Review: Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q

The west coast has a new, fresh, voice in Schoolboy Q.  Oxymoron, the follow up to Habits and Contradictions, has been heavily anticipated by critics and fans alike.  Schoolboy Q, who was part of XXL Magazine’s 2013 Freshman Class has been making lots of waves in the rap game ever since he released his independent LP’s.  He also was a supporting act for A$AP Rocky on his Long. Live. A$AP. Tour, which introduced a lot of fans to one of rap’s newest emcee’s."Oxymoron" by Schoolboy Q

So, does Oxymoron, live up to all of the hype it has been collecting the past couple of months?  In short, it meets all of the expectations, and probably exceeds them as well.  It is easily apparent that Schoolboy Q has improved a ton since Habits and Contradictions and that he has finally started to find his own voice and style.

The album covers a lot of ground content wise.  It offers an interesting snapshot into Schoolboy Q’s life, which basically explains how he got to this point in his young career.  Songs like the title track “Prescription/Oxymoron” offer a pretty deep depiction of pill abuse and an interesting narrative on the contrast of user and seller.  The track that caught my attention the most was “Hoover Street”, which offers a look into Schoolboy Q’s life in a quite graphic manner.  We learn about the family issues that he experienced in his life, with topics like “Grandma’s gun, drug test, his drug-addict uncle who was a bad influence, and the roaches in his cereal box.  It is an eye opening song and it really gives listeners a look at Schoolboy Q’s past.

Schoolboy Q is not alone on his album, which a bunch of collaborations this time around. The likes of Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Tyler the Creator, Kurupt, and Raekwon all offer verses on the album.  Tyler, the Creator and Kurupt, who are featured on the song “The Purge” both deliver killer verses that make the track stand out from the rest on the album.  Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Collard schoolboy qGreens” is also just as good.

There is also a lot to the album on the production side.  Songs like “Los Awesome” feature unique and energetic beats that really make this album a stand-out.  There is also a beat-switch in “Hoover Street” towards the middle of the song that really was unexpected and pretty epic.  You can tell a lot of work was infused into the sound of the album.

Oxymoron may not be for everyone, but it is still a brilliant album nonetheless.  Consider it as Schoolboy Q’s breaking out moment.  It is a great showcase of his lyrical talent and his ability to put together meaningful raps that have a lot more thematic weight than most rap out there now.  Schoolboy Q summed up his album pretty well with an interview with XXL.  He said, “This album is like a real street album, like a gangsta rap album if you would say. It’s like my story of my past life or whatever.”  It’s a great album, or whatever.


A Gaming Self-Analysis

I have been playing games for a long portion of my, still-young, life. Ever since my little brother introduced me to the Gameboy, I have been playing a wide range of games. However, when I look back at the games that I have really enjoyed, or spent the most time playing, I tend to notice some similarities in the types of games they are.

fallout 3I tend to go towards games that give me a lot of discovery; a what seems like an endless world to explore and roam around in. When I find myself playing games, I sometimes get disappointed whenever a game doesn’t give me a big, full-realized world. The most recent games in the Fallout series offered me experiences that I will never forget in gaming. Just the chance to walk around the post-apocalyptic worlds left me in awe and the fact that every nook and cranny in the game’s world had something to find really amazed me.

The Fallout series also leads me to another thing that I like to find in windwakergames, and that is the narrative. I never really found games like Call of Duty, a game that generally lacks a strong plot, that fun. I always found myself going for the games that had a narrative that was the backbone for the games themselves. Games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda are some of the favorites that come to my mind when it comes to a good story. The Final Fantasy games in particular offer a ton of story, enough to possibly drive some people way, but that never kept me away, it just brought me closer. These games kept me playing for a long time, not just for their content, but for the amount of story that they contained. Most of the Final Fantasy games featured massive story lines with lots of characters and a ton of surprises and conflicts along the way. They always kept me playing till the end to see how final fantasy xthe story ended up.

Lastly, I found that I tend to like games that encourage the sense of fellowship, and by this I mean the act of sitting down with your family and friends and playing a game for hours on end. It was that social experience that drove a lot of my gaming when I was younger. Games like the Smash Bros franchise offered me a chance to play with my friends after school for a long time. The different modes in the game, like the Tournament Mode, made it hard for us to stop playing, and we often lost track of time. The point is, those games offered me a social experience that I never experienced before that, and from then on I started to gravitate towards those games.super smash bros

After this self-analysis of my gaming habits, and the aspects that I like in games, I really didn’t find anything that was unexpected. There were no surprises. For me, the aspects of discovery, narrative, and fellowship have always been my favorite parts of games and to this day I still tend to play games that feature these things. Like I said before, I play a variety of different games, but discovery, narrative, and fellowship form my ideal game that I like to play.

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Promising, but Needs Improvement

Let me start off by saying that I was going to look at both Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyer’s first nights on their respective shows, but then I realized something about The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  It is pretty much Fallon’s late night gig moved to a different time slot.  The format is still completely the same and we still have the overly-excited host in Jimmy Fallon.  That being said, he is doing a great job, but I was more intrigued by Seth Meyer’s new show, Late Night with Seth Meyers.  He has a completely new slate and a chance to reinvent the Late Night franchise as a whole.  So how did he do on his first night?

seth meyers thank you notThe show had a rocky start but then managed to recover itself by the end.  It started out with a cold open that featured Meyers at his desk writing a “Thank You” note (a bit that Fallon famously invented) to Jimmy Fallon which said he was going to only use his new Late Night spot for original comedic bits.  It was hugely ironic and it was also hugely hilarious as well.

With that, the credit sequence rolled, and it had a major resemblance to the SNL series, with the flashy lights and different angles of the New York night life.  It looked good, but it made me wonder how much of Meyer’s new gig would be related to his previous SNL gig that he only walked away from a couple of weeks ago.

The monologue was the part of the show that was probably the bumpiest for Meyers.  It almost felt like it was an extended edition of The Weekend Update.  He delivered a bunch of jokes aimed at current news and events.  He rambled them off with quickness and offered his famous one-liners to go with them.  It was during this part that you could tell he was nervous, judging by the way he was moving his arms and how he stared straight into the camera the entire time.  It didn’t feel natural and he didn’t really seem like a Late Night host at this point in time.  This is probably one of the things he will get better at, hopefully, but it is still a little alarming.seth-meyers.jpg-618x400

He then went back to his desk and started to thank his parents and his wife, which included a really hilarious and amusing story, and he also had some banter with 8G band’s (the house band) leader Fred Armisen.  This was probably one of the funnier parts of the show.  Armisen and Meyers seem to work really well together and it will be interesting to see how Armisen’s role on the show evolves over time.

He then dove into different comedy bits that needed a little work, but overall delivered some hope.  The “Costas Vision” bit was actually unexpected and rather funny.  It ended with how Bob Costas sees the luge event, which is a hot dog sliding down a toy car track.  It was one of the highlights of the show surprisingly.

seth and amyIt was at this point in the show where Meyers seemed to recover from his first-half-hour jitters and developed some confidence in what he was doing.  His first guest was his BFF, Amy Poehler.  They have both known each other for a long time and it showed during their really natural conversation that spanned from comedic bits, to actual talk about her upcoming work, and to George Clooney jokes.  It all flowed really well and it was enjoyable to watch.  It was easy to see that Meyer’s interview style is already better than Fallon’s who’s overly excited all of the time and doesn’t feel natural.

This continued when Vice President Joe Biden came on the show and started to talk with Meyers and Poehler.  Joe Biden and Amy Poehler had some pretty funny bits together and the conversations that were had, once again, just felt very natural.  It was known that Meyer’s voiced his concern with the interviews saying that it was the hardest part.  However, he showed last night that it might actually be one of his strongest suits on the show.  The real test, which seems early, will actually come tonight when Meyers has the always vocal Kanye West on the show.  I am very interested to see where the conversation leads them, and it will test Meyer’s interviewing mettle.Late Night with Seth Meyers - Season 1

The show finally ended with a pretty good performance by A Great Big World, who played “Say Something”, one of their recent hits.  It ended the show on a good note.  Overall, there is a lot of room for Seth Meyers to improve, but his first show went okay.  In the beginning it didn’t really look to good but then there was a promise that the show would get better, and it did.  It’s no doubt that Meyers will improve over the coming shows and weeks and we will soon see a confidence that matches Jimmy Fallon.  (I also would like to point out that Jimmy Fallon had the same nervous feeling that Meyers had with his first Late Night show, and look where he is now.)

Beneath a Steel Sky and it’s Scary Future

BASS Cover ArtBeneath a Steel Sky, a point-and-click adventure game that came out back in 1994, has a lot to say about society in the future.  A lot of scary things.  It was a game that received a lot of positive criticism for it’s thought-provoking story line and it’s dialogue that conveys a pretty dark story at the core.  The game, which was created by Revolution Software and Virgin Interactive, has a lot of good things going for it.

First off, the story starts with a young Robert Foster in a dystopian future who finds himself in the wastelands.  The locals of a remote region called Gap, take him in and raise him for a while.  One day, armed security officers from Union City come to take Foster “home.”  After some thought, Foster decides to go with them, but soon sees his town that raised him become destroyed behind him.  The helicopter, however, doesn’t make it a smooth landing once they arrive in the city.  They crash, and Foster finds a way to escape through a nearby Recycling Plant.  It’s from here where the game finally takes off and puts you in control, with the objective of leaving the city.

However, as you start to talk to the locales of the city, and get involved in their troubles, you soon see that there are some major social issues that are present.  First off, people are fascinated with their technology, kind of like they are in real life.  People would much rather find their information through the various Linc consoles throughout the city than have a proper conversation with someone.  BASS image 3

It’s in Linc where a lot of these problems stem from.  Linc is a computer system that basically “links” society together in a really warped way.  People are separated into social classes (Linc statuses) and are divided into levels of the city.  For instance, if someone has a D-Linc status, which is the worse status, they cannot go to the lower levels of the city.  And the people with the highest status, have full access to the city.  The technology behind Linc is essentially taking over and controlling the city and everybody that is within it.  People can’t even leave the city, because that would “hinder progress”.  The society in Beneath a Steel Sky” is so fascinated with their progress that nothing else matters to them.

Like I said before, it’s a thoughtful story-line that really makes you think.  It makes you realize how close we as a society in real life to getting to this point.  We are so attached to our technology already and it doesn’t take much for technology to essentially start controlling our lives.  Technology is a way of life for some people.  And that can be scary when you really ponder the idea.

BASS image 2On your adventure through the city, you are accompanied by a robot companion named Joey.  He was one of my favorite characters in the game.  He’s basically a smart-ass robot who always has something witty to say at the right moments.  I thoroughly enjoyed the dialog between Foster and Joey because it is where a lot of the humor in the game is present.  Picture a buddy-cop movie, minus the cop part.  It’s just great.

It’s not the only place that humor is present though because the whole game is filled to the brim with really witty humor in the conversations that you have with people.  There are some really funny moments that made me laugh and the accents that a lot of the characters had were pretty amusing.  I heard some pretty good British and Australian accents that really made the characters seem unique in a sense.

The voice work however, seemed a little weird at points.  The subtitles appear on screen but sometimes they didn’t match with what a character was saying.  I didn’t mind this though because this led to some pretty amusing situations more often than not.  For example, a factory boss named Lamb was talking to me about his “pussy” and how it always needs fed.  (Of course the subtitle said pussy cat)  It was just hilarious hearing a man talk about how his pussy need help.  Maybe this was intentional, maybe it wasn’t. BASS image 4

The simple gameplay was also pretty revolutionary for the time.  There are literally three main controls for the entire game.  You can hover over objects and their name will be displayed to you.  The left mouse button will have Foster look at an item and the right mouse button will have him interact with an object.  Lastly, F5 will bring up the menu.  That is literally all there is to it.

This is an adventure game made in the heyday of adventure games so all of your classic adventure game mechanics are here. You have an inventory containing all of your items that you can click and drag into the environment to interact with.  The game also requires you to do some pixel hunting in order to find the certain item you need.  Some parts of the game are also pretty challenging to figure out and know what to do next, but that is the fun of the adventure games.

BASS image 1If I had to give one complaint about the game, it would have to be the checkpoint system, or the lack thereof.  There were some moments where Foster would die because of a certain thing I did.  The game would then give you two options, restart the game in its entirety or reload from the last save.  This may not be a problem for some people who spam the save button but it was pretty frustrating when I would not save for a long time and then come across a really cheap and fast death that would send me back a long ways.  It’s too bad there wasn’t a checkpoint system or at least an auto save option.  But then again, this game came out in 1994 and those kinds of concepts weren’t at the forefront of developers minds I guess.

I thoroughly enjoyed what Beneath a Steel Sky had to offer with its simple gameplay but complex story.  The ending was pretty interesting and it wraps up the dark and foreboding story in a nice way that felt particularly satisfying.  I have heard that Revolution actually has interest in making a new Beneath a Steel Sky game and I think that would be an awesome idea.  I would play it for sure.


Going Back In Time to Trade Cards

It’s been a while since I have thought about the Gameboy Color.  The handheld was a  revolutionary system for it’s time, and it also came out around the time that I was getting into games.   I only played a couple of games for the system, most notably the Pokemon games.  However, there was one Pokemon game that came to my mind when I was thinking about that games that I played on the handheld.

PTCG BoxIt was more of a niche game that didn’t really have the following that the major Pokemon games had, but the game centered around a concept that was pretty familiar to Pokemon fans, the trading card game.

Pokemon Trading Card Game was a game built entirely around the real trading card game.  The game was released in April of 2000 and it was met with a generally positive response from critics.  They said that the gameplay was addictive, but overall less satisfying then the original Pokemon RPGs.

I remember loving the hell out of the game.  It was one of the first games that I played, partly because I was into the trading card game and it was pretty cheap when I got it.  I played it for hours on end and I have to say that the game probably taught me how to properly play the game.   I collected the cards and played them with my friends, but not the right way.  With this in mind, I recently decided to go back in time to that era and play the game that I adored so much back then.PTCG Rival

The game puts you in the shoes of a collector who wants to become the greatest Pokemon collector ever.  In order to do this, I had to first go to get my first deck from a professor in his laboratory.  It was all very similar to the Pokemon RPGs in the sense that I was getting my first Pokemon and then from there I went into a tutorial match where I learned the rules of the game.

After this, I had to go to different clubs which specialize in the different elements like water, fire, and grass to name a few.  Each club features a couple of people that I have to defeat and then the club leaders who are obviously tougher.  Once I defeat everybody, I get a medal specific to that club.  Once I defeat all 8 leaders from the different clubs and get all the medals, I then had to go to the Pokemon dome to defeat the four Grand Masters.  In the span of this journey, you also get the 4 Legendary Pokemon cards, which is essentially the main point of the game.  That was basically my quest in a nutshell.  It proved tough at points, but it wasn’t really that hard.

PTCG mapEach player has a deck of 60 cards, which you can modify at any time during the game.   You can also create different decks that you can switch to in order to take advantage of the weaknesses of the different clubs.  I found that this was pretty helpful when I was partaking in my battles.  The game follows the general rules of the actual trading card game pretty nicely.  Each player sets out a couple of prize cards that they will get for each opponent Pokemon they defeat.  When the player collects all of their prize cards, they win the match and get booster backs to improve their decks, in addition to a medal if they are playing the club leaders.

There are energy cards, trainer cards, evolution cards, and of course, the basic Pokemon cards.  I believe there are 226 cards in all, which are pulled from the first three sets of cards from the actual game.  There is a bunch of variety for different play styles.  I found myself going on the route of offense.  I had a bunch of high level Pokemon that usually have strong attacks that could wipe out opponents with ease.PTCG match

The part that I didn’t like about the game, was the wall that you tend to hit halfway through.  It turns into a grind of playing NPCs and getting booster packs in search of one or two cards that you need to build your ideal deck.  Maybe for some play styles this wouldn’t be a problem because I found myself pretty into the deck building aspect of the game.  You could potentially blast your way through the game if you only used one deck.  You would probably lose more often, but you wouldn’t really care about building other decks.

PTCG PikachuI didn’t really mind the grinding aspect that much though because Pokemon Trading Card Game is a really easy game to play in the background.  I actually found myself watch TV or doing something else in the background that would help me pass the time.  As I was playing the game, I slowly began to realize again why this game was so appealing to me.  It offers a pretty fun, and addicting, alternative to the trademark Pokemon RPGs and it provided something new at the time that wasn’t really replicated before.  Who knew that you could base a whole game off a trading card game?

Well, gotta get back to catching them all!  Or…in this case, collecting them all…

Review: The Wolf Among Us – Smoke & Mirrors

It’s been a while since I have played The Wolf Among Us‘ first episode.  It was last year to be exact, and since then I have been waiting for episode 2 to get released.  The first episode left us with quite a cliffhanger that left me, literally, with my mouth wide open.  However, Telltale was pretty closed-mouth about when the second episode would finally come out.  It was originally supposed to come out last year as well but after numerous delays and unclear statements by Telltale, the episode finally came out about a week ago.

the wolf among us interrogationIt’s a shame that the second episode came out so late after the first episode.  By this time, I pretty much forgot a lot about what had happened from the first episode.  Since then, I have been playing other games and I have started to forget about the previous events of the first episode.  Luckily, and probably for the best, Telltale put in a “last time on The Wolf Among Us” bit at the beginning that filled players in on where they stand in the story.  The bit helped but some of the plot points were still a little hazy to me.  It took me about half the episode to fully remember everything that has been going on.

The story picks up with Bigby at the police station.  And at this point, I am going to try to avoid spoilers, which basically means that I can’t really iterate on why Bigby is there.  However, I can tell you that the majority of the story takes place investigating clues related to the cliffhanger that was given at the end of episode one.  It is extremely easy to predict what happens after this cliffhanger because the said person that appears to be dead is….you can probably piece it together from here.   You will find yourself at the Trip Trap again and you will also find yourself at new locations like The Pudding & Pie strip club and a run-down hotel which is next door to the club.  Its at these two locations were a lot of the heavy bits of the plot are revealed and yet another cliffhanger is given.  This time, I have to say the cliffhanger took me by surprise, I was not expecting it at all.wolf among us pudding and pie

I did like the location of Pudding & Pie a lot.  The place has a pretty shady and seedy atmosphere that introduces the character of Georgie Pordgie as a bastard and an asshole that has no respect for his women.  The characters of The Wolf Among Us have really impressed me so far.  The voice work that has gone into each one of them is spot on and they really breathe life into each of the characters.  But that is what most have come to expect from Telltale.

With that being said, the story in episode two is pretty strong, but I would have wished that it was a little longer.  You would think that after being in delays for so long, the second episode would have a lot of content in store for the players.  Interestingly enough, it’s quite the opposite.  The second episode probably took me a little under two hours to complete.  The chapters zipped by pretty fast and it doesn’t seem like there was to much big decisions that I had to make in this episode.  It was all just stringing evidence together to connect the dots.

wolf among us nerrisaThe second episode seemed to trip over itself and fell short for me.  I went into this episode with a lot of expectations, and I was met with only one of them, and that was another cliffhanger.  Hopefully this cliffhanger will lead to a bigger episode three that picks the story up from the ground and takes it higher.  I shouldn’t be complaining as much as I am though because most episodic series have that one episode that is a filler episode, and I have to say that episode two fits the criteria for the low note of the series.


Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are going to be soon upon us (March 2 is the telecast) and there is a lot of buzz surrounding all of the movies and nominees.  The show will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.  The race for Best Picture will probably be one of the closest categories we have had in a while.  The category is literally up in the air.  All of the nominees are great movies but only one can win, obviously.  Below are my predictions for all of the major categories…

My predictions for the winners will be in bold.

12-years-a-slave-posterBest Picture

-American Hustle

-Captain Phillips

-Dallas Buyers Club





-12 Years a Slave

-The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor

matthew m-Christian Bale (American Hustle)

-Bruce Dern (Nebraska)

-Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

-Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

-Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress

amy adams-Amy Adams (American Hustle)

-Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

-Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

-Judi Dench (Philomena)

-Meryl Streep (August Osage County)

Best Supporting Actor

jared leto-Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

-Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

-Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

-Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer-Lawrence1-Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

-Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

-Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

-Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)

-June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Director

alfonso_cuaron-Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

-Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

-Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

-David 0. Russell (American Hustle)

-Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

I can’t wait to see how awesome (or horrible) I was with my predictions when March 2 comes around.  Everybody will be anticipating Hollywood’s biggest night.

Review: Jazzpunk

Jazzpunk_logoWhat the hell is this game?

This was the question I was constantly asking myself throughout the entirety of the game.  Jazzpunk is a crazy game that spews out comedy at a rapid pace and it doesn’t end till the credits roll.  Most of the comedy is random, and may not make sense, but that doesn’t matter, it’s freaking hilarious either way.  It was probably one of the funniest games I have played in a while, and that is saying a lot considering there are not that much comedic games out there on the market.jazzpunk office

You play as a spy who is initially asked to infiltrate the Russian Consulate.  These tasks are given to you by a pretty drunk contact in a what seems like abandoned train station.  Even though the Russian Consulate was right in front of me, I decided to investigate the surrounding areas, and that is where Jazzpunk shines.

There is so much random funny sequences that occur as you walk around and there are more unique pop culture references that you can shake a stick at.  I found myself having sex with a robot hooker on the streets, chasing a motorized pig through a resort, zapping birds out of the sky, throwing popcorn at people in a movie theater, watching a frog watch frog porn in the open, and many more crazy activities.  There are also mini games that you can play throughout the world like a pizza game that presents itself as a horror game and my favorite, “Wedding Quake” that puts you in a first person shooter and gives you weapons like a champagne bottle.  It’s craziness at it’s finest.

jazzpunk movie theaterWhen I was plopped in a location, I would instantly start to explore the area around me in search of the funny gags that it had to offer.  I usually got to the main missions, but the other stuff was more appealing to me.  There is no order in the world of Jazzpunk.  I don’t know if I would want to make a living in the locations featured in the game, but they were so fun to mess around in.  It seems like there was a gag or reference around every corner I peeked in.

The main story was alright, but it was nothing special because like I said, the best part was the side missions and the other craziness.  But, the main story does make sense, in a weird sort of way, and it was generally fun to play through, although it was pretty short.

The game took me about 3 hours to play, and that includes all of the snooping around I did in the game’s various locations.  With that being said, it is a short game.  I would have liked to see more of the intriguing world of Jazzpunk, but it is probably better that I didn’t.  A comedy game like this would have probably lost some steam after a while. jazzpunk face

Now at this point your probably wondering why the game is even called Jazzpunk.  Well it took me a while to figure this out, but then I started to listen to what was going on in the background.  The game features a pretty cool soundtrack that fits perfectly with the title of the game.  There was some smooth jazzy rhythms that were mixed with some futuristic sounds.  It was a cool sound and it seemed to fit the world of Jazzpunk perfectly.

Jazzpunk was an interesting experience, one that I have not experienced in games yet.  Some people will probably not like the game and think that it is a stupid excuse for a game, but some will think it is hilariously funny and a great couple of hours of random fun.  I was in the latter crowd.  I enjoyed Jazzpunk and I thought it was a fun break from the other games out there.  More games need to be made that are like Jazzpunk.  Comedy is a hard genre to do in games, but it can be done, and Jazzpunk is a great example of a comedy game done right.

jazzpunk townTake not developers, starting making some damn hilarious games!

Review: The Lego Movie

lego posterLet me just start off by saying that there is a bunch of things to like about The Lego Movie.  This has easily been one of my favorite movies of the year so far (even though the year is young)!  This is not the first movie about Legos.  For instance, there were the Bionicle movies that came out a while back.  But those were nothing special.  This is the first Lego movie that actually got something right.  It appeals to both kids and adults, and it is just clever in every way.

The movie stars Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, an ordinary construction worker in Lego City, or at least he believes.  One day he stumbles upon a shady figure on the construction yard, who turns out to be Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks).  After some events, the two have to flee the city and head to the Wild West via a portal in order to get away from the Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) and his cronies. However, the main villain in this movie is Lord Business, voiced by Will Ferrell, who is bent on destroying the Lego Universe by gluing it all together.

There is a prophecy though, that is revealed by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) that a master builder will arise, the most interesting person in the universe, and he will save the Lego universe from Lord Business.  This is where the ordinary Emmet comes in.  He has to work with his group of allies to stop Lord Business and save the Lego Universe in the most wackiest ways possible.

The master builders, to iterate, are a group of builders who were mixing together pieces from all the different sets and creating new creative things with them.  They can build anything that they set their mind to, and they don’t need instructions like everybody else. (The term of a Master Builder is actually based off the real life master builders who actually create most of the real life sets and the massive creations that you will see at places like Legoland)  Lord Business didn’t like this and that is why he started to section off all the worlds in the Lego Universe in order to promote order and gang

The person that steals the show in this movie is Will Arnett, who voices one of Emmett’s allies, Batman.  It is amazing that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors, got Batman to make an appearance in the movie in Lego form.  Will Arnett plays a great Batman and I would not be opposed to seeing a Lego Batman movie that stars Will Arnett as the lead.  He was that good.

But besides that, everybody else was good too in their performances.  Every character seemed to have a voice that just fitted with their personality.  It was honestly hilarious to hear Morgan Freeman say have the stuff that was in the script for him to say.  There was also a huge cast of characters, which I will not spoil, that also did a great job and I can’t believe that they actually would sign off on a project like this.  (Lets just say that I am talking specifically about a certain spaceship that makes an appearance halfway through the movie).

lego movie 2Even though The Lego Movie, is definitely a kids movie through and through, it was still brilliantly written and everything actually makes sense in its wackiness.  There is so much outside references that are crammed into this movie.  Everything from the Terminator to the Lord of the Rings and to Classical Literature.  It is all there. There are also a lot of nods to older Lego themed sets that came out in the past.  This movie does a good job of providing nostalgia to some of the other sets in the Lego catalog.   Obviously kids will enjoy the gags that present themselves throughout but adults that go see this movie with their kids will also find something to take away from it.  That is where this movie shines.

The movie also shines in it’s visuals.  Even though everything was done through animation and computers, the movie still seems to capture the feeling of stop-motion video.  It looks like some kids stop-motion creation took off and spiraled into a creative explosion.  The models all look extremely close to their real-life counterparts and they all jump out of the screen, literally and figuratively.  (The movie is in 3D)  However, I would recommend seeing the movie in 2D because the 3D really didn’t contribute too much to the overall film.Lego Movie

Lastly, and not to get into any spoilers, but the last part was amazing.  The whole movie is building up to a huge surprise that comes at you like a truck and hits you right in the face.  I was not expecting the ending to present itself in the way that it did but it blew my mind, nonetheless. It left me with a good taste in my mouth when I was leaving the theater and it really was the icing on the cake of a really well-done movie.  There is also an opening that was presented that leaves the movie open for a sequel, which I would love to see.  I don’t know where they would take such a movie in the future but I wouldn’t care because I liked the first one so much.

The Lego Movie like I said before does so much right.  I was not expecting it to be so good.  The people behind this movie really knew what they were doing with the movie and you could tell that they had a real passion for Legos as much as we did when we were kids.  I would like to see more movies like this in the future for sure.

And yes, I really want a Lego Batman to be made, pronto!

Emergent Complexity in Games

Game developers try extremely hard every time they make a game to make the “holy grail” of video games.  This is a rather hard task, but some say there is a way.  Emergent complexity, when complex systems arise out of relatively simple interactions, is sometimes considered the key to making the “holy grail.”  However, there are different types of emergent complexity, intentional and unintentional, that exist.

Some developers give player a set of tools and systems that they can work with to create amazingly complex situations.  This is called intentional emergence.  Scribblenauts, a game that came out in 2009 is a brilliant example of intentional emergence.

scribblenauts screenPlayers, who control the character of Maxwell, are given one thing and one thing only, a notepad.  The game then allows you to write any words that fit within the game’s massive dictionary into the notepad, which in turn will create those objects and place them in the game’s world.  The players can then use these objects to interact with other characters and complete tasks.  Although this may seem simple at first glance, it can get as complex as the player wants it to get.

An example of a task would be to get a cat down from a tree.  Now, there is a simple solution to the problem and a billion non-simple solutions.  The simple solution would be to create a simple ladder that would be put up against the tree, allowing Maxwell to climb up and grab the cat.  But what fun is that?

When the developers were making this game, they knew that players wouldn’t be able to resist their imaginations when completing these tasks.  Instead, you could create a building next to the tree.  After that you could put a fisherman on top of the building.  Then give him a fishing pole with a fish on the end of it.  To make sure you don’t hurt the cat, you have to put a trampoline below the branch to catch the cat’s fall.  Then use the fisherman to lure the cat from the tree so that he falls down to the trampoline below, all safe and sound.  Much better than a simple ladder right?372662018-super-scribblenauts-8

It got to the point where players would create these really complex scenarios that would somehow trigger the success state of the different tasks.  It was an incredible concept that wasn’t really seen in games before that.  Later versions of Scribblenauts have been made that have improved on this mechanic, making it even more emergent than before.  5th Cell, the developers behind the game, really had a light bulb of an idea.

However, not all developers create a game with these emergent situations in mind, which is where unintentional emergence comes into play.  Players can either find glitches in the game that alter the core gameplay mechanics or they can mess with the games economy in a certain way, or basically anything that changes the direction that that developers first intended.

Glitch_Pokemon_Episode_2_4A specific example of this would be Pokemon Crystal Version for the Gameboy Color.  It was discovered that there was a way to clone pokemon and items by taking them to a pokemon center.  From there,  if you went to the PC in the corner, you could clone pokemon and other items by doing a series of actions, including turning your system off entirely.

This allowed people to clone master balls (for all you people who haven’t played pokemon, they are items that allow you to catch any pokemon without a question) which in turn led to people catching a ton of really powerful pokemon like legendaries and rares.  People would then turn this into a business, taking advantage of the people who haven’t found this glitch yet.

This would also make way for people going into online matches with six of the same pokemon that were at an extreme level, which basically would make it impossible for the other player to even win the match.  This hidden glitch of cloning really did a lot to break the game’s “economy” in a sense and it really started to change how people played the game.84-capture_27052010_192821

In future iterations of Pokemon, this glitch was obviously taken out and fixed, but it is still amazing how a simple glitch went through the debugging process without being found, causing the game to be changed in a significant way.

Emergent complexity, whether it is intentional or unintentional, is the sign of a great game.  Sometimes this emergence can enhance a game and make it way better than it was originally or it can break a game to a point where the fundamental concept is changed.  Either way, it is something that most developers should strive for on their quest to make good games.