James Bond.

It wasn't uncommon to see Disney making film after film on video and TV back then. I don't watch their TV channel, but I have a niece that does. I feel like there has been way less of their original movie stuff being on in favor of theatrical run ones. Whoever has taken over knows the market and has slowly gotten away from it, but hasn't killed it off. There was that question mark, especially with the rut of films Disney made outside of a few live action ones and Pixar in the 2000s. A lot of people don't care for a lot of the sequels made for video and TV. Whoever listened has put Disney on a bigger step towards being loved like they were in 30s up until the 60s and the late 80s up until the late 90s. They want people to love top notch films, not groan with a cheaply made film that goes for an hour and has the same cliche ending.

In the end, there's always some suckers that either are bored that they will watch TV movies or they think it's something good despite watching the same concept. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Simpsons Shorts: Bart's Hiccups, The Money Jar Reviews

Short #26: Bart's Hiccups

Hiccups are probably one of the worst things you can have. Everyone has certain methods hat can cure them. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't. For the girls, they try a few ineffective but funny methods to rid Bart of his hiccups. I'm not sure if the drink concoction would be edible or spinning helps, but it's a few chuckles. On it's own not a bad short, and check out a little bit of continuity when Bart is spun in the chair.

Score: 7 out of 10

Short #27: The Money Jar

I'm not sure how common it is now these days, but there's that idea of the angel and devil that comes at specific scenes in movies and shows. The kids want bigger allowances but Marge stands her ground. She also doesn't want them getting into the money jar.  Each child goes into that thought of whether they should or not and it's really hilarious. You wouldn't think so, but it captures the idea of what kids think in certain situations.

With both shorts, the animation is impressive getting the house to look like a house and not just a few rooms put together in five minutes. As far as The Money Jar, this is another must watch.

Score: 8 out of 10

We finish up July by finishing up the second season set of shorts. Family adventures are on the way as they visit The Art Museum and get to see gorillas in Zoo Story.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Spider-Man And The Movies

For over 50 years, millions of people have been in awe of what Marvel Comics has done with Spider-Man. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the character was built as a teenager who had all these spider like abilities. However, he had to contend with issues outside of solving crimes and saving New York City. It was a quick success immediately. There was tons of merchandise, cartoons from the late 60s up until today and of course, movies.

The latest one, Homecoming, has done very well in it's opening weekend last week and has been one many have seen in the last few days. Although there were ones that came out in late 70s and early 80s, it wasn't until 2002 when the Sam Raimi trilogy began and got everyone's attention. It captured the essence of the comics (I think it was a little rushed, though) and did it very well with showing Peter Parker trying to live life as a person with these powers. For most, the first two films in that trilogy are as good as it gets.

I really do believe people love Spider-Man beyond the memes. (favorite brand of rice?) It's a franchise many adore. However, it's something they want to see high quality out of. Since 2007, the films have had a rough going. While it did well, the third Raimi film was not well regarded and it still isn't. Odd choices is the consensus along with the story. People did like The Amazing Spider-Man, but the second one was not seen as good, critically and commercially. They want to see Homecoming take off and hopefully put the web head back on top of the comic book movie spectrum. Personally, I don't buy into the Marvel Universe crap as a reason.

Right now, it should be able to keep up a good pace this summer compared to the Amazing films. However it does the next few weekends, it could do better than 3, but that's a long shot. With a cheaper budget compared the last decade, Marvel will have a better profit. This could be similar to how it was when the first two Raimi films came out if the quality is there in potential sequels. (most likely they will) It better get its shots in before the comic book film genre implodes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Simpsons Shorts: The Aquarium, Family Portrait Reviews

Short #24: The Aquarium

Homer is wearing the pants again in this short. He tries to show the kids some of the fishes that occupy the ocean at the aquarium. (check out second fish before it cuts to Lisa being disgusted) It goes awry when Bart decides to swim in aquarium. You wouldn't think of it as being funny, but there are a few chuckles you get out of it. It's far from a forgettable short, but your mileage may vary. Otherwise, it's Bart being mischievous.

Score: 7 out of 10

Short #25: Family Portrait

Ten years ago, the episode, You Kent Always Say What You Want, aired this short before the actual episode began, a very rare appearance of any Tracey Ullman era stuff. It is one of the most cliched ideas, the family portrait. Homer really wants a good photo, and he manages to screw that up in most of the short. It's a funny short with how the family handles taking the photo and Homer's attempts. Along with that is better looking character models and the legend of "Why, you little!", Homer's signature phrase when dealing with Bart. A solid short that has some good laughs.

Score: 7 out of 10

Next week, it's the kids leading the way. The girls try to cure Bart's Hiccups, and all three feel persuaded to take money from The Money Jar.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bad Umpire Sues Baseball

Put up a list of the worst umpires in Major League Baseball, odds are you will see three names that are still in the game today. Two are morons Joe West and C.B. Bucknor. The focus of this one is Angel Hernandez, who has been umpiring in the majors since 1993. As of last month, he has sued the league and commissioner Rob Manfred for racial discrimination. It is something that Hernandez says that has been an issue since 2011.

Hernandez, a Cuban born guy, has put a lot of blame on Joe Torre, who is chief baseball officer and has been since 2011. He says the then manager in 2001 criticized him after some call he made. Allegedly, Hernandez has supposedly not gotten the chance to be promoted and what not. His lawsuit talks about white umpires getting chances because of race and few other reasoning factors.

Hernandez is going up the creek without a paddle. These are tall accusations, and he doesn't realize the big picture. He is hated and known as one of the worst umpires in Major League Baseball. While every person that calls a game is not perfect, he is an example of one who gets calls wrong more often than not. There's a reason why players and fans can't stand the guy. When you hear chants telling you you suck, that's a good indicator. I can't tell if that ever happened to Hernandez, but it definitely happened to Joe West. Between these two, they are the most notorious umpires today.

I wonder how many complaints Torre gets all the time about how bad umpiring is in certain games. If players are having issues with Hernandez, there's not much he can do other than not have him call important games. He can't obviously fire him because of union things that would prevent that from happening. The same could apply to West and Bucknor. Unfortunately, fans, players and broadcasters have to deal with the brunt of it day in and day out.  There's nothing they can do until some of these umpires retire. Then again, there will always be a successor that could potentially be worse.

I think this will come down to the lawsuit either being dropped or Hernandez settling things out of court with the MLB. Maybe he can try to be better at umpiring. You can't reward ones that are often at the bottom of umpire lists. (unfortunately, people like West do get rewarded)

Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy (PS4) Review

The first time I played Crash Bandicoot was the first two games around late 1997, early 1998. They were also some of the very first titles I...