Hang Out On The Monopoly Streets!

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Thanks to the Xbox Live Ultimate sale going on now, I got to pick up the game Monopoly Streets for the Xbox 360.  It was released in 2010 and it was developed by EA.  If you are looking for a decent version of the classic board game then this could be for you.

The game play is exactly like the board game except that all the action is on the Xbox, so there are no little pieces to clean up, plus the board is now a 3D city that your onscreen characters run around in.

When you start the game you get to pick your board, your game pieces, and any custom rules that you may want to use: like getting money for landing on Free Parking.  The more you play the more stuff you unlock.

The controls are just a series of menus.  One to choose whether you want to end your turn, manage your properties, trade, or declare bankruptcy.  In the property management screen you point left or right on properties to remove or add houses, or hit ‘X’ on them to mortgage or pay off the mortgage on them.  This last menu is the worst part of the game because it is supper touchy and you may just be trying to go down to check on your properties, but it is adding and removing houses all over the place.

Still having the game on the Xbox means you can play the game in under an hour, and it makes it much more fun that you don’t have to pick it all up at the end.  You can get it right now for $10 on the Xbox live store.

Anna Karenina

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Anna Karenina is a film by Joe Wright released in 2012, and it was nominated for four Oscars and it won one for Best Costume Design.  The film is based of the Leo Tolstoy book of the same name, and from what I hear they cut a lot of the book out, but in this movie’s case that may have been for the best.

The movie starts with the titular Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) traveling to Moscow to try and get her brother’s wife (Kelly Macdonald) to forgive him (Matthew Macfadyen) for his unfaithfulness.  Her unaffectionate husband (Jude Law) warns her against it because people were meant pay for their sins.  She is successful but her brother doesn’t change his ways.  While in Moscow she meets Count Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) who becomes infatuated with her.  He chases her and after awhile is successful and they have an affair.  Victorian era drama ensues.

This film gorgeous to look at.  It is filmed as if the whole thing is a large stage play, and the actors move around the stage as if it is a city with the upper gangways taking the place of city streets.  It is fantastic, you keep waiting for them to break in to song.  Sadly they never do.  The actors are wonderful and Keira Knightley has once again proven why she is the go to lead for Victorian costume drama’s, but whoever wrote the script forgot to make it engaging.

It is like taking a long walk with beautiful people in a beautiful place, but they keep droning on and on about something horrifyingly boring like the tax code or something.  It feels like it is at least an hour longer than its two hour and ten minute run time.  I am not sure Tolstoy would have been happy with the way it was adapted.  The film still had some interesting things to say about gender inequality, but it said it over and over, and Anna really did choose her own horrible fate.

I wanted to like this film since it was so darn nice to look at, but it dragged on and on.  I, believe it or not, am usually a fan of this genre because of all the witty banter, and the social engineering the characters do, but in this case they took all that out and you are left with a long hard slog of a film.

What Makes a Good Video Game?

I was thinking to my self what I would do to create the prefect game, and I have come up with my criteria.

1: Give Me Some Choices

I like to feel like I am making a difference, or that the world is changing because of me.  If the game can only be played one way and has only one outcome it kind of makes me wonder what the point of having me play it was.  I could have watched movie or read a book.  The weightier the choices the better, my favorite game Knights of the Old Republic did this wonderfully.  The choices were hard, and if you wanted to go to the Dark Side they made you feel real bad about it.

2: Make It Look Good

This may seem obvious, and that I am just looking for high polygon counts, but game can be super low end on graphics and have a great art direction and look fantastic.  Games are a visual art, and I want my eyeballs to be entertained.

3: Don’t Make it Too Hard

As I have grown older, I have gotten to be kind of a wuss when I play video games.  I don’t have the time I used to have, so I can’t perfect my technique when I play, so to be able to pick something up and be decent at it is a big plus for me.

4: Have Cool Weapons/Loot

I like upgrading stuff when I play games, whether that is getting new guns or swords, or just being able to try on new outfits, I like to get shiny carrots, and the more the better.  New games having been going away from loot like Fable III or Mass Effect 3, but getting new stuff always feels good, so please leave it in.   This is why Morrowind is my favorite Elder Scrolls game, because it hade the most loot, and the most customizable ways to wear and use the loot.

5: Mix Up the Gameplay

It is good have a great core mechanic like really great shooting or timed sword play, but it is nice to have a little mini game or something, so that you don’t just do that core mechanic over and over, #4 helps with this as well because you get to spend time deciding how to use your stuff.

If a game has these five elements, it will be something that I want to play and give some of my entertainment dollars too.

Tour Albion in Fable III!

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Having played both Fable and Fable II, I somehow totally missed out on Fable III when it came out in 2010, but thanks to Microsoft for giving it away during the end of June, I was able to rectify that.

The game takes place fifty years after Fable II, and your character has died leaving the oldest son, Logan you new character’s older brother, in charge.  He is an evil king and you decide to do something about it by leading the rebellion, and then becoming the king or queen in his stead, queen in my case.

The games core mechanics have not changed that much, you still hit X to swing your sword, Y to shoot your gun, and B to launch your magic attacks, and you can mix them up as you see fit.  Leveling up has changed, now you can open chests when you have gained enough followers to earn new skills and character interactions.  They also got rid of the start menu, now it is a room that lets you walk around and pick your options.

The game is kind of the same old Fable in the beginning with the same fight mechanics, and the same graphics, and even the same landscape.  It is still fun but feels very familiar, but once you become queen then all the fun comes in as you get to make choices that change the future of your kingdom.

Since the fist part of the game is the same as the other Fables it kind of drags in the beginning, but the game soon changes things up and gets much better, and since it was free I couldn’t have asked for a better price, but you can find it for around $10 on Amazon, and it is still worth it at that price.

Shmee Survives World War Z!

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World War Z is a big budget zombie movie produced and stared in by Brad Pitt.  Before its release it was known for its exploding costs and script rewrites, and then the ending tested so poorly that they had to totally scrap it and film a new one at the last minute, but it seemed to turn out okay provided that you didn’t want a movie that resembled the book.

The story follows a former UN investigator Garry Lane (Brad Pitt) as he travels the globe looking for the cure to the zombie plague ravaging the world, so that the UN boat that is looking after his family doesn’t kick them off.

The plot is simple, but since it is a zombie movie that is to be expected.  The zombies in this movie are a mix between 28 Days Later and its PG13 sensibilities, so fast and scary looking but without being gruesome, unlike most of the creatures from their genre.  The special effects are good with the zombies looking the part, and the huge zombie waves attacking human strongholds are well done.

It is interesting that parts of this movie that work the best are not the large epic fights, but the close quarters with zombies hiding in the dark scenes, and while the large set pieces do add scope, they loose a lot of the tension.  There is nothing better than a person with their back against the wall trying to survive against these relentless foes.

I like this movie, and it says a lot about how the public feels about zombies these days that the market can sustain such a large scale project, but at the end the day the reason it works are the old school zombie scares.