Archive for the Best / Worst Category

Return To Skyim: Impressed All Over Again

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Screenshots, Skyrim on April 12, 2020 by slateman


Ah…Skyrim! I’ve been meaning to dive back in for quite some time now. To enjoy the updated visuals, to relive the experience and to stumble upon countless things I never even saw during my first hundred hours or so. (I’ve no clue how long I played initially).

But, I was hesitant. My first playthrough was interrupted by a several-month-long hiatus. I recall the gameplay being the weakest portion of the game. I’ve also re-purchased updated games in recent years and never even got around to really playing them. However, after completing top-20-ever God Of War (2018), being mired in a months-long lockdown and having a few bucks in my wallet after selling some books, the $14 reduced-price tag inspired me to take the leap.

I was immediately drawn back in to the game’s world. Jeremy Soule’s soundtrack is easily one of the best ever produced, with inspiring crescendos and heroic heights joining themes of exploration and discovery. Even its implementation is remarkable: from how music plays even during load screens to how it fades out when needed. These match the game’s phenomenal visuals perfectly. Towns are alive with details, water shimmers as it flows and those nighttime skies are things of beauty!

My game is a bit different this time as well. I’m making different choices and also checking on Lydia constantly so to avoid prior mistakes. I’m pondering the wife choices while stumbling upon DLC content I never saw. I’m visiting new areas, saving incessantly and falling into the familiar trappings of spending an hour getting distracted between here and there. Most importantly, however, is the fact that I’m loving every minute of it. This game is simply spectacular and I’m thrilled to have jumped back in. Here’s to the next hundred hours or so!!!

Demon’s Tilt: 916 Million!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments on March 23, 2020 by slateman

I’ve been a bit stuck in Demon’s Tilt. After that legendary 400-million point run, I’ve found myself not progressing much at all. All of that changed today, however. The first ball was going rather well and now that I know how to aim for rituals (each of the three tiers has a six-letter word – complete all 18 for Wizard Mode), I focus mainly on those. Things were going really quite well and other than a shitty second ball (200 million on ball #1, a mere 24 on #2) after having a 99 multiplier, my third and final attempt was nearing my first Wizard Mode. Upon initiating this souped-up mode, the entire board is enshrouded in flames and I’m pretty sure I had five balls going at once. I started at 450 million or so and those numbers just got insane fast. 500, 600, 700, 800 million!!! The boost in numbers was just absurd. Looking at those crazy high scores in the past, it made me wonder how it was all possible. Wizard Mode is how it’s possible.

It was intense and thrilling and cements the game as one of the best ever. Wow, that was exciting.

Shadow Of The Colossus: Better Late Than Never!

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Screenshots with tags on March 18, 2020 by slateman

Way back in 2005 I played Shadow Of The Colossus but never completed it. While I was enamored with its uniqueness, its vision and purpose, there’s no secret the game didn’t run particularly well.

A number of years later it was released on the Playstation 3 with updated visuals. The new iteration, by Bluepoint, was pretty good, but it was based on the same skeleton of the original and I lost interest around colossus #7 or 8, much like I had a number of years prior.

With Bluepoint’s return and total reimaging of the game on the fourth Playstation, I opted to venture yet again into this world but unlike those prior attempts, I completed the game for once! The controls and camera sometimes felt quite archaic, but you could tell they worked hard to bring it up-to-date without losing the original’s magic and feel. Encountering early colossi for the third time (at least!) was a nice way to reminisce and seeing new ones for the first time was an impressive spectacle. The polished visuals, new experience and helpful photo mode let me enjoy the game like I never had before all while allowing me to share some of the more interesting and picturesque moments. I never beat Ico or The Last Guardian either despite playing the former twice. Perhaps for it too, the third time’s the charm! Here are some cool snapshots replete with spoilers, of course! They are in no particular order.

Demon’s Tilt: High-Score Progress

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments with tags on February 27, 2020 by slateman

This game is spectacular and is the best new title I’ve played in quite some time. I’ve been playing for score and managed my first 300-million run yesterday. This was usurped by a 400-million game a few hours later. Dissecting this and figuring it all out is fun and rewarding and may be the start of a new addiction! Until then, proof of said 400m game!

Demon’s Tilt: OMFG Devil’s Crush Successor?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on January 14, 2020 by slateman

I don’t even know what to say. This is a game no one ever could see coming. A spiritual successor to the best pinball game ever, Devil’s Crush? Throwback music? Three-panel high table? The woman’s face? Explosions, pentagrams, demons??? What is going on right now?

But yet it is around! Only in early access right now, this is the game I never knew I wanted. A 21st-century update to one of my favorite videogames of all time. It’s strange, because at first glance, it doesn’t look like a suitable visual follow-up. But as you get going, the board is just crazy: bullets bursting, demons exploding, fires raging, shit flying everywhere. I never got around to crowning a best game of 2019, but this is clearly my choice for this year. (I know, it’s only two weeks in).

Photos don’t do this game justice. Videos don’t either. You need to play…figure out the mechanics, see what’s going on – sometimes you can’t – and just absorb it. Man, this is so awesome.

Morrigan: Vampire Hunter OVA

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Game Art with tags on January 7, 2020 by slateman

In celebration of resurrecting this site after I accidentally killed it, here’s Morrigan from her Vampire Hunter / Night Warriors OVA appearance. This was drawn by Masashi Ikeda and is utterly phenomenal. That’s all for today.

2020 – Music To Come

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on January 5, 2020 by slateman

I still haven’t even written up my AOTY for 2019, but the year itself was a bit disappointing. So, while I delay in getting that online, I’ve gazed forward and feel like 2020 may be more of the same. For now, here’s a brief ‘coming-soon’ list, none of which feel like possible contenders for this year’s coveted award. For now, it’s just a list for me.


10 Jan – Brothers Of Metal: Emblas Saga
07 Feb – Sepultura: Quadra
14 Feb – Ihsahn: Telemark
21 Feb – Demons & Wizards: III
28 Feb – The Night Flight Orchestra: Aeromantic
06 Mar – My Dying Bride: The Ghost Of Orion
13 Mar – Burzum: Thulêan Mysteries
20 Mar – Hällas: Conundrum
03 Apr – Testament: Titans Of Creation
10 Apr – Joe Satriani: Shapeshifting
17 Apr – The Black Dahlia Murder: Verminous
24 Apr – Katatonia: City Burials
08 May – Naglfar: Cerecloth
08 May – Lamb Of God: Lamb Of God
29 May – Alestorm: Curse Of The Crystal Coconut
07 Aug – Carcass: Torn Arteries
TBA – Lantlôs: Wildhund

Borknagar: Up North – OMFG

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Video on September 27, 2019 by slateman

I am not a lyrics person; I simply don’t care. This is why foreign-language songs or raspy, indecipherable songs are fine with men. I just don’t give a shit.

However, earlier in September, Borknagar offered up the second sample taste from their newest record: True North. I sat outside, overlooking Via Mergellina and the shadow of Vesuvius and listened. And was moved to tears.

WAT? That’s not metal! What is this of which you speak? Well, the song, titled Up North, talks about the circle of life. It talks about residing…well…up north. It speaks of how things are just right up there. Of the few things I’m certain in life, this I could relate to. ”

“Where the sun cast shadows at night, Where the day and evenings are bright, The place where I belong, Up north!

Where the pine trees meet the sea, Where the stormy sky will sing for me, The place I wanna be, Up north!”

Yes, please. I don’t know…moving to Sweden was such a jump and it was the perfect place at the perfect time in my life. And every day I long to return. In my core, I think of it daily: there is something simply right up north that I can only convey through a multitude of words. Yet this song sang to me. It sang to my heart.

Somehow, I hope to get back there. And every time I listen to this song, it brings me back to that place – that feeling. It’s both utterly wonderful and crushingly sad. But…it is what it is. And this song may be my favorite of 2019. The music, the vocals, the lyrics and the profound sensation I feel when listening. Just remarkable.

Mini-Review: Tool – Fear Inoculum

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on August 29, 2019 by slateman

Surmising several listens briefly: I like Fear Inoculum more than the last two albums combined. Tool holds a special part of my musical life – from getting into them back during Undertow to the game-changing Ænima. I saw the band four times and bought Salival at its midnight release back when Tower Records still existed. But their last two efforts left me desiring more, though Lateralus left more of an impact than its successor. The last time I saw them, I emerged bored by the second half, after a tremendously-exciting first half. And there we ended it – more than a decade ago – and with no real hopes or expectations for this long-gestating follow-up.

The first single released earlier in the month was promising and I don’t particularly like tracks 5 or 6. However, the remaining four songs are remarkable. They are familiar, yet new. The tracks sound wonderful and have a spectacular, heavy feel. But just like the prior album, something was missing. And it was easy to identify: Maynard. Part of what drove me to the band two-and-a-half decades ago was his fiery nature. He would unleash and it was amazing. But now, he’s rarely not monotone. He’s skilled – no doubt – but it gets boring. One song has this amazing buildup. Each bar comes with the promise of this culminating bomb! You feel the excitement…you wait for the inevitable…and you leave disappointed at the cliff from which you fall.

While I am highly critical of Maynard, he is quite adept at his craft, minus the aforementioned lack of fire. Just two or three perfectly-placed “AHHHHhhh!”s would make this album all but perfect. But it speaks to how good the rest is that it’s a solid record even without kick-ass Maynard. The songs are reminiscent of the past, which feels so familiar. That mix of new and nostalgia make me thrilled to put it on yet again – barring those two skippable tracks. I’ll have to look into the added digital ones. For now though, even on release day, I can proclaim this a superior record to the prior two.

Retro-Game Backlog Entry #9: Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Retro Games on August 27, 2019 by slateman

I vividly remember playing the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins in the back corner of some shady restaurant ages ago. The machine had two buttons on either side of the stick, but the right side didn’t work. So there I stood, playing this filthy machine with cigarette ashes on it, with my hands swapped: right hand crossed over my left. It didn’t help that the game was notoriously difficult to begin with. Certainly the button issue only exacerbated that challenge.

As the years went on, I played the sequels and spin-offs. Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, its Super sequel on consoles, Maximo earned me some publishing cred and later, the PSP’s Ultimate Ghosts ‘N Goblins. I never completed that last title: it was far too difficult. That would’ve been over a decade ago.

I find my patience for these types of game has dwindled. I don’t care for Mega Man games like I used to and a return to the franchise seemed truly unlikely. However, something piqued my interest as I sat in my newest temporary quarters, with Vesuvius in the distance. Given my passion for using save states, the series might not seem so daunting. Of course I would be mistaken in that regard, but the real question was: which game should I go back to? After some research, it was decided! the SNES game it would be! Like many other titles on this backlog, I’d played this iteration before but didn’t think I ever beat it. Now having played it again (and twice), I can verify – there’s no way in goddamn hell I beat this game.

To begin, the start is oh-so-familiar. The graveyard, the music, the weapons. Everyone who has played any of these titles will feel right at home and the new double-jump mechanic opens things up quite a bit, especially given the unforgiving jumping controls. Each of the first few stages is broken into two uniquely-different segments. Here we have the standard cemetery followed by a watery section with waves crashing over you. While this is not a truly difficult portion (and I played on standard difficulty), it’s riddled with memorization sections that inevitably lead to death your first run through. Even with my cheating ways of save states, this game demanded a specific set of memorized jumps and perfect setups. Skull platforms roll towards you requiring rigid timing. Enemies appear just as Arthur launches himself. It was perfectly normal for the time, but damn frustrating decades later.

The second stage begins on a haunted ship before asking you to navigate the waters on rafts. Stage three descended into fiery depths while five was the standard icy world. This one came with fantastic rain effects and the best song of the above-average soundtrack. These straddled a fourth level that showed off Nintendo’s Mode 7 effects, spinning the stage around as you went along new paths. It was unique and showy and quite entertaining. However, when the sixth stage began, the stages no longer split and the endgame was present. These two levels culminated in Astaroth and Nebiroth battles which were demanding, but not impossible. The biggest issue was with controlling jumps and the commitment once you did jump. These could ruin your run quickly. However, another concern with the latter boss was time. After taking quite a while to reach the second Astaroth, I barely beat him before time ran out. Sadly, Nebiroth followed and with a scant 20 seconds remaining, the only solution was to restart the stage all over again. It felt a wee bit too bullshitty for me, so I tossed on an infinite time code and beat his ass. I have no shame.

Speaking of bosses, there were several impressive ones. The cockatrice, a 360 centipede dude, a hydra and some frozen monstrosity were all generally fair challenges. The expected animations were there in spades and for the most part, it wasn’t the hardest game ever. Unfortunately, defeating the final boss revealed that you simply couldn’t see the game’s true ending on the first run. A second was required with a specific weapon in order to fight the real final boss. This is par for the course w/ GNG games, but it was something I gladly had forgotten about. Play again? Hrmph…I don’t know if I really want to!

However, I really wanted to see the real ending and it turns out the GBA version featured an arrange mode which changed levels 2-5 and the Princess’ Bracelet could be found during the first run through. Thus, I dove back in for a second full replay. You have a choice between an easy path and a hard one which mimic two of the standard difficulties from the original. A third path altered those four middle levels completely which made the entire game a different experience. These came with new bosses and the fourth level was a revamp of the original GNG level! These were wonderful and made the slightly-downgraded GBA title a remarkable port.

This all made a second playthrough truly worth it and allowed me to fight Sardius (Samael in Japan). An intense challenge, he unlocked the true ending which was worth the wait. A bit of detail about the Princess’ Bracelet is followed by short details about a number of enemies and then a full credits scene, with Arthur and Princess Prin Prin riding off before the sunrise. The full replay really gave me a full feeling for the game and while I’ll never return to play it all again, I fully appreciate the difficulty the game and the series sets. I might consider the PSP game again, but not without save states! Judge me if you will, but that game was friggin’ hard!!!