Category: 3 Monkey Review

Star Wars The Force Unleashed

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I made my way through Star Wars The Force Unleashed for the Xbox 360 the other day. I never got around to finishing it due to several glitches I encountered in my first few run troughs. I made a fresh start this time around and it took me 7 hours off and on to get through the game. It felt a little short while playing and that does seem a bit short for something some people paid like $50 for.

The story was OK, it felt like the story could have been anything. They did a decent job of setting this game in the Star Wars universe, but the main character could really have been anyone doing anything. Sure he had force powers, but he could just as well had magic powers. This could have been Darksiders had it had different skins and character names.

My biggest annoyance with The Force Unleashed is the humping and limited locations you can get to. You are supposed to be one of the strongest force users around. You can fight and defeat Jedi and Sith masters, yet you can’t jump up to the top of a trash pile easily. Another annoyance is the limited places that you visit.There are many worlds in the Star Wars universe, yet we get stuck visiting the same planets more than once.

Overall a decent action adventure game with some magic thrown in with a Star Wars skin. I suggest renting this game or buying it cheap.

I give Star Wars The Force Unleashed 3 Out 5 Monkeys

Need For Speed Shift

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I recently had the chance to play some of the latest Need For Speed game, Need for Speed Shift on the Playstation 3. Shift is a departure from the regular need for speed series of games in that it takes you off the streets and puts you on the track. Before shift the most recent game in the series that I have played is Need For Speed Carbon, which is a pretty much open world street racing game. The older NFS games had you roaming the countryside keeping away from cops and such. The car selection is great, customization is there.

The actual racing is fun and the game includes a helpful guide while driving which tells you when to go full speed, when to break, and when to let up on the gas. I liked Shift and through it was a great track racing game, that was until I started playing Forza Motorsport 3. All the advancements in the racing game genre that Shift added, Forza Motorsport 3 takes to the next level. If you don’t have an xbox 360, then Need For Speed Shift is your game.

I give Need For Speed Shift 3 Out 5 Monkeys

The Taking of Pelham 123

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The taking of Pelham 123 is a thinking man’s action movie. The whole story takes place between a subway Hijacker and a MTA train dispatcher with most of the dialogue taking place over subway trains radio system. The hijacker is played by John Travolta. Travolta is always amazing as a villain and his role as Ryder in Pelham 123 is another one of those great performances. He is the mastermind of the major plot device in the movie, the hijacking of a New York City subway train. Ryder has a crew made up of a former subway car driver and a group of standard backup thugs.

As the story progresses we get to see how into the hijacking Ryder really is when he executes multiple hostages. It is nice to see a villain who has no problem killing people to make his threats real adding a sense of danger to the whole ordeal in the subway.

The MTA Train dispatcher is played by Denzel Washington. Walter Garber is your common man, the audience’s link to the story. He is just a guy doing his job when something extraordinary comes his way. He is able to use his knowledge of people to gain a bond with Ryder. We learn that he has worked his way up throughout the ranks to get where he is. He is also under investigation for possibly taking a bribe in a deal to choose a new subway car for the City.The third major role is the NYPD negoiator played by John Tuturo. He makes his entrance briefly in taking over the role of negotiating with Ryder until Ryder demands to speak to Garber.

The conflict between Ryder and Garber plays out over the radio for pretty much the first hour of the movie. Part of the way through we learn about Ryder’s true plans and that the hijacking isn’t really what it seems.The pace picks up after a while when Ryder chooses Garber to deliver the ransom money to him on the subway train. After the money is delivered, Ryder uses the train as a decoy sending it barreling along the tracks uncontrolled. Garber uses his knowledge of the subway to escape from Ryder and figures out the escape plan. Ryder’s thugs escape only to find themselves in a shootout with police once they make it out into the streets. Ryder Escapes into a taxi and heads out of the city. Garber chases after him in a stolen truck. They catch up to each other on a bridge where Ryder begs Garber to shoot him as repayment of the debt that Ryder says Garber owes him. Ryder says he must shoot or be shot. In the end Garber chooses to save his own life.

Overall a pretty good action thriller. It kept my attention throughout. I felt for the characters and thought both Washington and Travolta played their roles as best they could.

I give Pelham 123 3 out of 5 monkeys

Tilt The Battle To Save Pinball

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Tilt The Battle To Save Pinball. In an era where Video Games are king, there is still hope for the classic pinball machine. This is the story of how the Pinball Machine was saved. This documentary follows the story of how Midway came up with a new style pinball machine in the year 1999, called Pinball 2000. How it was to be the latest greatest thing and yet it nearly didn’t happen.

We start out with the history of Williams Manufacturing. Machines started out as simple games with lights, plungers, kick outs and bells. After adding flippers they became more interactive. The 1970s was a great era for pinball. Computers and electronic displays allowed for new features and advanced gameplay on pinball machines. Motors with ratcheting gears allowed for the classic bell sounds to be added to more modern machines. Disaster stuck when the first video games started hitting the market. Pong, space invaders, and others were easier for arcade owners to get into. Factors like smaller footprints, sold state games, shorter plays, and less maintenance required led to arcade owners putting in arcade machines where they had previously had pinball machines.

Williams reinvented the pinball machine in the 80‘s by adding things like double play fields, better themed machines. The games were slower games introducing order based tasks and targets. Pinball machines became more than just about high scores, they began to be able to tell a story. The early 90s was another great period for the pinball machine, this time for the high tech pinball machine. Williams was the place where visionaries were king. Designers had nearly complete control over their games. By the time the mid 90s came around the designers found out that they had done too good a job. Machines were lasting longer than they had anticipated. People were still playing models from years ago. The companies dwindled down to two. Sega and Williams.

This brought us to the Pinball 2000 machine. Something that could make pinball new again. They tried many different things, 100s of ball machines, 3d machines, computer monitors with animation. It was the computer based setup that would become pinball 2000. From here the documentary goes into how the designers went about creating pinball 2000. They clashed with the bigwigs, saying how pinball 2000 wasn’t going to revive the market. We get the story of how they came up with a holographic based pinball machine or Holopin as an alternative to a simple computer monitor display. This new display projected an image on the glass tabletop allowing for animations on the top level of the table and interaction with the ball. We then get to see the process and time frame of how a game goes from concept to market. Artwork, software, and music all have to be created. Holopin allowed for color overlays, mini games, and full tasks for the players. To keep costs low they tried to make the cabinets convertible. Arcade owners could buy one basic cabinet and change out the tables and marquee systems.

We then get a peak behind the design process with CAD animations showing the game parts and how much thought goes into things like spacing and paths the ball can take. After 18 months of development they brought in their biggest distributor and he fell in love with the pinball 2000 platform. During this time Williams also got into slot machines. That division was making money and the pinball division was losing money. Marketing for pinball 2000 consisted of flyers, videos, classes, basically more marketing materials than had been used for any other pinball machine or platform. Problems during launch included broken cabinets and software glitches. They repaired the damage and rebooted machines. Pinball 2000 was received by fans with mixed reaction. Some thought it was too much of a video game, but once they played it most players became fans. The pinball division at Williams made a profit for the first time in two years.

The fist pinball 2000 game was Revenge from Mars. Mars was a sequel to a hit pinball machine Attack from Mars. The second was Star Wars Episode I. Star Wars was developed in nearly complete secrecy. George Lucas didn’t want any details of the movie to leak out. The pinball game designers basically designed it by themselves without feedback from other pinball designers. Lucas had to approve everything found on the machine. When the game was finally revealed the other designers thought it was more movie than game. Delays came and the Star Wars didn’t ship in time for the movie. A price increase to help cover the cost of the license didn’t help Williams sell as many units f the Star Wars machine as they thought they would, Williams decided to end the run on Star Wars pinball manufacturing. The next pinball 2000 machines were not ready to go into manufacturing, this lead to a break in production and large loss. Expense of each unit and time frame/length of development were two factors in Williams’ decision to get out of the Pinball market.

Williams decided to stop making pinball 2000 machines and closed down the pinball division to focus on video games and slot machines. This decision left the designers with the choice of going to another division and losing their benefits/seniority or going elsewhere. There really wasn’t anywhere else to go. Some ended up in the video game division others became slot machine designers, others ended up with their own companies.

Overall a decent documentary. The first part was a decent history lesson that was paced. The second part was mostly from the perspective of the designers. The third part was the design and the journey of the pinball 2000 concept. We had interviews with the designers, stock shots from various arcades. The coolest part for me were the the CAD animations of pinball machine parts.

On a related note I believe the the next big move is virtual pinball using tools such as future pinball. http://www.futurepinball.com it is software based pinball. Anyone can take these tools and make their own virtual pinball machine out of a plasma/lcd flat panel TV and a computer:

I give Tilt The Battle To Save Pinball 3 out of 5 Monkeys