Saturday, April 11, 2015

Peep Show

Late one night, many years ago, BBC America happened to air a pair of episodes from a TV series I had never seen before, nor have they shown since, to my knowledge. That show was Peep Show, starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. I had become well aware of these two British comedians from their slightly more popular show, which BBC America seemed to like better, That Mitchell and Webb Look. I had seen, maybe, a dozen or so episodes of That Mitchell and Webb Look and I liked it quite a bit, so the comedy pairing of David Mitchell and Robert Webb was already a good thing, within my mind.

It wasn't until a few years later, while doing a full marathon of That Mitchell and Webb Look as well as The Mitchell and Webb Situation, that I decided to give Peep Show a proper try. Sadly, I must confess, my only access to any of these shows was solely through uploads I found on Youtube. So on a cold and anxiety filled night of December 25 2012 I laid in my bed with my laptop and watched as many episodes as I possibly could.

From the very start I was hooked. The show was shot in a very unique, interactive perspective of a first person view, which brought an interesting dynamic to the show. Sadly I found myself heavily connecting with David Mitchell's character, Mark Corrigan, who was very neurotic and seemed to share many of the same character traits as I had acquired through my anxiety.

Paired with his irresponsible flatmate, Jeremy Usborne, the show took me through an amazing adventure that seemed to hit far too close to home for it's own good. The experiences of life's ups and downs and twists and turns, paired with very solid writing and acting. Peep Show quickly became a series I wanted to see more of. Little did I know, the series had literally just finished up season 8 (December 24, 2012).

With a large gap between seasons 3, 4 as well as 7 and 8, I wasn't sure when I may see new episodes of what had quickly become one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Weeks passed as I rewatched episodes, in 10 minute chunks on Youtube, and soon I tired and decided to turn my interests to something else. But soon my love for the show was renewed as I found that it was on Netflix, without all the stupid clicking and waiting.

Now here is where this takes a little bit of a funny turn. I'm sure I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I'm quite a fan of Chinese pirated Famicom games, as well as their Famiclone consoles. Well, we all know China are the masters of piracy, and not even Peep Show has been spared!

One day (while at the outlet store, seriously!) I happened across what I thought was just a normal, region 2 DVD of season two. Upon closer inspection I noticed there was quite a bit of Asian characters on it (sorry that I can't distinguish between different Asian writing). Knowing that none of the Asian countries were withing region 2 DVD territory, I automatically assumed this was a Chinese pirated DVD.

Regardless of whether I'd ever be able to use it, I picked it up as a simple novelty, just to say I own it. But this tale gets even weirder. You see, for some reason whoever pirated this DVD didn't seem to like Olivia Coleman, so they replaced all her artwork on the DVD with Kylie Minogue. Yes, you read that correctly! Not only is this a pirated DVD, but they removed all traced of Olivia Coleman and replaced her with Kylie Minogue, at least on the artwork.



They even tried to sex up the front logo, by adding a suggestively nude lady to the Peep Show within the eye.

Again, this is region 2 and since I don't have a player, and don't feel like changing regions on my computer's DVD drive, I'll probably never get to use this DVD. I just find it to be a neat little novelty for a show that I really like. With Netflix I won't need the DVD anyway, at least until Netflix pulls a bitch fit and decided to bring it down for no reason.

My History with the GTA series. Part 5: GTA 4: The Next Generation!

When I heard Grand Theft Auto 4 was approaching I was filled with hope and wonder, remembering just how amazing the first three were and imagining how much better the fourth would be on the new hardware. When I heard they were distancing themselves from the first three games, as their own universe, I was filled with trepidation and disappointment. I imagine my reaction was just like anyone else who had spent countless hours on the first three games, because when the last gen games peaked with San Andreas, the franchise had become such an amazing and diverse game.

I was hoping they would sustain the level of wonder and exploration that made San Andreas such an amazing game and expand up it, albeit in a much brighter and better looking world. I wanted to roam aimlessly in a larger, more living, vibrant city that made me feel as if I were truly walking within an inhabited city, rather than a cold, empty environment. Well, they did make it a much brighter and better looking world, but GTA 4 was destined to become a bitter sweet stain on my GTA gaming history.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed GTA 4. The protagonist was humorous, the supporting characters were humorous, but the main attraction, cars, were completely and utterly underwhelming. GTA looked more realistic than it had ever before, and rightfully so, but I also feel as if Rockstar tried to push a more realistic angle that just shouldn't have been in the game. Cars would swing and sway through corners at high speed, and understeer was a major factor in getting anywhere, even at low speeds. But the bustling city landscape and environment lived and breathed as if it were truly a city.

Many new additions made the game it's own, yet I still felt that it was lacking so much that Rockstar had built up to in the previous installments. GTA 4 started a new era, a new story line, but no matter what, we were still influenced by the previous three games we had played, and hoped GTA 4 would encompass some of those things, and not just start all over again. GTA 4 brought new characters, new story lines, new inside jokes, all of which, I'm sure, most GTA fans truly wished were in addition to what we were already accustom to.

Now I know I keep bitching and complaining that GTA 4 was such a large change from San Andreas, but I do understand that it was a smart move for Rockstar and the GTA franchise itself. Admittedly it was really getting stale to keep seeing Kent Paul and  Ken Rosenberg popping up and having a panic attack over getting himself into shady business deals he should have learned from 10 years ago. But from what I see with GTA 5, it seems as if they've left almost all of that behind, with merely 1 link from GTA 4 even in GTA 5. Which is something I believe I'll miss once I get a chance to play through GTA 5.

One good thing about GTA 4 being on the new hardware was, of course, DLC. When I originally heard about it, I thought Rockstar was going to release countless updates that we could endlessly download and keep GTA 4 fresh and new. The sad truth was that we only got two; The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned, after that it seemed as if Rockstar had abandoned their child to fend for itself in a harmful, unforgiving world. Even the ability to play online didn't seem to appeal to people enough to keep GTA 4 alive.

Since I prefer to own a physical copy of video games, I bought Episodes from Liberty City and finally got my chance to play both DLC packs. To be honest, they're not bad. Vehicle controls seemed to be slightly tightened up and even more vehicles were added. A pair of short, interwoven episodes of characters that we didn't even really notice while playing the Niko campaign now reveal the other side of the shady business ventures Niko happened to get himself into. Which was actually quite an interesting thing: to take control of a completely different view point of the same mission.

Overall GTA 4 brought GTA back on the map, but not nearly as long as the previous installments did. Sure GTA 4 did well and was a massively better looking game than the previous "universe", but GTA 4 is, to me, a clear sign that brighter and more beautiful isn't always the better option. GTA 4 became stale very quickly and although it did spoil me away from playing San Andreas, which I love with a passion, GTA 4 simply will never and can never make me invest as much time in it as I did San Andreas.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weekend pick ups!

Today Goodwill had their monthly 50% off sale and I decided to get out and try to find a few things I'd passed up on my birthday week. Sadly I only went to one of the two stores I was wanting to go to, but I did indeed pick up what I had passed up a few weeks ago! The other store had a weird Sega Genesis controller I'd never seen before, but I'll just have to make an excuse to go there and see if it's 50% off (or still there) some other time. Today I happened to pick up three things, not much but still better than not picking up anything at all!

First up I bought something on impulse. I'm not a huge fan of strategy guides, to be honest, but I do find them interesting to thumb through for the artwork. Sometimes they can be helpful but for the most part a simple FAQ/Walkthrough online helps me out when I need it. Since this was only 50 cents, and one of my favorite games, I decided to go ahead and pick it up anyway.

Fable Strategy Guide - $.50

Next up is a rather interesting chance encounter. I was looking around the glassware shelves when I came across this little guy sitting there all by his lonesome. I hoped there would be more but this was the only one I could find. I knew this was worth well more than even full price, but half price is always better!

Fire Emblem GBA - $.50

And finally an item I originally saw on my birthday and decided to pass it up, but quickly kicked myself for doing so. I've had an Intec rechargeable battery pack for years, which can be recharged via cable or through the charging dock, but I could never find the charging dock until this one. It's pink, but I've actually been looking for the transparent pink GBA variant to add to my collection anyway. Regardless I think the half off price was worth paying, since it does work.

Intec Power Station - $2.50

Oddly enough I found the matching battery pack for the Power Station at another Goodwill store, but the latch was broken and even at 50% off I just couldn't use it. The battery I do have is indigo, but it still charged in the base the exact same. Overall I wish I had found more, but I walked away spending about $4 total for all three items and I had a good day outside of my room.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Patrolling the streets of NYC, or Liberty City?

A few years ago I became enthralled with a phenomenon known as LCPDFR. For those who may not know LCPDFR is a mod you can add to the PC version of GTA 4, where the player takes the role of a police officer and can patrol the streets to a massively realistic extent. Nearly everything a police officer can do in real life can be done through LCPDFR, within the GTA 4 world.

Most people who play LCPDFR seem to role play very accurately, often using police lingo as well as following strict guidelines, rather than playing this as just a game. My interest in watching these videos wasn't spurred on by any desire to RP a police officer, rather I felt as if I was watching a video game version of Cops. Although I won't deny that I greatly like the idea of turning the tides of a video game where the protagonist was a career criminal, and instead becoming the polar opposite of what the game was originally intended to be.

Before I became aware of LCPDFR, I role played a cop the same way most every other GTA fan did; I grabbed a police car and simply chased down, ran over or flat out murdered anyone I suspected of being a perp. I've never actually had a chance to play LCPDFR, but I do have experience at being a video game police officer in the form of True Crime: New York City. I can hear your collective groans as you read that previous sentence, but hear me out.

True Crime was, without question, a terrible game, but the police aspect was quite satisfying. You could pat down random pedestrians, answer call outs over the radio, collect evidence and decide whether you were a good cop or a bad cop, as well as turn on your lights and siren and blast down the street at high rates of speed for absolutely no reason, other than you have a badge and the other pricks on the street don't!

True Crime was unforgivably buggy, glitchy and often times just died during normal gameplay, but I have to admit that I spent far more time than I should have role playing a police officer, collecting my paycheck and buying new cars to upgrade and race around the streets. The only thing I feel True Crime was missing was any sort of traffic stop system. The cars would pull aside of you turned on the siren, but there was no pull over mechanic, the way there is in LCPDFR.

LCPDFR is amazing, and I hope to get the chance to check it out someday. A few years ago I actually picked up a copy of GTA 4 at a flea market, but since the game was sealed in a plastic bag I couldn't check to see if the code was inside. For $5 I took a chance and lost, big time! Now I'm out $5 and have an absolutely useless copy of GTA 4, but the only reason I even bought it was to try my hand at LCPDFR. LCPDFR detected I had a legit copy of GTA 4, but thanks to Rockstars system of DRM, I couldn't play either.

Gamecube game cases vs carrying case?

Even though I haven't been to the Goodwill outlet store in over 19 months, the urge is still dwelling deep within to go and have a root around in the big ole blue tubs of mystery. One of the first things I remember picking up from there happened to be empty Nintendo Gamecube game cases. After I had acquired so many I actually started to tune them out, as I had too many empty cases and not enough games to fill them with.

You may remember that I spoke briefly about this phenomena before, with empty N64 boxes and Xbox 360 cases (here). I actually collected just about any empty case that I could. Playstation, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, 3DS, Gamecube, empty cardboard game boxes; literally anything that I could either swap out an old shitty case for with a fresh new one, or one that I could someday fill with a decent condition copy of the game it once housed.

After removing the Madden and Tiger Woods paraphernalia from inside the case, they were fresh, empty cases, waiting to be swapped out with anything from a flea market, or even the outlet store, that had a torn case and needed a new home. Well, that didn't happen as often as I wished it would. The flea markets were all devoid of any Gamecube life, be it cased or loose games. The outlet store offered a bounty of empty cases, but only on exceedingly rare occasions would I find a Gamecube case in any condition.

That is until one day I happened to find a few of the small Gamecube game carrying cases. The first one was empty, but I liked it so much that I decided to keep it anyway, even though I already had a large backlog of empty Gamecube cases sitting at home. The second happened to actually have a few games inside, including Mario Kart Double Dash and bonus disc, Mario Superstar Baseball, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 and Need for Speed Carbon.

Although my OCD to have these games complete was really nagging at me, I couldn't pass these games up! Paying by the pound for these things was essentially buying gold at the price of bubble wrap! Mario Kart was rehoused in a Tiger Woods double disc case with the cover from an old (too scratched to be repaired) copy of Mario Kart I had.

Some cases were just too complete for me to really tear down and destroy for the sake of rehousing another game. As you can see below I've got a few really good cases, without the discs to house within. Most of these are complete and only 3 are without manuals. The black one on the far right is the dead copy of Mario Kart. Besides these cases, I still have a dozen or so completely empty Gamecube cases. Needless to say, I don't seem to mind where I house my Gamecube games, as long as I have plenty of them to keep me entertained!

Birthday Week Finds!

After sitting in the house for over a year, thanks to the lovely anxiety disorder, I happened to venture out and finally pick up some stuff. Although they may not be very exciting items to some, they are for me! There are a handful of items I truly wish I hadn't passed up, but that's the way hunting goes, sadly. So, without further ado I present to you my meager, yet very exciting finds!

First up is a Game Boy Color game that I found at Goodwill for $4. Not only is it complete, not only does the cartridge show very little signs of any usage, but it's also European! Again, maybe not a very exciting detail for most people but for me I'm very excited to have a European GBC game. Lucky for me Nintendo never made handhelds region locked, so I can play this game, if I really wanted to.

Next up is a guilty pleasure! I already own a handful of these things, yet if I find a color I don't already have I still have to pick it up. I had found a trashed out charcoal Super Joy at the outlet store years ago, which I picked up anyway to use for parts. It was my birthday and it was only $4, how could I say no?

Next is a game that I already had loose, but this was so cheap (75 cents) at the flea market, I had to pick it up just to own it complete. Deathtrap Dungeon is an early Playstation RPG that interested me when I first played it. It felt, to me, like a poor man's Elder Scrolls.

Last, but certainly not least, I picked up a Player's Edge Game Boy cleaning kit! Yes, I fear I have a problem with cleaning kits. If you saw my collection you would agree with me. Although these really serve no practical purpose, because I've found far better methods to keep my games and consoles clean, I still find myself throwing cash at old cleaning kits. The story behind this is that I found it for 99 cents at Salvation Army. The manager was the only person trained to run the register, but he was in his office "talking to corporate", resulting in a few minutes in line waiting. As a result, the manager gave us all a discount, and I only paid 33 cents.

Picking up these things really gave me a boost to get out and keep hunting! This weekend comes the half off sales at Goodwill. I'm hoping I can go back and pick up a few of the things I didn't get last week.