Demo Monday: Arkham Asylum

My experiences with comics-to-games is as good as my experiences with games-to-film, which means not a whole lot. The only comics-to-game adaptation that I really liked were X-Men Legends: Rise of the Apocalypse and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Everything else was either "meh" or just plain bad. So when they announced Batman: Arkham Asylum, I thought it was going to be one of those games that will only try to capitalize on the Batman franchise. Still, I have to make sure and try the demo.

The demo -which can be downloaded here- opens up with a cinematic, showing Batman delivering The Joker back to the Arkham Asylum. The intro is pretty nice and displays how well the atmosphere and the graphics of the game is. Then the intro is followed by a short and kick-ass tutorial that will give you a bird's eye view on the gameplay mechanics. This part -the tutorial- is the quick seller of the game. If you don't get sold with the game's free-flowing combat, the stealth action and other things that only Bats can do, then...there's something wrong with you.

Batman: Arkham Asylum seems to be a very interesting game. The gameplay reminds me of Thief and Prince of Persia, and that's a good thing. Plus, the mechanics -gliding, silent takedowns, swinging from wall to wall- makes me feel that I'm really playing Batman. I know I already made a very tight budget for all upcoming games for this Fall. But, I guess, I can always make room for this game.

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Games of Fall 2009

Fall is almost here, and that heralds the start of the Holiday Games Rush. So, in order to prepare my budget early on, I started checking out the release schedule for the next four months, and all I can say it's jam packed with tons of good releases. I actually got dizzy looking at the schedule. Unfortunately, I have to limit my games this year due to time and financial constraints. But here are the four games that I'll definitely save my money for:


Champions Online
This game melded two of the things that I really love: gaming and comics. That's why, even though I'm not that much into MMORPG, Champions has gotten me excited since the day it was announced. In truth, however, I was going to skip this game in favor of Aion. But I got sold after I participated in the open beta testing. The contemporary setting, the freedom of character creation, and the wicked travel powers in this game are just so much fun.

The first time I learned about this game, I was awed by its flight feature. Flying just changes many things in game like traveling and combat. But, other than that, this game didn't interest me at all. But since most of my guildmates (whom I love to play with) are moving to Aion, I gave this game a shot and played the closed beta. Surprisingly, I did enjoy the game. The chain attacks, especially, were a lot of fun. Plus, it's also the most graphically pleasing game I've seen in a while.


Alpha Protocol
This game is an upcoming action-RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment. Most of my favorite games were developed by these guys, way before they were in Obsidian. So that alone is enough reason for me to play this game. But, beyond that, I'm also looking forward to its world and atmosphere, which an espionage setting ala The Bourne Trilogy. It will be a nice change to use contemporary arsenal in a role-playing game other than a sword and board.


Dragon Age: Origins
Finally, after waiting for 5 long years, this game is going to be out this coming November. Like Alpha Protocol, the developer alone is enough reason for me to play the game. I've stuck with BioWare all these years since the Infinity Engine era and not one of their role-playing games have disappointed me (not even Neverwinter Nights). So I don't think they'll start dissappoint me with Dragon Age. The game, based on the videos I've seen, is just epic.

So, there, all of my upcoming games for this Fall. I'll try to save money for all of these games, and that is doable. My biggest problem now is time. Where am I going to get all the hours to play all these games. Skip sleep, maybe? Sleeping's overrated anyways.

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Maybes and Propagandas

After 17 years of buying tapes and discs, I've finally gone digital with my music. It's hard to believe that, until yesterday, I've never bought a single mp3 file. I'm just old school like that, I guess. I like to have a hard copy of my music and actually hold it. I still do. But, combined with my books and boxes of comics, I'm running out of storage space in my room. That's why I went digital. Not only it'll save me some space but also time -from ripping my CDs- and money -because mp3 albums are always cheaper in Amazon.

Speaking of cheap digital music, my budget allowed me to buy three mp3 albums instead of just two hard copies. The albums that I bought were from the bands Dredg, Propagandhi and Maybeshewill. All of them are great albums -especially Dredg's (I'm hoping to write a review of it sometime next month)- and I'm having a blast listening to them all. But, anyways, here's a snippet of those two albums: Sing the Word Hope in Four Part Harmony and Supporting Caste.


Maybeshewill is a post-rock band from UK. I've never heard of them before prior to their new album, Sing the Word in Four Part Harmony. But when I came across them and downloaded their free mp3, "Last Time This Year", on Last.fm, they completely blew me away. Unlike most post-rock bands, none of their song are meant for shoegazing. The songs in their new album are pretty heavy and melodic, and as well as aggressive and beautiful. It's definitely the best post-rock album I've heard since Mogwai's The Hawk is Holwing, which was released last year.


Now here's a band that I haven't heard from in more than 10 years. I don't know if they went on hiatus or I just buried them beneath other bands. But, anyways, even though they're a great punk rock band, I wasn't that much of a fan of their music. Their new album, Supporting Caste, however, is all balls to the walls goodness. Full of focused -not wasteful- energy and aggression. The guitar riffs, the melody and rhythm, the lyrics (which speaks a lot to me), everything here is good. I haven't heard any punk music this good for a long while.

There's nothing much left to say about the albums I featured above except that they're awesome, fun and energetic to listen to. They couldn't labeled as "classics" but neither of them are forgettable or a waste of time and money. I highly recommend both albums to those who like rock or punk music.

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A Nice, New Egg

A couple months ago I mentioned that I'm planning to buy a new portable media player (mp3 player) this year. So, since we're almost into the holidays, I did my research to find out what's the current "it" in the consumer tech world. Unfortunately, there's no news of a 64GB iPod Touch yet, and the new Zune HD -while it's an awesome device- also have a 32 GB capacity. But a new device by Creative has caught my eye, the Zii EGG.

It is, however, not just a PMP as it boasts of being a stem cell computer. But, yes, its specifications are really impressive. It runs on an Android OS (the same OS running the G1 Phones), it has 32 GB of internal storage and a SDHC card slot for external storage (increasing the storage to a possible total of 64 GB), a HD camera, and a lot more (click here for full specs). If some company shoves a mobile phone chip in it, this device could be a serious competitor for the iPhone.

Sadly, the EGG doesn't have any apps yet. So, as for the moment, it's only available for developers. But I couldn't wait for this thing to hit the tech hungry conusmers. Hopefully, it'll be on the shelves by next year.

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I was browsing around some music videos in YouTube earlier this morning and then I came across this:

This is the music video of "Stone The Crow" by the band Down, a super rock group with members from Pantera, Eyehategod, Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity. They came around during the mid 90's and their album NOLA is one of my favorite albums to this day. My band covered this song back in the late 90's. So seeing this video has brought back a lot of memories of those times.


First Impressions: Champions Online

So, after a really long week, I finally had the chance to sit down and test out the beta version of the upcoming superhero MMORPG, Champions Online, today. To make the long story short, this game is going to rock and will eat most of my time this Fall.

Metalhead, a sound and guitar engineer who uses his sonic gadgets to fight evil.

The first thing I love about this game is the character creation. I swear I've been stuck on the creation screen for hours, and made seven different characters, before I decided to play the game. You can just customize the look of your hero the way you want it. The possibilities are almost limitless. I've made a hero that looks like a punk rocker version of The Thing, an Iron Man look-alike, a football player, a cat-like gangster, and a ninja. I've even seen a Lara Croft in-game.

The game also uses a class-less system. So there's no archetypes here. No warrior, healer, mage kind of thing in this game. You just basically buy the powers that you want, providing you meet their requirements. Meaning, you can mix and match different powers. If you want your character to spew both fire and ice, you can. If you want your character to dabble in both magic and science, you can. You can also be a tank while still be a DPS character. The freedom is just amazing.

Lastly, traveling in this game is amazing. Other MMO let you wait at level 40 or 20 until they give you a horse, making traveling easy for you. But in Champions I already have my jet booster boots and have been flying around at level 6. Flying is awesome in this game too since there's no timer -which makes it way better than Aion. You can just hover around the air, above your target while shooting at them, as long as you want to.

This game is definitely what I expected it to be, and the kind of game that I've been waiting for since I started playing MMORPGs. It has melded both things that I love: comics and gaming. In addition, it's not fantasy based either. So that's really good. Now that I'm convinced, I think I'm gonna get that lifetime subscription.

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In Memory of Les

It's tragic that we've lost a lot of talented and good people this summer. Last June, actress Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, passed away. Then, a couple weeks ago, John Hughes (Director of Home Alone and The Breakfast Club) and Corazon Aquino, The Mother of Philippine Democracy, died as well. But just when I thought that the chain reaction of "death of important people" have already came to a halt, news of Lester Polsfuss's death hits me...and hits me like a battering ram.

The Man who brought us the solid-body electric guitar.

More popularly known as Les Paul, his death is a tremendous loss for guitar players and the music industry. To the unfamiliar, the man may not seem to be as important as Michael Jackson. But, trust me, he is bigger than MJ. After all, he is the guy who invented the first solid-body electric guitar, the instrument that gave birth to rock music. His guitar design -which is named after him- had been the choice of guitarists throughout generations, like Jimmy Page, Joe Perry and Slash (and me, of course). Moreover, He was also an innovator in music recording, having tinkered with techniques like overdubbing, delays and multi-track recording.

The Gibson Les Paul

While he's not known by many, there's no doubt that Les Paul had contributed many things into the plate of music. In my opinion, and in no way I'm disrespecting, he even brought more than Elvis or Michael did. So the guy deserves a big memorial too. But, I guess, he doesn't really need one. I mean, his name is forever immortalized into every Gibson Les Paul guitar. As long as somebody picks up a Les Paul, plays it, and becomes a great guitarist, Lester's legend will continue on.

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No Show Again

Heidi Montag, another no show.

Last month's issue of Playboy had Olivia Munn on its cover. A lot of geeky, nerdy gamer guys, who watches G4's Attack of the Show, got excited and bought the issue only to be burned when they found out that it was a non-nude pictorial.

Now this month's issue have Heidi Montag, star of reality show, The Hills, as the cover girl. She's wearing a white bikini and covered with mud. So I was expecting -and probably a lot of guys too- that she'd done a full-frontal nudity pictorial in a mud wrestling set. Unfortunately, it's another no show.

For two months in a row, this is already becoming a trend. It shows that Playboy is losing its grip. First, it was the appearances of fake plastic women as Playmates. Now they can't even get B-list celebrities to take off their clothes.

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Album Review: Travels with Myself and Another

Travels with Myself and Another by Future of the Left
9.0 of 10
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As a music aficionado, I've heard a lot of bands that are funny and even more bands that are angry. Although I've never heard of bands that tried to seriously do both, and those that do aren't that successful. So I was beginning to think that -even though comedy is another outlet for hate and rage- being funny and angry isn't doable in music. Then Future of the Left shows up with their newest album, Travels with Myself and Another, and kicks me in the nuts with their enraged and witty songs.

Future of the Left is a post-hardcore band that has been around since 2005. Admittedly, I haven't heard any of their work, or even Mclusky's -the former band of the drummer and vocalist, before. But I immediately baptized myself to become one of their followers when I heard their song, "The House That Hope Built", on the internet a few months ago. The song is really impressive and fun with its 4/4 tune, sounding like a Pied Piper's marching chant, inviting you to fuck everything, leave your worries and join a lost cause.

The rest of Travels with Myself and Another is as impressive as their lead single as well. It's full of songs with wisecracking lyrics that are sung in crazy, catchy and often times angry, often times melodious vocals that Falco (vocalist) delivers magnificently. The music isn't flashy, but it's not mediocre either. It's just loud and straight-forward with little tricks done with real purpose, not just for flairs. The album is 30 minutes of awesome music. From the explosive intro of "Arming Eritrea", the dance rock of "I am Civil Service", to the buzzed-out "You need Satan More Than He Needs You", everything here is worth a listen.

I haven't heard and enjoyed hardcore music for a while, both lyrically and musically. Maybe it's the whiny anger that, after years of repetition, makes the genre feel old. But Future of the Left re-visioned it, made it more fun by masking the rage with witty and smart-ass lyrics. Although it may not be a revolutionary hardcore album, Travels with Myself and Another is pretty darn close to it.

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Book Review: Genesis

9.3 of 10
Author: Bernard Beckett
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It's been months since the last time I've read a sci-fi book. It was Neal Stephenson's Anathem. The book was just sublime. The world is so detailed, and the philosophy showcased within was mentally stimulating. However, it took me a great deal of time to consume all of its 900 pages. It also left me stupefied for reading such a long and difficult book. So I promised myself that, in order to avoid further intellectual fatigue, I will steer clear from tome-like books with more than 400 pages, even if it means I have to sacrifice an epic reading experience. But this new method of choosing books has actually lead me to many great titles, and one of them is entitled Genesis.

Written by Bernard Beckett, an author whom I've never heard of prior to this book, Genesis is a small, thin book (150 pages long) intended for young adults. However, like they say, you don't judge a book by its cover, or -in Genesis' case- its thickness and age rating. Because, even though its size is small and the lettering are big, the detail of the world -its setting and history- and the philosophical discussions contained in here packs as much punch as a 900 page tome like Anathem.

The book's story centers around an oral examination taken by a young historian, Anaximander, who seeks entrance into The Academy, the figure of authority of the island utopia where she lives. Through this examination, we learn from Anaximander, as she is being quizzed by her examiners, the history of her island -of how a wealthy business man, Plato, sealed it with an impregnable sea fence in order to protect it from catastrophes, such as war and plague, that is ravaging the rest of the world. This island then became known as The Republic, a totalitarian government that controls all of its citizens' actions.

As the story progresses, Anaximander is also quizzed on her area of expertise: Adam Forde, the hero who defied The Republic and, eventually, the cause of its downfall. Due to his insubordination for following an order from his superiors, Adam Forde was sentenced to life imprisonment and became a test subject for artificial intelligence interaction. Now, this part is where the meat of book is found. The dialogue between Adam and Art, the robot, is just dense with philosophical ideas -a debate ranging from science vs. religion, modernism vs. traditionalism to Darwinism vs. creationism- that will make you question what makes us human?

Genesis is definitely the best sci-fi book I've read and enjoyed in a long while. Since the book's intended audience are young adults, there's no complex plots, sub-plots and high theories or philosophies in the book that will discombobulate your intellect. It's short and sweet, simple as that. But, nonetheless, the contents in here is chunky with philosophical ideas, enough to keep your mental appetite satiated. If you're looking for a quick, entertaining and stimulating read I suggest you grab Genesis. Sci-fi fan or not, I'm pretty sure many will love this book.

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Comic-Con Adventures

Yesterday was the official opening date of Wizard World's Chicago Comic-Con 2009. It's a 3-day comic book convention in the city where you could meet some of your favorite big name in comics -writers and artists- and have them sign your books. It's also the event where you could get some collectible exclusives and discounted items. In addition, you'd also see a bunch of poorly dressed geeks, crazy cosplayers, washed-out wrestlers, C-list actors, and even pornstars. So, as a comic-book enthusiast, I always make sure that I don't miss out on this event.

Cover of the Chicago Comic-Con 2009 program guide, done in sidewalk chalk art. (click image to enlarge)

I went to yesterday's show (Friday) because, since it's the first day, I assume the exhibitors are still well stocked. It was my second comic-con experience, and last year was my first. I'm not quite the veteran yet but I'm not a newbie anymore. I already knew the "ins" and "outs" of the convention and was able to prepare myself better this year. I came in with a wallet with some cash (money that I've been saving after last year's comic-con), a big empty bag, 2 comic-book issues, 2 graphic novels, a bottle of water and 4 granola bars.

The convention grounds opened around 9 am for advance ticket holders. Since I was amongst the first in line, I was able to get in right away. Once inside the grounds, I immediately hurried to the booths that were selling exclusive items and bought what I wanted. I went to Full Metal Toys and grabbed a box of Mez-Itz Hellboy, which is a pretty cool vinyl figure by Mezco Toyz. Then I moved on to the booth of Fantastic Realm, one of my favorite distributors of rare and exclusive comics, and got myself copies of comic books -Witchblade, Return to Wonderland and Escape from Wonderland- with the sexy limited edition covers.

All of my purchases from yesterday's show. An exclusive Hellboy vinyl figure, limited edition comics, and some cheap hardcovers. (click image to enlarge)

By 9:30, I was done getting all my exclusive swags. So I just wandered around the floor and took note of which booth has the cheapest books, the largest inventory, and the ones who carry cool items. Soon after, I decided to scout the autograph area to look for Mark Millar's signing booth and to catch a glimpse of some C-list celebrities. I was hoping to see former Baywatch actresses and Playboy Playmates, Erika Eleniak and Donna D'errico. But most of the booths were still empty since it was too early. Although Candice Michelle, WWE Diva and Playboy Cyber Girl, was already there setting up store. Man, she's hot!.

It was already 10:30 when I got around Mark Millar's booth. The line around the booth was already forming even though the signing starts at 12 PM. Since he's one of the most popular comic book writers, I decided to jump in line before it gets any longer. I knew I was going to wait there for an hour and a half. But I had to do it. I don't want to be the last man standing in line or, even worse, the guy who got cut off because the line is too long. So I employed patience, ate all 4 of my granola bars and prepared all the things that I wanted to get signed.

When the signing began, one of the volunteers told us that Mr. Millar will only sign five items. That was a big relief to me since most of the people ahead in line were carrying boxes of comic books. The line was moving slowly, which was understandable. So I took that chance and left the line -after asking the guy behind me if he could spot my position- to go to the restroom. I also made a pitstop at the nearest booth, Discount Comic Book Service, and got The Ultimates omnibus, which capped my items to a total of five.

Mark Millar and the other Mark -who is also known as me. (click image to enlarge)

An hour after the signing began, I was finally in front of Mark Millar. He shook my hand and greeted me in a Scottish accent -which was expected. He's a really nice guy, very chatty too. He was so ecstatic when he saw my copy of The Ultimates omnibus. Apparently, he didn't know about it. He examined it and told me that it was five years of his work that had accumulated into one thick book that can be used as a weapon. He also told me about his friend who didn't have any kids when they started the project and now he has four. After Mark Millar, I went back to Fantastic Realm's booth to have my Wonderland titles signed. Luckily, no one was in line when I got there. So I was able to get Billly Tucci's autograph immediately.

After I was done with the signings, I went around and visited all the noteworthy booths that I marked on my map earlier. I wanted to scour every comic-book retailers for some back issues. But I soon decided against it because it would take too long. So I just went back to Discount Comic Book Service's booth, spent my remaining cash on 4 hardcover graphic novels (Essex County, Powers: The Definitive Collection, Y: The Last Man - Deluxe Editions 1 & 2) for 40 to 25% less the cover price. Then, I went home.

Avatar Press' booth. I never went there, actually. This was just a random picture shot. (click image to enlarge)

All in all, while I only stayed for a couple of hours, I think Chicago Comic-Con 2009 was a better experience compared to last year's. I got my Wolverine #66, Kick-Ass #1, Wanted and Civil War graphic novels, and The Utlimates omnibus signed by Mark Millar. I also got the limited edition covers of Escape from Wonderland #0 and Return to Wonderland #6, and have them signed by Billy Tucci. Plus, I left the convention with an empty wallet and a bag full of exclusive swag, limited edition comics, and cheap hardcovers. So I really couldn't complain.

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First Impressions: Aion

Due to the declining number of players in Warhammer Online (on both Order and Destruction side), my guild started to look for other upcoming games to play. Being the comic-book geek that I am, I suggested Champions Online. Sadly, most of them decided to try out Aion. So, since I love my guild more than the games that we play, I also pre-ordered Aion, even though it didn't interest me at all. But, after jumping in the closed beta event last weekend, I had a change of heart and mind. This game is awesome.

Flight in Aion.

Aion is probably the most prettiest game I've played. The atmosphere, the ambiance, the music. Everything here is just so magical. Character customization here is amazing too. There's just so much options to add more personality to your character. I swear I've been stuck at the creation screen for almost an hour, trying to beautify my character. Class selection in this game, however, is limited. You can only choose from 4 archetypes (Warrior, Priest, Scout, Mage) and you'll be able to select a specialized class at level 10.

I chose a Scout on my initial run and later specialized him into an Assassin. For the most part, nothing's really different about the class if compared to other rogue archetypes in other games. But he's a lot of fun to play with, and I have been winning duels because of his high evasion and critical hits. I think he's going to be a great character in player vs. player. Unfortunately, unlike Warhammer Online, PvP doesn't start here until you reach level 25.

But what makes Aion unique from other MMO is its flight feature. At level 10, your character will become a Daeva and, with it, a set of wings that allows you to fly. Flying is really fun and makes travel a little bit faster. But your ability to fly isn't just limited to travel. There are tons of quest, as well as materials to gather, in the game that requires you to fly. Then there's also aerial combat. I haven't been up to that level yet, and the only flying things I've killed were static funguses, but it's safe to assume it'll be tons of fun.

Overall, I think Aion will be a fun game once it goes live. The game is just so pretty and, not to mention, polished. It's only in beta but the game is running smooth already. I still prefer WAR, however. The realm vs. realm feature and the early PvP access is way more action-packed and exciting compared to flying. But I'll have tons of fun with Aion too.

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