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Tycho / on Wed, Nov 24 2004 at 4:30 am

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Twisp & Catsby in:  The Birdsea

I really like this comic.  I’ve maybe admitted it five or six times in our entire oeuvre, but Gabe’s art in this one is excellent and my writing isn’t idiotic or offensive.  Also, it was an opportunity to do a Thanksgiving strip, even if it is Thanksgiving refracted through the lens of madness.  Other holidays have ways of obscuring their food offerings, with gods and whatnot, and I just find the focus on birds themselves refreshing.

I need to clarify something.  I’ve been playing a lot of Gamecube games lately, which is odd, because usually there’s nothing to play on it and it just sits there like a bookend.  I had some early calls on games that haven’t turned out to be accurate, and it’s something I want to rectify.  Most recently, it’s Mario Tennis, which I felt you could skip safely when first I played it.  After several days of play, I’m not so sure about that.

It was apparent that it was a quality game, Nintendo’s polish in the testing phase is pretty evident.  But until we had clocked a few four player matches, it was not real to me just how polished it was.  This is not a surface coat.  The game is as deep as you want it to be, which is not something I expected to say about Nintendo tennis - the phrase itself denotes simplicity.  There are “gimmick courts” that have all manner of weird shit that happens on them, and I’ll be honest with you and say that we haven’t felt a need to add any “spice” to the already excellent, epic matches we’ve had.  The basic mechanics are utterly entrancing without condiments.

The minigames haven’t really held our interest, though the Chain-Chomp Challenge (or something to that effect) is pretty ingenious.  Let me try to explain it:

All four players are on their own tracks, separated from the other players.  At the end of each track, a ravenous chain chomp roars with hunger - a hunger which can only be satiated by delicious tennis balls.  Tennis balls fire out of the top of the screen toward each player, and this part is pretty easy:  hit them into your chomp’s maw to score points.  Bombs, too, will fire out - and this is where the choices start.  You can hit the bomb at your chomp, which will turn his red and stoke the fires in his belly, doubling the point value of any tennis balls he consumes.  If a red chomp is hit with a bomb, he busts out of his little pen and starts running after you - you need to hit a button at the bottom of the screen to chill him out with a blast of water.  Speaking of which, spheres of water will also fire out, which you can use to cool down your chomp.  Hitting a chomp with water in his original state will cause him to go to sleep, which means that any tennis balls you feed him will simply bounce off his peaceful countenance.  So the game, and remember there are four players doing this, is a matter of managing your own chomp while trying to ruin everyone else’s.  It’s a ridiculous amount of fun, and this is just some little side-thing apart from the already superlative tennis.  I want very much to see how they manage Mario Baseball.

I just want to grab them and shake them, these Nintendo people, shake them and say “please release more of the round things with games on them.”  Then again, if they actually did that, I guess I wouldn’t be in for this revelatory experience every few months. 

I hadn’t seen it mentioned on any of the sites I frequent, but while I was looking over the latest FAQ at Bungie.net there was an interview with the Red vs Blue guys.  I’m always heartened by their meteoric rise to stardom, it won’t be long now until we regain our scrappy underdog status and resume lives of desperation in the margins of gaming culture.

(CW)TB out.

there’s no telling what they’ll do


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