Archive for June, 2011

Homura Akemi Nendoroid – available for preorder!

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Amiami has just posted the Homura Akemi Nendoroid (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) for preorder!

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF—- How am I going to afford all of these pre-orders? But there’s no way in hell I’m letting her pass me by! LOOK! She even comes with the pre-broken hair/face. ; o;!

Will also be available for ordering on Play-asia. Click here to go to her page.

InFamous 2 Demo Review

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

InFamous 2. Not as impressive as it should be, in my opinion.

Beware that there are probably spoilers in this review, as I am assuming you’ve played the first game before hunting down reviews for the second one.

To start with, I don’t really understand where this game lies in the storyline of the last game. Is it meant to be a pre-quel? But, no, he knows that Kessler is going to try to destroy the world and that he needs to get strong enough to kill him (even though we… already did that in the last game, if you play through the good end at least…). And it seems like Cole remembers some of what happened in the last game. Perhaps this one is on a new storyline completely, but it’s really quite confusing!

I liked the first game for it’s mind-twisting ability, and making you have to really think about the storyline in order to fully enjoy the game. This second game just sort of seems like … well, sort of like a sell-out. It’s an amped up version of the first game, taking advantage of the multiple-timelines in order to create some half-assed universe in the middle of the two. But without actually building upon the last game, or fixing any of the issues it had to start with!

In fact, I think the gameplay felt worse. My big problems with the first game was the troubles grabbing onto the sides of buildings in order to climb up them, the jumping onto the power lines (and missing and falling into a pit of gunmen) and the whole ‘aiming’ system. But now, Cole is actually anti-gravity! When he jumps, it feels like he’s floating in the middle of the air for no reason at all! It’s like they just forgot to program the downwards physics, and only programmed the lift. He still manages to miss the powerlines half the time when you make him jump at them, and climbing is just as frustrating as it was in the first game. Then when he’s running, it seems like his feet are made of lead.

I’m also not really big on the new graphics. The graphics in the last game weren’t perfect, but they fit the charisma of the game to a T. All of the characters had pock-marks and rough edges. InFamous 2 turned that completely around. Now Cole suddenly appears to be much younger, without any pock-marks and much less stubble, and with a new, much younger sounding voice actor. Were they trying to appeal more to the ladies? If so, I’m sorry, but you missed the mark completely on that one! Where the character’s faces are much smoother, so are their attitudes. What I played had a lot less mistrust, a lot less playful back and forth, basically no chemistry what-so-ever.

Well, I only played through the demo, so maybe it gets to be better the longer you play it. Maybe they mesh in the first game’s storyline better as the game goes on.

Feel free to check out the trailer for yourself:

Dance in the Vampire Bund: Worth the Controversy?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Nozomu Takami’s manga DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND was announced as a TV series for the Winter 2010 season. The initial promotional video essentially promised that it would be a lovingly rendered shot-for-shot adaptation, handled by one of anime’s most unpredictable directors – a man who I simultaneously consider both a pretentious hack and unrivaled genius, Akiyuki Shinbou (or “Shimbô”, if FUNimation has anything to say about it). Something happened between those promises of moving-manga glory and its initial trip to the small screen, something that took what was the single most exciting anime-related news for me in the second half of 2009 and turned it into a brilliantly frustrating train wreck.

In the near future, a mysterious and doll-like child claims to be the Queen of the Vampires, and pays off Japan’s national debt in return for a habitable area she’s dubbed “The Bund”. Decreeing it a safe haven for her own kind, she’s ended centuries of secrecy and doubt; vampires exist, and most of them want nothing more than to co-exist with humans in peace. This unexpected and bloodless territorial coup doesn’t sit with either the ancient princes of the vampires or the panicky masses of mankind, however, and with her personal bodyguard by her side – a fine young werewolf by the name of Akira, the mysterious Queen Mina Tepes sets out to destroy her obstacles one by one, be they snarky political figures or fang-gnashing monsters just waiting to usurp her throne.

Blood drinking fiends engaged high-stakes political blackmail might not sound like the most exciting combination, but that level of carefully measured absurdity is exactly what makes the show such an intriguing concept. Tales of powerful, exotic aristocrats with dangerous and mysterious customs was the inspiration for the vampire myths we know in the Western world today, after all – go on, read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and tell me he’s not a 19th century Jewish stereotype on steroids. Having brought the mythological aspects back to the roots of xenophobia, racism and fear of the unknown makes the idea shine with a certain kind of irony that’s more subtle than you might expect. That’s not to say that there isn’t any conventional action, as few (if any) episodes go by without one of the cast members getting into a bloody life of death struggle. But all of those battles are deeply rooted in the philosophical, political, and personal grudges that anchor the storyline, to the point where the impressive horror set pieces are just the gruesome topping on this unusual thriller.

Don’t worry though, there’s  more than bloody politics on display. The relationship between Akira and Mina – arguably the show’s focus – is one that could have been exploitation gold in different hands. Mina herself is tiny, doll-like, and manipulates Akira with cloying behavior, but she proves time and time again that her ancient life has left her anything but naive. Anyone complaining that Dance in the Vampire Bund is a “lolita complex” anime has clearly never watched it;  Mina Tepes is a brilliant, dangerous monster who’s oft-undressed form is merely the ironic trappings she uses to twist the world around her little finger. Rather it’s Akira, duty bound in chivalrous idealism to protect his childhood sweetheart, who’s infantilized himself; denying himself even basic romantic relationships with “normal” girls around him, and willing to put his life on the line for a person who’s more than willing to march him into grave danger, merely to prove the point that he can walk to the other side unscathed.

With echoes of Anne Rice’s watershed postmodern vampire novels (Lestat’s “daughter” Claudia, specifically) Mina appears to be an immortal adult trapped in a child’s body, but unlike Rice’s eternal child Mina is well aware of – and possibly even able to enact upon – those “adult” feelings… but she can’t do a thing about it, largely for unusual political reasons that are brimming just beneath the surface (rest assured “pedophilia” isn’t actually the problem).  While I suppose I could forgive those so unwilling to divorce the grim reality of child abuse from watching those norms satirized, anyone willing to look past the glimpses of Mina’s nude body will see the all too painful game of cat and mouse she’s playing with the person closest to her. Mina’s caught in a cruel romantic compromise, and uses her position to make Akira – the object of her most personal affections – feel just as frustrated as she herself does.

There’s a clearly lot going for the show… so why aren’t I telling you to order it right goddamn now? What in the name of Vlad went wrong?

In interviews following the premier of the series, Shinbou went on record saying that Takami requested the staff at Shaft animation come up with an “original” storyline… which sort of defeats the purpose of adapting a popular manga, but being troopers, they shrugged and did it anyway. To be fair, the first episode – an almost uncomfortably ‘meta’ take on the world of both Japanese television and the modernized interpretation of the vampire – proved that there was some merit in taking the concepts in bold new directions. But not all of the ideas set quite as perfectly. One new character in particular, Mei Len, is the definition of a Mary Sue and does virtually nothing to the narrative until the final two episodes or so. She doesn’t even get to be a clunky Mary Sue who kicks all sorts of ass (the thing that mostly prevents  Mari Makinami Illustrious from being dead weight in the new Evangelion franchise); she’s just an idea that Shaft thought would be a cool visual, but struggled to find a way to work her back into the framework of the original story they were interested in adapting to begin with.

Perhaps just as frustrating were the multitudes of choppy, seemingly unfinished shots in the broadcast version. Countless cuts of “real” animation are replaced with still shots of a red screen (I called them “slugs” at the time), and sequences of quick, motionless cuts are clearly just photos with photoshop filters slapped on as an afterthought. The fact that parts of the show were gorgeously rendered suggested either a budget strained to the very last yen, or a production schedule that wasn’t doing the series justice. Shaft’s other 2009 Shinbou TV series – Bakemonogatari - suffered many of the same problems, and upon being released on DVD and Blu-ray was essentially re-animated from scratch. It’s fair to say that Bakemonogatari went from being one of the worst looking shows of the year on TV to one of the best on home video, and knowing this, it was with baited breath that I finished the miserable-looking TV version, hoping that the  inevitable Blu-ray would fix up at least some of those massive problems.

FUNimation only made matters worse by picking up the rights to the show just before broadcast. They took issue with the second episode showing Mina getting sunblock rubbed over her nude body by Akira – an act the Queen demands, and one the ‘servant’ is clearly unhappy about. At first this sounds like small potatoes… until you remember that Mina looks like she’s about nine years old and Akira is clearly in his late teens. FUNimation cut the offending scene from the internet broadcast, and censored other scenes which showed more of Mina’s delectably misleading form than they were comfortable with, ending the clusterfuck of a PR nightmare by saying they were afraid the images would be taken out of context as obscene material, and as such would never release the uncensored version. Naturally, the internet quickly got to stamping its’ collective feet, either in favor of the cut (by saying it’s child porn when it clearly isn’t) or against it (mostly out of principle)… FUNimation finally relented once the broadcast of the final episode was over, saying there was a strong possibility that the uncensored version would be released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Here we are a year and a half later. I’ve got my “Limited” DVD+Blu-ray combo set (in both Limited and Regular editions), and in the interest of giving it a fair assessment I’ve decided to re-watch the program fresh, hoping the video release would fix up the stilted animation and make more of the action at least sensible on the screen… but first let’s talk about dat box! FUNimation has been producing “Limited Edition” sets lately with a glossy chipboard sleeve and standard size DVD keepcases, while the ‘normal’ release is the same content in a flimsy cardboard sleeve. One of the very few things I missed about getting 7 separate DVDs at thirty bucks a piece was that at least you usually got a nice artbox to house them in, and FUNimation’s LE boxes have been consistently attractive and high-quality. If you literally don’t care about the sleeve on the discs you get, I suppose you could save a few bucks, but this artbox is worth the price they’re charging, easy. The fact that the Blu-ray is in a regular DVD sized case is a downer for reasons I just can’t explain, but if that’s the worst thing I can say about it that’s not so horrible. It’s not like I don’t already have a shelf or two dedicated to DVD sized cardboard boxes…

The video quality is top-notch,  something FUNimation is usually good about anyway (early SD upscales aside). The hazy, blooming cyan outlines, fine layer of digital grain, TV scan-lines and changing aspect ratios have never looked better. The Japanese stereo and English 5.1 mixes are both lossless, which means they sound bit-for-bit like the master tapes; if you don’t like the way it sounds, you can only blame the original sound engineers. Menus are nice and simple, and while not all of the Japanese extras (particularly the staff interviews) are present, there’s a nice assortment of promotional material, clean OP/ED footage, and some manga-panel based bonus “Intermission” footage – despite looking like pages from Takumi’s source material, they’re original content meant to fill in the narrative gaps between episodes.

It’s worth noting that whenever an episode has a “unique” OP/ED sequence that features the show playing as credits scroll over it, FUNimation left the original kanji as-is, and only adds English credits at the end of the episode. FUNimation was fussing with end credits a lot in the last year or two, so it’s great that they’ve finally figured out how to leave well enough alone. It’s truly appreciated, FUNimation, and gives me more confidence for pre-ordering your products. I admit I’d prefer all anime releases keep their JP credits, but I’ll take that crusade one problem at a time.

The subtitles are tiny, white, and have an extremely thin black border. I’ve never had an issue with FUNi’s subs before this release, but that first episode has so many layers of text that the subs become nearly unreadable! A thicker outline or brighter color was really needed for that first episode, and I’m horrified to think that someone in QC actually watched it and didn’t immediately demand they fix them somehow. (The TV commercials have the same exact problem; thin white subtitles on top of thin white Japanese text… argh!!) Adding insult to injury is the fact that the black-and-white “Intermissions” have yellow subtitles to “pop” against the white backgrounds, yet they didn’t extend the same courtesy to the show itself. FUNimation, seriously… have someone WATCH the disc before you mass-produce it. Small, white, thin-bordered subtitles are absolutely fine 99% of the time, but this show is one of those very real one percentiles.

As for the show itself… well, the biggest narrative problems – Akira’s inexplicable amnesia, the shoehorned in side-character, the sudden ending that lacks any remote sense of closure, all that stuff – are still kicking around. Thankfully, most (if not quite all) of the especially poor moments of animation, such as countless shots when it would cut to a single colored screen on the TV broadcast version have since been fixed, to the point where several episodes are really quite stunning.  Make no mistake, the animation is still rife with odd still shots, bizarre lighting effects and a bleeding, hazy look under a thin layer of grain… but anyone who expected Shinbou to abandon his after-effects driven distortions and experimental cut styles must be dreaming to start with. Even Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – the least “Shinbou Styled” show I’ve seen from him yet – has more than its fair share of familiar camera tricks and ornate color coding, and his presence is obvious in every frame. If you like the Gothic styling of Le Portrait de Petite Cossette and the trippy cinematic experimentalism of Casshern Sins, this sits somewhere between the two. It’s always been a “neat” looking show, but I can’t stress enough how nice it is to re-watch episode 7 and not wince every two minutes at how hard they were trying to hide the non-animation.

Subtitles aside, FUNimation has done a fantastic job releasing this controversial and unusual horror series. It’s completely unedited, the credits are intact, there’s a stack of decent extras, and the packaging – if oversized – is quite attractive in its own right. I’d love to say the show was a masterpiece, but it’s a hell of a mixed bag; if you can forgive the lapses in storytelling finesse, the character relationships beneath them are still worth watching, and as with all Shinbou anime it’s a unique and inventive visual treat. It’s recommended, but only to people who dig dangerously unconventional horror animation.

Ayase, Oreimo, figma now available!

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Now available for pre-order at Amiami, Ayase Aragaki figma from Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (or My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!).

Shit. Pre-ordered. :|

I wonder which we’ll get next as a figma – the brother or the obsessive rich girl?

Now available for pre-order through Play-asia!

Project A-ko Review (Eastern Star DVD)

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Having started as an entry in the pornographic variety series Cream Lemon, the producers behind PROJECT A-KO quickly realized that the combination of cute girls trying to kick each other’s asses while being assaulted by parodies of the best anime characters and moments of the era had a certain mainstream appeal that would probably sell better outside of the curtained-off 18+ section of the local video store. They quickly abandoned the more adult elements in favor of stretching it out into a full-blown theatrical movie. Now I’ll admit, the fine line between an OVA and a Movie circa 1986 is one lost on all but the most clever of distributors of the time, but the production values and 80-plus minute runtime both suggest that everyone behind it had just enough faith in it to sell it as a bona-fide feature film… not bad for a goofy little porno about dueling lesbian hotties!

The result was successful enough to spawn multiple OVA sequels over the next five years, and was at the very least a modest success. Supposedly the title has gotten much more attention abroad than it ever did in Japan, which is a curious end for a title who’s pop-culture roots and visual sense of humor are so deeply rooted on things foreigners – even those with more than a passing familiarity with anime – wouldn’t be nearly as intimate with. Then again, Hasselhoff made it big as a German pop singer and Pabst Blue Ribbon is considered a luxury high-end item in China, so it’s virtually impossible to totally make sense as to why one thing is beloved in one country and bemoaned in another.

There wasn’t much of a script behind Project A-ko, as most of the action was dictated by the storyboards and ad-libbing was actually encouraged by the staff. According to assistant-director Yuuji Moriyama, the production had far more to do with 1940s Warner Brother cartoons – crazy people (by which I mean “animators”) in a room bounding ideas off of other crazy people – than the typical “Production Committee” designed anime titles we see today. Most individual scenes were handled by young talents who’d never had a chance to shine before; the staff went out of their way to try and give newbies a chance to do whatever they were best at, with some being so desperate to get in on this ridiculous premise they’d leave works off of their resume just to get in! Director Katsuhiko Nishijima went out of his way to make sure the repetitive story elements, like all those scenes of A-ko rushing off to school with B-ko, were constantly fresh and unique; repetition was something animators used as an excuse to recycle footage and save money, and the whole process behind Project A-ko was to turn anime expectations inside out.  In the end it was really just one delightfully absurd gag after another, riffing on the expected anime cliches of the period; giant super robots, muscle-bound karate masters, inappropriately timed bath scenes, alien invaders, epic space dogfights, and a high school heroine who just can’t ever get to class on time.

The story itself reads simple enough: The inexplicably super-human A-ko Magami is heading to her first day of highschool with her childhood friend, the petite, immature, and utterly ungifted in the kitchen B-ko Kotoboki. At school A-ko is reunited with an old rival named B-ko Daitoukuji, a beautiful and smart girl who’s good breeding and knack for dangerous robotics don’t keep her from being irrationally jealous of A-ko and C-ko’s strong friendship. The two girls fight over C-ko’s “friendship” — though I’m not convinced that’s all B-ko is after — but their inevitable super powered duel to the death interrupted by a full scale galactic invasion. Yep, aliens shooting beams of death from giant crab-bots in the vicinity are seen more as an annoyance by the two girls, and poor C-ko only gets caught up in the middle of it all when she gets herself kidnapped by the outer space creeps! Can A-ko and B-ko put aside their differences and save Planet Earth? Oh wait, they don’t care… well, will they save it as as a side-note to protecting their mutual best friend?!

Even the title was winking at anime fans. See, in the credits for TV shows they’d have one-liners and credit those people as “A-ko” and “B-ko”, or ‘Girl A’ and ‘Girl B’.  The flick was also released about a year after Jackie Chan’s popular-in-Japan action film “Project A”… not that Project A-ko has anything to do with Jackie Chan. The people behind it just thought it was a funny title and never bothered to come up with one that was funnier.

With ANN’s former Answer Man Zack B. having described it as “The Scary Movie of 80s anime”, you might think this is all convoluted nonsense and hardly worth your time. Topical humor rarely works five years after the fact, much less a quarter-century, right?  But the beauty of Project A-ko is that most of the exaggerated humor on display is the precursor to the ridiculous nonsense you see in shows that air even now in 2011. Giant attack robots built overnight, half-naked death duels that destroy entire cities, inexplicable lesbianism – it’s just as bizarre and strangely amusing as it was the day the film was released. And before you get too honked up for the original yuri anime or think we’re slinging smut here, even those crazy Aussies at the OFLC gave it a “PG” without blinking. There’s some boob and a moment or two of off-color humor, but it’s really no “worse” in tone or content than most mainstream comedy shows today.

Animation in particular tends to date horribly due to shifting styles and improvements in technology, but humor that’s riffing on the absurd tends to last for generations. If you like the off-color and random humor found in shows like Excel Saga or Maria†Holic,  you’ll probably find something to love about A-ko as well. I’ll also point out that while it may not quite be on par with something like Angel’s Egg or Akira, the animation for a 1986 comedy is regularly detailed and surprisingly smooth, without much in the way of glaring continuity errors or lazy shortcuts. Project A-ko is certainly a product of its’ time, but I don’t really mean that in a bad way – the animation industry was full of incredible talents who were sick and tired of working on talking animal films and stuffy space operas, so they took every opportunity to make the film look as fun and exciting as they possibly could. It’s all a farce, a smart-assed slice of satire, but that doesn’t mean the work was ever phoned in or cut short by production limitations.

If anything, only the blatant spoofing elements will be lost on audiences who don’t have a lot of classic anime under their belt. Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, Leiji Matsumoto’s heroic pirate Captain Harlock, scenes directly pulled from Macross: Do You Remember Love?, and countless other iconic titles from yesteryear get their moment in the sun by way of spoofing – though at least B-Ko didn’t rip off Bubblegum Crisis. That show actually came out a year later. Most of these gags are still pretty funny though, even if you don’t really “get” it. Who isn’t delighted by exploding Pepsi cans, or a familiar fast food icon popping up in a horror movie? In the same way that knowing a thing or two about Kung Fu movies and Spaghetti Westerns will probably make watching ‘Kill Bill’ that much more rewarding, it’s still easy enough to appreciate Project A-ko on its own over the top terms, even if the origin of some of the more specific gags  fall on deaf ears.

Another aspect worth touting is the soundtrack, provided by Californian artists Joey Carbone and Richie Zito. Each of the three girls was given their own theme song with a different American performer behind it, and the result is a shockingly catchy piece of American pop. Of particular note is B-ko’s ballad, “In Your Eyes”. I can’t properly explain what it is about that cheesy synth track set to deeply  emotional panging as B-ko thinks about C-ko…  and then casually caresses herself in the bath. It’s such a classy presentation of absurdity that it’s cemented the song in the part of my brain that’ll forever associate it with breasts and unyielding romance, which is a pretty awesome combo to associate anything with. The end theme, “Follow Your Dreams”, is similarly catchy and utterly perfect for the free-wheeling feel good nature of the flick as a whole.

Just in time for the film’s 25th anniversary, Discotek Media/Eastern Star has released a freshly remastered DVD (available here through their website, or wherever fine anime goods are sold). Central Park Media remastered the film themselves back in 2002 using the Japanese Laserdisc (Remember those? …anyone?), since word is the guys who own the title back in Japan have lost all the archival materials and only have a crumby faux-widescreen master from the film’s original VHS release left. Discotek has one-upped the old US DVD by removing countless bits of dirt and scratches from the print, stabilizing the “telecine judder” (ie: the camera doesn’t jerk around when it’s not supposed to anymore), and pumping up the colors to a full, vibrant glory without that uncomfortably yellow haze of the 2002 DVD release. Unfortunately, the archival materials were still M.I.A, and that means Discotek has also restored the crap out of the same analog Laserdisc release made in the late 1980s. All of the screenshots here have been taken from the new DVD – they’ve been compressed a bit to save on bandwidth, but they’ll give you a pretty decent idea of what to expect.

With the lack of proper elements in mind, Project A-ko quite good – probably better than it should! But it’s simply never going to look like Evangelion, Nausicca, Utena, Cardcaptor Sakura, or any other old-school title where they can restore it straight from the original film negatives. Maybe someday a batshit crazy fan in Tokyo will step forward with the last surviving 35mm festival print and a full-blown restoration on par with Rock and Rule can happen, but in the meantime it looks as good as it’s going to, and word on the net is that it’s notably nicer than the old CPM transfer in every respect.

The English dub is included, and like many who are probably already watching their precious DVDs, that’s what I saw first. Oh, my God, this dub sucks - even by shitty early 90s Manga UK dub standards! Ever wanted to hear a bunch of British girls fake American accents while reading lame puns from a clumsy translation? No? Well, now’s your chance! To be fair I’m still glad that they included it at all – the dub is  sort of a miserable time capsule back into what Sci-Fi Channel played 15-odd years ago to get me interested in spending more and more money on these crazy Japanese cartoons, but if you can walk away from it without blood in your ears, you’ve got a way higher tolerance for nostalgic pain than I do. The Japanese audio is the only way to go for this one (as always… *Ahem!*), and it sounds just fine – better than the dub, even, which is a rarity for films from Japan this old. The subtitles look almost word-for-word like the remastered CPM DVD, but like they always say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fuck around with it!

Virtually all of the CPM extras are present, too. We get a commentary track with the animation director (plus a short interview), a hilarious behind-the-scenes featurette where the animators talk about which of the three heroines give them the best boner,  music videos made from the nasty looking un-restored print set to the charmingly 80s theme songs, and a collection of original Japanese previews.  Missing are CPM’s restoration featurette – which is now moot, and an alternate angle using the American drawn comic books in place of the actual storyboards–but why, CPM? (Seriously, why did you even MAKE that?)  New extras include a brief but very cool collection of production art, and a cute animation outtake just for the lesbians in power suits guys that runs about a minute and a half.  All in all it’s a pretty stacked special edition, even if most of the content has been made available before.

Technology and audience sophistication may grow with each year that passes, but Project A-ko’s heart and soul have stood the test of time better than I expected. Eastern Star has put together a fine release at a great price, and if you’ve got a hankering for either a taste of classic creator-driven anime at its peak, or just a great comedy from any era, Project A-ko is highly recommended. If you’ve already got the Central Park Media DVD and you’re not the least bit picky about video quality… well, the lack of grime on the print, bold colors and warm, bright pallet have really worked wonders for the old girl. This is as good as Project A-ko is going to get for the foreseeable future, and if buying a second copy means you can pass the old release off to a friend, I’d say it’s well worth the double-dip.

Dead Nation Review

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

One of the games available for free due to Sony’s major kerfluffle, resulting in the shutdown of the PSN for over a month, was Dead Nation. Having already purchased LittleBigPlanet and InFamous, I decided to start my free games off with the next best looking one out of the six. Zombies always wins out over everything else!

Have to admit it, this is one game I’m very glad was one of the only options available. It’s very engaging, despite not really having a super great/original plot/storyline. The only real “story” in it is a shitty little cutscene between stages that explains that the two characters (didn’t even catch their names) are trying to find some civilization after realizing that, for ~some reason~ they aren’t susceptible to the zombie virus.

The creepiest stage is the one with the fucking CLOWN zombies. Mental says they’ve been done before, but HOLY MOTHER OF FUCK I’ve never seen zombie clowns, and I about shit myself when I saw them! KILL THE CLOWNS!

The game gets progressively harder, throwing more and more zombies at you as each stage goes along. They give you harder zombies to beat, like the Jumper, who (like his namesake) jumps at you, pounding the ground and sending out a shockwave that hits you if you’re too close. The biggest buzzkill zombie is the screamer, though. He looks like a zombie!Cthulhu, but he just stands there screaming while you pelt him with your SMG. He’ll die after a clip or two.

Even though it gets progressively harder, you’re able to level up your weapons at checkpoints in each stage. There’s a rifle, an SMG, a shotgun (naturally), a flamethrower, a rocket launcher, a SHOCKER (not as cool as it sounds, sadly), a blade gun (definitely as cool as it sounds!), flares (which are highly useful, as they distract the zombies while you shoot them into a pile of rotting bloody swiss cheese), grenades, mines (when you upgrade and they have multiple detonations, it’s extremely useful – very difficult to get used to using when you’re getting chewed on by a hoarde, though), and molotovs (which produce a line of flames that slows the zombies down – I don’t know why fire slows the zombies down, maybe the pretty lights are just distracting).

I do wish that “getting harder” didn’t just mean “we’ll throw all the zombies the PS3 can handle at you,” though. Which, actually, the PS3 cannot handle that much. Get a screen of about 50 zombies heading for your brains, light them on fire, and the poor PS3 struggles. Obviously an evil plot to let the zombies get to your delicious brains. The difficulty almost gets to “bullshit” levels when they throw three Cutters at you at once, though! If they get anywhere near you, they instantly kill you by chopping off your head. And it takes way too much to kill them. Even a rocket to the face doesn’t slow them down. The best you can do is light them on fire, and hope your shotgun will take them down before they recover.

Anyways, it’s totally worth a play. Or two. A lot more if you’ve got good friends to play it with. Killing zombies is always a crowd pleaser.

The very next thing I downloaded was the demo for InFamous 2. More on that later.