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5:19 PM on 05.21.2009

Get Your Lawsuit Out of my Pasta!!

I’ve been in Finland for about six months now and I’ve seen some pretty weird stuff. I’ve eaten cake made from whole fish, gotten drunk at a heavy metal karaoke bar, visited a “zoo” consisting entirely of dead animals, and I have been locked outside, naked, in the deep polar-night due to a malfunctioning Finnish door.

I’ve even been to Moscow, and that place is on an entirely different level of weird. They have street shows where people bet on large falcons that eat tiny kittens—I know because I watched one.

But nothing could prepare me for what greeted me when I went grocery shopping yesterday.

Yeah, that’s right. That’s a pasta brand using an illegal rip-off of our beloved plumber to sell their evil-wares. To add insult to injury, they don’t even attempt to hide this fact. The only thing that they altered was his name.

I’m sorry but a chief’s hat does not make Mario turn magically into “Marco”, and thus allows you to bypass a huge lawsuit.

Naturally, I nerd raged. I was insulted that they would take my beloved icon and pervert him in such a foul manner. It was spitting on my childhood, common legal sense, and the good name of Nintendo.

Finally, I was able to distill my anger into a plan of action.

I made delicious Marco butter pasta and broiled pork steak.   read

10:52 AM on 05.20.2009

Monsters' Den: A Free Game That Doesn't Suck

I’ve always been skeptical about free PC games. I grew up in the great age of freeware discs, so my idea of a “free game” is something with limited capacities, poor art, and derivative gameplay.

That’s why the quality of Monsters’ Den: the Book of Dread blew my mind.

At its core Monsters’ Den: the Book of Dread is an old-school dungeon crawler. It plays something like a mash-up of Diablo 2 and the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role playing game, and it’s completely unapologetic about borrowing liberally from its source material. It’s a game clearly made for fans of the genre by a group of individuals deeply steeped in the core mechanics of the games.

A player begins by choosing a four character quest-party from a slew of fantasy archetypes (Warrior, Cleric, Mage, Ranger, Rogue, Barbarian, and Conjuror), assigning names to the selected characters, and picking out an appropriate portrait. After the initial creation process the player can select from several lengthy campaigns with vastly different themes, plots, and difficulty levels.

Once you’re plunged into the game-proper you quickly realize that the game is graphically simplistic. The world is represented by a series of nondescript halls, viewed from a distant overhead view, forming a maze. Further exploration reveals graphical icons that represent potential battles, treasure chests, resurrection shrines, and dungeon exits. Once a battle is initiated your team of dungeon-delvers and their dastardly foes are displayed as static portraits. Graphically, it’s all very simple but I found the aesthetic to be extremely tasteful: the well done enemy portraits, animated attacks, and an intuitive interface all added spice.

Battles are turned based and you can prompt your party to perform any of six individually assigned attacks, buffs, summons, and spells. Your adventurers have an energy-bar, which is depleted from the use of magic, and a health-bar that you need to keep an eye on. Most enemies are exceptionally weak to certain attacks and are extremely resistant to others. In short, if you’ve ever played an electronic RPG or “D&D” you’ll feel right at home.

Where Monsters’ Den really shines is in the absolutely mind-boggling number of loot drops. Every defeated monster and treasure chest will yield loot in the form of weapons, armors, potions, and magical items. They all have randomly assigned statistics, values, and rarities. The rarer items are uniquely named and provide the user with additional statistical bonuses ala Diablo 2. There is also a town shop at which you can either sell excess loot or buy additional items. It’s all pretty heavy stuff for a browser based game.

As you delve deeper into the dungeon you gain an additional level with each new floor. This allows you to tweak your statistics (Strength, Endurance, Dexterity, and Intellect), and learn new skills. This lets you craft the character you desire and is an almost direct copy of the Dungeons and Dragons system.

Monsters’ Den: the Book of Dread is a monster of game. If you love playing with statistics, dungeon crawling, old school role playing, or just table-top gaming it comes highly recommended. You’re allotted four permanent saved game slots, you can select any number of difficulties, it has an intuitive interface, and there’s even a game-plus mode for every campaign. It’s an impressive game, and the best part is that it’s absolutely free.

Score: A

Play the Game Here   read

10:49 AM on 02.09.2009

Resident Evil 5 and The Fight for Free Expression

I hope to keep this short.

This is a blog about censorship, so please feel free not to read it. If anything I say offends you please feel free to either stop reading or let me know in the comments. I will attempt to respond.

America is a big place founded on ideals that we don’t always live up to. We have endemic poverty, we’re often xenophobic, and we can seem a bit strange to “the rest of the world”.

We’re bigger than most people seem to realize: the state of Texas is almost twice the size of the country of Germany. The United States is a jumbled collection of people with different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and orientations. Us Americans try to get along, but we often don’t.

Yes, we do have racism.

Even with a “black” president, race is an inescapable fact of many American lives. It may always be part of our culture. It’s something we’re not very proud of.

But, Resident Evil 5 is not racist. It is a video game set in Africa. The primary antagonists of the story seem to be native to the region. These plot decisions have necessitated the need for dark skinned foes.

This is realism not racism.

Even if Resident Evil 5 were blatantly racist I would still not oppose its release. It would offend every fiber of my moral sensibility if this was the reality of the situation. But I would still fight for its right to be released.

“Free speech” is not polite speech. It will always be uncomfortable for someone; but that’s just how the First Amendment of the United States Constitution works.

It seems that those critical of the perceived racial bias in this game have a set a double standard. It seems that they seek to establish those of African descent as a “protected” ethnic group.

Especially irritating are those that offhandedly dismiss the “double standard” claim. This is usually done by arguing that Africans have a unique image problem.The logical extension of this argument is that the rest of humanity is just fine to use as pixel-fodder.

Obviously, there are no other negative stereotypes than a brutal black man.

Resident Evil 5 is sure to become an issue. There will be countless newspaper editorials, magazine articles, and internet “blogs” on this very subject.

Some will call for boycotts and others for outright bans. This will be particularly noticeable in the United States. I find this to be inexcusable.

But like I said, we’re a big nation that doesn’t always live up to our ideals.   read

7:46 AM on 02.03.2009

Where in the world is Rucksack?

You might have noticed that I’ve not been on Destructoid lately.

Sometimes we do crazy things. We take a look at the current state of our lives and realize that it’s time for a change. Things just get dull, and we begin to become jaded. Our day to day lives begin to seem like prisons, and the only way out is a major change.

That’s why I moved to Finland—sort of.

It was a number of things really. I got laid off from my job, was forced to change apartments, and had developed a serious case of apathy. Life suddenly stopped being exciting for me. Even video games began to seem dull.

So I did the only logical thing. I walked right into my departmental advisor’s office and applied to study abroad. I really didn’t care where, because it really didn’t matter. This was more a matter of saving my soul than visiting some tourist destination.

I just had to move—like Jack Kerouac just had to get on the road. It was an overwhelming compulsion.

I chose Finland because I heard it had lakes—seriously. I didn’t speak a word of Finnish, or know the first thing about Finland. I literally signed the form and found the country on the map when I got home.

I left North Carolina on New Years and haven’t looked back since. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve got my soul and my zest for life back.

I’m living in Oulu—about a hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. When I first got here there was only three hours of daylight per day, the temperature was well below zero Fahrenheit, and I saw more snow in one day than I had previously seen in my whole life. It was wonderful.

I also discovered that I like photography, so all of the pictures are my own.

In the end I think I did it because of playing video games.

The hero always seems to make a hard choice and then sees it through to the end: Mario always goes after Peach; Final Fantasy characters leave their lives behind to save the world; and Master Chief keeps soldiering on. I realized I had to be my own hero, because no one was going to save me.

It’s cheesy I know.   read

7:48 PM on 12.18.2008

NVGR: Rucksack Reviews a Beer

Budweiser American Ale Review

Destructoid is a mature gaming community. So, I’m assuming that most of you are over the legal drinking age in your respective countries. Therefore I present you with a beer review.

I’m going to have to be honest. I think that almost everything Anheuser-Busch puts out is shit. They’re the proud distributors of all that horrible beer you drank in college. Besides, they’re not even an American owned company.

That’s why the ironically named “American Ale” impressed me so much. It’s not the most fantastic beer in the world, but it’s reasonably priced and doesn’t completely suck.

I’d say that American Ale’s quality is better than most mass produced beer, but not quite as good as a midlevel micro-brew. It has a really full flavor—you can actually taste the hops—and goes down smooth. American Ale finishes on a nice yeasty note.

I picked up a six pack for around $6.50.

American Ale is well worth the money, but it certainly won’t blow your mind. It’d be a good beer to take to game night with the ‘bros.

It’s also a good introduction into the world of slightly higher end bargain beers—if you liked it, try Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale or Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA next.

If I had to give it a numerical score I’d give a 7.0.   read

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