Law & Order’s Legacy Continues in Interactive Format

I was twelve years old when Law & Order began its long run on NBC. The show didn’t really hit its stride till the late great Jerry Orbach joined the cast in the second season along with S. Epatha Merkeson in my personal opinion and truly didn’t reach excellence till Sam Waterson joined as Jack McCoy. All that can be easily argued, but suffice it to say I’ve been a fan since day one. Criminal Intent was quickly my favorite show because of the awesomeness of D’Onofrio’s Goren and Kathryn Erbe’s Eames, but SVU always held my interest through and might actually top CI as a favorite with Meloni’s Stabler, Hartigay’s Benson and Wong’s Dr. Huang. Through the new shows though I still always loved the original and it’s various pairings. Logan was the original guy, but once teamed with Brisco he just reached levels of awesomeness and anyone who teamed with Lennie was automatically awesome, especially Rey Curtis. The way they wrote Benjamin Bratt’s character out was tragic, but the return to who he was in 2009 was just as tragic and never had any followup.

All this build up brings us to be able to discuss the new Telltale game for iOS and eventually PC, Law & Order: Legacies. Written and developed by Ryan Kaufman with production from Dave Felton, the game attempts to actually create in many a season of Law and Order that could’ve made it to the airwaves, alongside the fantasy of stories never told. It’s definitely a professional approved fan fiction, but it’s a well done one with creativity and an attempt at as much accuracy as possibly allowed by the production’s budget and limits. I found it interesting that Arie Kaplan who worked on the HOUSE M.D. games and is an accomplished journalist worked on Episode 2.

Unlike Telltale’s Back To The Future which featured the talents of original BTTF stars Christopher Lloyd, and Claudia Wells, the Law & Order game were not able to procure talent such as Benjamin Bratt, S. Epatha Merkeson, or Linus Roach among others such as obviously the dearly departed Jerry Orbach. Yet despite this, between quality voice acting and top notch art, the original actors are surely missed, but do not result in causing a distraction. Among the talent are voice over actress Cissy Jones, poet/musician Kid Beyond who has worked for Telltale previously, musician/voice actress Rashida Clendening, and many of the people who have worked with Telltale on other productions. The one voice they were able to retain was Steve Zirnkilton, the Voice of Law & Order, as well as that pretty critical Mike Post composition.

In playing this I had really wanted to replay the Vivendi/Legacy Law & Order games which had the use of the real actors, but as I remembered featured mail it in performances as well as writing and tons of bugs, yet, I wanted to try and do a track record of these type of games, as well as comparing them to Telltale’s CSI games. Yet in terms of style, content and conception, Legacies is its own entity based much more in paying attention to clues and having a good eye, while the previous games were based more in choosing the right random dialogue tree and beating annoying minigames like tile, match and also match and sometimes peck and hunt.

While I’ve only gotten to play the first two episodes, I wanted to reflect on the plot as there was a real attempt here to create something original here. The game in the first episode seems to take place shortly after season 12 and before Season 13. Detective Rey Curtis after a few years since his wife’s passing in 2009 and moving back to NYC is prompted by his daughters to return to the force instead of moping around. He someone gets automatically put back on the 27th Precinct run by Lt. Van Buren where he and Lennie Briscoe partnered. His first case in which he hasn’t been given a partner is a murder which also turns up rape evidence, Detective Benson from the 16th is called up to join the investigation as her partner is “on leave”, which is probably Benson not wanting to accept that Elliot actually quit, that is the only thing that makes sense unless Ryan Kaufman messed up his L&O timelines . That now gives us the Legacy of two major L & O characters becoming temporary partners on a major case, which once the suspect was revealed probably should’ve been turned over to Goren and Eames, but that’s splitting hairs. That case takes a quick left turn during trial and it is up to Michael Cutter and Abby Carmichael to clean up the mess. This must be before Cutter ends up as the new Bureau Chief of ADAs who work on SVU cases. A sidenote in the story reveals a connection between this case and a cold case Briscoe and Curtis worked on years ago.

In chapter two we are sometime between 1995 and 1999, probably closer to 99 based on the statement that the cold case took place 10 years ago from the first episode’s story, although for the time line to work it had to be at least 11-12 years ago, but one can say I’m nitpicking. This is an untold case of Briscoe and Curtis looking into the possible murder of a young father who died steps from his door step. The investigation follows all logical steps and Jack McCoy and Abby Carmichael have to use everything they can to convict in a case that isn’t not exactly as clear cut as one would hope. During the episode we discover a little more information on the Cold Case mentioned in Episode one and that it wasn’t just cold but closed, and that Lennie had been working on it on his own time. I spoil this information here so that fans and potential gameplayers who have yet to try the game out are aware there is an over arching storyline which seems to promise that while each episode is playable on its own, the full purchase will be definitely worth it.

Plot out of the way a very quick discussion of gameplay. So far the game is broken into two sections much like the TV show. We open with an investigation which includes listening to answers, hearing stories and a bit of a “find the item” type of minigame which actually has some thought put into it and allows for some cool looking backgrounds. The questions section will ask at certain points if you believe someone or feel you’ve caught them in a lie or that information provided was accurate and if you answer that correctly, a multiple choice will ask you the why of the answer. These mulptiple choices can be tricky as they can be worded incorrectly. Getting an answer wrong won’t end your game, but it may lead to a different result when it comes to the trial. Once all investigations are done, you go into court room mode. Here when interviewing a witness on the stand it is much like the interview investigations, but the twist comes in the properly placing objections and doubt when the defense is up at bat. There is also a closing arguments segment where you must properly choose what subjects to bring up. There are chances of losing, winning by jury or even offering a plea bargain which allows multiple gameplays just to see those scenes play out.

While I have not yet played the just released episode 3 which introduces Detective Logan to the story as returning to the force after quitting Major Case, trying out the real world and deciding he had to be a homicide detective, I definitely look forward to it and seeing where else the game and story go. Maybe with four episodes to go we might even get appearances from Lupo or Munch. Since this game was supposed to originally be a Law & Order: L.A. game there’s a chance will get a cameo from Connie Rubierosa who has decided that California just wasn’t doing it for her. Either way Telltale has shown that they can handle telling original stories, with gameplay that should be acceptable for all levels of gameplayers from the beginners to the veterans and a plotline that should be satisfying to all levels of fans of Law & Order as well.

FAVORITE CONSOLE GAMES of 2011

Back to the Future-The Game: With Bob Gale along as a supervisor, Mike Stemmle and Andy Hartzell, a fourth Back to the Future movie was realized. One just needs to completely ignore most of Back to the Future: The cartoon to enjoy it. It’s a very easy game, making it much more an interactive story than an adventure game, but that seems to be what TellTale is going for these days based on Law & Order: Legacies which is really well done, but very easy. What makes BTTF: The Game so special of course is Christopher Lloyd. His inclusion on voicing Doc takes this from a fun detour into a real project worthy of favorite.

Catherine: This Japanese Tetris like game has a lot going for it. While the majority of the gameplay is simply a hardcore variation on Tetris, Bejeweld, etc. it has an overlapping story with adventure game elements holding it together. Combined with absolutely stunning anime sequences produced by Studio 4°C (who incidentally did the anime sequences for one of my favorite games of all time Rogue Galaxy) and soundtrack of classical tunes remixed by Shoji Meguro, it is an amazing entry into video gaming and a game changer of what is capable in terms of basic being innovated.

Fight Night Champion: I have gotten to play the Champion mode of this game (by choice), but as a compelling original boxing tale with awesome combat controls it was one of the best experiences I have had with a video game. As a movie with interactive elements its actually on top as that, with a great script from Oscar nominated Will Rokos, good voice acting including video game veteran and popular actress Elisha Dushko, really quality realistic animation and the fact that’s its based in boxing really gives it an edge and I can see myself coming back to it even in years to come.

Infamous 2: Between Uncharted 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Skyrim it seems like the second chapter of Sucker Punch’s two games in one super hero saga has been forgotten. In the second game we get an even more realized and cooler world in a New Orleans-esque town. Cooler enemies with the zombie vampire like swamp creature horde and a more intriguing story with continuations of the first game but giving us now two protagonists, two sides to choose from and your special sidekick. Infamous 2 was everything Infamous was and more. Throwing in the ability to create your own levels or play user created levels, a first for a third person action adventure game on a console where the developer actually approved and helps distribute the mods, it was a gem among the horde.

L.A. Noire: The story in L.A. Noire and the acting is top notch, as is the clue gathering, the conversations. It’s a great conceptual answer to an interactive version of a 1940’s cop film with as much accuracy as allowed, with some intriguing twists of inaccuracy, because really… a fully realized game would probably be boring. The characters are fully realized, not just by the performances that the technology developed for the game allows, but by the actual writing itself. Alongside Quantic Dream’s David Cage, I see former Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara one of those videogame writer/director’s who will create very few, but very powerful, interesting, critically popular games full of strong script, concept and final product. L.A. Noire was the Heavy Rain of 2011 and more people got to play it, since Heavy Rain was a PS3 exclusive and still is.

Yakuza 4: The latest iteration of the Yakuza series before they went “Kill Zombies” in the next game lost some of its flavor by telling four different stories from four different characters instead of just focusing on The Dragon, but it gained another flavor and various techniques of intrigue. Four characters means four fighting styles, four different personalities and four different side missions. Some of them are huge side missions which I have to believe you can work on when you beat the whole thing, because I have not got that far yet. This is a huge epic game with more options of things to even more so than Yakuza 3. Training fighters, bowling tournaments, parkour challenges, fishing, more food to learn about, more drinks to discover, fishing, bating cages with better technique, and just so much more, more, more.

BONUS iOS

Jetpack Joyride: Hardcore addicting and adorable, the most recent Barry Steakfries game which is probably a prequel has no ending, you just keep playing, then you die and you try again. I don’t think there’s an end at least. Maybe there’s a way you can reach the super end if you unlock everything and spend extra money to get coins… I don’t know. I do know it’s super addictive and really fun. It’s currently still free so if you an iPhone or iPad I’d go grab it.

Where’s My Water?: Disney Mobile’s first original game and the game that actually beat out Angry Birds for top selling iTunes App Store game may be considered a cheap choice especially with my console favorite choices, but in terms of iOS games compared to video games, sales do generally mean quality and proof of concept. Some of my favortie games of all time in all history were definitely not the best selling, or even critically best, but they are my favorites. Swampy is adorable, he’s so adorable he’s getting an original web series in a couple days.

Console Games scheduled for 2012 that catch my attention

Be aware that I like puzzle games, adventure games and third person action adventure games with platforming.

I Am Alive: An Ubisoft productiion, the trailer shows an awesome combination of platforming, third person action, puzzles, first person shooting and more. Currently scheduled for XBLA and PSN. The game looks a bit big for digital release, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Hitman-Absolution: After watching a nail biting gameplay sequence on the official website showing awesome stealth, timing and shooting mechanics I am totally sold on the first ever PS3 Hitman.

Devil May Cry: As developer Ninja Theory will not be doing a sequel to Enslaved, seeing their work continued in some fashion in a fascinating looking game is what I’ll settle for. I have no connection to the DMC games, so a reboot is right up my alley.

Papo & Yo : Another digital only, this time PSN only, has amazing art and gameplay with seems puzzles meet third person adventure.

Tomb Raider: No gameplay has shown up for the reboot, but I trust in the company to create another excellent game full of everything I like.

Max Payne 3: I’ve been a fan since day 1, got Payne on XBox and PC and Payne 2 on PC. Got to see what they’re doing with Payne 3 at New York Comic Con and I was sold.

The Last of Us: Sure no gameplay yet, but it’s Naughty Dog and it has a great cast. Also from what I understand one of the main guys who worked on Enslaved spearheaded this.

A.M.Y.: Sure it’s ANOTHER zombie survival horror game, but it’s a PSN title and it’s made by the man who gave us Flashback all those years ago.

Inversion: Third person shooter with physics tricks and gameplay? Yes please and thank you.

Neverdead: Ever since the first gameplay of this I was on board. You’re body can fall apart and then you find it and as you gather a body part you can keep fighting and you can just keep getting your arm or leg ripped off and just grab it again but shoot with the other arm? Plus the story trailer was hilarious!

Lollipop Chainsaw: Hot chick, super awesome graphics, extreme violence, 3rd person action and Suda51? Ok!

Journey: thatgamecompany has not disappointed. Cloud, flOw and Flower were three very different but amazing games and I look forward to seeing what they’re latest which has had a much longer development time can bring.

Testament of Sherlock Holmes: Frogwares has been doing Sherlock games for the PC for a long time now, with interesting and original stories in the Holmes tradition including having him go against Jack the Ripper and Arsène Lupin. This will be the fifth game in the series and the first to be designed with PS3 and XBox in mind. They upgraded their gengine from scratch and look to have retained/returned to their more popular third person camera with first person probably now being the optional camera view. I’ve actually gotten to enjoy these games and feel they have a good handle on the character. While all renditions of Holmes have their incencretities, these are some of the funnest next to the BBC modern show and the Guy Ritchie films.

Silent Hill-Downpour: Traditionally the Silent Hill games have caused me frustration more than anything, but the latest version is from a brand new developer and is just using the premise of the Silent Hill ghost town to tell another survival horror action adventure. With IDW editor and Silent Hill comics writer Tom Waltz on story duties and music from Dan Licht.

Binary Domain: An action shooter from the producer of the Yakuza games and the producer of Vanquish? There seems to be some innovative squad based actions as well, yet still all in single player third person mode… so basically like elements from the Mass Effect games, but with a different fundamental. The videos for this look awesome.

Tribute to those fallen in 2011 Part 4

I repeat the initial paragraph here so you do not have to reference it after three prior posts.  I’ve always felt it necessary to look back on what people who had an impact on my pop-culture history and in some cases my real life. In the past I’ve written these obits with the most marginal of information, but I’ve always broken it down by categories. Frequently there would be people I’ve missed people or even complete categories as my heart and soul weakens as I organize this work. This is the first time this type of writing is showing up on Pop-Culture Spectrum. It will appear in approximately five parts and then a final collection post of linking for those who don’t go backward in blog reading. In each category it is broken down alphabetically and the age of the person and their cause is in parentheses after. Each category will have its own specialties.  This time I shall have more than one category as their sections are not long enough for an entire post.  They will have links where available.

AUTHORS/PUBLISHING/BOOKS

Michael S. Hart (64- heart attack): The founder of Project Gutenberg and by extension the e-book, he can be both thanked and blamed for the kindle, the nook, iBooks, comixology and many more. Yet without him, public domain books in easily accessible digital formats, be they .doc, .txt, .pdf, or .epub would not exist so I am eternally thankful.

Christopher Hitchens (62- esophageal cancer): One of the greatest minds of our generation, he wrote what needed to be written and said what needed to be said. Christopher Hitchens chose to be a controversial, derisive figure among analysts, political experts and the such. He was the non comedian version of George Carlin, with more bite, more vitriol and definitely way more to the point. He called a spade a spade and then he beat the shit out of that spade and stuck it up your mom’s bum and called it an idiot for even believing in not believing. Of course he wasn’t a perfect thought maker, like anyone of his measure and opinions, he had to get something wrong one in awhile or “wrong” as the case may be. His words and bravery to spread those words will be truly missed, but luckily he was quite prolific and left behind an amazing legacy.

Brian Jacques (71- heart attack): My bookshelf proudly holds various Redwall books, including an early version of the comic adaptation. These fantasy tales of anthropomorphic mice and more are brilliant and of course had to be a major influence on Scott Petersen’s Mouse Guard. Yet, it is Jacques other series that truly took my fancy and placed him among one of my favorite writers ever. The book, Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, was followed by two sequels which I have unfortunately only read one, but it and Angel’s Command are amazing works and cement Jacques.

Anne McCaffrey (85- stroke): The Dragonriders of Pern series was used very often to introduce children to adult science novels, when it was time for them to graduate. Not me in particular, I got started with Douglas Adams and Robert Heinlein between 10-13. Eventually I found my way to McCaffrey, devouring at a young age Dragonflight and such, but for whatever reason I didn’t stick with her completely. I found myself gravitated to Isaac Asmov, Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelaney, etc. but I know how amazing the Pern books are and I absolutely adored the Dreamcast/PC game, despite the fact that it was heavily panned.

VIDEO GAMES

Bill Kunkel (61- heart attack): The Godfather of Video Game Journalism, he helped start the engine that has allowed Game Informer, Game Trailers.com, IGN, and even G4 to exist. While video games by their own existence became the phenomenon they did, Kunkel started the ball rolling that made them an excepted concept. So much so that you see video game reviews in GQ, Vanity Fair, Playboy and even The New York Times.

Takeshi Miyaji (45- unspecified): One the true pioneers of console gaming design. He worked on my favorite J-RPG of all time LUNAR as well as the GRANDIA series. While his work on LUNAR is not what turned the game into a forefrunt of love for me. That being the amazing animated sequences done for Silver Story Complete developed by Toshiyuki Kubooka and the amazing story written by Kei Shigema, but Takeshi was the spearhead behind making sure the original product existed and without him, Working Designs would never made the absolutely two thrilling North American Collector’s Editions which I am obscenely proud to own… including my Ghaleon punching doll.

Will Townsend (33- car accident): This young game producer helped on the DJ Hero project as well as other games at Activision.   Gamasutra’s tribute article is a  good read.

PERSONALITIES who don’t fit a single category

Edmund Snow Carpenter (88- natural causes): Visionary and anthropological genius, he opened the doors to the future of documentary work and historical analysis. Without him, visual anthropology and films which explored society through media would’ve never reached it’s pinnacle as both an accepted art form and as accepted academic research tool. He was an amazing writer and documentarian and you can get a feel for his work at this website if you aren’t familiar.

Steve Jobs (56- complications of pancreatic cancer): I was planning to keep this simple and state that I own an iPhone and I’m addicted to the thing, but Steve Jobs was so much more than this. When he left Apple and before he purchased Pixar he started a company which would go on to develop the software used by Apple for most of it’s current OS and digital products. It was his purchase of Pixar and helping steer the Disney deal in place that really cements his legend for me though. While he was only the business end there, it was his clear minded vision to see the future that allowed the future to exist and it is that vision that will continue to steer the future as it comes.

Jack Kevorkian (83 – thrombosis from cancer): If he wasn’t such an amazing presence on screen and speak such an important message which he was wrongly imprisoned for; and they didn’t make a compelling biofilm with Al Pacino (in one of those rare bothering to act roles) and John Goodman, I probably wouldn’t acknowledge his passing, but such as it is.

Jack LaLanne (96- pneumonia): The guru of fitness, the man also has some of the sickest feats of strength in history. Swimming shackled to Alkatraz Island at over 40? Doing it again at 60?  Then something similar including pulling boats at 70? The man was a beast. Not enough of us (myself included) listen to his words of advice. He was a wise man who lived a fulfilled crazy life with a TV show, fame, books, and living legend status. Us stubborn, weak willed individuals (myself included) should have listened to him more. It’s not too late though, not too late.

Don Lapre (47- apparent suicide from cut throat & blood loss) : Con Man and infomercial master! If you never saw this dude growing up or as a teen or who knows how old you are… whatever. This dude sold vitamins, tips on how to make money by BUYING ads in newspapers and even tried to sell his scam skills to help people create infomercials to sell scam products. Man had guts… but the coward couldn’t handle it when the feds decided to throw the book at him. Instead of taking it like a man, he killed himself. Still he didn’t rape anyone, he just robbed them blind. He did it really entertainingly though.

Zoogz Rift (58- health complications): A long time ago in what feels like another galaxy I was very good internet friends with Zoogz Rift. We would e-mail each other back and forth, sharing wrestling theories, musical concepts and artistic visions. I even wrote a comprehensive biography of Bob which sits somewhere in my files. Writer, painter, avante garde musician and professional wrestling manager and booker, Zoogz, was quite the interesting cat. A man with many awesome successes and equally failures, but somehow a man who always bounced back and found a platform and to display his energy and entertainment and who definitely made his mark along the way in many lives. I still treasure my School of the Criminally Insane T-shirt which I will proudly display in any punk rock music video I ever make or any professional wrestling appearance I ever get lucky enough to be involved in again, even one of my own making and money.

New York Comic Con 2011 Overview Part 4

SUNDAY – DAY 4

I ended up waking up much later than planned and found myself rushing out of the house to at least catch my 12:15 Press session with J.Q. Quintel of “Regular Show” and Pendelton Ward of “Adventure Time” along with other writers and voice talent from the show including Tom Kenny.

From there I had about an hour or two to kill before a scheduled interview with Dave Gilbert of Wadjeteye Games. That interview was amazing and will be on this site sooner than later, probably this week. My mother’s hospital stay has delayed a lot of things.

In between I enjoyed many of the various booths I had missed on other days. I saw video games, indie publishers I hadn’t seen in years, had great conversations, saw amazing cosplay, took photos and all that jazz.

I stood on my feet as long as I could and even considered doing my traditional see what’s left over from booth destruction/left over, but the madhouse made me just feel best to get the hell out of Javits and not deal with people anymore.

I made plans to meet with my best friend Nick and figure out something fun to do for his birthday which we went and did.

New York Comic Con 2011 Overview Part 1

To get a clearer idea of where my head was in a jumbled state and the factor of this being possibly a serious mishmosh, let’s set some background.

I’m working from memory mostly, with the notes of my schedule for reference. Twitter and Facebook were impossible to get onto while in Javits. I tried, and was successful sometimes, but mostly nope, so my notes are photos, videos, what I bought, sketches and my good ol noggin. Another thing to note is that on Wednesday my mom admitted herself back into the hospital. She was there throughout the weekend and is still there as I write this on Monday night. It is nothing serious and they are getting down to the bottom to various problems she has had lately, but it added a stress factor to what usually is my most exciting weekend I New York for the last six years.

DAY ONE- Thursday

I got to the convention center and down into the press room, registered and ready to hit the floor just around opening at 4. The first person I saw before even getting on the show floor was Steve Talkowski. He introduced me to Tim Jester and I got to see his GibbyGop figure while admiring the Tokidoki car as well.

For this first official preview night where I had no panels or scheduled press interviews or autograph sessions I wanted to hit up so it was all about hitting the floor, getting whatever goodies I could and seeing as much as I could before 7 PM hit and it was time for the Tom Morello concert.

I gave my hand at Dead Rising 2: Off The Record and I’m thinking I’ll want it eventually, although I’ve yet to beat Dead Rising 2. A lot of the game booths pertained to genres I didn’t care about or had no interest in, but at least Ubisoft was there with some Assassin’s Creed and their game for the TinTin film. I played that and found it really fun.

Over at the Rockstar booth they were showing off the 10th anniversary edition of GTA3 which is a port for mobile devices and tablets. I got the feel for it and with some final tweaking it’ll definitely find new life on iPhones/pad/droids/whatever.

They were also showing Max Payne 3 in an early build in a closed off room. I’m thinking I’m probably not even supposed to TALK about the game, but damn it, it’s not video or photos, it’s just some dteails on awesomeness. They showed us a sequence flashback with Max Payne looking like his old self in New York City. In this wild sequence we find out why and how he ended up in the games main part of Brazil. They showed us the awesome mechanics and amazing graphics that are still in process, which means they’ll get even better. They then showed us a section of the Brazil part where Max is running around protecting his girl. The bullet time and final kill shots are just mesmerizing and there’s even SPECIAL bullet time sequences to allow for balls out ballistic kick ass action and Max is way more brutal now. After a dive he can be on the ground and turn around while still shooting. While Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3, and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations are going to keep me busy, I look super forward to Payne right now after that preview they gave us.

Walking the floor exploring awarded me seeing various other industry friends and acquaintances such as Dean Haspiel, Chris Miskiewicz, Joe Infurnari, Michel Fiffe and Kat Roberts (aka The ACT-I-VATE Crew) and in the Cultyard, Jared Deal. I also got to see the FIRST comics booth and had a good conversation with the owner of the returning publishing venture. I was also happy to see Jarret Williams, writer/artist of Super Pro K.O. from ONI Press. He was the first of the very few sketches I was able to pull off at the convention this year.

Other things of note were the awesome Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City action figures on display the DC Booth, the Hasbro Announcement of bringing back Jem and The Holograms and while I found the new Rayman game way challenging it looks freaking awesome and that visual standpoint should help it overcome it’s pretty high difficulty in 2-D platforming.

I also really enjoyed meeting street artist/cartoonist Tito Na Roa. When he hit New York City as part of visiting for NYCC he hit up the legends rooftop in Manhattan. I am hoping he somehow finds/found time to hit up more walls before going home, but even if he didn’t at least he solds his books at NYCC and his project is so mesmerizing.

Before the show floor closed on Sunday I was staring at Mattel’s collection of WWE figures, because no matter what I can’t seem to quit this shit. No matter how bad it gets. I’m still not the kind of fan they want though and never will be. My TV’s aren’t counted in market share, I don;t buy PPVs, I don’t go to live events, I don’t buy the toys and I criticize them left and right whenever I can. So I’m an addict, but at least I take my methodrone.

I almost decided to not go to the Tom Morello concert, but I am very glad I did. It was a super enjoyable and fun concert to listen and watch. He did a full amazing set of Night

I fell like I’m leaving out essential information in that the evening before I was off buying an iPhone and while I was about to go home is when my mother called me to tell me she was going into the hospital. She didn’t even know if she was being admitted till much later, which is why I wasn’t worried on Thursday. She wasn’t put into a room into late Thursday.

After the concert I went home knowing that the next few days were going to be intense and brutal.

Games That Tell Tales

As TellTale Games truly expands their line of excellent produced games in the end of 2011 and beginning in 2012 with magic based on the Jurassic Park movie franchise, and two very popular the Comic books in Image Comics The Walking Dead created by Robert Kirkman and the Vertigo fantasy series FABLES created by Bill Willingham, I thought it best to look at Telltale’s game history as a whole as well as quickly review their three last distributions in Back to The Future-The Game, Puzzle Agent and the second chapters of Hector-Badge of Courage.

I’d previously reviewed the first chapter of Hector on PCS, but I’ve yet to throw praise their way for everything else and they’re highly deserving it. So, away we go, with the history of the company as I understand it without all that legal and technical mumbo jumbo and with applauding their efforts and criticizing a bit (because it’s video games and one still must criticize video games) along the way.

Telltale was founded by former Lucasarts team members Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner. Both have had an extensive hand both creatively, administrative and technologically in bringing to life some of LucasArts most popular franchises such as Sam & Max and Grim Fandango, along with some Star Wars titles as well. Along the way they’ve been able to bring in some really awesome people to the team including Mike Stemmle, who was co-lead on Sam & Max as well as Escape from Monkey Island, Andy Hartzell, an award winning independent comics cartoonist and most notably Dave Grossman, co-creator of Monkey Island, Pajama Sam, and Moop & Dreadly with Ron “Grumpy Gamer” Gilbert (who now works at the other base of operations for awesome games Doublefine with Tim Schaefer, who worked alongside Stemmle, Connors and Brunner back when) was brought in as head designer. Along with incredible artists, producers and more, this assembled team has allowed Telltale to be one of the only successful adventure game companies in the United States today. Most of the adventure game companies with success are based in England, the Netherlands and Germany. Thankfully though Telltale exists and helps bring franchises you’d think were primed for a game, but also difficult to envision to life.

The first series they tackled was Jeff Smith’s BONE. Visually and intellectually, as well as voice acting, this production was awesome, but it definitely suffered serious flaws in their action and mini-games sequences. Despite this, it is a great shame that they only got to do Out From Boneville and The Great Cowrace. I’d love to see them return to the series at some point and maybe try and create a side adventure instead of the adaptations done here. Maybe an untold Grandma Rose story would be best suited.

TellTale was given the CSI franchise to develop for publisher Ubisoft, but these games never really seemed to fall into line with where Telltale’s style and bread&butter landed. It wasn’t long into Telltale’s existence as a company though that the opportunity to “come out like gangbusters” presented itself. While the exact reasoning behind how Sam & Max ended up at Telltale has many stories suffice it to say they got their hands on the Freelance Police, along with their creator Steve Purcell along for the ride for brand new adventures not tied to the LucasArts design. That gave us “Save The World” which was followed by “Beyond Time & Space” and eventually “The Devil’s Playhouse”. All three games used very interesting and intriguing uses of puzzle design and twists in the adventure gameplay to deliver games that were quite awesome, even if they somehow never have yet to reach the epic-ness that was “On The Road”. This was not for lack of trying. It could be because of the SCUMM system, maybe it’s because of nostalgia on my part. I enjoyed all the Sam & Max games from Telltale but there were decisions made in gameplay style which caused problems.

These same issues would plague their very thought out and high quality “Tales of Monkey Island” series. This game did have the excellence of Ron Gilbert working alongside Grossman and Stemmle to come to fruition though. What hurt this game, much like in the Sam & Max game was that each episode was not exactly standalone. They were treated much more like chapters in a book and some episodes were weaker than others, in terms of length, puzzles and more. If played in one sitting, this could be ignored, but if played the way they were originally designed it was very noticeable. In the long run though, it truly proved that Telltale was on to the magic. (Although it should be noted Ron Gilbert did come in for one chapter of this series, helping with design and writing, helping stir the pot that Stemmle and Grossman started.)

During this time they had also worked with Aardman Animations on their “Wallace & Gromit” franchise. Now I never saw how that could be a video game, but they figured it out. Even more amazingly they found how to turn the Strong Bad flash cartoons in to fascinating and funny games. I was never a fan of Strong Bad and I am still not, but my god, they seriously figured out how to make me in the least like those Strongbad games. It’s a testament to the talent of the Telltale team.

In 2010, Telltale became more than just a developer of their own products, but the housing platform for smaller games which would come out on their own, but with Telltale backing them had much more chance at being seen by a public desiring adventure games on all levels. They called it the Pilot program and the first title was Nelson Tethers, Puzzle Agent. Designed by cartoonist Graham Annabelle, who had been working in some capacity at Telltale since 2005 as they published his webcomic DUNK, it was an an example that Telltale didn’t just make good games, but they really could find excellent ones. I actually had problems with Puzzle Agent, both the original and the sequel in the puzzles. Some of them just went beyond my style of thinking. That’s not on me though, the game is called Puzzle Agent and that meant all kinds of puzzles, logic, math, visual, and when it comes to two of those I tend to have some issues, especially super complicated mazes. The game has both super easy and then slider puzzle types and I am not good at slider puzzles. Never hand me a Rubik’s cube, my way of solving it is to crack it open and re-glue it together when solved.

Back to the Future: The Game was announced in June of 2010, alongside with the upcoming Jurassic Park, as part of a licensing deal with Universal. Fan interest was high straight from the start and only got higher when the game was announced as “the fourth chapter” in BTTF and that Christopher Lloyd would be voicing Doc Brown. From the first chapter I was immediately sold. While my computer wasn’t completely up to snuff to handle the graphics completely I could tell the writing, acting and gameplay were everything I’d been wanting from Telltale and that the franchise only helped this. I think with this series the company really found their swing. Maybe it was knowing that there would be even more discerning eyes on it to accomplish their goals. Yet, yes, the episodic formula caused this to also suffer from some episodes being weaker than others and the game can truly only be appreciated best if played in succession. It truly was one of the strongest efforts from Telltale and gives amazing hope to their Jurassic Park game, not to mention The Walking Dead and Fables.

The most recent Telltale game to “ship” were chapters 2 & 3 of the Straandlooper developed HECTOR-Badge of Carnage. These both continued the excellence of the first two chapters and truly compel you complete the entirely funny, well thought out and constructed point & click game. The way this project finished gives me not only hope to see what if anything Straandlooper produces next, but what the pilot program may offer. While it’s obvious Telltale’s efforts for the next year will be in the three previously mentioned franchises and hopefully a second Back to the Future game, I hope they understand what they can really do here for gaming as a whole. Especially being one of the only, if not the only developer who is not an independent creator to produce games like this with distribution on almost every available platform one can think of.

There was a TellTale panel scheduled for New York Comic Con 2011, but based on research I could conduct it has been postponed for rescheduling or possibly all out cancelled.  This is a shame as I was excited at the prospect of possibly meeting Stemmle, Grossman, et. al… but alas.  I shall just continue to enjoy their products.

Nerd Notes (Video Edition for July 11th, 2011)

Back when The O.C. was on the air all the comic work was drawn by Eric Wight who went on to draw other great things.   He also worked on animated version of the comic, called Atomic County.  I don’t know if it ever aired on TV but TheWB.com has it available now and can be seen from part 1 at the link above.

I was upset to discover that the next DLC for L.A Noire titled “Reefer Madness” is not inspired in any way by the original movie or much more awesome rock opera, but it still looks pretty cool and I already paid for it so I’ll be playing it anyways.

I’ve been loving Billboard’s Mash-Up Mondays for a long time and their most recent one is just killer, James Blunt covers Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”, and kills it, it really needs to be heard.  Proof that even if you hate the original, the song is much better than you realize if performed by someone else with a different style.

I’m surprised that other than the Hatchet films, a slasher about a huge freak killing people can get mainstream release or at least iTunes trailers presententation, but here it is… CREATURE.  Which has Sid Haig, so there you go… anything with Sid Haig, especially after The Devil’s Rejects is gold.

Things That Are Awesome

-The full length version of the Punky Brewster theme song aka “Everytime I Turn Around” written and performed by Gary Portnoy. He was offering it on his website, but I think since he got iTunes to carry it, he moved it there. It’s worth the $1 for something so obscure and yet awesome.

-While trying to remember where I found the theme song sitting on my computer I came across this fake opener for a fake 1980’s TV show. I can’t seem to find much info about it, but it seems it was a wedding gift from writer/producer Chris McKenna to his bethrored writer/producer Sally Bradford (or at least that’s what I THINK from what I can discern). He tried making a theme song that sounds like something Portnoy would write and it looks like a show that would exist back when. Actually it looks like if Punky Brewster ended up with a single Black Man and his nerdy, fat son (or more, what if Punky Brewster found Cleveland Brown before he moved out of Rhode Island, but after his wife died). He called it “That’s Corky!”

Franklin & Bash continues to rock as it comes into its third episode. Mark-Paul Gosselear and Breckin Myer match up so well together and the writing is just superb. I’m still hoping that if the show lasts long enough we get a special episode where they confront Macauley Culkin and Seth Green.

– I tried out two drinks on Tuesday when we passed a gourmet/special indie food item store in Williamsburg. Both were amazing. One was Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola, which seems to been around forever, but was new to me. Another was Beyond Kombucha, which is based in Queens. There’s another Kombucha company in NYC and I actually like them a bit better, but I can’t find the website. They can be found at Smorgasburg on Saturday’s and at Fulton Stall Market on the South Sea Streetport on Sunday’s.

Alpha Polaris from Turmoil Games

One of the games I am really excited for and have been for awhile is the upcoming point & click indie Horror adventure from Turmoil Games.

These screenshots enthrall me, as do the details.  I am worried my current computer won’t be able to handle the game, but I’ll cross that bridge.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to review this one, but even knowing it exists is good.

The current release date just announced is June 24, 2011 in both an English and German language edition.

Trailers forthcoming.