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A 27 year old student, Katrina enjoys her writing, yet acknowledges it could be better. She spends most of her time looking for something to write about. She misses the Destructoid crew, but admits her other writing obligations keep her quite occupied. She'll keep an eye on the Monthly Musings, since those are always worth her time.

For those who enjoy her writing, it's now archived under that hypertext. Catch her Twittering in the third person on a somewhat regular basis.



Aww...you made spidey face palm.


These are just some of my other geekdoms.
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One of the most ongoing epidemics in video games for generations has been the Missing Princess Syndrome. Your princess has been abducted by a rather unsavory character, and you're on a mission to rescue her from an uncertain fate, thus proving your chivalrous adventuring attitude. Only, your princess doesn't stay saved. She's always in another castle, kidnapped by the evil sorcerer, or simply eluding your manly touch.

Let us now find the long lost princess, or condemn her to a fate with a giant snapping turtle. To those Princesses about to die...

She's in another castle...

Abducted by monkeys, and giant snapping turtles is the very royal Damsel in Distress, Princess Peach. She has been destined to be rescued by our favorite plumber on repeat for over two decades. She even gets two different abductors, to add a bit of variety to the rescue missions.



Before he became a good croc-stomping-monkey guy, Donkey Kong had "King Kong" syndrome, instilling a strange desire to steal a girl, and throw barrels at her plumbing rescuer. Once Mario reaches the top of a vertical maze, his generic princess (currently "Pauline") will be rescued, then stolen many times in a single sitting. Thus, making me wish the monkey would just get it over with already!

In Mario specific titles, the Princess now dubbed "Peach" lives in a far away castle, guarded by a single toadstool henchman - which makes her constant abduction by mutant snapping turtle Bowser, and his army of Koopa turtles, a certainty. Bowser's goal is the same as any other mutant snapping turtle, except maybe Tokka, he aims to kidnap the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom to steal her throne.

It's never completely clear what Bowsers intentions post-kidnapping are, presumably marriage since that's how that whole Monarchy thing works. I'd almost call Princess Peaches story one of vanity, where the big ugly turtle gets denied because of his looks. But, the hero is Mario, so that theory doesn't really hold water.



Thus is born the Princess in Peril stereotype.

She's not that interested...

Of course, as games began to demand variety and political correctness, the focus went from "Save the Princess" to "Save the Kingdom, there may be a Princess in it for you."



She can use telepathy, yet is still completely helpless.

Which brings us to the most notorious princess, holding the game franchise name, rather than her pretty-boy knight in not-so-shining armor, Princess Zelda. The palaces Royal Sorcerer, Gannon/Gannondorf/Agahnim will stop at nothing to steal the throne, either using a powerful spell that requires Princess Zelda to be sacrificed, or by kidnapping a usually-under-aged girl as a bride. Princess Zelda will always play a part in Gannons plot, and somehow the commoner boy in green, Link, is always roped into rescuing her.

By the end of each game, after rescuing said princess, she gives you her thanks and maybe a piece of the mythical Tri-Force - yet somehow, Link has yet to officially be made a prince. Simply restoring a Monarchy that frowns on the poor fairy-folk seems like such a gyp. Once again, wishing ill on the princess that won't properly reward her rescuer, or at least stay out of danger!



She wore her hair down to there...

Now let us fast forward in time to the present, with arcade games taking center stage in the gaming market. The cryptically named arcade game Braid has an elusive princess for the main character, dubbed Tom to alter time to find. Unwinding the story of how his princess with braided hair, left him, and he has to quest to find her again.



Where have we heard this before. Oh, right.

I think this brings us full circle with time travel and Princesses. Now, wake me up when my knight in shining overalls shows up just in the nick of time.

How many princesses have to almost-die before we give this tradition a rest?
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What do Deadpool, the Wizard of Oz, and Starcraft have in common? Well, it certainly isn't "Zerg", "Rainbows" or "Poptarts", so it must be "awesome"! That's exactly what you get in this Q&A session with the worlds greatest 'player two'. (I'll give you a hint, the wind doesn't whisper "hostiles" at him.)

Carlos Ferro, AKA Dominic Santiago, AKA Domination, AKA "the character responsible for the majority of my achievements in the Gears of War series", has taken a moment to chat with me on behalf of Co-optimus.com. He talks about Voice acting, toys, Gears, and Batman.

Take a look at what he has to say, in his own words! (with pictures on the site, since something isn't working with my images right now...)








Credit for this banner goes to: Amy "Phoenix" Clark it's amazing



What happens when the apocalypse happily meets up with starting a new, animal filled life? Crossing4Dead is the latest game from Farcical Studios to the nethersystem, which takes the survivors of Left 4 Dead and gives them a new life among the animals. Join Regn, after she's survived the apocalypse, but been separated from her team, make a new life in the world of Animal Crossing.

Meet new friends, maintain a town, and most of all...Survive. Write anonymous letters to be mailed by stork to random strangers to answer the age-old question: are we alone post apocalypse? How would you survive, what would you do? Play the game**, decide your destiny.

**This is not actually a game, this is an editorial by yours truly for Co-optimus.com. My goal is to have you enjoy what you read, and hopefully you enjoy "Crossing4Dead", Cheers!

Read the whole editorial over at Co-optimus!








After reading this article, in which lies the next top secret Nintendo advancement, which will allegedly stream a player hints in video form, solving puzzles for “stuck gamers,” I became very nervous for the next generation of players. With the Wii, it felt like Nintendo was working hard to swat the stereotyping “gamers are lazy” fly, but now they appear to be feeding the fly our minds.



The patent hinges on a form of automated gameplay -- likely sequences pre-recorded by a game's developer -- that users can turn on, described as "digest moving image." For example, it could show a game's character navigating a level to reveal its solutions to stuck players -- or simply to allow players to experience it [the game] without investing the time for an entire playthrough.

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I seem to recall Nintendo's most notorious games are adventure/platformers. Adventure/platformers put as much an emphasis on gameplay, as they generally do on puzzle solving. Being someone who finds puzzles to be engaging, challenging, and fun, I would be very upset if someone sat down with my 6-year-old-self and showed me exactly how to solve a puzzle, or I were allowed to simply frame the puzzles box and take credit for the completed works. Stacking empty video game boxes on your shelf to show off would have a similar effect.

People need challenges so their brains learn, children especially need this type of mental stimulation, to start problem solving early on. Problem solving with most adults is difficult enough, but if our next generation just tapes a box to a wall to take credit for a job well done...well, we're in trouble.

Sure, there are people that become very frustrated with games (and are very frustrating to watch), but if they are to learn to play games, or in essence, solve their puzzles, they need to practice. People need to get stuck, so they can figure out how to get out of a situation – be it in video games, in the workplace, at school, etc. One of the best life lessons is failure, because “Why do we fall, Bruce?”

Many games have included their own hint system in the programing. Many of the hints are an optional “check this screen if you are stuck”, but others are more , what's the word, irritating? When it was impossible to bypass some problem solving fairies. But to develop an entire system devoted to bluntly solving problems for you...Where's the sense of accomplishment that gamers crave, if they "solve" something by watching someone else do it, instead of trial and error?

As a 23 year old gamer, I have thus far avoided feelings of “Dern whippersnappers – why, back in my day we were happy with this, none of your fancy, shiny graphic thingies.”



But if this new form of gameplay, where the game may actually play itself, I will likely take the geezer stance on games, and boycott the next generation a decade or so prematurely. There does appear to be an "off" switch to these helpful tips, but am I mistaken in thinking many people will take advantage of this system and abuse it to some extent?

Here's the the legal Mumbo Jumbo (the patent) for those interested.








When art, satirical humor, Mushrooms, and Nintendo collided earlier this December, we were given the beautiful independent game: Mushroom Men, developed by first timers Red Fly Studio. I explored the game thoroughly, and enjoyed it more than anything I'd played on the Wii in over a year (or, ever.) I then took notes, and dropped my two cents into the vastness of the Internet, which was magically picked up by someone at Red Fly Studio.

This gave me the opportunity to interview Red Fly Studio Lead concept artist, Frank Teran (also known for his artwork on Vertigo Comics.) Along with co-founding the independent studio with Dan Borth (CEO) and Kris Taylor (Art Director), He was primarily responsible for giving life to these Mushrooms through his drawings and paintings, cover art for both games, and (in his own words) “extraneous gameplay ideas/concepts”. I was excited to sit down (on-line) and learn something about this game from an insiders perspective, and have quite a bit to share on the experience.



I would imagine there's an interesting story here, so I have to ask: Why Mushrooms?

I think I'd really have to ask my friend Dan that same question, since he was the one that thought of the whole mushroom angle. I'd say my part was making the mushroom viable as a character the players could ultimately latch onto, and I think the fact that a fungus would be in the lower spectrum of the totem pole, it'd make them the ultimate underdog. They're kinda given life, but at the same time hamstrung with having to deal with the huge world that surrounds them.

I also think Dan and Kris focused on mushrooms as a nod to the gaming roots of the Mario universe.

While the final product is very original, including the humor, music, and story - what would you say inspired the development of this game the most? What inspired you, personally, while working on this project?

I think the inspiration for me were the things I remembered most from my awesome childhood. The sense of wonder and things that I embraced and loved, like Harryhausen movies and old sci-fi flicks, as well as humor that gravitated to the mad magazines, e.c comic books and wacky package trading card types of satire...you'll see glimpses of that thru out my concepts and hopefully in the game as a result...it's like a bizarre amalgam of my nostalgic brain-seepage that makes its way to the digital canvas when I work on ideas.



My initial draw to the game came from a pack of promo-cards a game store employee gave me, with incredibly interesting visuals. My question then would be: is Red Fly doing anything additional to use the art to it's advantage?

Haha - well, I'd love for them to compile an art book, but I'm pretty biased. I leave that up to the fans of the game to request, power to the peoples. I also think the 'lil resin figure was a great idea.



With the darker art style, twisted sense of humor, and the advertisement with “Teen+” rated comic books, what specific demographic would you say this game is targeting?

I'd hope it appeals to those within the range of a gamer that can handle the stuff we toss at 'em. The humor is pretty much in line with stuff I grew up with in old cartoons and mad magazine, like i had mentioned. Hopefully no one is truly disturbed by the artwork, being a bit creeped out I'll take though - since I like making the gamer feel something emotionally when they encounter anything I had imaged out.

Do you think they'll ever let you take the art to comic books, perhaps for a miniseries, or one-shot of Mushroom men, to maybe include your old crowd?

I would be more than happy to visually narrate any type of prologue for those who think it'd help round out the story. I think we're going to add a lot more into the next adventure to help answer some questions, but also up the ante with more stuff. I can't tell you how amped I am for the next chapters to unfold, hopefully that'll happen.



What sort of feedback did you, or Red Fly, expect on the “users” front? What has the reception from gamers been thus far?

I'd say from my perspective, we really don't have any expectations. I'd hope that the fans would embrace something like mushroom men; the weirdness, the satire, the retro feel, all that stuff I would hope the players could dive into and dig. The feedback thus far has been great actually, the enthusiasm in the comments from those who have played the game are really, really encouraging. It's one of those magic moments where you get to see what others get out of what we wanted to get across. It's funny seeing the wide range of what folks get out of it.

So you're finding a lot of Internet feedback?

Yes indeed, and I love all of it! Even the harsh, dismissive, cynical stuff. I basically use that as fuel. It's what I feed on in the wee hours of the night when I work.

Basically, you feed off the Internet “trolls?”

Yes. I flip it and use them to my advantage. Bosses grow more fangs, and become more fierce as a direct result.



This game seems to defy most expectations of the Wii fan base, so the question here is: Why Nintendo?

I don't wanna speak for the folks who were directly involved in that decision making, but I think we possibly chose Nintendo because the style of platforming game we were aiming for seemed to dovetail perfectly with the platforming/adventure gaming base that's already established there, as well as the innovative tech/controls that the Nintendo offered. I'm personally still fascinated with the Wii-mote, and the potential gameplay uses. Mind you, I was raised on the joystick and trackballs for innovation, so this is like...THE FUTURE.

To expand on that, why split up the two games to the two separate Nintendo systems? Would it be beneficial as a player to play them “in order”?

Splitting up games sure is a risky venture, yes. But then again, we're a 3rd party developer who's 1st IP is a platformer on the same system that Mario is on, some would say that's a risk as well. I think if you want to have more insight into the mushroom men universe, playing both would offer some more narrative prologue, and offer different gameplay at the same time - but that's a decision we leave up to the gamer.

So, you'd say they're relatively independent games from one another?

Relatively. there are aspects that connect them, but not to the point where one is dependent on the other. I actually had painted 50+ illustrations for the DS versions cut-scenes, so there are aspects in basic storytelling within, they are a nod to my career in comics. That's what made the experience so rewarding, taking my storytelling love and applying it to the mush universe.



While trying to generate mini-buzz about the game on my level, the reaction I got from people was; well, not great. I'd heard this game called “Just another platforming game”, What then, would you say to this - what distinguishes Mushroom Men from the rest of the platforming games?

Well, I think that we bring a new angle to the genre that didn't exist before. Artistically I think we didn't mimic anything, so we're going to maintain that type of sensibility and just build on top of it. The gameplay will start to expand and bloom into something folks have never quite experienced, but that will be up to the gaming audience. Hopefully the audience will want to see the further adventures of Pax, since I'm already in full steam concept mode for the next step in Pax's future. I am confident that even at this stage, it's going to be one heck of an adventure.

I think Red Fly Studio is Pax - there is a parallel. We're brand new to this game, it's our first, we're goin' head to head with the monoliths of gaming, we'll take our lumps, but we'll keep fighting.

Tiny is the new big, and I see Red Fly making a big splash with a very tiny hero. Experience Mushroom Men for yourself, or gift it to someone who could use some quality time with their Wii.



A few handy reference links;
The official site,
Red Fly Studio developer blog,
Tatertotco @ wordpress - basically the Mushroom Men faux tabloids.
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In the spirit of judging things by their cover, I stumbled on Mushroom Men: The Spore War based on a small pack of artistic cards promoting the game – they must have made some impression, because I was instantly intrigued. Being a new franchise, I wasn't sure what to expect beyond the pretty cover, but I decided to give the little guys at Red Fly Studios a chance to knock my socks off.

During my preliminary research, I noticed a lot of the art and humor style seemed to be influenced by the Oddworld series - one of the heavyweights (and my favorites) in artistic “indie” gaming. These are pretty big shoes to fill, and I was curious to see how Mushroom Men would hold up. So, I put down the one-and-only preorder on the game at my local store, and after dusting off my neglected Wii (not my fault...) here's my experience.

System: Nintendo Wii (prequel on the Nintendo DS)
Genre: Adventure, platforming
Rating: Everyone; just enjoy yourself!
Suggested For: Anyone who enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy and would enjoy something similar (minus the motion sickness,) the next generation of Oddworld fans, or anyone who really needs an excuse to power up their Wii.

The story begins, as so many do, with a meteorite crashing on the Earth. This meteorite doesn't appear to have impacted our world at all, at least - not on our level. However, the world of mushrooms and other plant life are brought to our level of thinking, talking, and warring. Once peaceful Mushroom tribes begin warring over pieces of the meteorite, a few tribes grew strong, and more peaceful tribes went underground.

Now, follow the hero Pax on his adventure to find where he belongs, after his tribe was completely wiped out. He'll meet up with plants, and other mushroom tribes who will assist him along the way, but he accidentally absorbs a meteorite from a peaceful tribe. His quest for companionship turns to a promise to quest and find this particular tribe a new meteorite – one that Pax can't absorb. Mushroom Men: The Spore War is this quest.



Being a mushroom, Pax has a very different point of view of the world – it's still our world he's walking around in, it just looks much, much bigger. This makes house-hold items that one might discard or lose, very useful as improvised weaponry. Pax will collect specific prerequisites (called “Scav”) to create a simple, yet effective, weapon. For instance, a Pencil, Zip Tie, and Toothpick create a very unorthodox stabbing weapon, and a Match, Thread, and Exact-o knife create a useful slashing weapon.

Defending oneself in time of war, even small-scale war, is very important. Aside from the improvised Weaponry, Pax is armed with special powers he gains from his accidentally-absorbed Meteorite pieces. “Sporekinesis” allows Pax to use his will to move, throw, and activate objects without touching them. “Will of Spores” allows Pax to control plants that may be helpful, and “Spore Punisher” gives you a special direct attack on weak or injured enemies. Really, the “Sporekinesis” is the most useful of the spore powers, and you should use it to bowl for moles whenever possible. Trust me.



Of all these powers and weapons, though, I really have to say my favorite “item” in the game was the grappling hook. Actually, it's a child's sticky-hand toy, the kind I personally used to put sticky “hand” prints on the television as a kid, to drive my parents crazy – Pax uses it much more constructively while exploring his surroundings. I even enjoyed the grapple-points, which were things like “Vote for...” campaign buttons, or quarters stuck to various surfaces with chewing gum. Brilliant.

On this scale, the attention to tiny detail becomes increasingly important. Fortunately, I don't have to tell Redfly that, as all the nails, woodwork, mold, and scattered debris were just as I would imagine them being, were I the size of a mushroom, which I think about regularly. Though they may be only aesthetics, detail is the kind of thing a lot of people seem to be looking at most with games, and where much of the criticism against the Wii lies – so, do not fear, Mushroom Men is still beautiful, and is even accompanied by very unique music.

One aspect I am always worried about with the Wii's unconventional controller, is the movement control and gameplay. For anyone who has played Super Mario Galaxy, I can tell you the way the wii-mote works is very similar – which is to say; not too bad. Moving Pax around the screen is fairly straightforward, battles work smoothly, and aiming your interactive cross hairs on the screen works as well as any other Wii game.

It's once you incorporate the camera into this equation that things are a bit more frustrating, as I ended up standing still, taking much more time than I would have liked to center the camera where it needed to be. But, this camera issue was only bad in especially tight areas, while free-roaming, and fixed-camera areas, the game works best.

Humor and character design is very important in a game where the primary storyline is searching for rocks, and you're a mushroom. Mushroom Men measures up to the clever giants of gaming by utilizing a slightly askew idea of the way things work. For example, the enemies fit an array of different pint-sized animals, most of which are rarely considered a threat – unless you're a plant. The Rabbits are the first to come to mind, with their bunnicula presence, the plant kingdom (called “Kudzu”) fear the Rabbits above all others, and request help from Pax to defend them. This species is even taken a step further with a very odd Jackalope enemy; a pretend species of Rabbit with antelope horns.



Another example of very off humor is the health-bar system – as Pax takes a hit, a piece of his mushroom cap goes missing, and his radioactive brain is exposed, until no cap remains. Even regenerating health comes from an odd place, when you have to beat dead rats that have fungus growing on them, to retrieve the fungi-spore health bits. Sounds disgusting, right? How many kids tend to favor disgusting things? Exactly.

In many action-adventure and platforming games, some of the most memorable characters are the side or alternate characters you run into on your path. Whether you loathe them, or they made you feel guilty for all the times you abused them, or they freak you out a bit, you're bound to remember these characters. Unfortunately, I felt that aspect was a bit shallow for Mushroom Men. While Pax is adorable...in a fungus-sort-of-way, there weren't many quirky characters to banter with, or anyone particularly memorable.

This isn't to say the character design is completely lost, as the different mushroom tribes each has it's own social personality and traditions – I'd personally like to see at least one sequel, since the gameplay and design is just right, they can maybe focus on the writing aspect a bit more. Or, perhaps I missed enough storyline by not playing the prequel, which is on a different game system altogether – probably not the best idea, guys.


That is, indeed, a cactus riding a lizard. It definitely makes sense.

While this game may not fall into the “all-time favorites” list, it was certainly a wonderful experience, and a welcome change from the music and mini-games that seem to be Wii's primary focus. If I were you, and you happen to enjoy a fun, mildly twisted, platforming game – I'd definitely recommend at least a once-over, especially if your Wii needs a bit of exercise as mine did.

Now, imagine me, only trying to figure out where this fits on a rating scale of 1-10. (8/10, or an A-? Almost great, with a few kinks that held back great potential.)
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