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23/8/2003: Of Keycards And Killing Things

[Weekend update this week from our old friend Masked Monk. I'm afraid I have completely lost track of the guest updates I have acquired. If you sent me one and it never appears here, don't fret, it's more likely to be buried under an avalanche of spam and game help requests than just crap. -YZ]

A few weeks ago, I bought Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire for a dollar, figuring that even if it was the worst game ever, it cost a dollar. Upon hearing of this, one of my friends made reference to getting the game for free, then throwing it out the window immediately. In conclusion, I was ripped off by people selling a video game for a dollar.

At about the same time, I was poking through another friend's closet, and dug out his REAL 3DO Interactive Multiplayer FZ-10, a game system that nobody ever bought and everyone hates* that his stepbrother got really cheap used, and got tired of within a day. Logically, I started playing Doom on it. Doom is a rather crappy ripoff of Wolfenstein 3D: Super Oldcore Edition, and it makes my eyes hurt.

After a few days of having experienced both of these, an important question came to my mind. Which is less shitty?

Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire vs Doom On The Terrible Game System I Found In Kane's Closet: An Objective Analysis

Gameplay: Doom is a fairly basic first person shooter game. It involves running through mazes and killing demons. While it suffers from the common fps malady of making you spend the majority of your time searching for key cards** compared to a relatively small amount of time actually shooting things, it's fairly playable and I managed to finish it.

In contrast, Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire likes to close for no reason. When it's not closing for no reason, it likes to pretend that your plane crashed when it was clearly many feet from a wall, or simply making you lose health for no obvious reason. Even if it worked perfectly, it would still be a large number of mini-games stuck together with string, none of which are fun.

Advantage: Doom On The Terrible Game System I Found In Kane's Closet

Graphics: Doom, as I have said, makes my eyes hurt. The characters are pixelated, and all of the pixels are primary colors, yet the artists tried to use shading.

Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire looks allright. Most of it is some combination of blue, green and gray, and though the polygon count is low, I got it for a dollar and it doesn't look like Mario vomitted and decided to make his vomit into a first person shooter about killing demons.

Advantage: Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire

Audio: Doom has the best theme music ever. It's very metal, and somewhere in between a midi and an actual song. I can't quite express in words how awesome it is, but it has inspired an end of level victory dance and high five ritual, if that helps.

Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire has no audio that I remember, except the voice of the crazy old prospector guy who advises you on your videophone in 1911. He's annoying.

Advantage: Doom On The Terrible Game System I Found In Kane's Closet

Story: Doom is the morally uplifting tale of a guy who kills a lot of demons and looks for keycards.

Disney's Atlantis - Trial By Fire is a true celebration of the human spirit. It details the trials and tribulations of a guy who is trying to find some Viking book or something underwater somewhere, depending on where you start in the game.

Advantage: Doom On The Terrible Game System I Found In Kane's Closet

WINNER: Doom On The Terrible Game System I Found In Kane's Closet

In conclusion, when given the choice between buying a computer game for a dollar and rummaging through your friend's stuff, pick the latter.

*According to my research, it cost $700 and had no good games that weren't available on other game systems.

**After beating the fighting part of the final level final level, which consisted of me in a room roughly the size and color of a gas station bathroom with several giant satyr demons, there was a small room containing my final challenge. In it, there was a red keycard on the ground that opened a compartment in that room containing a blue keycard that opened another compartment in the same room containing a yellow keycard that opened the exit in that room. I am not exaggerating about the obsession with keycards.

22/8/2003: Fatigue Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

As promised, this week it's the definitive review of the latest cynical studio cash-in, Freddy Vs. Jason. Man, I do so go to the cinema a lot.

Still no trailers for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Christ. A film set in Britain full of British actors playing British characters derived from pulp British literature based on a comic written by a British guy, and they haven't even released it here yet. I like to think they're spending some time changing it so it's at least a tiny bit like the comic.

21/8/2003: Unemployment Benefit

Time for another career profile, jobhunters! I love low-concept updates that are quick and easy to write! This week:


What is supervillainy?

A supervillain is a person who is required to think up schemes for total conquest of the Earth and enslavement of its people. They usually will have to make snap decisions and commit acts considered morally reprehensible by civilised society. It is a very people-oriented position and involves a lot of supervisory skills. You may also have to meet with secret agents or superheroes and kill them in unnecessarily elaborate ways.

What are the qualifications?

The good news is that anyone can become a supervillain in these enlightened times, although most would be advised to get an appropriate degree (Evil, Immorality, Kicking Puppies or Law are all advantageous). If you're fortunate enough to already have a propensity towards being naughty, it would do you good to build up experience in petty crime, shoplifting, hitting people over the head with sticks, gradually moving up to extortion, blackmail and hitting people over the head with sticks with nails in.

Aside from that, the following are also good assets to have when pursuing a career in supervillainy:

- Good organisational skills

- Ability to act dignified when dressed with no dignity whatsoever

- No hair

- Intolerance for failure

- Big gun

- Genuine desire to rule the world OR genuine desire to kill lots of people for no good reason besides the fact that you're a jerk

- Skill in designing unwisely elaborate or slow-moving instruments of death

- Knowledge of explosives

- GCSE/GNVQ/City & Guilds Social Studies

No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to APPLY!

How do I get into supervillainy?

The best entry level position is "Henchman". Evil organisations are always on the lookout for new faceless drones, and you'll find recruiting advertisements in most right-wing publications, such as the Daily Mail. As a henchman your duties will involve standing around, standing around looking fierce, wearing jumpsuits, operating large bewildering pieces of machinery and getting killed. Your ambitions may, understandably, go a little higher than that, but fret not; promotion will come quickly, since everyone is just as likely to get killed by secret agents as anyone else. A good rule of thumb is this: if you hear a secret agent is being held prisoner in the secret base, make use of your holiday time immediately.

If you're impatient, the best way to advance in the ranks is to stand out in some way. Acquire a mechanical body part, or an interesting scar, or a strange but somehow threatening mannerism. Or just start wearing really loud ties. Anything that will mark you out as an individual would help. Being a hot woman REALLY helps, and if you're prepared to open your legs at the slightest opportunity, you could be one of the few personnel who stand a chance of surviving an encounter with a secret agent.

Where could it lead?

If you claw all the way up to Number Two in the organisation, you could well be presented with the opportunity to off the leader and take his place. In some cases, he may even be expecting this, and will go to the grave happily in the knowledge that his organisation is being headed by a right evil bastard. At other times he might not be so forthcoming, so be very sure of your ground before you make a coup. And try not to coincide it with a visit from a secret agent, as you may provide just the opportunity he needs to kill the lot of you and blow the place to bits.

Once you're in command of an evil organisation, you're free to use your imagination to commit whatever acts of terror you feel appropriate for your ultimate goal. Be that extorting money, or sparking off an international war, or just blowing up all the places that piss you off, it's totally up to you. Just remember that with absolute power comes a price; sooner or later you will get knocked off by a secret agent (See 'Careers in Being Dead'). Just enjoy it while you can, I suppose.

What's the pay like?

Done correctly, supervillainy can be the most lucrative trade in the world. After all, you can use nuclear bombs or orbital death satellites to hold the world to ransom, and the world is a pretty valuable item (last estimate: eleventy squillion quid). The UN claim they won't negotiate with terrorists, but they'll probably see your side of things after the first or second merciless slaughter. Just remember to always deal exclusively in cash, preferably unmarked small denomination non-consecutive bills.

Trouble is, once you've paid off all your henchmen and the massive overdraft you no doubt took to build your ultimate destruction device, you may find it difficult to break even. That's why most supervillains go quickly from "extorting money from governments" to "blowing the shit out of stuff 'cos by damn it makes my balls feel big". It's not a career where level-headedness is necessarily a boon, really.

20/8/2003: Spinal Crap

I finally got to see a physiotherapist about my accursed back, so that I could maybe find a way to stop having to shovel double-strength ibuprofen down my throat all the time. It has been a long and arduous journey, but now I feel the sword of physiotherapy will soon come down upon the dragon of backache, just as it struggles out from under the net of painkillers and the anvil of mixed metaphors.

Update: still dead.

The trip has been long and harsh, and I have encountered many strange characters in the process. Here they all are.

1. My GP

"I've got backache," I tell my GP.

"Right," he says. "Take your trousers off and let's have a look at you."

I was understandably thrown for a moment. Perhaps he had misheard me and thought I'd said something along the lines of 'I've got buttocks', and he wanted to make sure I told no lie. In the end I decided to just trust the bald git, and did as he told me. He only wanted to move my legs into several positions to make sure my backache didn't extend to my knees being unable to bend, to test my reflexes, and take me roughly from behind. Okay, he didn't do that, but I still got the feeling he'd been waiting all day for an excuse to get someone to take their trousers off. Maybe I just don't trust the guy since he had to examine my penis once. That was bad in itself, but he insisted on calling it my 'willy'. I quite didn't know where to look.

2. The creepy bloke

After my GP got me in touch with a physiotherapist, a few months down the line I found myself in the waiting room, and there was this guy there. He was wearing neat business clothes, and as soon as he came in he took a magazine from the rack. A magazine which was quite clearly a women's magazine. And I swear this is true: he began reading it with incredible earnest, with his jaw slack and breathing loudly. I don't even want to fucking speculate, although on reflection he did look a lot like my GP.

3. The physiotherapist

I was all set, when I went into the treatment room, to write an article about how the physio threw me onto a bed and beat the shit out of me for an hour. As it turned out, she didn't. I just told her my problem and she gave me some advice, and a couple of leaflets on exercises to do to straighten out my neanderthal curved spine. Then she made me take my trousers off and lie on a couch. And before your imaginations run away with you like a dashing midnight highwayman, she was about my mum's age (60) and a good two foot shorter than me.

The really odd thing about her, though, was that she never opened her eyes. She kept her eyelids kept tightly shut for the entire session, as if she feared gazing upon me would turn her into a pillar of salt or something. And we were sitting pretty close together, so I could see her quite well. Trust me, her eyes were never open even a crack. The really REALLY odd thing was that she seemed to be able to see perfectly well. I suspect voodoo.

4. The help desk woman

When I arrived at the hospital for my appointment, I had no clue where the physiotherapy department was, so I asked a nearby help desk where it was. The help desk creature looked at me oddly for a moment, then gestured towards a massive sign about three feet away with "PHYSIOTHERAPY" written on it.

OK, maybe she wasn't a weirdo in herself, but she kind of pissed me off for reasons I can't explain.

19/8/2003: Veni, Vidi, Versus

Saw Freddy Vs. Jason at the weekend, and you can enjoy a full review on Friday. For now, I'm returning my gaze to that minor news story last week. Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash. I know I probably shouldn't get too excited about some idea that was probably just thrown across the boardroom table in a brainstorming session and will no doubt go no further. But if they did make it, it would rock so much it just wouldn't be healthy.

I can picture it in my head even now. Jason and/or Freddy will be stalking some faceless teenager with no personality. They'll have the poor sod trapped, and raise high their machete/claws, when suddenly the blast of a shotgun makes them hesitate. They turn, and there he is. Lit from behind, the silhouette of a man with a sawn-off in one hand and a chainsaw for the other. The music swells, and Ash says... he says...

...Well, I can't think of anything offhand, but you know that bit at the end of Army of Darkness where he gets the zombie-woman's attention with a gunshot, then says "Lady, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store"? It'd be something as cool as that, probably.

I've even thought of a poster. A machete, a chainsaw and Freddy's glove, arranged in a triangle, all pointing inwards to a little puddle of blood containing the title. Now all we need is a plot! Here're a couple of scenarios I came up with.

Scenario 1: Ash, having learnt precisely dick from his previous escapades, returns to that fateful cabin in the woods to see if he can find his lost car keys. There he accidentally knocks a lamp onto the tape recorder and summons that accursed Evil Dead again, only this time, it comes in the form of Freddy and Jason, since they're both evil and dead. A bit of a scrap follows, probably involving lots of kicks to the groin, then Ash flees into the woods, where he conveniently happens upon a group of camping teenagers. By offering them to his adversaries, all animosity is forgotten and the three of them hit Vegas to take in a show.

Scenario 2: Wishing to forget his sordid past, Ash has taken a nice, relaxing job as a camp counsellor on Crystal Lake. But the other counsellors tease him for being old, the children are scared of his badass scarring, and he keeps accidentally maiming people with his chainsaw. Heartbroken, he hands in his resignation and storms off, just as Jason and Freddy turn up for a wine and mutilation party. After enough people have been sliced into bite-size pieces, Ash agrees to solve the problem once the survivors have gotten down on their knees and pleaded forgiveness. After Jason and Freddy have been chainsawed into mush, all the children run up and give Ash a big hug, and we all learn a valuable lesson about life, friendship and happiness.

Scenario 3: Freddy has returned to Springwood with a diabolical scheme to drain dream-stuff from children and use it to power his world domination machine! The mayor knows that only one man can save them now! He puts on the Ash-signal and Ash arrives from the Ashcave in his Ashmobile, ready to save the day! Watch the film come alive as Ash beats up Freddy and Jason to the strains of fast-paced chase music and comedy sound effects! Then Freddy will tie Ash up to a big unnecessarily elaborate slow-moving killing machine, from which Ash will escape at the last second in a manner he could have done at any point, then Freddy and Jason will shake their fists in fury while the police take them away in a van.

Of course, all of these scenarios will have to end the same way; Ash saying something along the lines of "Man, I need a vacation. I hear Haddonfield's nice this time of year." That'll set up a sequel nicely!

18/8/2003: Thus Spake

When you go to the cinema, chances are you'll see a teaser sequence of images and sounds known to us learned types as 'trailers'. Me, I'm still waiting to see one for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's becoming an obsession. My conscience speaks to me like this:

GOOD ME: Hey, let's make another comic strip for the website!
EVIL ME: No! Let's go down the cinema instead! Mwu ha ha ha!
ME: Hmm... I dunno... I guess I do need to do some comic strips...
EVIL ME: But there might be a trailer for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!
ME: Ooh, that's me sold.
GOOD ME: Curse you, Evil Me! You win this time!

So anyway, I'm still waiting. But since I've been paying a lot of attention to the trailers, I've been able to make a few observations. For instance, I can tell just from the trailer that Pirates of the Caribbean has the worst dialogue ever written ever. And I've also noticed that all trailers are voice-overed by the same guy.

Every film, be it romance or action or comedy, has a trailer voiced by this guy. The guy who sounds like he's been smoking cigarettes in a shed somewhere for the last twenty years. You know, THAT guy. He even did the voice on the Jason X trailer I saw once; he's even doing the shitty horror films! What with the huge amounts of films that come out each month, desperately clamouring for ticket sales like piglets fighting over their mother's succulent teats, this guy must be pretty damn overworked. I bet he even does the snuff films.

"This Summer, A Girl Will Be Hit On The Head By A Puerto Rican With A Lump Hammer Until She Dies! And That's Pretty Much It!"

I want to get to know this voice over guy. Not because he probably has contacts with everyone associated with filmmaking in the entire world, although that would be pretty sweet. No, I just want to know his motivations, and what makes him tick. I want to drink with him in his favourite bar, then go on a fishing holiday together to the Great Lakes. I want to be invited to his birthday party and buy him a box of Cuban cigars.

Since trailers don't have credit sequences, I do not know his name. It's probably something really cool, like Xerxes Q. Rasputin III. I imagine him to be an enormous fellow, towering over us mere mortals like a big... tower. Built like a brick shithouse, with two piercing red glowing eyes and a huge handlebar moustache. Dressed in a Victorian-style three-piece pinstripe suit and carrying a five-foot walking cane with a real human skull on the end. We will go out on the town together, and he will impress girls by beating up thieves and flexing his muscles, while I rake in all the chicks who are too intimidated by his bulk to consider offering themselves to him.

The best thing about being friends with Xerxes Q. Rasputin is that he could make any sentence sound interesting.

ME: What'll you have, Xerxes?
I Think I'll Just Have The Cucumber Soup!
ME: Dammit, the waiter's fainted again. OK, next time order a glass of water.
Bloody Wimpy Waiters!

* Sclotch: An attempt at an onomatopoeic word meaning "sound made by every woman in the vicinity becoming suddenly wet with arousal".

I've got videos from years back, and the trailers on those also have voice overs by Xerxes Q. Rasputin. How long has he been doing them? More to the point, how long has he got left? I mean, all those cigarettes can't be doing him any good. I don't think Hollywood has really thought about what they're going to do when Xerxes finally hits the big one. The only person who could possibly imitate Xerxes is Barry White, and I'm afraid it's far too late to put him on ice. I'm afraid, short of discovering the secret of immortality, we'll have to either get someone onto eighty fags a day now or find a way to synthesize Xerxes. Actually, considering how similar films are these days, that probably wouldn't be too difficult.

"Coming This Summer! Winter! Spring! Fall! Only One Man Woman Stands Between The Human Race And Total Destruction, And He's She's A Pyromaniac Insane Alcoholic Irresponsible Teenager Taxi Driver Midget Cop With Nothing To Lose!"

"Okay Xerxes, that'll cover all this year's blockbusters."

"Great!" (dies)

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