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Bill 69: the twelfth installment.

Wow, Sieve and I finished off our latest trifecta of classic games a month or two ago, but I’ve been so bloody busy I haven’t got around to doing the write up until now! This whole being an adult business . . . ugghhh, not all it’s cracked up to be. Anyhoo, the first game on this installment’s roster is one neither of us played back as kids, the short but sweet . . .

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Final Fight 2! This game was released on Super Nintendo in the year 1993, and was a follow up to the original Final Fight game (Final Fight is only one player while Final Fight 2 is two player co-op, so we decided to skip the first game, at least for now). In the events of that first game a place called Metro City is returned to it’s usual state of normalcy after the game’s heroes defeat the diabolical Mad Gear Gang. One of these heroes, Mike Haggar, returns to Metro City to rule as mayor. However, the Mad Gear Gang are regrouping from their defeat and plan to strike again. They kidnap one of the original heroes’ (Guy) fiancée (Rena), as well as her father (Genryusai). When Rena’s sister Maki hears about this development she contacts Haggar and asks for his help. He agrees without question, and his friend Carlos volunteers to accompany Haggar on this adventure. And that is where the game begins. By yourself or with a buddy, you then choose between the Haggar, Maki and Carlos characters, and then set out across the world on a mission of revenge against the Mad Gear Gang. If you can defeat this gang and all of the goons they throw your way, rescuing Rena and Genryusai in the process, you’ll have beaten the game!

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Final Fight 2 features six levels, with each level taking place in a different location. As you fight your way through each location you will face a boss at the end of the level, who will then steer you towards your next destination. The locations/bosses this game includes are Hong Kong (Won Won), France (Freddie), Holland (Bratken), England (Philippe), Italy (Rolent) & Japan (Retu). The moves in the game are pretty basic. You can jump, duck, and of course punch/kick. You can utilize your punches and kicks while jumping or ducking to create a more varied arsenal, and also if you get close enough to your enemies you can grapple them and perform different types of throws. As you make your way through each level you’ll find objects you can destroy such as steel drums, wooden crates and what not. Within these objects are various types of items. There are weapons you can use to hasten your enemies’ descent like knives and wooden planks. There are many types of food items that replenish your health meter to various degrees, such as coffee, donuts, lobsters, and many more. And then there are a handful of random items that earn you points, these items include gold bars, a stereo, shoes, among others. Points in turn can be collected and converted to extra lives when you reach a certain level. Other than that there isn’t much else to the game. If you can put your hands and feet to good use, and take advantage of all the items you can find, you should be able to defeat the six bosses in the game easily enough and save the day!

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Overall Final Fight 2 is a short but sweet side scrolling adventure that may be a bit light on depth, but is very high on the fun factor. It is a side scrolling beat ‘em up game in the same vein as the Double Dragon and Golden Axe series, although it has a very Capcom look and feel to it. Capcom, as you may know by now, is one of, if not the, favourite game developer of yours truly, so I always seem to enjoy their offerings. After playing Final Fight 2 I basically considered it Street Fighter with a story mode. The graphics and sound are very similar to the Street Fighter series, and even the game’s HUD is almost identical. One tip I do have for future players is this. Although the game is fairly easy, if you are playing with a buddy make sure you are both pulling your weight as you share the allotment of continues! Not much else I can say about this one other than although it’s a fairly quick play Final Fight 2 looks great, sounds great, controls great, and is a ton of fun. Sounds like a winner to me!!

The second game of this trifecta is the original game in one of my most very favourite series of all time . . .

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Contra!! Released by Konami (one of my next favourite developers after Capcom) for the NES back in 1988, this game we played heavily as kids although we were never able to beat it at the time. The story of this game revolves around some sort of unknown object falling from the sky and crashing in to the Amazon jungle back in the 1950’s. The incident was written off as insignificant and basically forgotten, but 30 years later a mysterious enemy named Red Falcon has risen to power from the ashes of this incident, and has been wreaking all sorts of havoc along the way. His plan is to take over Earth, with help from the alien race that was contained within this object that crashed on terra firma all those years ago. Humanity’s only hope comes in the form of two marine troopers named Bill (Mad Dog) and Lance (Scorpion), of the elite Contra unit. Your job is to take control of these heroes and plow through the Amazon jungle and beyond, on a quest to destroy Red Falcon and his alien forces, saving the world while doing so!

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Contra is a medium length game that consists of eight total levels. Although the game is at heart a side scroller, a couple of the levels offer a different look. These eight levels include Jungle, Base 1, Waterfall, Base 2, Snow Field, Energy Zone, Hangar & Alien’s Lair. The two Base levels are the ones that change things up a bit, as instead of being side scrollers, you actually move forwards towards the background of the screen, maintaining the same functionality over your character while doing so. At the end of every level is a boss, and although the bosses are sometimes aliens themselves, for the most part they are alien inspired technology/structures . . . although of course you do fight the head alien Red Falcon at the end of level eight in order to beat the game. The controls behind Contra are pretty simple, as your character can move, jump and duck, with the ability to fire his weapon all the while. Your weapon can be fired in all eight directions, which is key in this game because the screen full of enemies gets pretty intense and chaotic at times! There are a handful of items you can collect as you move through the game, most of which are related to various weapon upgrades. These pickups all come in the same form, a small falcon icon with a letter or image in the middle of it, telling you which particular item it is. For weapons the upgrade options are M (rapid fire Machine Gun), L (Laser), F (Flamethrower) and everybody’s favourite, S (Spreader). The other items you can grab from time to time include R (rapid fire upgrade, increasing the rate of fire of whatever weapon you currently have equipped), B (forcefield/temporary invincibility) and just a straight up Falcon icon (destroy everything on screen). If you can fine tune your guerilla combat skills and put all of these items to good use, you’ll have a shot at stopping Red Falcon’s quest for domination and save the world!

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Contra is what game developers should look at and say, I want my game to be that good. Contra has it all. A decent length, the right level of difficulty, a cool story, good graphics and sound, controls that are spot on, a fun factor that is through the roof, and most importantly a 2 player co-op game mode. There are a handful of game series that started out on the NES that would be considered iconic, top drawer series, like Mario Bros., Mega Man, Double Dragon, etc. To me Contra is right up there alongside these titles. Konami didn’t have many misses back in the day, but Contra to me is perhaps their crowning achievement.

The third and final game of this adventure is one I actually just mentioned . . .

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The original Double Dragon!! Much like the two entries above, Double Dragon’s roots are in the arcade, but the game was eventually ported to the NES as a home release in 1988 by Tradewest. The story revolves around two brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee . . . brothers who are at odds. Jimmy Lee, the ultimate bad guy in this game, is the leader of the Black Warriors gang. At the outset of the NES version of Double Dragon Jimmy’s thugs track down Billy’s girlfriend Marian, slug her in the gut, and take her away. Seeking vengeance and the safe return of his woman, Billy then embarks on an epic and violent adventure to face down the various throngs of the Black Warriors, before confronting his brother in a deadly showdown. If you can master your inner ninja and beat Jimmy down, you’ll have completed the game and safely rescued Marian. A pretty straightforward and classic kind of storyline!

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Double Dragon features four total missions, so it’s not very long in the grand scheme of things, but each consecutive mission gets a bit longer and a bit harder than the one that preceded it. And considering you have just three lives and no continues with which to beat the game, it’s no simple feat! As per the formats from above, at the end of each level you’ll usually face a boss. Mission 1 takes place in the city streets and ends with a fight against Abobo, who afterwards becomes a recurring type of character throughout the rest of the game. Mission 2 takes place at a construction site and finishes with a boss fight against the ninja like Chin, who like Abobo then becomes a recurring character for the remainder of the game. Mission three occurs partially in a forest and then within a rocky mountain, with not only lots of enemies but many environmental dangers like bottomless pits and falling stalactites. There is no boss for this level, you simply need to make it through a doorway leading to the last mission. As for Mission 4, it unfolds at you approach and then infiltrate the Black Warriors’ dark and twisted base. At the end of this mission there is definitely a boss fight! You must first face four consecutive pairs of enemies you’ve already encountered throughout the game, followed by some maniac with a big machine gun, followed by the head honcho . . . your brother Jimmy! The Double Dragon controls are pretty simple. Move around with the D-pad, one button is for punch, the other button is for kick, and both buttons at the same time makes you jump. However, your moves evolve as you progress through the game. At certain point levels you will gain a skill, of which there are seven in total. These skills will unlock moves for Billy like the jump kick, throw, pin, round house kick, etc. As for items, there are a number of them in the game and they are all weapon based. Sometimes you can use environmental objects against your enemies that happen to be lying around, like oil drums and boxes. Other times your enemies will be carrying weapons, which you can steal from them after you beat them down a bit. These weapons include baseball bats, whips, knives, and even dynamite! If you can master your sweet moves, capitalize with energy sucking weapons, and avoid the various pitfalls Double Dragon has to offer, you stand a good chance of becoming the hero and saving Marian!

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As mentioned above at the end of my Contra review, Double Dragon is what I consider one of those most classic early video games/series. It’s got a good recipe going for it in that it’s short but not too easy, features great graphics and sound, has lots of fun features like the character upgrading system and the weapon pickups . . . it’s just a beyond classic NES game that almost everybody knows. I remember when I first got it, it must have been my birthday in grade 7 or 8 or so. One of my good friends Josh was over (Sieve’s older brother, actually) when I received it as a present, after which we stuffed ourselves full of cake as quick as we humanly could and then raced upstairs to play it for the rest of the day! The only real knock I have on this game it is that it doesn’t have a 2 player co-op mode, which to me and my friends means everything. Although they more than made of for this omission with the outstanding 2 player sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge. Double Dragon is a must play!

We just finished watching a decade of The Simpsons. Only two more to go!!

The weekend after my last post was a funny one because I only worked for two days the following week, so it was a kind of disjointed . . . but also utterly amazing! On the Friday night I had ball hockey and we lost to the Quackbombs only 3-1 this time . . . getting better. I had no points and aggravated a hamstring I’d pulled the week before, unfortunately. So old! On the Saturday I started the day off with yard chores and a pool cleaning as usual, and then we went for a family bike ride as mrs. darthcobain17 had borrowed a bike from a friend and finally decided to give it an honest try. We went 20km and Jimmer was gassed, but it was a good outing. That night we watched a movie to chill out. From Sunday through Tuesday the only thing we really did was take Jimmer to a ball hockey game on Monday evening, as his old coach was short on players for his team, so for one night only Jimmer was a member of the Stars. The rest of the while during these three days we didn’t do a whole lot other than stick around the house. Swimming, biking, crafting, drawing, painting, watching TV shows, playing vids, reading, backyard hockey, etc. It was pretty friggin’ ideal!! On the Wednesday I was back for one day of work, and I had to drive there for the first time in a long time as Jimmer and mrs. darthcobain17 had dentist appointments at the end of the day. So I had to go pick him up and take him to his ball hockey game (they lost to the Dust Devils unfortunately, but I think he had a couple of helpers) while she went in for her appointment. mrs. darthocbain17’s dad came down for the game as it was soon to be his birthday, so afterwards we all went to a newer business here in London called Chick Boss Cake. I had a Reese’s Pieces milkshake and it blew my mind! Afterwards we went home and watched Canada play the U.S.A. in dodgeball, no joke, and it was awesome (other than they blew a huge lead and lost the match). Early on Thursday mrs. darthcobain17’s dad left and I had another day off! The weather was really weird as the day started off with a downpour, and then for the rest of the day it alternated between bright sun and end of the world type cloud cover. We managed to get out and buy a birthday present for one of Jimmer’s friends though, and the rest of the day we just swam, played ball hockey in the back yard, and played video games. Much better than being at work! On Friday I was back for one more day of work (my first bike ride in a week, and I paid for it!) before the weekend arrived. On the Friday night my ball hockey team had our first game of the round-robin portion of our playoff season, and once again we played the Quackbombs. We lost to them again . . . by a score of 3-1 once more!! And I aggravated my hamstring even worse! At least we’re keeping those games closer, and I managed to pick up my first assist too, so that was a bonus. On the Saturday I got up and did my yard chores as usual, waking up the neighbourhood with an early lawn cut, before long I had to run out to donate blood though as it was that time once again. I then had to run out to Jimmer’s ball hockey game, their first playoff round-robin game, which they lost to the Dust Devils by a score of 4-3 (he picked up 2 assists). Then we had to rush home after the game as Jimmer had a friend’s birthday party to attend, at Laser Quest, which is always a good time. When he returned home we did nothing but chill the rest of the day. Sunday was an awesome day because we had diddly squat to do. Jimmer and I went for a bike ride in the morning, but other than that we didn’t leave the house. I hung out in the backyard pretty much all day, swimming and practicing ball hockey, reading quite a bit, and also watering the grass seed I just recently put down. After barbequing dinner and playing some vids with Jimmer I had a hard time staying awake after hanging out in the sun all day . . .

The next weekend started on a bit of a down note as I had to skip our second playoff game in my ball hockey league. The hamstring was just not healed enough yet again, so I finally decided to take a game off and give it two full weeks to heal. I was stretching it, icing it, rolling it . . . I even Dr. Ho’d it! So we didn’t do much but laze around on the Friday night, although I did make another Kijiji sale (I’d made two more just previously, during the weekdays and was on a bit of a roll). On the Saturday morning I had a major yard clean job to do as it had torrentially down poured on the Monday and then the Friday of the week that led in to this weekend, and so there was debris everywhere and the pool was filthy. I also made some adjustments to how I’m storing our garbage (we don’t have a garage, pain in the ass!), gleefully throwing out the crappy plastic shed I used to store the garbage and our recycling bins in. After my chores were done and I had a swim, Jimmer and I then went out to run some errands. We first stopped at Indigo where I got a couple of books and he got one. Then we went to Canadian Tire as we had some Canadian Tire dollars to cash in, and our clothes steamer had just died so we filled that void for “free”. While there we also got some batteries, some backwash hose for the pool, and a bit of goalie road hockey gear for Jimmer as he’s enjoying playing net at home. On the way home we met mrs. darthcobain17 at The Open Kitchen, where we had breakfast for lunch. Deeeericious!! After getting home we had a couple hours to mess around before we had to get ready to leave town for a few hours. A girl that Jimmer had been in a couple of shows with at Original Kids was part of the chorus in Jack and the Beanstalk: The Panto production at the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. She was great, and the show was bloody hilarious! After getting home late on the Saturday night we woke up on Sunday with nothing to do. We played a bit of ball hockey outside, although Jimmer went inside most of the day. I stayed out by the pool reading and listening to music, and of course swimming, while also watering my precious grass seed. After dinner James had his friend Tyler over for a playdate, so I cleaned the house up a bit after he left. And then of course at bedtime the torrential rains showed up again and shit all over everything I’d cleaned up over the course of the weekend! Pretty much sums up that whole week . . .

When the next weekend began I was ecstatic, because it kicked off my last big chunk of time off for the year, in total I was going to be off for about a week and a half . . . all the way up through Jimmer’s first day of school after the Labour Day long weekend. It was effin’ glorious!! On the Friday night I had no ball hockey as the other team had to forfeit, and that was probably a good thing as it gave my leg another full week to heal. On the Saturday we were up and at it early, as we had to take Fuzz to her annual vet appointment. Jimmer and mrs. darthcobain17 took off early from that as he had to get to his playoff ball hockey game, in which they lost to the Dust Devils and were eliminated from contention (don’t ask about the score). Afterwards we stopped at Dairy Queen for lunch, and when we finally got home I spent most of the rest of the day outside playing ball hockey, swimming, reading, and doing yard chores. At night we watched a classic film from my childhood that continued a trilogy I’d just recently introduced Jimmer to. On the Sunday it was pretty much a repeat of Saturday, minus the vet and ball hockey of course, and we also went and met mrs. darthcobain17 for lunch at Johnny’s. As the weekdays arrived and mrs. darthcobain17 had to go back to work our week pretty much followed the same routine. I would go outside early and water my grass seed, then spend the rest of the day poolside reading, swimming, drinking beer and coffee, and listening to The Tragically Hip! I felt very Canadian all week, let me tell you. Every so often Jimmer would come outside and we’d play some ball hockey too. There was the odd bit of variation we threw in here and there, of course. For starters we went for a bike ride one morning but my back tire went flat, so I had to take it in to Sport Chek and get a new tube. I also scored some new hand grips while I was at it as the old ones were starting to wear out. One morning we went to my parents’ house for breakfast and then stuck around for a while to play some dominos, finishing that up with a trip to the bank to deposit some cash in to Jimmer’s RESP. We also met mrs. darthcobain17 for lunch one day at Swiss Chalet. And that was about it! While enjoying my time outside I also got a ton of chores done that I’d been putting off for a while, like getting up on the roof to trim some of the bigger trees that are encroaching on the house, cleaning all of the old junk out of the shed (including some “toxic” items we needed to drop off at the recycling center), removing the old clothesline post from the ground, and so much more. I feel the time off was relaxing, but also very productive! On the Friday night we had our last playoff game for ball hockey, and my leg was fine. It still feels like something wonky is going on back there, but it held up fine, although we ended up losing to the team that would go on to win the championship. It was a fairly close game though, we’re getting better! The Saturday of the Labour Day weekend that arrived after my full week off was pretty much a repeat of the last week or so, only we headed to my parents’ place that night to celebrate my coming birthday with our annual taco birthday dinner! I can’t pack them away like I used to, but I still did some pretty good damage. We played dominos again and had a great time, as is usually the case. Although the weather hadn’t been fantastic, fall was starting to creep in a bit and things were cooling off, it was mostly still OK. But that Sunday was our first bad day in quite a while. It rained most of the day so we were stuck inside for a lot of it, but of course took the opportunity to play a lot of vids. On the holiday Monday I spent the day mostly outdoors again, with a brief outing for a late lunch/early dinner at Fionn MacCool’s. That night I introduced Jimmer to another one of my favourite movie franchises so as to hopefully end his summer on a fun note. On the Tuesday, my last day off, Jimmer walked to school with a friend all on their own, the first time we haven’t dropped him off at school. He even made his own lunch . . . which is awesome! I took the opportunity to spend one last day mostly outside and got the lawn cut, dreading the day eventually coming to a close . . .

The next weekend was the first one that saw life more back to normal. Holidays, sadly, were over. Jimmer was back in school. mrs. darthcobain17’s Fridays off had ended. Friday night we didn’t do much, and on Saturday I got up early to get to my yard/pool chores as usual, but with how quickly things were cooling off it was downright freezing out there! I still went for a swim and read my books poolside, although afterwards I had to come inside and have a scalding hot bath to warm up. We didn’t do much the rest of the day, went outside a couple more times and played some vids, and that was about it. On Sunday though we did eventually have to leave the house. I started the day with more chilly poolside fun, but a little before the noon hour we headed downtown as Jimmer had his first rehearsal/audition for his fall show at Original Kids! He is in a show called Beat Bugs (based on the Netflix kids show) and the director is actually a new director who is the parent of a child we’ve been in shows with for the last two productions, so this will be our third show in a row working with her and her daughter, and they are the nicest people! There was a small meeting at the start of the rehearsal (with lots of other familiar faces) just for everybody to meet and greet. Afterwards mrs. darthcobain17 and I went to Billy’s for breakfast for lunch. Afterwards we went our separate ways, I chose to go to the pool store to drop off our last empty chlorine jugs of the season (boooooo!), then hit Dollarama for a new shaving mirror, and finally Indigo for some books. I then returned to pick up Jimmer from his rehearsal, when we returned home we just played vids while mrs. darthcobain17 meal prepped for the week. On to another work week . . . sadly a full one this time!

My fall season of ball hockey kicked off on the Friday that saw the next weekend arrive. Our summer team had split in two to make a couple of new teams, as there were more people joining the league, and it looks like we have a pretty decent squad. We beat Balls and Dolls 2-1 in a tight game, and although I had no points it wasn’t for lack of trying. I could have had half a dozen if the ball had just bounced right! I was exhausted afterwards and didn’t stay up much longer after getting home. On the Saturday morning I got up and did my yard chores, including a good lawn cut and weed whacking session. I got in some swimming and reading afterwards but didn’t have much time to spare, as Jimmer and I made our annual trip to the Western Fair with some friends of ours (mrs. darthcobain17 was too busy and had to work). Jimmer even went on a few rides he wouldn’t have dreamed of last year, so he’s making progress! After six or seven hours of walking around in the sun (and I forgot the sunscreen of course), with some fair food and a couple of ciders thrown in on top, I was gassed when we got home and again pretty much went to bed right away. And then Sunday was no respite. After getting up and vacuuming the pool I then had to get Jimmer downtown for his theater rehearsal. There was a short parent volunteer meeting at the start of rehearsal just to get the ball rolling on that front, afterwards the wife and I went to Billy’s for a late breakfast once more. After getting home we just chillaxed the rest of the way, waving goodbye to a busy ass weekend . . .

The next weekend was another busy one, with something going on every day. On the Friday night the whole family came out to watch my ball hockey game, our second of the fall season, which we won 4-0 over Chicks & Sticks (I finally got credited with my first assist!). On Saturday it was my first morning yard chores day with the pool being closed . . . so depressing. But I took my book outside with my coffee, read for a bit, and then got the yard tidied up, the lawn cut, and also started stowing some of our outdoor decorations/furniture away for the coming winter. Afterwards Jimmer and I went out on a shopping quest for some items to use to make a few props for his upcoming show, and then met mrs. darthcobain17 for lunch at The Open Kitchen. That evening, after dinner at the mall (mmmm mmmm Jimmy the Greek!) we headed to the Grand Theatre to take in the Titanic performance! Titanic was this year’s high school project, where a number of the top high school performers from around the city come together to put on a show on an even bigger stage. The reason we went to this one is that the artistic director at Original Kids who directed James in A Christmas Story was directing the show this year, and as for the performers there were quite a few kids we knew from A Christmas Story that were in this production also. And it was really good, too. On Sunday I got up and tried to tidy the house up a bit, before taking Jimmer to his rehearsal and working with some other parents on our first costume pull. After we got home we spent the rest of the day chilling for the most part, although I did have to do a few chores and get ready for the next morning’s garbage day (it was a bit of a big deal because of all the construction going on on our street, and our new curbs about to be poured). Another eventful weekend, dat fo sho . . . I already miss the summer!!

This past weekend was another busy one and saw us leave town for the first time in quite a while. On the Friday night I had ball hockey as usual, and it was another win for us to make us 3-0 to start the fall season, woot woot! We beat the Muff ‘n Men 2-1 in a close game, and I had the game’s opening goal, it was nice to finally get back on the board again. Early Saturday Jimmer and I had to head down Grimsby was as mrs. darthcobain17 was in Toronto on business at the end of the work week and then went to visit her mom afterwards. We visited the Hamilton beachfront for a bike ride in the afternoon, and then headed back to her place for an early taco dinner. Jimmer and I watched the last Leafs’ preseason game (they look good) while the two ladies went to pick up mrs. darthcobain17’s nan at the airport, as she’d been out east. During the game I worked on some props for Jimmer’s show as I’d brought all my materials and tools. Sunday we had to leave pretty early to get back home in time for Jimmer’s rehearsal, where we worked on getting the kids fitted for some costumes and I continued work on my props. Afterwards we hit up Farm Boy for a healthy dinner and some grocery shopping, and when we got back home I gave the house a bit of a cleaning before chilling out the rest of the way.

The weekdays were busy too, especially once school and theatre began in early September (and once school began Jimmer’s weekly overnight at my parent’s restarted anew). Over August, outside of my vacation time, Jimmer had some camps including Campus Creative and Camp OK (Original Kids). He got his casting package in early August, which is when we learned he is going to be in Beat Bugz. Throughout these past two months there were also birthday celebrations (including a trip to The Works), dentist appointments, haircuts, bank appointments, yard chores, pool chores, Jimmer playdates with his friend Tyler, playdates for me and Sieve to work on our Bill 69 quest, meet the teacher night, lots of biking, lots of swimming (although that came to a close in mid-September with the closing of the pool), and of course lots of vids. All of the usual week day fare. And of course during it all we got tons of fun stuff completed, our journey went as so . . .

1) My usual couple series worth of games fell under my regular season on MLB 2K10. Here is how those series unraveled: lost vs. New York Mets 7-5, won vs. New York Mets 5-0, won vs. New York Mets 6-0, won @ Pittsburgh 3-1, won @ Pittsburgh 6-0 & won @ Pittsburgh 4-0.

2) On Gran Turismo 5 I was still stuck because I couldn’t find a car fast enough to compete in the higher series, and with how expensive the vehicles are at that level, every incorrect purchase costs you and you have to save up all over again. So I just ran some events and tried to place the best that I could. I began with the B Spec events, under the Expert Series, and played the Gran Turismo All Stars event, which consisted of five races: Trial Mountain Circuit (third), Grand Valley Speedway (third), Nurburgring Nordschleife (first), Cape Ring (fourth) & Tokyo R246 (fourth). This was a points event so my overall finishing position was fourth place. I then bumped up to the Extreme Series and started out with the Like the Wind event, which held just two races: Road Course – Daytona (first) & Superspeedway – Indy (second). I just couldn’t manage much else of significance at this point, so I decided to enter the Special Events mode of the game, where there are a bunch of weird and random race challenges to undertake. I began with the Gran Turismo Karting Experience, which lets you pilot a go-kart instead of full sized cars! On the Beginner level of this challenge I performed thusly: Tokyo Bay Kart Track (first) & Eifel Kart Track (first). On Intermediate: Eifel Kart Track (second) & Tokyo Bay Kart Track (first). And finally on the Advanced level of the challenge my results were as follows: Tokyo Bay Kart Track (first) & Autumn Ring Mini (second). For completing this special event I earned the Gran Turismo Karting Experience trophy. The next challenge on tap was the Jeff Gordon NASCAR School, which teaches you the ins and outs about racing a big, heavy NASCAR vehicle around an oval track. Here is how the Beginner option went: Superspeedway – Daytona (first) & Superspeedway – Daytona (second). The focus of Beginner was on drafting scenarios. On Intermediate: Superspeedway – Daytona (second), Superspeedway – Indy (third), Superspeedway – Daytona (third) & Superspeedway – Indy (third). The focus of Intermediate was inside and outside driving. And as for Advanced: Superspeedway – Daytona (third), Superspeedway – Indy (DNF) & Superspeedway – Daytona (DNF). Advanced focused on a few random one offs like exiting the pits, etc. And that’s all for now . . .

3) The end of the regular season beckons on NHL 2K9! Here is the next batch of games that entered the history books: won vs. New Jersey 8-3, won @ Washington 9-1, won vs. Edmonton 7-3, won @ Ottawa 7-1, won vs. New York Islanders 6-5 (OT), won vs. Tampa Bay 6-1, won vs. Calgary 7-4, won @ Tampa Bay 9-1, won @ Florida 4-0, won @ Montreal 7-1, won vs. Washington 10-2, won @ Buffalo 6-1, won vs. Boston 9-3, won vs. Philadelphia 6-2, won @ Philadelphia 7-2, won vs. Montreal 5-2 & won @ New Jersey 9-0. So close to the playoffs now I can taste it!

4) It seems like forever, but on Sieve’s latest visit to our place to continue our Bill 69 quest we managed to get back at Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn at the same time, and get one more level in the books! The level in question was called “Level 4: Bel Air” and in it we scored 513 points, defeated the boss named Kandy, and earned the Plundered the Booty trophy for our efforts. Two levels to go, I can’t wait to witness the remaining hilariousness that is to unfold on this zany title!

5) The going got way hard on Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed, but I persevered as best I could. To begin with I went back and got a podium finish on one of the drift events I’d played and failed way earlier in the game, but of all the backtracking I tried that was my only bit of success. The first new event I played was called Single Exhibitions, and it held three races: Dubai Autodrome National (third), Road America (second) & Riviera Casino Riviera (DNF). I then skipped the Nordschleife 24 – Road Masters Challenge event (because it’s impossible) to embark on the Miami City Velocity Tour. This event held four total races, as such: Miami Bicentennial Park Route (first), Miami Biscayne Boulevard (first), Miami Bayfront Park Loop (fifth) & Miami Bayside Run (first). At this point I then packed it up and packed it in. The races were getting way too hard, and the cars not fast enough to guarantee at least a podium finish so that I could at advance through the remaining events. And one wrong move at these high speeds late in the game and my car would become a rolling wreck, whereas this type of trouble didn’t seem to ever affect the A.I. racers. The experience just kind of fizzled out as the game went on, which is too bad because it looks really good and is quite fun when you can be competitive . . . but beyond frustrating when you can’t be. During this last bit of racing I earned one final trophy, called Workaholic. Overall I completed 70% of Career mode before calling it quits . . .

6) Progress is steady on Fortnite’s Save the World game mode, here are the missions I completed this time: “Stonewood: Homebase Storm Shield Defense 6” (I expanded my home base by installing another shield amplifier and fortified it, then expanded the shield’s range and fended off the five waves of Husks that came streaming in after doing so, earning the Can You Feel That Shield Power? trophy), “Stonewood: A New Direction” (Ray needed help managing survivors and the Director needed more tools, so I headed out in to the city and suburbs and searched five stacks of boxes to find the equipment he required, of course fending off Husks and completing the objectives of the respective levels I chose to play in at the same time) & “Stonewood: Van or Astro-van?” (with the rocket we recently gained possession of we were all set to launch, so I hit the streets and got said rocket prepped and then built some fortifications around it, so as to defend it from the incoming waves of Husks until it was able to blast off, by launching said rocket it would allow us access to new regions, missions and materials, I also earned the Launch the Rocket trophy). It was then on to that next region of the game, called Plankerton, the region where we suspected Pops to have gone missing. Here are the levels I’ve been able to complete there so far: “Plankerton: Storm Shield Defense 1” (to establish our presence in this new region I built fortifications around the storm shield we had in place, then activated and expanded it, fighting of the two waves of Husks that attacked soon afterwards, earning the Walk the Plank! trophy along the way), “Plankerton: Two Swirls” (a crazy two pronged storm was rolling in to town, so I went out and hit the suburbs to place two Atlas devices to fight said storm, once I’d fortified them I had to fight off hordes and hordes of Husks upon activating the devices, earning the Two Swirls trophy along the way) & “Plankerton: No. Robot. Doctors.” (a handful of survivors were stranded out in the Plankerton suburbs so I mounted a rescue mission and saved the minimum required number of survivors, plus many bonus ones, whisking them away from the Husks that were trying to do them in). So many levels in this game . . .

7) I believe our journey on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is in it’s waning stages . . . but as usual I could be wrong! Here are the levels we completed most recently: “World 4-2: When the Going Gets Tough”, “World 4-3: . . . the Tough Get Going”, “World 4-4: In Full Gear”, “World 4-5: Bowser Jr.’s Lair”, “World 4-6: Reunited”, “World 4-7: Spawny Snatched!”, “World 4-8: Castle Guards” & “World 4-9: Bowser’s Castle”. And that was it for the main story mode! However, there are lots of hidden levels and challenges scattered throughout the game, so we dove back in to it in an attempt to complete as much as we could before signing off. So far we’ve completed the rest of World 1, where we defeated Challenges 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8, 1-9 & 1-10. We also completed the world’s secret level, called “World 1-S: The Hidden Bridge”. We are currently in the midst of World 2, where we have completed just Challenges 2-1 & 2-2. Almost done!!

8) We’ve passed the halfway point on our season of NHL 17 and the playoffs have now started to enter our consciousness. Here is how these most recent games unfurled: won vs. Montreal 9-2, won @ New York Rangers 4-3, won @ Ottawa 3-2, won vs. Buffalo 6-2, won vs. New York Rangers 2-0, won vs. Ottawa 7-1, won vs. Calgary 6-0, won @ Detroit 2-1, won @ Philadelphia 4-3, won @ Dallas 3-1, won @ St. Louis 4-1, won @ Boston 4-1, won @ New York Islanders 5-2, lost vs. Dallas 6-4, won vs. St. Louis 6-1, won vs. Buffalo 6-0, won vs. New York Islanders 5-4 (OT) & won @ Columbus 3-2 (OT).

9) My progress on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard had become so difficult that I decided to divert to some of the game’s challenges instead of the actual levels, in order to hopefully level my character up a bit more and gain some resources. So I headed off to partake in the Trials of Gods mode, successfully completing both the Trial of Skathi and the Trial of Odin. I then upgraded my weapon and armour and such, before getting back to the main story mode. The levels I was then able to complete included: “Simul’s Lair” (the vision seeing old lady convinced me a team up with Simul was key to defeating Grimnir, so I headed through the portal to Dvergheim where she had sparked up an alliance with the Dark Alfar, after battling through these forces of hers I confronted her but she ran away, leaving me to battle a giant hellhound named Garm, so the mission wasn’t quite a success but after the battle the old lady could suddenly see her visions more clearly, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, defeated 3/3 Dverg Champions, and destroyed 3/3 Menhirs), “A Knife in the Dark” (the fortified harbour of Flevum was not a hugely significant outpost of the Imperium’s, but an attack on it could disrupt their movement through the area and also send a message, so I raided this installation and wiped out all enemy forces while also setting fire to a number of their vessels, along the way I found 1/3 Iron Skulls, defeated 4/5 Tomte Chieftains, and destroyed 13/20 Tomte Huts) & “Path into Darkness” (my allies thought I needed to level up all of my various gear and informed me that by going back to Dvergheim and mining for their famous crystal based weaponry and armour would be the best way to do so, and so I battled through this area once more, collecting all of the goodies I could while laying waste to all resistance and ending it all with a boss fight against a Raving Dverg, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, defeated 20/20 Cave Trolls, destroyed 7/10 Menhirs, and earned the Viking Blood trophy). I think I might be getting close to finishing this one?

10) I made much better progress on Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition this time around, as I’m finally getting used to how the game works and all of it’s various controls. When I last left off I was inside the museum on Penguin’s trail, in an attempt to rescue Mr. Freeze. Fortunately (or maybe not so fortunately) I caught up to Penguin, who was in possession of Mr. Freeze’s cold ray! He was blasting it all about a large room that was full of ice and water (not to mention a great white shark that lurked in the depths), trapping some of the missing police officers I was also in search of in the process. After he had his fun and retreated to the Iceberg Lounge I was able to rescue three officers in Forrester, Strickland and Whitman. I used a couple of rafts and my Batclaw gadget to get around the room without becoming a meal, and along the way I was able to explore a couple of side passages. The first one led me down a hallway where three goons were smug and safe behind a security gate. However, I hacked it and then to their chagrin beat the crap out of them! In the hallways beyond I was attacked by many more thugs, including one of the one armed Abramovici twins, who put up a good fight! Once the dust settled I came upon Mr. Freeze, who was desperate and vulnerable outside of his suit. I told him I’d get it back for him . . . only if he told me how to get past his cold ray. On my way out of this area I found another Titan container and destroyed it, scratching one more off the list. In the second side passage I ran in to more goons, these ones wielding night vision goggles, so they were a bit tougher to get the drop on. But I managed it, and in the process rescued officers Miller, Sanchez and Michaels, meaning the last two were probably in the Iceberg Lounge with Penguin. Mr. Freeze’s suit was locked up in this chamber, so I liberated it and nabbed the Disruptor Freeze Override Chip from it, then went after Penguin in said lounge. Using the Disruptor gadget I shorted out Freeze’s weapon, which allowed me to get close to Penguin and send him reeling! However, he then turned the tables on me by collapsing the ice floor beneath us and releasing the hulking behemoth that is Solomon Grundy! It wasn’t as difficult a fight as I thought it would be . . . once I figured out what I needed to do. Upon dispatching this beast I then laid my hands on Cobblepot, dragging him and the suit back to Mr. Freeze. I inquired with Freeze about the antidote to Joker’s (and now Batman’s) perilous blood condition, but he did not have good news for me. The cure that he had concocted would work, if not for the fact that it tended to degrade before it could take effect. It was missing a vital stabilizing enzyme that would take years and years to develop. However, Batman then came up with an idea, for he had knowledge that the blood of Ra’s al Ghul would contain such an enzyme, all I needed to do was locate him (or his remains at least). Just then though, an assassin of Ra’s al Ghul’s that Penguin was holding captive overheard our conversation and freaked out, breaking free from her containment, giving us a few choice words, and then escaping in to the night! Doing some forensic analysis I began to track the blood trail she left through Arkham, eventually catching up to her on a rooftop and staging a fight that would allow me to plant a tracking device on her. Robin then showed up and caused the fight to dissipate and he had for me the Line Launcher, a piece of tech I needed that I had radioed in to Alfred. As I sent Robin off on a mission to the hospitals, to warn their staff of the current blood scare, I then resumed my pursuit of the assassins using the tracking device. Laying many beatdowns along the way my pursuit eventually led to the tunnels beneath the crumbling streets, in the old subway system (I felt like I had been to some of these areas previously). As I dropped underground I ran in to some of Joker’s goons, who seemed to be stealing weapons from Hugo Strange’s Tyger guards, which couldn’t lead to anything productive. Working my way through this resistance I rescued a doctor they were holding hostage named Fiona Wilson. We had a conversation and she informed me that these goons weren’t stealing the weapons, the Tyger guards were giving them the weapons, meaning Strange and Joker were for some reason working together. During this action I finally destroyed the last canister of the Titan virus that I was responsible for, which was a nice little bonus. Moving along I came to a large set of doors that had a mural dubbed “Wonder City” imprinted on them, and a recorded voice droned on and on about visions of a better Gotham City. With Batman’s health beginning to flag a bit I passed through this door, and then many others, before coming upon a door that didn’t look as if it had been opened in eons. Scattered around the chamber were remnants of the fabled Mechanical Guardians of Wonder City. Using my tech I scanned the various remains and pieced together the information needed to pass through this door. Around that same time Ra’s al Ghul’s assassins began showing up and pestering me, so I put them all down and continued my journey until his daughter, Talia, emerged and took me in her confidence after I opened the door to their secret hideout and in the golden light that laid beyond it, had a vision of Batman’s parents. I informed her that I wanted to join her guild, to which Talia expressed trepidation, but when I insisted she acquiesced and told me to prepare to face the Demon Trials . . .

11) The trek through our regular season on NHL 11 continues, here is the latest knot of games that unfolded: won vs. Atlanta 3-2, lost @ New Jersey 2-1, won vs. Carolina 5-3, won vs. Columbus 5-1, lost @ Ottawa 1-0, won vs. Boston 4-1, won vs. St. Louis 3-2, won @ Atlanta 2-1 (OT), won @ Los Angeles 6-0, won @ San Jose 3-0, won @ Phoenix 3-0, won vs. Calgary 4-0, won @ New York Rangers 5-3, won vs. Anaheim 7-2, won vs. Washington 4-3 (OT) & won @ Carolina 4-3 (OT).

12) On Splatoon 2 I didn’t encounter any new arenas I hadn’t played in yet, and no Splatfests came up, but I did play a fair amount of Ranked Battles and finally increased our rank to 20. I then decided to start out on the game’s story mode. And the story revolves around the two pop star hosts from the original Splatoon game, Callie and Marie. After the events of the first game Callie had gone missing not long after Marie defeated her, and when Marie comes back to Inkopolis after visiting her parents, she finds out that once again the Great Zapfish that powers all of Inkopolis has gone missing! That is when Marie, who covertly works for the secret Splatoon force drafts you, the player, to become Agent 4 and get down to the bottom of this mystery. So far I’ve completed the following levels on this mode: “Return of the Octarians: Rescue the Zapfish” (10:41 completion time), “Welcome to Octopia: The Summer Wind Rises” (8:17), “Sunset Octocopter: Dash and Jump” (8:41), “Industrial Toast: Into the Octo Oven” (3:12, defeated first boss), “Spinning Campground: Ink Me Out, Ink Me In” (8:31) & “Octoling Strike: Riot in the Reef” (8:46).

13) I finally made a breakthrough on Axiom Verge and was able to access some new areas of the map, which eventually allowed me to return to the initial areas of the game that I’d been cock blocked from for so long now! This was due in large part to my finally obtaining a new device/gadget called Grapple. As I paved new ground I obtained many other items as well including six Health Nodes, five Health Node fragments, three Power Nodes, eight Power Node fragments, two Range Nodes, a Size Node, six transcriptions/letters/journal pages (one of them being the seemingly important Axiom 1 note, and another being The Breach note), seven mystery objects that looked like a floppy disk or data file or something (similar to a transcription, but in some sort of unintelligible dialect) & the Sudran Key. I also obtained some new weapons in the Inertial Pulse, Voranj, Address Bomb, Lightning Gun, Shards, Data Bomb & Reflector items, as well as the Trenchcoat (allows me to teleport small distances in any direction), Enhanced Drone Launch, Drone Teleport & Red Coat (allowing a teleport damaging to enemies) gadgets. Along the way I also earned the Hallucination, Clone, Ukhu, Brick Breaker, Sentinel, Athetos & Mercy trophies. I played this game so much and got on such an addictive roll that it’s now complete, which I totally didn’t see coming! This game is one retro, mind boggling puzzle of a journey, and it’s fantastic.

14) Cuphead . . . wow!! It took us so many tries but we finally beat it. We didn’t have many levels left either, here is how the remainder unfolded: Inkwell Hell (B- rating) & One Hell of a Time (B rating). During this trippy ride the achievements we unlocked included Taking Names, Parry Persistence, Parry Performance, Ceramic Strike, Porcelain Power, A Walk in the Park, A Day at the Fair, A Trip Downtown, Magician Lord, Coffers Full, Casino Night, Souls Saved, Cutting Corners, Selling Out & Swing You Sinner. So when the dust settled we had beaten the devil at his own game, returned all of the soul contracts we had obtained, and got our own selves out of some very hot water. What a game! One of the most fun, challenging, and original titles I’ve played in a long time. I would LOVE a sequel to happen for this franchise at some point . . .

15) I managed to finish the cop mode on Need for Speed: Rivals! When I picked up play this time around I began on Chapter 8, called No Honor Amongst Thieves. There was only one mission to complete there, called “Patrol: We Are Closing In” (earning the Cop Rank 20 trophy). Chapter 9, called Zero Hour, also held just one mission: “Enforcer: It Ends Here” (earning the 8 Buster trophy). There was a Chapter 10, dubbed Dark Waters, but it didn’t contain any missions, just an exit video as the game’s story concluded. I then went on a crusade to complete all of the missions I had to bypass on the cop story mode the first time through, so as to unlock all of the vehicles and hopefully earn more trophies. In Chapter 1 I completed the following missions: “Undercover: Ready to Roll”, “Undercover: Who Owns the Roads”, “Enforcer: It Starts Now” & “Enforcer: The Fight from Within”. As for Chapter 2: “Patrol: Taught a Lesson”, “Patrol: Pursue and Protect”, “Undercover: Real Force”, “Undercover: An Iron Fist”, “Enforcer: Get Amongst Them” & “Enforcer: From the Inside”. And Chapter 3: “Patrol: The Only Casualty”, “Patrol: Made Safe Again”, “Undercover: Bring Our Justice”, “Undercover: Forced to Face Us”, “Undercover: Chaos will be Mine” & “Enforcer: Remembered”. Chapters 4 and 5 were both very short, each containing only two unplayed missions. The respective missions included: “Undercover: Our Pride Stolen”, “Enforcer: Our Hands Tied”, “Patrol: Responsibility” (earning the Cop Rank 40 trophy) & “Enforcer: The Fight”. Chapter 6 was a longer one, witnessing me complete the following missions: “Patrol: Turn the Tables”, “Patrol: What I’m Made Of”, “Undercover: Rule No Longer Apply”, “Enforcer: Bring them Justice”, “Enforcer: We are Everywhere” & “Enforcer: Locked and Loaded”. Chapter 7 was an absolute brute, both in terms of the number of missions to be played, as well as how difficult they were. Here is how that went: “Patrol: Almost There”, “Patrol: Begins Anew”, “Patrol: Faster, Leaner, Stronger”, “Patrol: Grip is Tightening”, “Undercover: The Iron Glove”, “Undercover: Steel and Carbon Fiber”, “Undercover: Forged from Granite”, “Undercover: Cannot Outfight Us”, “Undercover: This is Force” & “Enforcer: The Horsemen”. After playing through chapter 7 both chapters 8 and 9 seemed miniscule, with each holding just two missions. Here are those missions respectively: “Patrol: We Are Closing In”, “Undercover: Beginning of the End”, “Patrol: It Ends Now” (earning the Cop Rank 60 trophy) & “Undercover: The Final Test”. Once my cop career was complete I immediately switched over to tackle my racer career. Chapter 1 was called Ignition, and the missions I chose to partake in there included: “Drive: Hammer Down”, “Race: First or Nothing” & “Drive: A Step Over the Edge”. Chapter 2 was dubbed The Beast Has Awoken, and here is how my path there unfolded: “Pursuit: Bruised Knuckle Time” (earning the Racer Rank 5 trophy), “Race: Stepping It Up” & “Drive: Break My Own Limits”. Right now I’m in the middle of Chapter 3, called This Means War. So far the missions I’ve completed there are: “Drive: Look in the Mirror” & “Race: The Finish Line” (earning the Deep Down You Know You Want To trophy). I love being a racer, so much easier and more fun to cause all the chaos and have people chase me around, rather than doing it the other way around!!

16) Lots more action unfolded on LittleBigPlanet 2, picking back up in “The Factory of a Better Tomorrow” area we completed the remaining levels as so: Split Paths (scored 25,624 points and collected 66% of the items), Bang for Buck (scored 3,343 points and collected 45% of the items), Sackbot Bounce (scored 4,404 points and collected 100% of the items), Waste Disposal (scored 3,665 points and collected 92% of the items) & Fowl Play (scored 4,090 points and collected 100% of the items). The scene then shifted to the “Avalonia” area, where our adventure went as follows: Avalon’s Advanced Armaments Academy (scored 14,623 points and collected 80% of the items), On Burrowed Time (scored 83,500 points and collected 66% of the items), Got the Hump (scored 14,000 points and collected 97% of the items), Gobotron (scored 2,971 points and collected 33% of the items), The Sackbot Redemption (scored 2,892 points and collected 82% of the items), Chick Flick (scored 200 points), Flying in the Face of Danger (scored 21,125 points and collected 96% of the items) & Huge Peril for Huge Spaceship (scored 10,143 points). The next area on tap was called “Eve’s Asylum” and here is how our progress went there: Up and At ‘Em (scored 48,684 points and collected 85% of the items), Fireflies When You’re Having Fun (scored 5,689 points and collected 60% of the items), Patients are a Virtue (scored 3,379 points and collected 85% of the items), Mind Control (scored 64,160 points and collected 71% of the items), Casa Del Higginbotham (scored 6,985 points and collected 73% of the items), Root Canal (scored 58,087 points and collected 66% of the items) & Invasion of the Body Invaders (scored 12,654 points and collected 95% of the items). The next area on tap, the sixth in total and last of the game, was called “The Cosmos”. And it unfolded as such: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Negativitron (scored 9,780 points and collected 100% of the items), Rocket Funland (scored 60 points), Space Pool (scored 1,200 points), Ping Pang Pong (scored 1,400 points), Full Metal Rabbit (scored 16,209 points and collected 87% of the items), Where in the World is Avalon Centrifuge? (scored 2,032 points and collected 92% of the items), Fight of the Bumblebees (scored 11,675 points and collected 95% of the items) & Into the Heart of the Negativitron (scored 30,631 points). Over the course of this action the trophies we managed to obtain included Complete The Factory of a Better Tomorrow, Prize Collector, Complete Avalonia, Complete Eve’s Asylum for the Mentally Alternative, 10 Story Versus Wins & Complete Story Mode. Overall this is another excellent game. I like how they kept the format of the game very similar to the first (why mess with a good thing I always say) while at the same time adding in new and different types of levels, like games room style competitions and more vehicle based challenges. Now I just have to track down LittleBigPlanet 3 for cheap on the PS4!

17) I got back at it on Ratchet & Clank, first setting down on the planet Kerwan at the Metropolis. Early in my explorations I completed Captain Qwark’s obstacle course, and our exploits there did not go unnoticed by the super hero apparently. Afterwards we purchased the Swingshot gadget from the ballbuster who ran said obstacle course, beginning to use it a bit in our travels. Soon after we met a friend of Qwark’s who builds robots. We asked him if he’d seen Qwark and unfortunately he hadn’t, but he did offer us a Heli Pack gadget to be installed on Clank, gifting us a bit of a gliding ability. We made the purchase, obvi! Using our new gadgets we eventually clambered up high and boarded some sort of hover train, which took us back around to our starship, so we took it as a sign and left the planet (purchasing a Blaster weapon from a nearby vendor before doing so). Our next stop was the planet Aridia. Not long in to our explorations there we met up with a pro hoverboarder name Skid McMarx, who we’d seen some dire footage of on the news recently. He was stranded with a sprained ankle after his ship crash landed, and so he wanted us to clear a way for him through the multitudes of sand sharks that inhabited the area. We did so and Skid then gifted us with one of his own rare hoverboards! Not long afterwards we ran in to Skid’s agent, who said if we could manage to win a hoverboard race he’d make us big stars. With a bit of a spring in our step after this meeting we then headed to a nearby factory and used our Swingshot to great effect in exploring it, locating the Trespasser gadget (an electronic lock picking device) along the way. We then headed back to our ship to see where the next phase of our adventure would take us. Turns out it was back to Kerwan, where I went and rode the hover train again as apparently I didn’t see that journey through to the end when I rode it the first time. Waiting for me at the end was an Infobot, which let us witness footage of a conversation between Drek and a lieutenant of his on the planet Eudora, a planet that Drek and his evil forces were laying to waste! So we took off in our ship and headed to Eudora, intent on finding this lieutenant and sorting him out. Upon landing on Eudora we purchased the Glove of Doom weapon from a local vendor before bashing through hordes of robots that had been instructed to leave no tree standing. We eventually found this lieutenant and confronted him . . . and he went running for the hills! He left an Infobot behind though, on it we found a promotional video for an establishment of Drek’s called the Blarg Technical Station, which we thought might be worth checking out . . .

18) The going got way too hard on Mega Man Xtreme 2! I spent most of the past couple months just trying to beat the next level, where Mega Man X (with some help from Zero) had to defeat this treaded tank machine, featuring two heads that had an Egyptian theme to them. It was a long, frustrating slog, but I finally got it done. Unfortunately after that I ran in to even more troubles . . . troubles I couldn’t be bothered to frustrate myself with any longer, so I’ve put the game away! Great game, lots of fun, but just way too hard . . .

19) Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension also started to get really difficult, and not all that fun as a lot of it was controls related, so I almost put it away too. But I persevered and started to make headway, although not as much as I’d hoped! Here are the levels I struggled through: Dreejal Vin Level 1 (collected 54% of the Qorium with a completion time of 19 minutes and 29 seconds), Dreejal Vin Level 2 (collected 92% of the Qorium with a completion time of 24 minutes and 13 seconds), Dreejal Vin Level 3 (collected 84% of the Qorium with a completion time of 1 minute and 24 seconds [+4 seconds]), Dreejal Vin Level 4 (collected 77% of the Qorium with a completion time of 11 minutes and 8 seconds), Dreejal Vin Level 5 (completion time of 8 minutes and 32 seconds), Elta Siktar Level 1 (collected 90% of the Qorium with a completion time of 17 minutes and 57 seconds), Elta Siktar Level 2 (collected 83% of the Qorium with a completion time of 21 minutes and 14 seconds), Elta Siktar Level 3 (collected 96% of the Qorium with a completion time of 1 minute and 56 seconds [+50 seconds]) & Elta Siktar Level 4 (collected 97% of the Qorium with a completion time of 18 minutes and 38 seconds).

20) We got right back at Lego: The Incredibles, such a fun game! The levels that fell this time around rounded out the remainder of the game and included: “Nomanisan Island” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 4/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Bob Parr [Workout] character, and earned the Worlds A-Parr-t trophy), “Return to Nomanisan Island” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 2/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Gazerbeam character, and earned the An Unwelcome Guest trophy), “Above Parr” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 4/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Edna Mode character, and earned the I’m Just Happy You’re Alive trophy) & “The Final Showdown” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 2/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Mr. Incredible [Minifigure] character, and earned the Best Vacation Ever! trophy). Upon completing the game the super short “Omnidroid Revenge” bonus level became available, where we earned a Gold Brick for it’s completion as well as the Where Are They Now? trophy. During our hub explorations between levels we managed to earn the No Capes! And Bold! Dramatic! Heroic! trophies. It was then time to traipse through the game again for our mop up effort, collecting everything we had missed the first time through on Story mode. Here is how we’ve progressed: “Undermined” (found the last 6 Minikit canisters, gaining a Gold Brick for doing so, earning the Kit Car & Everyone is Special trophies), “Hover Train Hijinx” (found the last 7 Minikit canisters, gaining a Gold Brick for doing so), “Revelations” (found all 10 Minikit canisters, gaining a Gold Brick for doing so), “Elastigirl on the Case” (found the last 6 Minikit canisters, gaining a Gold Brick for doing so), “House Parr-ty” (found all 10 Minikit canisters, gaining a Gold Brick for doing so, earning the That’s One Way to Unpack trophy), “Screenslaver Showdown” (achieved True Super status, found the last 9 Minikit canisters, earned 2 Gold Bricks [status and Minikit], and earned the Your Own Kind of Incredible & The Best of the Best trophies) & “The Golden Years” (found the last 4 Minikit canisters, gaining a Gold Brick for doing so). In the game hubs between levels we managed to find four more Incredibricks as well as another Gold Brick. In order to help our progress through all of the levels and clean them up completely we also purchased a lot of the characters that had become available for us to obtain, including Ambassador, The Screenslaver, Lucius Best, Firebreak, Mirage, Nomanisan Island Guard (Blue), Splashdown, Rusty McAllister, Edna Mode (Kimono), Edna Mode (Juniors), Old Lady, Kari McKeen, Chad Brentley, Screenslaver Goon, Municiberg Mayor, Ambassador Security Guard, Jack-Jack Parr (Onesie), Fironic, Brick, Apogee, Downburst, Bob Parr, Lucius Best (Workout), Helen Parr, Violet Parr, Krushauer, Phylange, Helicopter Pilot, Bob Parr (Pyjamas), Everseer, Screech, Hypershock, Meta Man, Evelyn Deavor & Winston Deavor.

21) With NHL Faceoff ’97 in the books last time around I of course started play on NHL Faceoff ’98! The gameplay remains the same from the previous incarnation, but they changed the look of the game (especially the players) for this edition, and I like it. Of course I set up a season with my Toronto Maple Leafs immediately, here is how the start of the campaign has gone so far: lost vs. Washington 5-1, lost @ New York Islanders 4-1, won @ Calgary 6-1, won @ Vancouver 5-0, won @ Edmonton 7-0, won vs. Detroit 4-2, won @ Detroit 3-1, won vs. Dallas 6-5, won vs. Ottawa 4-1, won vs. Calgary 5-2, lost vs. Anaheim 3-2, lost @ Montreal 1-0, won @ San Jose 3-1, won @ Calgary 2-1, lost vs. Phoenix 6-2, won vs. Chicago 2-0, won @ Chicago 4-1, won vs. Pittsburgh 3-0, tied vs. St. Louis 2-2, won vs. Philadelphia 5-0, won @ Colorado 4-1, tied @ Phoenix 3-3, won vs. San Jose 2-1 (OT), won vs. Vancouver 5-0 & won vs. Anaheim 4-3. This game is awesome, the more I play it the more I love it!!

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22) Another new game we started, which Jimmer was especially excited about, was Nerf N-Strike for the Wii! We played a bit of the multiplayer mode first just to get a feel for it, before starting the one player “Mission” mode (taking turns). The game starts off with a young kid name Shane playing a shooter video game at an arcade, and after he finishes we witness from within the machine that somebody has been tracking the players of this particular game, and they identify Shane as a potential recruit. A recruit for the N-Strike organization! And that is when the game kicks off, you are approached and then taken to the organization’s training facility, tasked with defeating other members of their squad’s high scores in various types of arena challenges. The first of these opponents is named Komodo, the events his arena included that we had to defeat were: Standoff (scored 52,000 points), Pummel (scored 22,600 points), Commandeer (scored 14,600 points), Onslaught (scored 85,000 points) & Robot Reaction (scored 56,350 points). Then came Jackal’s arena, where we completed the following events: Blockade (scored 57,900 points), Recognition (scored 41,600 points), LookAlive (scored 80,650 points), Onslaught Eclipse (scored 79,400 points) & Magnospheres (scored 39,000 points). Raven’s arena was next, and it’s events challenged us much more than the two arenas that came previously: Pummel Elite (scored 11,970 points), Commandeer Elite (scored 16,450 points), Onslaught Elite (scored 179,850 points), Recognition Elite (scored 26,900 points) & StandOff Elite (scored 44,250 points). The final arena belonged to Tango, and here is how that challenge went: Robot Void (scored 108,000 points), LookAlive Elite (scored 135,100 points), Blockade (scored 51,300 points), Magnospheres Elite (scored 46,000 points) & Onslaught Eclipse Elite (scored 171,950 points). A final level then opened up, revealing our robot training guide (B.O.B.) to be the villain of the game, and so we had to complete a final level called Revolt of the Machines in order to finish the story off. The challenges in these events (and in the game in general) are varied and pit you with tasks like wiping out hordes of robots, sharpshooting crates, recognizing targets and sniping them as fast as you can, etc. This is one of those games where you point the Wii remote at the screen to aim and it responds fairly well, so despite this being a fairly short and repetitive game, it’s actually quite fun.

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23) A new game we started that I was really excited about is the original entry in a series that is newer to me, called Motor Storm. This game is pretty simple. Dozens of racers gather to compete in events out in the rugged wastelands in all manner of vehicles, and any sort of racing is allowed, it’s no holds barred! Win events, earn tickets, and enter increasingly difficult events to reach the pinnacle of off-road mayhem! So far the events we’ve completed include: A Taste of Violence at The Grizzly (finished first), Judgement Day at Coyote Rage (first), The Squall at Rain God Mesa (first), Mucked Up at The Mudpool (first), Heavy Weight at Coyote Rage (first), Four Wheels Good at Rockhopper (first), Seven and Seven at Coyote Rage (first), Mesa Horny at Rain God Mesa (first), Highland Raider at Rain God Mesa (first), Out-Paced at Dust Devil (first), Jump! at Rockhopper (first), SOS at The Tenderizer (first), Hazard at Coyote Rage (first), Figure of Hate at The Tenderizer (first), Pump ‘n’ Grind at The Grizzly (first), In the Mix at Dust Devil (first) & High Jumpin’ at Rockhopper (first). This game isn’t quite as great as I thought it would be from the cover, but I’m still highly enjoying it. Nirvana’s “Breed” is in the soundtrack . . . need I say more!?

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24) And then a new game we were BOTH super excited about playing is WWE All Stars on the PS3. Hah! In this arcade style wrestling game you are able to square off with older generation wrestlers like Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, against newer generation (at the time) wrestlers like John Cena and CM Punk. The animation behind the wrestlers are over the top, and so are their special moves, it all adds up for a super fun and hilarious experience. Laughter and guffaws are always a positive result from any well-made wrestling game! The game mode we began play on off the hop was “Path of Champions”, one of the main modes of the game. There are three options under this mode and we chose Tag Team so that we could play together. In this mode we had to win 10 matches as we climbed the ranks and eventually “wrestled” the tag team championship away from D-Generation X! I chose Randy Savage as my character, Jimmer took John Cena, and thus we began our fight. The tag teams we defeated along the way included: Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio, Roddy Piper & Drew McIntyre, The Miz & John Morrison, Jake Roberts & Randy Orton (earning the Totally Extreme! trophy), Sgt. Slaughter & Jack Swagger, The Rock & Steve Austin, Andre the Giant & Big Show, Hulk Hogan & Ricky Steamboat, Undertaker & Kane, and Shawn Michaels & HHH (earning the Breaking the Rules trophy). And that that was it, we had become tag team champs on the Path of Champions mode . . . on to the next! Next was the Path of Champions mode once again, but this time partaking in the Legends option. In this mode you run a gauntlet of matches on your way to facing the Undertaker, and your doom, at Summerslam! Here is how that journey unfolded, the opponents we defeated along the way included: Mr. Perfect, Eddie Guerrero & Jimmy Snuka (Elimination match), Randy Savage/Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels (another Elimination match, earning the Last Man Standing trophy), Ultimate Warrior (earning the Five Star Rating trophy), Jake Roberts & Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant (earning the Mark of Excellence trophy), Sgt. Slaughter, Steve Austin (earning the He’s Got a Chair! trophy), Hulk Hogan (earning the Over the Top trophy) and of course The Undertaker (earning the Reversal of Fortune, Showing Them How it’s Done & Facing the Deadman trophies). The last option under the Path of Champions game mode was called Superstars. In this one you had to defeat a number of opponents in order to earn a shot at Randy Orton, the legend killer, at Wrestlemania! Here are those we defeated along our tour of destruction: Drew McIntyre, John Morrison & Kofi Kingston, Edge, Jack Swagger, CM Punk & Rey Mysterio, The Miz & Big Show (earning the Comeback of the Year trophy), Sheamus, Kane (earning the Five Moves of Doom trophy), Triple H & John Cena, and of course Randy Orton (earning The Apex Predator trophy). The only other real game mode to explore at this point was called Fantasy Warfare, a mode which pits a classic superstar against a more modern day athlete, in a fantasy match for the ages. This is the mode where you apparently unlock the remaining wrestlers in the game also, if you are able to defeat them in said mode. The matches we completed were as such: “Greatest Warrior” (Ultimate Warrior vs. Sheamus), “Greatest High Flier” (Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio), “Innovative Offense” (Ricky Steamboat vs. Kofi Kingston), “Perfectly Awesome” (Mr. Perfect vs. The Miz), “Greatest Big Man” (Andre the Giant vs. Big Show), “Superior Lifestyle” (Steve Austin vs. CM Punk), “Excellence Execution” (Bret Hart vs. Edge), “Coldest Snake” (Jake Roberts vs. Randy Orton), “Stars and Stripes Showdown” (Sgt. Slaughter vs. Jack Swagger), “Biggest Superstar” (Hulk Hogan vs. John Cena), “Most Charismatic” (Randy Savage vs. John Morrison), “Ruthless Aggression” (Jimmy Snuka vs. Kane), “Undisputed” (The Rock vs. Triple H), “Pride of Scotland” (Roddy Piper vs. Drew McIntyre) & “Mr. Wrestlemania” (Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker). Along the way we managed to unlock Mr. Perfect, The Miz, Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Snuka & Shawn Michaels. There are still about five wrestlers we’ve yet to obtain, even though we did beat them in this mode . . . so I’m not sure what was going on there. In the end I just went online and found a code we could use to unlock everything in the game, then had a few matches with these new superstars before shutting it down. We also earned more trophies during our play, including Layeth the Smacketh Down!, The New Generation & Slobberknocker. Great game, so funny and entertaining, exactly what a wrestling game should be!

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25) You’ve probably been waiting for this one . . . but of course we started play on Mega Man 8! This game is different in that it was the first Mega Man game to not be released on a Nintendo console . . . gasp!!! This version that I have is for the PS1. Needless to say the look, feel, and brand new cutscenes are very different, yet also in keeping with the Mega Man legacy. Anyways, as the game opens up Mega Man is in the middle of a skirmish with his rival Bass, when at the same time two robots in outer space are going at it in deadly combat. They eventually come hurtling towards the planet and crash land on a mysterious island. Dr. Light calls Mega Man in to go and investigate this activity, and as the Blue Bomber checks it out he witnesses Dr. Wily up so some suspicious behaviour before he creeps away from the area. And that is when the game begins, at the outset Dr. Wily has released four robot masters in the region that Mega Man must confront. This initial round of play for us went as follows: defeated Grenade Man (gaining the Flash Bomb weapon), defeated Frost Man (gaining the Ice Wave weapon) & defeated Tengu Man (gaining the Tornado Hold weapon). More to come!

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26) I also started a new game for myself on the PS4, called New Gundam Breaker. I’m not familiar with the Gundam franchise all that much overall, but I do love building their model kits every so often, so when I saw this game with a pretty good price tag I just had to go for it! The story behind the game is that you are a transfer student who will now be attending Gunbre High School, a facility dedicated to educating the Gunpla (these awesome robot mechs) builders and battlers of tomorrow on all aspects of their craft. As you arrive at the school you realize a friend from your childhood named Yui is also attending, and from there you go on to meet your teachers and fellow classmates, and navigate your new life situation, all the while embarking on missions with your Gunpla. So far I’ve completed the following missions on this game: “Scenario 1: Gunpla Rising” (scored an S rank, earning the Part Burglar, PG Buster & S-Rank Clear trophies), “Scenario 2: Winds of School” (S rank, earning the Recovery3 & Builders Parts Collectors trophies), “Scenario 3: The Threat of the Student Council” (S rank) & “Scenario 4: Side 0 Strikes” (S rank, earning the MA Buster trophy). A new branch of scenarios then sprung up, relating specifically to the Yui character. Here is how those levels have gone so far: “Scenario 1: The Lonely Girl” (A rank) & “Scenario 2: The Gunpla She Saw” (A rank).

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27) The last new game we started, which we were both insanely jacked for, has been out on PC for a long time and the console port promise just seemed to drag on and on and on. But in late August it finally arrived . . . Wreckfest!! This title is basically just a smash ‘em, crash ‘em kind of car racing game, featuring old junkers and even lawnmower racing, crazy stuff like that. There are actual smash up derbies where the point is just to wreck everybody else and be the last vehicle running, and then there is also no holds barred racing where crashing and banging is encouraged, but you have to temper those urges with trying to climb to the front of the pack and win the race. So far it’s been a blast! We began on Career mode right away, under the Regional Junior class of events, where the first event up was the “Lawnmower Death Match Challenge”. It took place at the Fairfield Grass Field and we earned 7 out of the required 5 stars, completing the event while also earning the Storm Warning trophy. Second was the “Demolition Racing: Natural Born Wreckers” event, which held four races: Midwest Motocenter (placed fifteenth), Savolax Sandpit (second), Fire Rock Raceway (thirteenth) & Sandstone Raceway (first). Our overall finishing position was fifth. We’ll have to redo this one at some point. Next came the “Demolition Derby: Mud Mayhem” event, which took place at Fairfield Mud Pit, where we finished fifth. Then came the “Demolition Racing: Dirt Devils” event, which held three races in an elimination style tournament. All races ran at Bloomfield Speedway, where we finished second, first and first to win the whole thing! Next was the “Banger Racing Challenge: Mean Machine” event, a one off at Midwest Motocenter, which we won. Another one off was next, called the “Lawnmower Race Challenge: Settle it in the Dirt” event. It took place at Bloomfield Speedway, where we won yet again. We then embarked on the four race event known as “Folk Racing Series: Folk Heroes”, which unwound as such: Finncross Circuit (third), Northfolk Ring (thirteenth), Clayridge Circuit (first) & Maasten Motocenter (sixteenth). Our overall finishing position was fifth, so again this is an event we’ll probably have to go back and redo at some point. Then came another tournament style event titled “Demolition Racing: Canyon Crashfest”. It took place at Crash Canyon and we placed first in all three rounds of racing, winning us the whole event and earning the Regional Juniors Champion trophy in the process! Oh man, this game is hilariously fun!

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“Free Game(s) of the Month” – We cruised through the rest of Horizon Chase Turbo with gusto, as we both loved it SO much! After exploring all of the game’s other modes as well the last batch of trophies we were able to obtain included Completionist, Golden Passport, Round the Globe, Quickie, Go-Kart Champion, Brave and Bold, Survivor, Now Go Play Outside & Can’t Touch This.

We started play on a couple of other “free” games recently, the first one being Wipeout: The Omega Collection. I’ve always been curious about this series . . . so now I’ve been able to satisfy that curiosity! The Wipeout games are futuristic racing experiences where you don’t drive a car, but a small flying star craft around super modern types of racing environments. These games actually kind of remind me of an updated and reimagined version of the F-Zero games! Which are amazing, btw. The events vary a bit as you can take part in time trials, straight up races, or even events where your sole purpose is to cause the most destruction to other racers with the weapons you find scattered amongst the tracks. Through our play so far we’ve only been able to earn one trophy, called 2048 Champion. Hopefully there will be more to come though!

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The other one we started is Sonic Mania! This game is a release that pays homage to the first few games in the original Sonic the Hedgehog series, using that old school, retro side scrolling format to create an entirely new Sonic the Hedgehog adventure. There are many levels and themes that are recycled and mixed up from past games, while at the same time Sonica Mania introduces some brand new content. The purpose of the game is the same as usual. Navigate your way through the acts of each zone, engaging robotic enemies and freeing the animals trapped inside, before meeting up with Dr. Robotnik for a boss fight. You then move on to the next zone and do it all over again! We’ve only earned one trophy on his game so far also, which is called Superstar.

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“NNGRR” - The movie we watched the night of our long family bike ride was a follow up to a movie we’d watched the month prior . . . none other than The Tooth Fairy 2! This film has no relation to the first one at all and focuses on a small town Florida mechanic named Larry (played by Larry the Cable Guy). He is on his way to a birthday party for the niece of his girlfriend Brooke, but gets distracted along the way when there is a contest at the local bowling alley to win a brand new Camaro! Naturally. He enters the draw against Brooke’s wishes and actually manages to win (but only because the guy running it has the hots for Brooke and wants to get Larry in trouble)! All he needs to do to claim the Camaro is make a 10-7 split. He does so on his third and final chance, but only after slipping in some nacho cheese and getting completely lucky! He wins the car but loses the girlfriend. Fast forward one year later and one day Larry finds out that Brooke is set to marry a douche named Beauregard “Bo” Billings, who is currently running for mayor (and who is also the one who rigged the contest to let Larry win the Camaro). Larry is devastated and wants Brooke to realize that she is making a giant mistake. So he volunteers to work for free at her day care center. Brooke’s operation is underfunded and she is overworked, as she recently had to let all her staff go. It’s a rough start for Larry though, who is definitely in over his head with all of these young children . . . he even lets it slip to a young artist and dreamer named Russell that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real! Later that night Larry has a strange dream about becoming a pink clad Tooth Fairy but later awakens with relief, happy that it was just a dream. The next night though he finds out it was not a dream, as he once again dons some pink Tooth Fairy adornments and is instructed by his case worker Nyx on what he is supposed to do (in penance for destroying Russell’s innocence). Larry must claim 10 teeth over the next 10 nights, or forever have his greatest memory taken away from him (which he assumes is his memory of winning the Camaro). As Larry goes out on these teeth collecting missions, reluctantly at first of course, they eventually help him experience some revelations about what is important in life, and these revelations transfer over to his performance at Brooke’s day care center. However, with a connected fellow like Bo plotting against him Larry has a powerful enemy working against him all the while. Can Larry keep Bo’s schemes at arm’s reach and help Brooke realize that the guy is a douche? Or will Larry forever be a lovable screw up, nothing but a friend in Brooke’s eyes? With the help of Nyx, some children and a piglet named Crusher, Larry just might be able to pull it off! This was another funny family flick. It’s hard not to love Larry the Cable Guy, hearing that Mater voice all movie just gave me the giggles. And the story was at the same time quite similar, but also very different in many aspects to the first film, which helps it stand on it’s own. You definitely don’t need to have seen the first film to get the gist of the second. Love it!

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Over the weekend I gave blood I finished my first book of this session, the second entry in the Max Tilt series, called 80 Days or Die. The story picks up just after the adventure Max Tilt and his cousin Alex went on in the first volume, following in the footsteps of their ancestor Jules Verne by retracing some of the steps from his 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel . . . and scoring an immense fortune for their efforts! Even better news is that Max’s mom responded to her cancer treatment and she is now disease free. Max and Alex, along with his friends Smriti and Evelyn are in the process of throwing Max’s mom a party to celebrate their family’s good fortune. However, during the festivities Evelyn, who suffers from a serious disease called Scleroderma, has an episode and is taken to the hospital. Max is devastated, especially after learning she may only have weeks, or at best months, to live. Distracting Max from this issue is the fact that Alex manages to decode yet more secrets left behind by Jules Verne. And the secret this time points to some sort of life saving elixir that they can mix together, if they are able to find all of it’s ingredients. And they can do so by partaking on the adventure set forth in his book Around the World in Eighty Days! Before they can seriously consider this quest though, they find out that the kindly man named Basile who aided them on their last journey, and paid the ultimate price with his life for doing so, has an upcoming funeral service in London, England. Boarding the Tilt family jet Max and Alex depart to attend this funeral, and in the process meet a strange old man named Nigel, who claims to be their uncle, as well as a British teenager named Bitsy, who is a relative of Basile’s and has a major interest in hearing about Max and Alex’s recent adventures. As their overseas trip unfolds the duo decide to undertake the journey to solve this latest mystery and, if it’s true, use their prize to save Evelyn’s life. While they are away they get a call from Max’s dad, who says that his mom’s cancer has returned, which gives the pair even more motivation. As their adventure unravels the pair visit Greece in search of ancient hippo bones, the Kozhim River in Russia for some mystery object, Kathmandu for black turmeric, the Sierra Gordo mountain range in Mexico for an endangered cactus, and Antarctica for some seemingly ironic boiling hot water. Nigel and Bitsy tag along on the adventure, but Max and Alex don’t know if either can be trusted, likewise with some of the people they encounter along the way in each destination that they enlist to help them with their puzzle like quest. With two lives hanging in the balance will these two kids pull off yet another miracle adventure? Or, even despite their newfound wealth, will the mysterious enemies working against them gain the upper hand and whisk their prize right out from under them? Around the World in Eighty Days is actually one of Verne’s books that I haven’t read yet, so this was a fun story to read as I had no idea what to expect, whereas in the first book I knew something of what to expect. Just like the first book this is a rollicking adventure that never really slows down, mixing danger with youthful lightheartedness all at the same time. Bring on the third entry!

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Over the weekend that saw us head to Grand Band to take in a show I also finished reading a book I had on the go, called Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is the novelization of the movie that came out back in May of 2018, and is dubbed the “Expanded Edition”. I’m not going to go in to the details of the story, for those of you living under a rock you can link back to my blog from when I reviewed the movie. What I liked about the book, as I do with most books that are novelizations of movies, is that it gives the reader a bit more back story and insights as to what is going on under the surface of the story. Why the characters are making their decisions, what is going on behind the scenes of a certain part, or what is going on in another area of the story that wasn’t onscreen at the time. I was especially curious about the whole Crimson Dawn aspect of this story, how and why Qi’ra seemed so beholden to it. This book is a great story of course, another Star Wars tome added to a shelf that may one day soon collapse under the pressure of all these Star Wars novels!

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That weekend I also finished watching a cartoon series I had been working on, a bootleg set I got on the iOffer website for a cartoon I never even knew existed. RoboCop, the animated series! This show was a short, 12 episode affair that aired back in 1988 . . . and it came from Stan Lee and Marvel Productions no less! This show is obviously based on the movie of the same name, which was originally released the year before in 1987. The show focuses on RoboCop, a cyborg fighting crime in the city of Old Detroit at some point in the future. His real name is Alex Murphy. When out on patrol one night Alex and his new partner Anne Lewis caught up with some criminal scum, and Alex was shot. The only way to save him was for OCP (Omni Consumer Products) to perform some experimental procedures on him, turning Alex in to the crime fighting cyborg famously known across the city as RoboCop! As Alex returns to work he finds he has many new fantastic abilities available to him that will help him perform his job to new heights, but at what cost did these new abilities come? Is he even human anymore? And what of his partner, Anne, who seems to be romantically interested in him? Is that even a possibility for him anymore? As the series unfolds RoboCop has to go up against a scientist named Dr. McNamara, who seeks to invent police robots for the force that will replace regular both cops and RoboCop, although he never seems to gain any traction. Even from inside his own police force RoboCop has to deal with prejudice from his colleagues, mostly from the prick known as Lieutenant Hedgecock. As his adventures unfold RoboCop must deal with gang violence, mysterious killer spores, defamatory paparazzi, a mysterious “villain” akin to Robin Hood, terrorists, polluters, amongst many other threats. In the end RoboCop will surprisingly face off against the man who turned him in to the machine he is now, a thug known as Clarence Boddicker. Will RoboCop stay his normal vigilant, justice obsessed self and bring the fiend in for trial . . . or will RoboCop’s more human instincts win out and let him snuff this fool out then and there!? This is a pretty decent cartoon, nothing too outstanding, but way better than most of the schlock you’ll see passing for cartoons these days. It’s been a long time since I watched the RoboCop movie, and I haven’t even seen the reboot from a few years back yet. I guess I’m due!

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To kick off the work week that followed we scoured Netflix for a movie to watch, and I decided to show Jimmer a 1981 classic that kicked off one of the best franchises of all time . . . Raiders of the Lost Ark!! Set in 1936 we are introduced to an archaeologist named Indiana Jones, who is somewhere in South America in search of a fabled golden idol . . . one that many men have died attempting to obtain over the years. After many harrowing near misses Indy manages to escape with his prize, only to have a rival of his named Belloq get the drop on him and steal the object away! Indy barely escapes with his life, and upon returning to Connecticut where he lives and teaches as a university professor, he is soon afterwards approached by two government agents. They inform Indy that the Nazis have reportedly been searching for the fabled Ark of the Covenant in Cairo, a mythical talisman from biblical times (which supposedly contains the stone tablets featuring Moses’ ten commandments). If it truly exists, it is assumed it will hold great power. To try and make this happen the Nazis have been looking for Indy’s old mentor, one Abner Ravenwood, who was an expert on the city of Tanis where the Ark has long rumoured to have been hidden. In order to discern the Ark’s actual location the Staff or Ra needs to be used, the headpiece of which cannot be located. These agents propose to pay Indy to get involved in this affair, to obtain and bring home the Ark for his own government . . . which Indy gleefully accepts! Indy knows just where to start . . . Nepal. The last location he’d known Abner (and his daughter Marion, whom Indy has a volatile past with) to be at. Upon arriving he sniffs Marion out at the tavern she runs, and she seems both glad and pissed off to see him. Indy is saddened when he learns that Abner has since passed away. He informs Marion of his mission and the object he is after, and so she agrees to help him the next day. However, before that can happen the Nazis show up, led by a freak named Toht. They are looking for the same object Indy is and before long a brouhaha erupts that brings him back to Marion’s tavern, where a fiery brawl breaks out! Indy and Marion escape with their lives, and the headpiece, and are soon on their way to Cairo. Once in the city Indy contacts his old friend Sallah, who informs the pair that the Nazis, in partnership with Indy’s rival Belloq, have been digging all over the place in search of the Ark. Together this trio go to work, secretly undermining the Nazis’ own efforts right under their noses! But against such long odds can they manage to find the Ark all on their own? And if they do manage to locate it, can they transport it out of Cairo and back to Connecticut without being noticed? This movie entranced me as a kid, and it still manages to do so in these modern times! All of the action and suspense, combined with the mysterious mythology surrounding the Ark of the Covenant and Egyptian times. And then of course you have a young Harrison Ford as the main hero, who was smack dab in the middle of his Star Wars explosion. With other hands in the pot like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, John Williams, etc., it’s no wonder this movie ended up being so bloody amazing. I hear they are planning on bringing Ford back to do another new Indy film in the near future? Oh baby, bring it on!

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Naturally during my time off at the end of August we decided to finish off the original Indiana Jones trilogy. On that opening weekend of my time off we viewed Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom . . . my personal favourite! This one actually takes place a year before Raiders of the Lost Ark, in the year 1935. Indy is in a nightclub in Shanghai, China, about to make a deal for a large diamond with a crime boss named Lao Che. Of course the deal doesn't go as planned and many dangerous hijinks ensue, but eventually Indy gets away in a car piloted by his young sidekick named Short Round, with a nightclub singer named Willie in tow. However, little does Indy know that the plane his trio escapes in is operated by Lao Che's outfit. As the three take a nap during the flight, the pilots take the opportunity to jump out of the craft with their parachutes and literally leave their passengers high and dry. After waking to this nightmare Indy manages to safely crash land the plane and as they float down a river afterwards, find out they are now in India. After being escorted to a nearby village the elders there believe Indy and his charges to be their fabled saviours! For this village has fallen to famine, the crops having stalled, the animals dying off, etc. This happened after people from Pankot Palace came and stole the village's sacred stone. What's worse though, they also stole all of the village's children! At first Indy doesn't know what to think, but later that night a child who escaped from the palace arrives back at the village in bad shape with a message, and Indy's mind is made up. So it's off to Pankot for Indy, Willie and Short Round! Their reception at the palace is initially warm. But later, at a bizarre feast for the palace's current guests, Indy begins probing about the issues the villagers mentioned to him with the palace's prime minister, Chattar Lal. He even manages to offend the young Maharaja. Later that night, as Indy and Willie try to work out their sexual tension, Indy is attacked in his room and this sets off a series of events that leads him to discover a secret passage that leads to the bowels beneath the palace. There they witness an ancient ceremony performed by a sick group known as the Thuggees. As Indy attempts to retrieve the sacred stone after the ceremony is over he also manages to locate all of the children, working as slaves in the nearby mines. Before he can do anything about it though the three of them are all captured. And that is when Indy must engineer an escape attempt, then somehow leave the palace with his two friends, the sacred stone, and all of the village children. Can Indy pull off another great adventure and live to tell the tale, or will the overwhelming odds against him finally catch up? I don't know why I like this movie the best, but I do. The crazy secret ritual beneath the palace, the bizarre feast, all of the bugs, the crazy mine cart chase sequence, and the rope bridge above the alligators . . . there is just something so special about this film!

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Soon after we watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, the third and final movie in the original trilogy, which opens up with a flashback sequence from the year 1912. A young Indiana Jones is out with his scout group in a Utah park and upon exploring some nearby caves with a friend, they discover some robbers raiding tombs. These fiends come away with a valuable golden crucifix. But Indy's strong sense of justice for ancient artifacts overwhelms him, and so he steals the crucifix and makes tracks, but the group of thieves realize their prize is missing and give chase. Indy eventually returns home with the prize to show his father, Henry, but his father rebuffs Indy's initial attempt to explain what happened, and then there is a knock on the door. The town sheriff enters and demands Indy give the artifact back. The thieves pass it along to their boss and the film fast forwards to the year 1938, on a dark night where Indy is surrounded by enemies on a vessel in the middle of a stormy sea. For the second time Indy steals the crucifix away from this mysterious crime boss, only this time his acquisition is more . . . final. Upon returning home and donating the item to his friend Marcus Brody's museum, Indy is then descended upon by three men. They escort him to a party hosted by a wealthy man named Walter Donovan. When Indy meets Walter, the man reveals to him part of a stone tablet that should help point the reader to the location of the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ that should make those who drink from it immortal! Indy professes his ignorance on the subject, telling Walter that he should have hired Indy's father, whose life's devotion was the search for the Holy Grail. And that is when Walter drops the bombshell . . . he already did. Henry had been working on the search in Venice, Italy, and believed he was getting close, but then one day . . . poof, he was gone, vanished. Indy accepts Walter's invitation to chase down the grail, if only to find his father. So Indy and Marcus head to Venice and meet up with the sexy Dr. Schneider, who was working with Henry. As their Venice investigations begin to unravel they make huge headway, and danger is around every corner. After briefly detouring to a Nazi controlled castle to rescue his father right out from under their noses, Indy (along with Henry, Marcus and his good friend Sallah) then head to Alexandretta, the apparent starting point for locating the grail's hiding spot. But with so many enemies in pursuit, and finding the location of the grail only the first step (for he would then have to successfully complete three challenges to actually claim the grail), can this highly educated yet small band of explorers win the race and claim the prize? Or will they soon be laid to rest in their own personal hiding spots? This movie is very close to being as good as Temple in my opinion, it's very hard to choose a favourite between them. I loved Indy's backstory, which helped explain a lot about his image and the explorer he eventually became. And the exotic traps and mysteries the movie contains as they chase down the grail is delightful, not to mention all of the great action and humour. Such a winner, this series!!

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The first book I finished while I was off, nibbling away at it poolside, is called The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip. With Gord Downie passing away from brain cancer back in 2017 we knew a book like this was coming, and I was all aboard! The Hip are easily my favourite Canadian band, and as I've explained in my blog before they scream Canada with a lot of their lyrics and also just because of their group of personalities and general demeanour. This book gets in to what made The Tragically Hip what it was, how it came to be, and how the juggernaut kept going for so many years. Of course it starts at the beginning and touches on the origins and upbringing of the band's five members, and as it goes on describes how their music was written, where, when and who it was recorded by, where they gigged, and how they were received and perceived. It touched on how they were such a force here in Canada but how they were thought not to have had much success in the U.S., when in fact quite the opposite is true. I learned about significant life events that effected the band's members over the years, and of course Gord Downie's side projects and mission late in his life to bring awareness to the plight of Native Canadians. And then of course the last year or so of Gord's life was summarized in a lot of detail. From his initial diagnosis to the final tour that millions watched on the CBC, everything of significance is in the book. It's still hard to believe that he's gone and there won't be any more new Hip music to look forward to, but it just goes to show that in life you just never can tell. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and loved the experience of reading it doubly so because I saved it for home, taking it all in poolside in our nature filled backyard while sipping coffee or beer, depending on the time of day . . . I felt it was the right way to approach reading such an important Canadian story.

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Over the Labour Day long weekend we got up to a bunch of stuff, the first thing was to rent a movie on demand. We couldn't agree on what to watch, but my wife's favourite actor is John Travolta so when we saw a new movie called Trading Paint available, we consensused on it. It takes place in the heart of Alabama, near Talladega, where Travolta plays a small town mechanic named Sam Munroe. He is a former dirt track racer who now serves as crew chief for his son Cam, who is a talented racer in his own right. However, despite Cam putting in some good performances, he can't beat his arch rival (and Sam's former arch rival), a loud mouth named Linsky. The car is plagued with engine troubles due to the team being underfunded. All this while Sam is embarking on a new relationship with a woman named Becca, after Sam's original wife died in a car accident many years ago. Cam, who is trying to support his wife and baby daughter, soon accepts an offer from Linsky to drive a second car for his team. This defection tears Sam apart and he fires Cam from his job at the family garage. Sam then decides to drive the number 2 car himself, and a three way battle between himself, Cam and Linsky rages all season long, creating for some dramatic moments. And that is when disaster strikes. Linsky gets another dirty racer named Jack Dunn to purposely mess with the Munroe boys, and so Dunn spins Cam out during an ensuing race. Sam piles in to him afterwards, destroying both vehicles and sending Cam to hospital with two fractured legs amongst other injuries. This situation only serves to bring the Munroe’s back together though, and while Cam is on the mend Sam and his best buddy, Stumpy, put some cash together to purchase a new race car . . . one that will outperform their old ride easy peasy. And so isn't Linsky chagrined when, at the first race of the next season, Sam and Cam show up with their new vehicle and turn the race on it's side. But against Linsky's scheming can they manage to pull out a win, or will disaster strike yet again for the Munroe’s? This movie got terrible reviews but I quite enjoyed it. Love racing flicks! It was cool to see Shania Twain in a starring role. It was one of those movies that moved really slowly and had a quiet kind of vibe to it, between the bits of action, which was kind of neat.

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I also finished reading another book, called Killer: My Life in Hockey. This is the story of ex-Leaf Doug Gilmour, told in his own words. Of course it starts with his upbringing in the Kingston, Ontario area, alongside his siblings Dave, Donna and Debbie (all D's, hah!). And then of course it soon gets in to his hockey career, from the start of his pro career in junior with the Cornwall Royals, to being drafted to the St. Louis Blues, a trade to Calgary that brought him a Stanley Cup, and then of course the historic trade to Toronto that solidified him as a bona fide superstar and brought the Maple Leafs' organization some credibility that had been missing for a long, long time. After his time in Toronto his career began it's downswing, with stops in New Jersey, Chicago, Montreal, and then one last (albeit it very brief) stint with the Leafs. Throughout all of these hockey years he gives insights on how contract negotiations and trades went down, the ups and downs of each season, insights on relationships and stories with regards to those in management and his fellow players, and much much more including personal relationships in terms of marriages and children, and of course his parents. The book ends with what he's been up to after his pro career ended, which included some time in the front office with the Maple Leafs in the area of player development, a brief stint as an assistant coach with the Toronto Marlies, and then finally being called back to Kingston to get involved with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, first as head coach and then as general manager (I believe now he's actually the president of the club). Doug Gilmour, who was never thought big enough to play a man's game, defied all odds and went on to have a Hall of Fame career, thankfully a good chunk of said career coming as a Toronto Maple Leaf. He is and always will be, one of my favourite hockey players of all time. All hail Killer!!

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To close out the Labour Day long weekend we decided to watch another movie, and this time I thought we'd go with one of my favourite thrillers of all time . . . Scream! In this beauty the Canadian actress Neve Campbell stars as Sidney Prescott, a high school student in the small town of Woodsboro, California. Almost one year ago her mother was raped and murdered, and Sidney testified against the man who she saw at the scene of the crime, one Cotton Weary. However trouble, of the gory, bloody kind is about to rear it's ugly head once more. A few days before the anniversary of Mrs. Prescott's death, a fellow student of Sidney's named Casey, along with her boyfriend Steve, are brutally gutted while her parents are out for the night and she is home alone babysitting. The news shocks the community and draws all sorts of news outlets to cover the development, most intriguingly a woman named Gail Weathers. Weathers covered the Prescott story originally, and Sidney doesn't see eye to eye with her, to put it gently. Sidney's best friend Tatum tries to shield her from the media circus, as does Tatum's older brother Dewey, who is now a deputy with the police department. Sidney's boyfriend Billy also tries to be understanding, but feels as though she is pulling away from him lately and he is confused as to why. As the days crawl a curfew is enacted to try and keep the townspeople safe. School is also temporarily suspended, but not before their principal is claimed as victim number three in this new killing spree. Sidney escapes a couple of run ins with the killer, who wears a freaky ghoul mask, and there are a number of suspects including Billy and Sidney's own father, Neil. Tatum's boyfriend Stu decides to throw a party to celebrate the school closure, and so dozens of high school students, Dewey, and Gail Weathers descend on Stu's home, where eventually all hell breaks loose. But the film is very twist worthy and the killer is not who you probably expect it to be. Will our heroine escape with her life, or will she be just another body to add to the pile, a pile that may just tear this town apart? This is one of those iconic movies of it's genre that came along and just impressed the hell out of me back in the day. It has a great premise to it, and the talented young cast they picked to translate the story to the screen is just phenomenal. I used to watch this movie quite a bit back in the late 90's . . .

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Just as the shortened work week ended that came along after my time off had expired, I finished reading yet another book. This one was another entry in the expanding collection of Marvel prose novels, called Thanos: Death Sentence! This was an interesting selection because although I know of Thanos (who doesn’t, really?), I’ve never really known what he’s all about. I know more now, that’s for sure! As this book starts out Thanos has collected all of the Infinity Gems and is raining down construction all over the galaxy, in particular on Earth where all of those pesky super heroes seem to congregate. And the heroes are losing . . . badly. That is when Tony Stark and Reed Richards decide to enact a last ditch plan, to free Thanos’ grandfather, the original titan Kronos, the only being capable of defeating Thanos at this point. Thanos is causing all of this destruction in order to lure Mistress Death to his side, it is his obsession, and he does not understand why she has not already come to him after killing so many souls in her name. When Thanos is eventually defeated by Kronos he is stripped of all his powers, his thick skin, and his memory, and given a chance to restart, to truly find himself. His first stop is on the planet Sacrosanct, which is ruled over by the Universal Church of Truth. Taking the guise of a thief named Nil, Thanos falls in with a pair of sisters named Avia and Felina, who he develops a comfortable camaraderie with. They pull off many heists together, eventually planning to undermine the church in their biggest caper yet. However, when two of Thanos’ old minions, higher ups in the Black Order name Lady Proxima and the Ebony Maw show up on the planet, memories are stirred and Thanos loses his way, betraying the sisters and killing them in a bid for power. He then shows up as a Kree warrior named Teren-Sas on the planet Hala, where he seeks to undermine the Supreme Intelligence that leads that species, in order to instigate a Kree revolution. However, the Supreme Intelligence predicts Thanos’ behaviour and schemes against him in secret, in the end Thanos escapes the planet with his tail tucked between his legs. His final stop is in a land known as “The Velt”, which seems to be a contained world filled with human descendants from Earth, but in a more primitive state. Although the lack of action makes Thanos stir crazy, he eventually allows himself to relax and find peace with his situation, especially after meeting a beauty named Masika. Eventually the two become a couple and have children together. But as the years go by Masika eventually gets sick with cancer, and as Thanos struggles with the situation some of his memories and his rage come back to him, as do his abilities . . . and so he tears The Velt apart! As Thanos is then prepped to begin his next stop on this bizarre galaxy tour he says enough is enough and confronts Mistress Death, now confident in his purpose, and she doesn’t disagree. Overall I’m glad I read this story, as it gave some insights in to Thanos’ life and his relentless pursuit of Mistress Death’s approval. But at the same time it was very disjointed, it seemed like just a bunch of random adventures thrown together, and I’m not sure how it all really fit. Definitely an interesting read, if not the most cohesive of stories.

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Not long after the weekend went by that saw more of a return to normalcy in our household I finished reading another book I was able to get in poolside before it closed. Don Cherry’s Hockey Greats & More! For those of you who are not Canadian, Don Cherry was a minor league hockey player way back in the day, before becoming coach of the AHL’s Rochester Americans, and then jumping to the big league and coaching the NHL’s Boston Bruins . . . during the Bobby Orr era no less! He then moved on to coach the fledgling Colorado Rockies before eventually getting in to TV broadcasting (and of course his TV show, Don Cherry’s Grapevine, which was bloody fantastic). And it is this broadcasting career that he is probably most renowned for at this point. Paired with the brilliant Ron MacLean on Hockey Night in Canada he speaks his mind, and doesn’t give a care what people think. And that is why I love him so much! In this book Grapes (Cherry’s nickname) divides his subject material in to separate chapters, and focuses on that particular topic before moving on to the next. Many of the chapters are of course devoted to specific hockey players (or other type of people in the game like coaches and such) including Scotty Bowman, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Terry O’Reilly amongst many others. He also touches on the game of baseball a bit (in particular his astonishment that Canadian Larry Walker is still not in the Hall of Fame), Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip (naturally), his philosophies on coaching, his thoughts on the role of fighting in the game, his opinions on the Hockey Hall of Fame institution, and of course memories of his beloved dog Blue. Throughout all of his thoughts, anecdotes and remembrances many old stories are shared, which bring in to the picture a lot of other characters that aren’t the main topic of the chapter. And I must say it is one hell of an interesting book! I know a lot of people are tired of listening to him because they think he’s too old school, but his philosophies on coaching and strategy and of fighting in the game are spot on in my opinion. He may be loud and crass for some, but he knows what he’s talking about. It’s funny, three of my favourite Canadians (and just overall people in the entire world) are Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and Gord Downie, and they all factor prominently in this book. I loved every page of it!

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Right around the time the pool was shut down I finished reading another book, this one the eleventh entry in the fantastic Skulduggery Pleasant series, called Midnight. As this story starts off Skulduggery and Valkyrie are busy searching for Abyssinia, who is basically the new Darquesse of the series at this point, and has nothing but pain and suffering in store for the majority of the population. The pair aren’t making much headway though, and even more frustrating is the fact that they can’t seem to get an audience with the Grand Mage, their old “friend” China Sorrows, in order to discuss the situation. At the same time there are a number of other things going on in Roarhaven and beyond. First, a portal has opened up in Roarhaven from the other dimension where the evil Mevolent still lives. Citizens of that dimension are pouring through the portal in droves, and naturally they are terrified of sorcerers, so China has to find somewhere to house them all and ease tensions at the same time. Also, Abyssinia has become so obsessed with finding and reclaiming her lost son, Caisson, that some of her followers, most notably the vile Cadaverous Gant, feel as though she’s lost sight of their group’s purpose and master plan. Cadaverous even lays some plans of his own to recover Caisson himself, sort Abyssinia out, ultimately getting her back on task. And finally, Omen Darkly is back at school and thirsting for adventure, just waiting for Skulduggery and Valkyrie to call on his services once again. While he is waiting Omen befriends one of the refugees from the other dimension, as he volunteers to help welcome them to their world. Eventually though his wish comes true, despite his friend Never telling him not to hold his breath, as Valkyrie contacts Omen to ask him for a big favour . . . to babysit her little sister, Alice! Omen is a bit let down of course, but he agrees, as it turns out Skulduggery and Valkyrie have finally managed to get an appointment with China Sorrows. However, not long in to Omen’s babysitting experience adventure comes knocking . . . in the form of Cadaverous Gant! Despite all of his other schemes Cadaverous finds the time to attempt a strike at Valkyrie, whom he hates to no end as he deems her responsible for the death of his best friend Jeremiah Wallow. Cadaverous is an elderly gentleman but he has the power to create a home environment in any which way he so chooses, and he is ultimately powerful within his home, whereas outside his home he is just another average sorcerer. Cadaverous pushes Omen aside and kidnaps Alice, leaving Omen to pass a message along to Valkyrie upon her return. And when Valkyrie does return she is mortified by this turn of events. She follows the instructions Cadaverous left with Omen, which proceed to lead Valkyrie towards Cadaverous’ home base with a number of cruel, torturous stops along the way. And she only has until midnight to succeed in rescuing her sister, for if she doesn’t reach Cadaverous in time and lay hands on Alice, it’s lights out for baby sister! Can Valkyrie battle through these challenges and then brave Cadaverous’ twisted domain successfully, in time to save young Alice, or after so many adventures has Valkyrie’s luck finally run out? In keeping with this whole series, this Midnight entry was entirely fantastic. Action packed, hilarious, and just so bloody violent at times! I love all of the characters in this series and I can’t wait to see where the twelfth book takes the story.

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Over the weekend that we took in the Titanic show, Jimmer and I finished watching season 10 of The Simpsons . . . another one bites the dust!! This tome is a four disc collection that contains all 23 episodes from the season that saw the franchise reach the decade mark. In this batch of episodes we witness Homer and Bart start up a grease selling venture, Homer attempt to become an inventor, Bart become a parent to two controversial lizards, the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode of course, Homer start up a friendship with Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, Homer become a hippy after discovering what the middle initial of his name stands for, Lisa cheat on a test at school, Homer reluctantly donate a kidney to Abe, Homer become a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby, Homer and Ned get in to all sorts of trouble in Las Vegas, a curfew imposed on the children of Springfield, Homer lead a disastrous trip to the Super Bowl, Homer upset that a new TV show has a character using his very own name, Apu and Manjula experience marriage troubles, Marge develop road rage after the family acquires a powerful new SUV, Lisa deal with a debilitating stress syndrome, Homer and Bart hit the open road as truckers, some biblical themed fantasies as the Simpsons fall asleep at church, Homer briefly make the art scene, Springfield successfully bid to get the Olympics, a new millionaire arrive in Springfield and spark Mr. Burns’ ire, Lisa find a group of intellectuals she can hang out with, and the Simpsons snag a trip to Tokyo. Of course these are only the main plots, there is always other stuff going on during most episodes that are good for even more laughs. This season was really good, very solid, but didn’t contain a lot of the most famous and remembered episodes (to me, anyways) like a lot of the preceding seasons did. It did have a few really good ones that I remembered well though, including the one where Homer befriends Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, the one where Homer and Ned go to Vegas, and the one where Homer and Bart become truckers. Some classic stuff, right there. So good, onwards to season 11!!

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Lastly, just as this past weekend was about to roll in I finished yet another book, one my parents got me as a gift recently, called Dark Matter. There are spoiler alerts in this summary if you are interested in reading it, fyi! This story takes place in Chicago and focuses on a man named Jason Dessen. He teaches some sort of science classes at a second tier college called Lakemont and is married to an artist named Daniela, with whom he has a teenage son named Charlie. Jason has ruminated on the path not taken before, what would have happened had he not settled down and had a family, and instead kept pursuing the potentially ground-breaking research he was working on before Daniela became pregnant? Well, soon he’s going to find out! One Friday night as he’s preparing for dinner Daniela encourages Jason to head around the corner to his neighbourhood bar, where a former roommate and colleague of his named Ryan is holding a celebration around a prestigious award he recently won for his own advanced research breakthroughs. Jason eventually relents but is turned off not long after his arrival, when Ryan’s line of questioning brings out Jason’s insecurities about his current lot in life. On the walk home Jason’s world is turned upside down. A masked assailant kidnaps him and forces Jason to drive out to some sort of abandoned factory at gunpoint, then strips him of his clothes and injects him with an unknown substance. When Jason comes to he is surrounded by people looking down on him, measuring his vitals, and wheeling him through some sort of underground compound. When they interrogate him afterwards a whole team full of people seem to recognize him, and wonder how his trip went . . . although Jason himself recognizes none of the faces looking back at him! Soon afterwards he panics and manages to escape, and as he heads home Jason realizes this Chicago is not his normal version of the city. That is when he begins piecing it together. I don’t necessarily understand the science behind this theory, but basically whenever you make a decision there are other versions of yourself that make different decisions. And with every decision you make, every day, a different branch of your life is created and runs parallel to your own reality, creating the multiverse. Jason’s research back in the day was focused on trying to suspend an object and have it access this multiverse. Well, a version of Jason Dessen somewhere along the line managed to complete this research successfully, and on a scale that allowed him to apply it to human beings no less! So this abductor Jason encountered was actually another version of himself, a version that regretted a life focused solely on work and now instead yearning for the comforts of having Daniela and a family. And so this version of Jason engineered a multiverse swap. Alone and without any resources our original Jason must find a way to access this multiverse, somehow locate the version of Chicago that he originally came from, and then engineer a reverse swap. Needless to say the odds are heavily stacked against him! But he is a scientist, remember? This was a great story, which was promoted as a combination sci-fi/suspense/love story all in one, and it certainly was that! It really makes you think about the world and your place in it, and provides plenty of mindfucks along the way.

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Bill 69: the eleventh installment.

Wow, Sieve and I were on such a roll there with our retro gaming quest . . . until the Christmas season and all of it’s busy-ness threw a monkey wrench in to our plans!! Not only Christmas and New Years with the family and friends and events going on that take up all your time, but the absolute insanity of James’ Christmas show (not to mention being put in the March Break show right afterwards), that had a lot to do with my being distracted for a while there. But we persevered when we could and now have three more completed games to add to our list, the first of these being . . .

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The original Mega Man game for the NES!! This ground breaker was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System way back in 1987, by the illustrious Capcom. It inspired future releases of many more Mega Man games, both within this original type of format along with some other variations on the Mega Man story (like X, Zero, Battle Network, etc.). Anyhoo, the story behind this initial game takes place in the year 200X . . . a time when renowned scientists Dr. Light and Dr. Wily are designing robots to help serve the greater good of the world. However, Dr. Wily becomes corrupted and desires to instead use these robots to take over said world. Wily reprograms six of these robots and sets them loose in an attempt to begin his evil plot. Dr. Light, not wanting to let his former colleague away this tomfoolery, reprograms a robot named Rock, who was serving as his assistant. Once Rock becomes a robot suited to battle he is re-dubbed Mega Man and let loose on Wily, and that is where the game begins. If you manage to take down these six bots and then the mad scientist himself, you’ll have saved the world and completed your adventure!

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When you first set out on Mega Man the player is presented with a menu screen where the six robot masters you’ll be going up against can be viewed. It’s a choose your own adventure type of setup, as you can then pick from this menu in which order you want to face said robots. The six robots you’ll battle include Cut Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Fire Man, Ice Man and Bomb Man. Upon defeating each boss Mega Man will then acquire a special weapon based on that boss’s theme. The real trick to beating Mega Man is knowing which weapon to use on which boss, as each of these bosses is very vulnerable to just one of these special weapons. Beating most of these bosses with just your default weapon (the Mega Buster) can be very tricky, sometimes downright impossible, so choosing the correct boss order is very important in completing the game. This is a theme Capcom has kept up all these years later, too, knowing each boss’s vulnerability is the main trick to winning all of the various installments in this franchise. When making your way through these boss’s levels the enemies you’ll face are all robotic in nature, and a number of them are in keeping with the theme of each level. Some of these enemies are anthropomorphic in nature, some resemble animals, and others are just straight up unique robot creations. There are four item pickups you can obtain to aid you in your quest, some being pre-set but most coming from your enemies, who drop them upon being destroyed. These items include a Mega Man icon (which earns you an extra life), a black and white orb (comes in two sizes and replenishes Mega Man’s health gauge in respective amounts), a blue cube (comes in two sizes and replenishes the ammo of Mega Man’s special weapons in respective amounts), and a star shaped propeller looking thing (gives you lots of bonus points, for whatever that is worth). If you can survive these six levels, defeat the bosses, then make your way through Wily’s castle where you’ll have to face them all again before defeating the evil scientist himself . . . then you’ll have beaten the game. Congratulations, world saved!

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In summary, what else can I say about one of the most ground-breaking (in my opinion) games of all time!? There are a number of NES franchises that paved the way in the early days of home console gaming, shaping the lay of the land, and continue to be influential to this day. Games like Super Mario Bros., the Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, etc. Well count Mega Man amongst that group, on equal (or even higher) footing in my humble view. Being a Capcom game Mega Man looks great, sounds great and plays great, as should be expected. But on top of this they introduced a really cool character with a great story backing him up, and then executed a style of game that just made the whole package a complete masterpiece. The choose your own adventure style of gameplay, the very cool design of the bosses and their different abilities, and the puzzle like nature of having to figure out which boss succumbs to which weapon, it all makes for a very neat and original gaming experience. And Mega Man games are not easy, either. There are tricky sequences that need to be planned out and executed exactly, hard jumps that need to be timed perfectly, and bosses that require a lot of concentration to defeat. The difficulty is well worth it though, as Mega Man and all of the future games it inspired are some of the most rewarding games to play and complete. This series is one of the very pinnacles of gaming, people!!

Our second completion was a title released for a few different platforms, although I snagged it for the NES’ successor, the SNES . . .

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Beavis and Butt-Head . . . the game!! It was released by Viacom back in 1994 and as soon as I picked it up it became one of the staples of my SNES library, as I was a massive Beavis and Butt-Head fan (and still am, of course). The story behind this gem is that our two lovable (yet broke and stupid) heroes want to attend an upcoming Gwar concert. Without the means to do so the pair set out on a quest to gain admittance to this show by any means possible. Along the way they will have to face down all of the various dangers and obstacles their hometown of Highland, Texas can throw at them. If you can brave this journey and manage to finagle this dynamic duo in to the stadium and behold the magic that is Gwar then you’ve done it, you’ve completed the game and brought these two delinquents much joy!

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There are five total levels in this game, although just four of them are available at the outset, and you can choose to play them in any order you wish. The initial four levels are Highland Highschool, Highland Hospital, Streets of Highland and Turbo Mall 2000. Once all four of these levels are completed the last level will open up, that of course being dubbed Gwar Concert. At the end of the first four levels you’ll face a boss, who are respectively represented by the bullies Todd and Earl, a raging nurse, Mr. Anderson, and a fat, sausage swinging redneck! The Gwar Concert level doesn’t have a boss, once you simply reach Gwar at their stage you have beaten the game. There are many other enemies you’ll square off against throughout your journey though, many of them more generic including skateboarding punks, hospital staff, security guards, angry grannies, dogs, birds, even alligators, and the list goes on. Some more significant, recurring characters will also appear from time to time in certain levels though, like Todd, Coach Buzzcut, and Principal McVicker (or McDicker, as the boys like to refer to him!). Aiding you in your journey are a small number of pickups. The first type are weapons, of which there are not many different types. Beavis and Butt-Head can pick up yellow guns that shoot bit blue balls out of them, liquid spouting syringes, foam dispensing fire extinguishers, as well as a long wooden board with a boxing glove attached to the end of it, which they can swing at their enemies. You can also locate coins hidden inside certain objects like payphones and what not, which you can then spend at either vending machines on items to replenish your health bar, or at the video game machines during the start of the Gwar Concert level. Food items can also be found lying around scattered throughout the levels, eating these items like chips, ice cream and pizza will replenish your health bar to a minor degree. The last pickup is an icon of Butt-Head’s face, which grants you an extra life. At the end of each level you can go “couch fishing”, which allows you a chance at replenishing your health before the start of the next level. Also, at certain points during select levels Beavis and Butt-Head will be forced to team up to tackle a certain portion of a level. If you can master your control over this duo and put the various pickups to good use, you should have no real trouble beating this game and bestowing upon our heroes the gift of music . . .

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Overall this is a really good game, doubly so for those who are fans of the show. I’ve read that the game was not well received originally, especially on the other platforms (the SNES version of the game got roasted the least), although I highly enjoy it! The graphics are pretty good, but most importantly of all the animation behind said graphics blend in seamlessly with that of the show. This game is a very good representation of the Beavis and Butt-Head series overall. The plot is ridiculous yet fantastic, just as I would expect a Beavis and Butt-Head story to be. Beavis and Butt-Head themselves in the game look fantastic, and their signature sound bites are on full display and hilarious. The game throws a few different looks at you too, which is cool. There are lots of different enemy types that need to be dealt with in certain ways, the different types of weapons greatly affect how you approach the action, and when the pair are forced to work together as one unit it’s another different scenario you need to adjust to. To me this game is a an old school masterpiece, a total no brainer for any retro gamer’s cabinet!

Our third and final completion was a game that neither of us had played in the past, a real doozy known as . . .

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The Adventures of Batman & Robin, for the Super Nintendo! Released in 1994 this game expanded upon the adventures set forth in the animated TV show of the same name, which was popular at the time and was very well received. The story is pretty simple. A number of Batman’s prime adversaries are out and about Gotham City causing all sorts of trouble, and so one by one you must take them down and end the combined threats. If you can track each villain down, avoid the obstacles and enemies they throw at you, and eventually bring them all to justice you’ve won the game . . . and congratulations, for it’s a very hard game!

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There are a total of eight stages in this game and they unfold in the following order: a circus/carnival type environment with Joker as the boss, a forest/greenhouse area with Poison Ivy calling the shots, a darkened museum with Penguin lying in wait on it’s rooftop, Gotham City’s rooftops in pursuit of Catwoman, racing through the streets of Gotham in attempt to stall Two-Face’s escape, ascending a building and eventually boarding a blimp in order to track down Scarecrow, a winding maze at the center of which hides The Riddler, and finally a rush through a building where a number of the game’s previous bosses and a couple of new ones attempt to stop Batman one last time. Beat them all down in order (said bosses include Penguin, Scarecrow, Clayface, Catwoman, Man-Bat and The Joker) and you’ve won the game! Aiding Batman in his journey are a number of items he can carry, some of which he always has on his person by default, and some of which you can toggle on or off before the start of each level. The ones he always carries are essentials like Batarangs and a grappling hook, while the ones you can choose to carry optionally include a gas mask, x-ray goggles, flashlight, etc. The only pickups Batman comes across during the game are hearts, which help replenish any missing health, but they are so few and far between they are barely even worth mentioning! If you can master your gadgets, each level’s peculiarities, and every boss’s patterns then you’ll have successfully completed the game . . . and that is the point at which your cursing can stop!

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As you can probably tell from some of my comments above, this game is very difficult. My only knock on it, which is partially what makes it so hard, is that the controls are a bit clunky. Switching between weapons, responsiveness . . . not the worst I’ve ever seen, but also far from the best. The game is also quite difficult because you have to be pretty “on” in order to make it through a level. With hardly any health pickups available, every little bit of Batman’s energy is precious, and the enemies in this game are difficult. Each boss has a pattern, and once you figure it out they don’t become easy or anything, but they do become more manageable. You have to figure out whether to keep your attacks more in the air with some jumping, lower to the ground with some rolling, and also which (if any) gadget or weapon might help you dispatch them significantly faster. This process can take a while sometimes. But this is also what makes the game so rewarding once you finally complete it! It was a great feeling once we did beat Joker down for the final time. What I really like about this game are the graphics and the mood, how it sticks close to the TV show it was spawned from. My favourite thing though, is how varied and different the levels are. A few of the levels are just regular side scrolling beat ‘em ups, but against Penguin you are navigating a dark museum with a flashlight and trying to solve a number of puzzles, against Catwoman you are doing a lot of jumping and grappling across Gotham’s rooftops, in Two-Face’s level you only ever control the Batmobile in a top down theme that reminded me of the classic Spy Hunter game, and against Riddler you are navigating through a maze before finding your “prize” at the end of it. The different looks and themes this game gives it’s users are pretty fun and diverse. So despite the minor issues that are present in The Adventures of Batman & Robin, the fun, diversity and sense of achievement you gain upon completing it make it well worth the effort!

June and July, so much fun in the sun!! And also in front of the TV, of course . . .

The weekend that arrived after my last post was a literal back buster! Oh man I was so busy. On the Friday night nothing much happened except some video games. But on the Saturday morning I got up early and hit the backyard, getting the hose in the pool to finish filling it up with water. While that was going on I cleaned out the shed, trimmed the bushes and trees, went out and bought mulch for the gardens, new eaves trough extenders to replace our old broken ones, and an outdoor garbage can to help with my barbequing experience. I also picked up chlorine to shock the pool after it was filled. Once all these chores were done and the pool finished filling I got the pump up and running and the chlorine added, all I had to do was sit back and wait for it to warm up and become swimmable! That night I barbecued in a downpour and we finished the night off by watching a movie . . . I fell asleep way sooner than usual because I was gassed. On the Sunday Sieve and I finally got back to our morning hill run at the park, after getting home I spent a lot of time out in the sun in the backyard practicing up for ball hockey and also vacuuming all of the junk that was left in the pool after my initial cleaning session the day prior. Jimmer and mrs. darthcobain17 went out for lunch while I was doing so and came back with one of his friends for a playdate. After he left I barbecued more meat and stuff for dinner, cleaned the house, and then Jimmer and I then played vids for the rest of the night. Before once again I fell asleep way too early. So exhausted . . . but so productive!

The following weekend was another one spent vastly outdoors, and it exhausted me all over again! Again on the Friday we didn’t do much, but on Saturday I got up early to get a quick swim in and have a coffee out by the pool, before heading off to the nearby church and donate blood at the blood donor clinic. On the way home I stopped at Home Depot to get a couple of new outdoor chair pillows for the backyard. Upon getting home Jimmer and I messed around playing vids, as well as going outside for a swim and some ball hockey practice. In the early afternoon though all three of us rounded ourselves up and headed down the road a ways to our friends’ house, as they were throwing a pool party to celebrate the pool they had installed last year! There was swimming, a taco bar, a racing sprint between me and some of the kids, late night road hockey, and much more. With being low on blood the booze made itself a factor much easier than usual, so I was all over the place. Just another day in my life! When I woke up on Sunday I was super sore and super tired, but that’s the way it goes when you are in your early 40’s but act like a kid. Sunday wasn’t too busy, I spent most of the day outside by the pool, doing jobs, swimming and reading my book, with a brief detour downtown to drop off a bookshelf at Original Kids which they needed as a prop. And of course Jimmer and I may have made a brief visit to Heroes, to check out the latest the comics industry had to offer. The rest of the day we spent just chillaxing indoors and out, and I gave the house it’s weekly cleaning before I poured myself in to bed . . . still exhausted.

Father’s Day arrived on the ensuing weekend and the whole weekend ended up being pretty active, and again spent in great parts outdoors. I had signed up to play ball hockey at BHI like James does, and that Friday night was my first game. I was put on a team with one of the guys who runs the place and it seems like a fun group of people on my team. I had the game’s only goal for the longest time until they tied it up late, but we ended up winning in a shootout anyways! So fun, but so exhausting. After getting home Jimmer and I just watched some TV and played a few vids before it was bed time. On the Saturday morning I got up early to tame the yard with some trimming and what not, and also to sort the pool with a good vaccumming (so much rain and wind this year . . . equals a very dirty pool!). Jimmer then began his own season of ball hockey later that morning with back to back games (they won 6-2 versus the Dust Devils then lost 6-3 versus the Stars), with a stop at Tim Horton’s for lunch in between games. Afterwards we went home and regrouped before heading to the Mandarin for a Father’s Day buffet dinner! My parents were there, along with mrs. darthcobain17’s dad, and they had also come to Jimmer’s games. After getting home that evening we were all stuffed so just sat down and watched a movie before calling it a night. On the Sunday we had plans to mini-putt and what not, but the day got away on us. I got up early for a swim, and afterwards Jimmer and I played a lot of vids while mrs. darthcobain17 was at the gym. Once she got home we went out for breakfast for lunch at a place that is new to us called The Singing Chef, which was really good. Before mini-putt we planned on picking up some new outdoor furniture as our old stuff had been falling apart in recent years, and eventually found exactly what we wanted at Canadian Tire . . . but it took forever to get everything picked out, packaged up, paid for, and lugged home (don’t ask). We ran out of time so just picked up Wendy’s for dinner, then went home and built said furniture before whiling away the rest of the weekend with some TV and vids. Exhausted yet again . . .

The next weekend arrived with my second ball hockey game on the Friday night, and although I didn’t score (although really I think I did in a goalmouth scramble but just didn’t get the nod) I believe I played a much more solid game all around. We lost 4-1 to the best team in our league, who even have somebody from Team Canada’s ball hockey program . . . so yeah. I even got my first nick, when my stick got caught up on the ref’s foot and I almost impaled myself! I stuck around for a beer after the game, and then we went home to chill and vid and snack. Om nom. On Saturday, as per my new routine, I got up early and headed immediately outside with a coffee to vacuum the pool and get all of my outdoor chores done. Every week that backyard gets a little cleaner, tidier and nicer. By the end of summer I’ll finally have it licked! In the late morning we rushed out to Jimmer’s ball hockey game where they played the Dust Devils again, winning 9-4 (he picked up a goal and an assist). Afterwards we headed over to Sunset Grill for some breakfast, followed by a quick pop in to Hobby and Toy Central for some model kits, before heading to Fleetway for their indoor mini-putt. We were supposed to do that over Father’s Day, but got all busy with our outdoor furniture purchases. After having a Dairy Queen snack post mini-putt we headed home and spent the rest of the day out by the pool enjoying the much better weather, playing ball hockey, playing mini sticks in the basement, playing vids, watching cartoons, etc. Sunday was pretty much just a repeat of that, hanging out around home enjoying the nice weather for the most part. We did slip out to go to the mall to try and find John Wick 2 for cheap, which we did not, also stopping at Dollarama for some supplies and Tim Horton’s for a coffee, before we headed to Jimmer’s school to race our R/C cars and play some tennis against the walls there. We whittled away the rest of the day outdoors, in the pool, cooking meat and such on the BBQ . . . overall an ideal weekend!

The weekend that showed up next was a great one, as it signalled the beginning of my first week of holidays this summer! There’s nothing better than not being at work. Anyways, the weekend kicked off on the Friday night with my third ball hockey game of the season, against the Muff n’ Men, which we lost 3-1 (no points for yours truly in this affair). On the Saturday morning I did my usual backyard tidy and pool vacuum job, and early in the afternoon we headed down Hamilton way to our friend’s house as it was time for their annual J4 summer party! It was a tough one this year without our friend Joe, as he was always the backbone of that weekend, but nice for everybody to get together as usual and remember, and party, and enjoy being together. We came home that same night and on the Sunday did nothing but chill in the backyard and swim, go for a bike ride, play vids and watch a movie. As for the “weekdays”, Jimmer and I had them to ourselves and every day pretty much went the same, only maybe in different orders each day. We basically swam, went for bike rides, played ball hockey, played mini sticks in the basement, played video games, watched cartoons and movies, read books, did artwork (drawings plus I worked on my very first painting), and barbecued most of our PM meals. On the Friday mrs. darthcobain17’s mom came down as the two of them had a spa day planned, after which we all went to Beladi’s for dinner. Upon getting home I didn’t have a ton of time before I had to go to ball hockey, and we just missed getting dumped on with some weather! It was a beautiful, hot week, the dumping was inevitable. Anyways, we played Hat Trick Swayze and were up 1-0 for the first two periods, but our short bench caught up with us and we ended up losing 4-1. I had our team’s lone goal but my linemate Nicole did most of the work. When the following weekend arrived (not that we much knew the difference at that point!) Saturday kicked off not quite as usual. My wife’s mom was still down so I didn’t go out to do my yard chores, we all just kind of lounged around until it was time to go to Jimmer’s ball hockey game (they beat the Stars 7-5 and he had 3 assists). Afterwards we hit up Dairy Queen for some sweet treats, before heading home and whittling the rest of the day away much in the same fashion we had spent over the course of the week. On Sunday morning we again spent our time much the same way as we’d become accustomed to, but in the early afternoon I headed down Hamilton way as I was set to play softball with our friends Johnny and Megan, as their team was short players for their double header. I had a pretty good night. The bat was inconsistent as I’d have a couple good hits in a row and drive in some runs, then a couple of shanky pop flies, rinse and repeat. But in the field at third base I was pretty locked in and had a good night. Tons of fun! I stuck around for a beer with them afterwards before hitting the highway and sadly getting mentally prepared for a painful return to the workplace . . .

The next weekend arrived and we lost our Friday night ball hockey game 6-0 to the Quackbombs, easily the best team in our league. I feel like I’m getting better each game, especially with my positioning and my decision making, which is most important as the effort is always there regardless. Jimmer and I had some snacks after the game before it was bedtime. On Saturday we spent the day doing guy stuff as mrs. darthcobain17 was out of town for the afternoon. I began the day with a couple hours of yard chores, but after that we went for a bike ride and some swimming, played ball hockey and mini sticks, played some vids, and after a massive dinner finished the day off with a movie. On Sunday I got up and cleaned the house real quick, then went for a bit of a swim and played some vids with Jimmer before heading down Hamilton way once again, as I was playing in another softball double header! We won the first game but lost the second to the best team in the league, and the score wasn’t that outrageous, so overall it was a pretty successful afternoon. My overall game was much better. I made a couple of tiny miscues at third, nothing too major, but my bat was way better so overall I think I had a better day. Afterwards we mashed some beer and pizza before I hit the road home!

The following weekend, on the Friday night, I had a really good ball hockey game (eating a whole pizza from Domino’s beforehand didn’t help, but I quickly got over it!). I got a couple of really good scoring chances and made some nice passes, but we ended up losing to the Muff n’ Men 3-1. It’s coming though, I can feel a win brewing! When I got home we mowed down some snacks before playing some vids. On Saturday I got up early and did a bit of yard chores, but it was hard because on the Friday we had tornado warnings and the rain and wind was crazy, so the backyard was really soggy. I couldn’t even cut the grass! I just cleaned up some yard detritus and then vaccumed the pool, which was filthy from the storm. Before long we had to head out in the extreme heat as Jimmer had two ball hockey games in the late morning/early afternoon. They got destroyed by the Stars in their first game 11-1 (no points), but then in the second game they laid a beatdown on the Dust Devils 7-2 (2 goals and 2 assists). Afterwards Jimmer and I headed downtown to the market as I had to claim a book shelf I’d leant to Original Kids for their production of Matilda . . . and we also maybe stopped by Heroes while we were in the vicinity. Getting home afterwards we just whittled away the rest of the day playing vids (as more tornado like conditions moved in and ruined the nice weather and the pool clean job I’d done earlier in the day) and ate some Wendy’s for dinner. Our Sunday was pretty lazy, at least after I got up early and cut the lawn . . . and then vaccumed the pool for a second time! We spent it mostly around the house playing vids, I also did some cleaning and some swimming before we headed to Woodstock in the evening to meet mrs. darthcobain17’s mom. She was taking Jimmer for the week so we had dinner at the truck stop there and made the kid transfer before heading home. As the work week loomed I watched some cartoons and some Power Rangers, and also played some vids and read a bit before falling asleep in a buffet induced haze . . .

This past weekend began with our second ball hockey victory of the season . . . at long last! And it was a wild one too, a 0-0 tie for the longest time before I scored to put us up a goal. Hat Trick Swayze tied the game late though and thus forced a shootout, after I just narrowly missed ending the game at the last second on a desperation shot from center ice! The goalies ruled the shootout and the thing went at least 14 rounds, I clanked a hard shot off the post on my attempt. But eventually one of our girls scored and the other team didn’t, and so we won 2-1! Crazy game. Afterwards Jimmer and I rushed home as I needed to shower and then head over to Mustang Sally’s for one of my cousin’s fiftieth birthday celebrations. I don’t get to see this cousin and her sisters all that often, so it was great to be there and have some beers and catch up a bit. On the Saturday I took it very easy as during my hockey game the night before I’d pulled one of my hamstrings pretty bad. The first thing I accomplished upon getting up was to clean the house after the mother in law had left the day before. I then also got a few yard chores done, most significantly a cleaning of the pool. Afterwards I hung around outside in the sun, doing some swimming and reading a bit before it was time to head downtown. We hit up Mythic Grill for dinner as it was our seventeenth wedding anniversary that day, and post dinner headed over to Original Kids as we had tickets to see The Grunch! Our friend Larissa’s daughter Alex was in this show, who was in A Christmas Story with James, plus they’ve known each other since they were babies so it was nice to see them, and Alex was awesome as usual. On Sunday I spent as much time outside in the morning as I could, as thunderstorms were supposed to roll in during the early afternoon. Jimmer and I took a pause to go to the mall where I bought him some New York Fries and Dairy Queen for lunch (payback for a deal we made that saw him prevent his nanny from making a mess of our house while she was looking after him during the week). The rain was pushed back so we had a bit more time to spend outdoors before it showed up, but when it showed up it sure came down! The rest of the day we spent inside playing video games and mini sticks in the basement. Another weekend having passed way too quickly!

As for the weekdays, they were busy and of course quite varied due to summer time and all. During June Jimmer’s weekly overnight at my parents’ house continued, at least until July and the summer arrived. He also had all of his mid-week ball hockey games to attend once the season started in early June. As the school year finally did wrap up he went on a school trip to Niagara Falls, on which mrs. darthcobain17 chaperoned . . . hah, sucker! We ate out just once during the weekdays, at our newly renovated Swiss Chalet, watched some movies here and there, I got my hair cut, and I also got in to the routine of cutting the lawn on those week nights where Jimmer was off at his overnight . . . at least until school was out. The only camp Jimmer needed to attend during this time was a week at Sport Western where they did archery and ball hockey, which was cool (I was off with him for one week, my parents had him for one week, and then mrs. darthcobain17’s mom had him for a week). Some parts on my bike finally wore out so I had it in the shop a couple of times to get it fixed up, but now it’s running like a beast! My buddy Sieve just had his second child recently so he had been pretty busy, we only managed to sneak in one night of vids, but hopefully that will start to increase a bit once they find a new routine with their two munsters. With our new patio furniture I slept outside a number of nights, and it’s been great. Most recently a buddy of mine from high school who now lives in Calgary was back in town as he just recently got engaged. His uncle threw him an engagement party one night, so we hit that up and I may have pounded one too many vodkas. All in a day’s work! During this busy and diverse time we also managed to get the following accomplished . . .

1) My regular season on MLB 2K10 continues to unravel at a slow and steady pace, and it began with a beatdown of the Boston Red Sox! Bunch of buttholes. Here is how this latest collection of games came out in the wash: won vs. Boston 9-0, won vs. Boston 4-0, won vs. Boston 3-1, lost vs. Boston 2-0, won vs. Washington 4-2, won vs. Washington 5-0 & won vs. Washington 5-1.

2) Gran Turismo 5’s progress stalled a bit this time around, as getting in to the later events of the game I found I didn’t have the vehicles required to win a lot of the race circuits I hadn’t played yet. So I spent my time running past B Spec events, building up my cash supply so that I could eventually purchase some rides that would work. Still earning . . .

3) At long, long, mercifully long last . . . Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is finally complete! Picking up where I last left off I had just entered a chamber to find Midbus and Fawful presiding over an unconscious Peach and a dormant Dark Star. When they noticed me a battle began, Bowser having to take on Midbus yet again, although before the battle Fawful powered Midbus up with some sort of snow/ice themed abilities. It was a long one, but with how much experience I’d gained over the course of this long game, it didn’t take me too many tries to lay the ultimate smackdown. After the fight the glass container Peach was trapped in shattered and she fell to the floor, while at the same time the Dark Star sparing to life, Fawful going crazy about the fact that it had finally awoken! Fawful then went and absorbed some of it’s power, rambling on about how the world was now his. Bowser disagreed though, claiming the world was his instead, and wound up to lay a massive punch on Fawful, although Fawful disappeared before it connected. Bowser then went on to gloat, but while he was doing so the remains of the Dark Star hovered around him before shooting down his throat, causing him much distress. I then had to take over as Mario and Luigi, heading for the Airway section of Bowser’s body. We set out and explored this vast region, taking on many enemies that had obviously been tainted by the power of the Dark Star. We spied the Dark Star a couple of times but it always managed to get away from us, after absorbing Bowser’s DNA and exhibiting some of his powers during these escapes. At long last we caught up to it and cornered it, forcing a battle. Again it was a tough fight, but my experience helped pull me through it fairly quickly. Upon the Dark Star’s defeat Bowser regurgitated it, and it then took on the form of a dark, incomplete replica of Bowser himself! The Dark Star was upset, looking for the rest of it’s components, which had been siphoned away by Fawful. Fawful then re-entered the fray at this point, wanting the rest of the Dark Star for his nefarious purposes, and that is when he and the Dark Star ended up transforming Peach’s castle in to some sort of hulking beast! It crushed Bowser after it formed, so I had to take Mario and Luigi over to Bowser’s Rump Command, putting in the effort to get him back on his feet. After doing so a battle between Bowser and this abomination began. After a few tries, getting used to it’s tactics, I beat this behemoth down and then Bowser shrank back to his normal size. After the battle the Dark Star essence that took on Bowser’s form kidnapped Peach and disappeared in to the castle. Starlow got in on the conversation with Bowser, dubbing this being “Dark Bowser” and informing Mario and Luigi that they would probably have to fight alongside Bowser if they wanted to win the coming confrontation. I prepared by taking control of Mario and Luigi and spending some of our hard earned coin to top up their HP and SP, and buy some items for our stores that might be needed along the way. I then took control of Bowser once again and headed in to the castle. Before I could locate Dark Bowser I stumbled upon Fawful and defeated him in battle fairly easily. However, after his defeat the other portion of the Dark Star that he had absorbed then fused with Dark Bowser, finally making the power of the Dark Star whole! Bowser confronted this abomination but it unleased some strange fire and took him down, so I then had to take Mario and Luigi to Bowser’s Chest Station and revive him. After Bowser was back on his feet I then approached Dark Bowser for the last time, kicking off the final boss fight of the game! I pounded away on Dark Bowser, every so often getting in a good gut punch that would expel the Dark Star from inside of him. Then I would go to work on the Dark Star itself, eventually destroying it and releasing the land from it’s evil grasp! Afterwards a disheveled Fawful showed up and promised he’d changed his ways . . . but then he turned on us and blew himself up in a last ditch effort to cause havoc! But the explosion released all of the captive Toads and set the Mushroom Kingdom back to rights instead of doing more damage. Bowser then set forth in repairing his castle, while Peach, the Bros. and all of the Toads began the task of fixing all of the damage to the Mushroom Kingdom that Fawful and the Dark Star had caused as the game’s credits began to roll. Such a great game, an epic journey, another total 10 in the Mario Bros. series!

4) Many more games were completed on my regular season of NHL 2K9. The action went thusly: won @ Buffalo 5-2, won @ Montreal 9-3, won @ Florida 9-1, won @ Tampa Bay 3-0, won vs. Pittsburgh 7-2, won vs. Buffalo 8-0, won vs. Columbus 10-2, won vs. Vancouver 7-2, won @ New York Rangers 10-0, won vs. New York Rangers 4-1, won @ New York Islanders 10-1 & won @ Ottawa 5-0.

5) I moved on to the final area of Frogger: Ancient Shadow, but have had a hell of a time trying to close this game out! Said area is called “Doom’s Temple” and so far I’ve been able to beat just Level 1 and Level 2, with not much hope or progress looming for the other levels it seems. I suppose time will tell . . .

6) I cruised deep in to the second half of the game on Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed, the first event I faced upon getting back at it was called the Time Attack World Championship. It consisted of four races, as such: Circuit de Catalunya National (first), Glendale West (third), Suzuka Circuit West Course (second) & Donington Park National (first, earning the Road to Glory trophy). Then came the Hot Lap Gauntlet event, made up of three races: Hockenheimring National (first), Silverstone International (first) & Ambush Canyon (first). Some classic cars were next on the docket as the Classics Muscle Hot Lap event came about. It held three races: Glendale Club (first), Willow Springs International Motorsports Park Horse Thief Mile (first) & Dakota Club (first). Then came the Classic Muscle Gauntlet event, which held four races: Glendale East (third), Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (first), Willow Springs International Motorsports Park GP (first) & Miami Bicentennial Park Route (second). The Modern Iron Hot Lap event then entered the fray, holding three races: Glendale West (second), Dakota National (first) & Miami Bayfront Park Loop (first). Then came the Modern Iron Gauntlet event, which upped the ante to four races: Glendale West (second), Miami Biscayne Boulevard (first), Ambush Canyon (first) & Road America (first). The Dakota Iron 24 event then came up, made up of three races: Dakota Club (first), Dakota National (first) & Dakota GP (second, earning the Badge Hunter trophy). The next event up was a whopper, the Muscle Championship, which held a staggering six races! Here is how that went down: Ambush Canyon (first), Miami Bayside Run (first), Willow Springs International Motorsports Park GP (first), Dakota Tri-Oval (first), Road America (first) & Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (seventh). Then came The Eliminator – Beast Slayer event (huzzah!), which featured three races: Road America (first), Riviera Casino Riviera (second) & London Royal Mile (second). Most recently an absolute beast of an event reared it’s ugly head, a one off race called the Modern A Invitational! Try as I might I just couldn’t podium this race. I could run amongst the first three cars for most of the race, but the difficulty of the track and the fact that the other cars were all so fast and never seemed to suffer misfortune like I did made this one a lost cause. The race took place at Nordschleife and my best result was an eighth place finish.

7) NHL Faceoff ’97 is now complete! Somewhat. To start off play this time around I finished up the few remaining games left in my regular season, as follows: lost @ Colorado 2-0, won vs. Florida 3-1, lost @ Detroit 4-3, won vs. Detroit 6-3, won @ Dallas 4-2, lost @ St. Louis 2-0 & lost vs. Calgary 6-1. Didn’t end the season on the highest note, but what are you gonna do!? In the first round of the playoffs I drew the team that drubbed me so soundly in the last game of the season . . . the Calgary Flames! Here is how that series unfolded: lost vs. Calgary 5-4, lost vs. Calgary 5-2, won @ Calgary 2-1, lost @ Calgary 4-3 (OT), won vs. Calgary 4-2, won @ Calgary 3-1 & won vs. Calgary 6-1. Whoo, that shit was tight after getting down three games to one!! Elsewhere in the west Detroit easily ousted St. Louis in five games, Colorado took six games to send Vancouver packing, while Phoenix only needed five to end Chicago’s season. In the east three of the series only took five games, including Buffalo over Pittsburgh, Florida over Washington, and Montreal over New Jersey. Meanwhile in the other series the New York Rangers needed all seven games to oust Philadelphia. That set up a second round series for me against the Colorado Avalanche, no easy task for that era. Here is how that series unfurled: lost @ Colorado 5-2, lost @ Colorado 4-3 (OT), lost vs. Colorado 2-1 & lost vs. Colorado 6-5 (OT). I couldn’t pull it off, the Leaf team in this game is just too bad and way too slow! Still a solid hockey video game, but not as good as it’s predecessor.

8) Fortnite’s Save the World game mode continues to unravel at a steady pace for me. This time through I was able to completed the following levels: “Stonewood: Build Off 2; Reinforcement” (while running a mission of my choice I simply had to build 50 level 2 structures before the completion of said mission), “Stonewood: Kicking and Screaming” (a young, impetuous man named Dennis went and got himself lost, so I had to figure out his location by finding and listening to five recordings he had left behind on his ill advised journey), “Stonewood: Homebase Storm Shield Defense 5” (I installed a second shield amplifier and then extended our base a little bit, before fending off four waves of Husks after expanding the storm shield’s range), “Stonewood: Recruit Training” (I took a young and eager recruit named Dave out in to the field and showed him how to fight Husks, killing 20 each with ranged weapons, melee weapons, and traps), “Stonewood: Supply Run” (I had to collect supplies for Lars’ next planned mission, overall I had to collect four supply containers and it took multiple missions in order for me to find them all), “Stonewood: Horrors from the Mist” (I had to gather intel from some Mist Monsters in order to prep for a looming showdown with the Storm King, so over multiple missions I located the monsters in question, defeated them, and then grabbed the stuff they left behind), “Stonewood: Up in Arms” (our armoury was in need of an upgrade so I headed out to an industrial zone and destroyed seven large pieces of machinery in order to gain the supplies we required, while of course also defending myself against any Husks that were on the prowl) & “Stonewood: Triangulating a Circle” (one of our allies, Pops, was sent out on a mission but went missing, so I had to go out and deploy five scanners in order to triangulate his position, discovering he was somewhere in Plankerton . . . and of course I dealt with many persevering Husks in the process!). This mode looks like it’s super long . . . fantastic!

9) We finally got past that beast of a midboss level on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle we were stuck on previously, here are the levels we managed to put down overall this time around: “World 3-5: Introducing El Calavera!”, “World 3-6: Double-Barreled”, “World 3-7: Every Treasure Has Its Thorn”, “World 3-8: Moonlight Sonata”, “World 3-9: Opening Night!” & “World 4-1: If it Rains it Pours Lava”.

10) We got more regular season games in the books on NHL 17, as such: won @ Calgary 3-2 (OT), won @ Vancouver 4-1, won vs. Minnesota 3-1, won @ Boston 2-1, lost vs. Colorado 7-5, won vs. San Jose 4-2, won vs. Arizona 5-4 (OT), won vs. Pittsburgh 3-2, lost vs. Anaheim 5-4, won @ Colorado 4-1, won @ Arizona 8-1, won @ Florida 3-2, won @ Tampa Bay 6-5, won vs. Detroit 4-1, won @ Washington 5-0 & lost @ New Jersey 6-4.

11) Vikings: Wolves of Midgard was not an easy game to begin with per se, and now it’s becoming even less easy as I’m getting deeper in to it! Here are the levels I painfully managed to dispatch this time around: “Tunnels and Trolls” (the Troll witch Grindill invited me to meet her, obviously a trap, but we were desperate for her help and so I battled through hordes of her minions and then faced Grindill down in a boss fight within her cave, after the battle she offered me some gifts as she was pleased that her daughter Helga was in such capable hands, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, defeated 10/10 Jotan, and destroyed 7/8 Troll Totems), “Viking Marauder” (Fardain informed me that to strike at the Imperial army we would have to start at the city of Castra Ignis, a staging point they had been using, although an attack from the sea would be impossible so I had to trek across an open plain instead that was littered with watchtowers, I did so and dispatched crabs, Imperial soldiers and laid waste to their watchtowers, ending the level with a boss fight against a massive armored troll, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, killed 2/5 Giant Crabs, and destroyed 7/10 Towers), “Sigurd’s Ring” (Grindill promised aid in sneak attacking the Imperial forces at Castra Ignis if only I would fetch her another ring, this one belonging to the legendary Sigurd, so I headed to his fog shrouded island and fought through hordes of zombie creatures before finally defeating him in a boss fight, along the way I found 1/3 Iron Skulls, killed 26/30 Vaitir, and destroyed 6/6 Menhirs), “Camp of Fire” (Grindill provided a back door entrance to Castra Ignis through the Utgard portal, so I battle many Tomtes in the caves and upon reaching town then engaged the Imperium’s soldiers, culminating in a boss fight against the Bishop of the Sea, defeating him and in so doing stalling their advance on our borders, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, killed 15/15 Priests, and destroyed 10/10 Vanirite Shrines) & “Hunt Ettin” (Simul’s forces still patrolled the vicinity of the Utgard bridge, near her fortress, so to punish Simul for her insolence I headed there and wiped out the remainder of her forces in this area, along the way I killed 7/7 Jotan, found 3/3 Iron Skulls, destroyed 13/15 Troll Totems, and earned the Follower of Tyr trophy). This game is getting way hard, holy schnikes!!

12) Play on Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition resumed, and although I was determined to get to my next objective asap I kept getting distracted by side missions along the way! As I trekked towards the museum I got caught up in a scheme by The Riddler. At a church I had cleared of Joker and Harley Quinn’s goons earlier in the game, Riddler had shown up afterwards and taken some of those I had saved as hostages. He was then set to ask me a series of riddles and if I didn’t get the answers right . . . blammo, hostage dead! The other distraction came from the psychopath Victor Zsasz, whom I picked up a call from on a payphone. He had hostages of his own and if I didn’t make it to the next ringing payphone in time, he would sacrifice them as well. During all of this action I engaged many goons and during the fighting attempted to interrogate a number of them about these fiend’s plans. I also managed to rescue a political prisoner and destroy another Titan canister before making it to the museum, entering it in search of Mr. Freeze. After taking out a couple of thugs I found I couldn’t progress within the museum as Penguin had some jamming going on, meaning I couldn’t use my cryptographic sequencer to bypass the electronic door locks and what not. So I headed back outside and searched for the three jamming devices Penguin’s goons had set up, two on the rooftops and one down in the subway tunnels. I smashed the thugs and then I smashed the devices, thus breaking Penguin’s jamming capabilities! During this process I found many Riddler trophies, which I forgot to mention previously, I’ve been trying to collect as many of them as possible throughout the game so far. I also rescued another political prisoner and destroyed another Titan canister. Heading back inside the museum I then advanced further, taking out thugs and rescuing a G.C.P.D. officer named Jones, talking to him about what Commissioner Gordon’s plans for his team were inside Arkham City. He mentioned there were nine other officers in the vicinity, so I promised that I’d do my best to locate them. I continued on and soon entered upon a large chamber full of penned up inmates. Penguin then showed up and promised that whichever one of these inmates could kill Batman would be allowed to join his crew! So all of these thugs attacked me en masse, and making matters worse Penguin also released some sort of mutated Bane type creature in to the fray. Once I’d managed to beat them all down I resumed my pursuit of Mr. Cobblepot . . .

13) Progress continued on our regular season of NHL 11. Here is how those games unfolded: won @ Montreal 4-0, won vs. Dallas 6-3, won @ Ottawa 4-1, won @ Buffalo 4-2, won vs. Tampa Bay 5-0, won vs. Edmonton 7-1, won vs. Boston 3-2, lost @ Washington 4-3 (OT), won @ Pittsburgh 3-2 (OT), won vs. Philadelphia 2-1, won vs. Montreal 4-0, lost @ Edmonton 3-2, lost @ Calgary 2-1 & lost @ Vancouver 2-1 (SO).

14) We continued to fire away on Splatoon 2, resuming play on the Ranked Battles game mode the only arenas we played in that I hadn’t mentioned previously were the Shellendorf Institute & Moray Towers. I signed up for a Splatfest that took place over the Father’s Day weekend, but I got the days confused and so didn’t end up actually taking part in any battles! I chose team Narwhal (over team Unicorn) which ended up winning the event, so I got a few rewards that I probably didn’t deserve. In a more recent Splatfest that I actually participated in, I chose to play for team Order in the fight against team Chaos. The arenas my battles took place in included Starfish Mainstage, Snapper Canal, Shifty Station, Inkblot Art Academy, MakoMart, Musselforge Fitness & Port Mackeral. Team Order lost the Splatfest unfortunately and my final ranking in the event was an Order Champion. Overall our character is now at level 19.

15) The adventure on Ben 10 Omniverse 2 continued to unravel . . . so much so that it is now overwith! Here are the levels we completed in order to finish the game: The Core of the Problem, No Time for Sightseeing & Trouble with Way Bad. Afterwards we explored the game’s other offering, called Arena Mode. There we completed all 15 levels under the Standard and Magnet challenges, and then completed the following numbers of levels for the remainder of the challenges: Attrition (3/15), No Time for Health (3/15), Big Hits (6/15), Malfunction (9/15) & Sale on Turrets (6/15). Across our various play on this game we were able to earn the following achievements: Marathon Man, Breakout, Wrecking Crew, Leapfrog, Jump! Jump!, Spring Shoes, Fastball Special, Sharpshooter, Long Jump, More Power!, Learned Scholar, Lack of Communication, Incursean Incursion, New Kid on the Block, Underground Scene, Infiltrate Exterminate, Outta There!, All in a Day’s Work, Check out these Pythons, Newtonian Alien, Not Just Another Toadie, Flame Retardant, Lilypad Shootout, Kill You Last, Frozen Assets, Do You Even Lift?, Tank Spanker, Bad Case of Gas, Challenge Accepted, Return to Sender & I’m not Dead Yet! Overall this game was pretty disappointing, as I remember the original Ben 10 Omniverse game being way better and way more fun. It was a 2 player co-op gem where you could free roam the levels, instead of being a 1 player only game where you are locked in to the method of having to run around the game levels in pre-determined lanes with little sequences of action in between. And the controls weren’t great either, switching between alien forms was a complete pain in the posterior. Considering the first game was so good that makes this sequel even worse. I mean why mess with something when it’s not broken, right? I do believe that may be a famous saying, if I’m not mistaken! Yes, that was sarcasm. Too bad, I was hoping for more from this one . . . maybe the other Ben 10 games I picked up will be better. Start low and finish high, better than the other way around!

16) Axiom Verge continues to ensnare me with it’s smooth retro vibe and it’s intense musical background! Kind of reminds me of the original Voltron cartoon in that vein. Anyhoo, on my play this time through I acquired some new gadgets including the Field Disruptor (allowing me to jump higher), the Bioflux Accelerator (granting me mutant powers when my health is maxed out), Modified Lab Coat (allowing me to pass through walls and other solid barriers) & Remote Drone (allows me to release drones to get in to small areas I otherwise cannot and press switches, engage enemies, etc.). I also obtained a new weapon in the Hypo-Atomizer. Other items I picked up include a Power Node, a Power Node fragment, a Health Node, three Health Node fragments, a Size Node (increased the size of my weapons’ various projectiles), as well as the Address Disruptor 2 (providing an increase in power to my Address Disruptor gadget). The trophies I managed to earn were called Uruku, Bubble Breaker, Gir-Tab & Secret World.

17) Cuphead just continued to get harder and harder, but it’s so much fun that it’s easy to persevere! Here are the levels that fell to our might this time through: Sugarland Shimmy (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Baroness Von Bon Bon), Funfair Fever (B- rating), Aviation Action! (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Wally Warbles), Mausoleum II (unlocked a new super weapon), Carnival Kerfuffle (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Beppi the Clown), Funhouse Frazzle (C+ rating), Fiery Frolic (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Grim Matchstick), Honeycomb Herald (C+ rating, collecting the soul contract for Rumor Honeybottoms), Shootin N’ Lootin (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Captain Brineybeard), Perilous Piers (C rating), Mausoleum III (unlocked a new super weapon), Murine Corps (C+ rating, collecting the soul contract for Werner Werman), Rugged Ridge (C+ rating), Junkyard Jive! (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Dr. Kahl’s Robot), Dramatic Fanatic (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Sally Stageplay), Railroad Wrath (B- rating, collecting the soul contract for Phantom Express) & High Seas Hi-Jinx! (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Cala Maria). So very . . . very close!!

18) A new game on the PS4 I decided to start up on not long after my last post was Need for Speed: Rivals. For this entry in the Need for Speed series the storyline centers on the relationship between cops and street racers, with the main difference being that instead of just playing as a street racer, which is the case in most game, you can instead choose to play on either side of the law! Race around and cause all sorts of mayhem, flipping the bird to the man . . . or play as the law itself, chasing down and bringing to justice these law breaking punks. When the game first starts up it makes you play a brief tutorial from each vantage point. I started with the street racer tutorial, earning the First National trophy in the process, and when that was done completed the cop tutorial. Once both tutorials are played the game then makes you pick the side you want to play on for your first go round through the game, and so I chose the cops! Chapter 1 was called “First Patrol” and the missions I completed there include: “Patrol: It Starts Here” & “Patrol: Cast the Net”. Chapter 2 was called “Gloves Come Off” and I chose to play through the following missions: “Enforcer: Into Turmoil”, “Undercover: Go Head to Head” (earning the Cop Rank 5 trophy) & “Patrol: Keep the Public Safe”. Chapter 3 was dubbed “Excessive Force”, and it sounded like fun!! The missions that I chose there included: “Enforcer: What Really Happened”, “Patrol: Hunt Them Down” (earning the 5 Buster trophy) & “Enforcer: Drive Amongst Them”. Chapter 4 was a shorter one, called “VRT Called In”, featuring this lone level: “Patrol: The Sidelines” (earning the Cop Rank 10 trophy). Same for Chapter 5, dubbed “Go Rogue”, which held this single level: “Undercover: Our Revenge” (earning the Upgrade Master trophy). Chapter 6 was titled “Shot at the Big Leagues” and held a bit more action, as follows: “Undercover: What They Fear Most”, “Patrol: No Use in Running” & “Undercover: Ready To Roll”. Chapter 7 was called “Promoted” and there I busted through the following missions: “Undercover: How VRT Do Things” (earning the Bust 50 trophy), “Patrol: Last Step to VRT”, “Enforcer: Masked in Darkness”, “Enforcer: Nowhere to Hide” & “Enforcer: We Are Amongst Them”.

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19) I bet you didn’t see this one coming, but Jimmer and I soon got to work on . . . dun, dun, duuuuuuunnnn . . . Mega Man 7!! In this game we learn that Dr. Wily has programmed four robots to come searching for him if they hadn’t been contacted by him in 6 months. They search him out and free him from prison, which Mega Man was so happy to put him in at the end of the last game. Of course he immediately goes back to his old ways of attempted world domination . . . oh, that Wily! Mega Man of course jumps in to the fray and sets out to defeat these evil robot masters, the difference in this game being that there are only four masters available to combat at the game’s outset. Here is how that initial journey unfurled: defeated Burst Man (gaining the Danger Wrap weapon), defeated Cloud Man (gaining the Thunder Bolt weapon), defeated Junk Man (gaining the Junk Shield weapon) & defeated Freeze Man (gaining the Freeze Cracker weapon). There was a brief one off level that came next where Mega Man had to head to a nearby museum Dr. Wily was ransacking, the only battle was a boss fight against a really big and round robot that reminded me of a clown or court jester. Upon it’s defeat the next four robot masters became available for play, and here is how that went: defeated Slash Man (gaining the Slash Claw weapon), defeated Spring Man (gaining the Wild Coil weapon), defeated Shade Man (gaining the Noise Crush weapon) & defeated Turbo Man (gaining the Scorch Wheel weapon). It was then time for the march on Dr. Wily’s castle!! Here is how that went: Stage 1 (defeated an old boss from the original Mega Man, Gutsman, whom Wily had greatly modified), Stage 2 (defeated a giant turtle bot), Stage 3 (defeated a hovering skull machine armed with a laser, bombs and missiles) & Stage 4 (defeated Wily in a skull themed stomping machine, and then of course afterwards in his disappearing flying pod contraption). That pod fight was arguably the hardest Mega Man boss fight across the whole series, what a beast!! But we did it, laying waste to another one of Wily’s castles and setting us up for a journey in to Mega Man 8 . . .

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20) With not having an adventure game currently going on the PS3 Jimmer and I decided to start up on LittleBigPlanet 2, continuing the adventures of the lovable Sackboy! In this game a device called the Negativitron is attacking LittleBigPlanet and threatening to suck everything up. Sackboy is saved from destruction by a being known as Larry Da Vinci, who secretly leads an organization dedicated to combating this Negativitron. Sackboy then joins their ranks and takes up arms in this battle, and that is where the game begins. The first area of the game we played in was called “Da Vinci’s Hideout”, and we finished off all of the levels as follows: Rookie Test (scored 5,720 points and collected 100% of the items), Grab and Swing (scored 24,729 points and collected 93% of the items), Hedge Hopping (scored 8,327 points and collected 66% of the items), Gripple Grapple (scored 6,925 points and collected 95% of the items), Tower of Whoop (scored 74,368 points and collected 78% of the items), Bravery Test (scored 4,954 points and collected 75% of the items), Block Drop (scored 2,380 points), Super Block Drop (scored 2,190 points) & Final Test (scored 426 points). The second area of the game we then moved on to was “Victoria’s Laboratory”, and we completed all levels there as so: Runaway Train (scored 2,829 points and collected 91% of the items), Brainy Cakes (scored 7,023 points and collected 84% of the items), The Cakeinator (scored 3,214 points and collected 78% of the items), Rodent Derby (scored 4,650 points), Attack of the Mutant Marshmallows (scored 2,209 points and collected 66% of the items), Currant Affairs (scored 9,774 points and collected 80% of the items), Death by Shockolate (scored 35,193 points and collected 89% of the items) & Kling Klong (scored 1,648 points). The game’s third area is called “The Factory of a Better Tomorrow” and we are currently in the midst of it. So far these are the levels we’ve trampled: Maximum Security (scored 5,941 points and collected 79% of the items), Basketball (scored 700 points) & Pipe Dreams (scored 2,032 points and collected 30% of the items). The trophies we managed to earn along the way included Scoreboard 50%, Scoreboard 25%, Multiplier 5X, Multiplier 10X, Complete Da Vinci’s Hideout & Complete Victoria’s Lab.

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21) A trip to Game Cycle at the beginning of the summer inspired a couple of surprise handheld purchases, the first of these I started to play was Kim Possible 3: Team Possible. The Kim Possible cartoon was a guilty pleasure for me a number of years ago, and this game looked good, from the back of the box anyways! The story behind it is that upon returning home from a family vacation, Kim’s Nana realizes that the family photo album has been stolen, with evidence of a bunch of monkey fur at the scene of the crime. So it’s up to Kim and her sidekick Ron, along with Ron’s pet mole rat Rufus, to get to the bottom of this heinous act. I began play by exploring the Global Justice HQ and participating in all of the training exercises that were available to me from the get go. These exercises included the Race Tutorial, Acrobatics 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as Combat 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. It was then time to get to the meat and potatoes of the game, embarking on the game’s main story mode. The levels I managed to complete in the process of beating the game, include: “Episode 1: Monkey Business”, “Episode 2: Senor Mansion” & “Episode 3: Disco Station 9”. Afterwards there were some additional things to do from the game’s main hub. First off there were a number of races to complete and I beat them all, including Jungle Race 1, 2 & 3, Island Race 1, 2 & 3 and Space Race 1, 2 & 3. Lastly I went back to the game’s tutorial missions and accessed and completed the ones that were blocked when the game first began, which included Acrobatics 5, 6, 7 & 8, Combat 6, 7 & 8, and Gadgets 1 through 8. Overall this game is very fun, looks great and controls great. As usual for a GameBoy Advance title the only knock I have on it is that it’s too short.

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22) My repeated trips to Game Cycle also inspired me to explore the Ratchet & Clank series more fully and so I recently began playing the game that kicked it all off, the original Ratchet & Clank game for PS2! The story of this initial title revolves around a Lombax named Ratchet, who lives on the planet Veldin and is in the process of fixing up a starship so he can one day see what the rest of the galaxy has to offer. Meanwhile, on another planet named Quartu in a robot manufacturing facility the assembly line suddenly spits out a dud, a robot that is way undersized. Before it can be corralled and disposed of though, this robot commandeers a spacecraft and escapes the planet, only to be pursued and shot down over Veldin. Ratchet notices this event and sets out to investigate what happened, and that is where play on the game begins. After rescuing this robot, whom Ratchet dubs Clank, the tiny bot offers him a proposal. If Clank can help complete Ratchet’s ship, would Ratchet deliver him to a planet he really needs to get to? Ratchet accepts and Clank fills him in on a most dire situation. A Blarg known as Chairman Drek has a weapon he plans on using which consumes other planets and reforms them in to a planet of his own (somewhat like Unicron from Transformers). The Blarg’s homeworld is dying and the unscrupulous Drek doesn’t care whom he harms or kills in the process of trying to save his own bacon. After hitting the space lanes Ratchet and Clank eventually crash land on the planet Novalis, with Ratchet now stuck there with Clank since his ship was damaged in said crash. So we began our explorations of Novalis, both the outdoor natural areas as well as many different buildings. Along the way I purchased a Pyrocitor weapon before stumbling upon a plumber, who went on to talk to us about the dangerous state of the planet and the evacuations that were going on because of it. He offered to sell us his Infobot, which then played us some worrying footage from the planet Aridia, which we then also gained the coordinates for . . . we just needed a new ship to get us there! Continuing onwards, taking out various amounts of evil robots along the way, we eventually reached an outcropping where a ship touched down. Inside was an elderly gentleman who came rushing out, afraid we were mercenaries there to harm him and pillage his planet (he was the chairman of Novalis apparently). He then gave us his Infobot, which played us some footage regarding the planet Kerwan, and also gave us it’s coordinates of course. The chairman then offered up use of one of their courier ships for us to depart in, so we climbed aboard and set course for Kerwan!

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23) On my 3DS I began the last of the three Mega Man downloads I made a while back, this one being Mega Man Xtreme 2, which was originally released on the GameBoy Color. In this follow up to Mega Man Xtreme a sickness called “Erasure” has been spreading, causing many Reploids to lose their programming and become dormant shells of their former selves. Then, on Laguz Island in the Southern Ocean, an event takes place at the Reploid Research Laboratory. Said event causes many more Reploids to be erased, and so Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero decide this island facility needs to be investigated. I chose to play the “X Mission” first, and the opening level of the game was just a short intro that sees our heroes land on the island and battle through a bit of resistance before fighting a strange boss bot. Afterwards a fiend named Gareth claims to be the mastermind behind this latest plot, and told us that if we can battle through the eight robot guardians he had scattered across the island then he might consider engaging us in battle. So with X I then plowed through the four bosses he was responsible for defeating, as such: defeated Neon Tiger (gaining the Ray Claw weapon), defeated Launch Octopus (gaining the M. Tornado weapon), defeated Flame Mammoth (gaining the Fire Wave weapon) & defeated Volt Catfish (gaining the Tri-Thunder weapon). Afterwards X and Zero became interchangeable as playable characters and a new level presented itself that ended in a boss fight against some purple coloured wolf bot. Ain’t no thang!!

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24) With Kim Possible in the books I then decided to start on the other GBA title I had picked up, one I was not familiar with at all, called Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension. Apparently it is based on a TV show from the early 2000’s, but this was the first I’d heard of it. Anyways, the story revolves around a young boy named Nick. He is flying a spacecraft of some type along with the rest of his crew when they crash land on some strange planet. One by one his friends are picked off by these large, flying bug creatures until Nick is left on his own to search them out and rescue them. And that is where the adventure begins. I assume there is more of a backstory to this franchise, but that is really the gist of what the game gives you at the outset. So far I’ve completed the following levels: Arbo Level 1 (collected 64% of the Qorium with a completion time of 5 minutes and 14 seconds), Arbo Level 2 (collected 55% of the Qorium with a completion time of 7 minutes and 49 seconds), Arbo Level 3 (collected 100% of the Qorium with a completion time of 1 minute and 56 seconds), Arbo Level 4 (collected 98% of the Qorium with a completion time of 25 minutes and 19 seconds) & Arbo Level 5 (rescued Euripides with a completion time of 18 minutes and 58 seconds). Cool game in concept, but the execution and controls leave a lot to be desired unfortunately.

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25) I noticed that Jimmer and I didn’t have a Lego game going after Ninjago was completed, so we decided to start up Lego: The Incredibles! It says it covers both movies in the description, but when the game starts up it sets up right at the beginning of the second film. Anyways, so far we’ve managed to complete the following levels: “Under Mined” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [one for the level completion and one for the status achievement], found 4/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet & Dash characters, and earned the Better Than The BBQ!, The Best & Out in Public Again trophies), “Hover Train Hijinx” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 3/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Elastigirl [Devtech] & Helectrix characters, and earned the Trouble on the Tracks trophy), “Revelations” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 0/10 Minikt canisters, unlocked the Jack-Jack Parr [Diaper] character, and earned the Helicopter Havoc trophy), “Elastigirl on the Case” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 4/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Reflux character, and earned the A Slice of the Action trophy), “House Parr-ty” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 0/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Voyd character, and earned the Parr-ty House trophy), “Screenslaver Showdown” (earned 1 Gold Brick [completion], found 1/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Jack-Jack & Brick [Minifigure] characters, and earned the A Momentous Occasion trophy), “The Golden Years” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 6/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Mr. Incredible [Golden Age], Elastigirl [Golden Age] & Buddy Pine characters, and earned the A Previous Engagement trophy), & “Vigilant Vigilantes” (achieved True Super status, earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status], found 2/10 Minikit canisters, unlocked the Bob Parr [Vigilante] & Lucius Best [Vigilante] characters, and earned the I Wanted to go Bowling! trophy). In the game’s hubs between levels we also managed a fair bit of action. We found 9 Incredibricks, found/earned 9 Gold Bricks, found 1 Red Brick (Swing Mode extra), unlocked the Frozone, Brainfreezer Monster Goon, Dory, Tony Rydinger & Tommy characters, and earned the Doing Our Part!, Making the World a Better Place & A Natural Advantage trophies. Fun game, a little more back towards the original style of Lego games, which I like. Less of a hot mess!!

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“Free Game(s) of the Month” – Zone of the Enders: HD Collection continued, some slow progress before I decided to quit playing it. It just wasn’t engaging me enough to warrant me continuing to play it. Maybe I’ll come back to it eventually, but for now it’s a no go. Instead we began play on one of the more recent PS Plus free game downloads which ended up being a real beauty, and an unexpected one at that . . . we’ve even managed to get mrs. darthcobain17 playing it a bit! This little gem is called Overcooked! The premise behind it is that the Onion Kingdom is in big trouble, for there is a ravenous monster on the loose set to devour anything and everything in it’s path. Taking on the role of a chef, players are then tasked with preparing and serving this beast meals in order to satisfy it’s hunger. When it doesn’t pan out though your mentor, a kindly old onion, warps you back in time to hone your cooking skills, so you can eventually return and finish the job. As you make your way through the Onion Kingdom you are responsible for following the given recipes and serving up different types of food to the masses, in order to perfect your culinary exploits. It sounds so stupid but it is so bloody fun!! It didn’t take us long to rip through the game, and the trophies we earned along the way include Lettuce Begin, Overcooked, The Pieces I Ate (sorry), Best Served Cold, Meals on Wheels, Kitchen Nightmares, Out of this world, Chef Flambe, Hero of Thyme & Does not play well with others. Such a cool and simple idea for a game, this one was so much fun!

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Another free game Jimmer and I started out on was one of July’s free games, which I just couldn’t resist upon first seeing it, called Horizon Chase Turbo! It’s a new game with a retro vibe, a bit of a mashup between the old Top Gear and Cruisin’ U.S.A. types of racing games. In fact, I think parts of the soundtrack are taken right from the Top Gear game! Anyways, it’s amazing. So simple, so fun, and quite challenging at times. The trophies we’ve earned throughout our initial rounds of play include The First of Many, I Need a Bigger Garage, Pump my Ride, Ghostbuster, Call Roadside Assistance, Comeback, That Was Close, Marathonist & Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

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“NNGRR” - Early in the work week that followed that initial weekend after my last post I finished watching season one of a certain Disney cartoon from back when I was a kid. I never really watched it much back then but thought I’d give it a go now, and it is friggin’ unbelievable! The series in question is Gargoyles. The first season begins with a number of sequences from back in the past, the year 994 to be exact. In Scotland a castle is under siege by Vikings when suddenly, after the sun goes down, a number of beastly statues dubbed Gargoyles come to life and help repel these invaders from the castle, which serves as their home. However, most humans don’t trust the Gargoyles and their monster-ish nature, and they are betrayed by the very citizens they helped protect during this attack. Many of the Gargoyles are straight up smashed and destroyed, while a small handful of them are cursed by a wizard to remain in their statue form until the castle rises above the clouds. Fast forward 1000 years, to 1994, and a billionaire named Xanatos has finally finished purchasing this old castle and reconstructing it on top of his skyscraper in New York City . . . in effect raising said castle “above the clouds”. As the sun sets afterwards the remaining Gargoyles finally burst from their long term imprisonment, setting their gaze upon a world that has changed in a vast many ways. Their leader is Goliath, while the rest of the clan includes Hudson, Lexington, Brooklyn, Broadway and Bronx. At first Xanatos seems like he’s OK, that he’s only interested in helping Goliath and his charges, but soon enough his greedy nature is revealed and the Gargoyles realize he cannot be trusted. So on top of having to adjust to life in a time so very different from what they were used to, they now have a powerful enemy haunting their every move. Fortunately Goliath and his crew meet and soon make friends with a New York City cop named Elisa, who looks out for them, offering them as much guidance and protection as she possibly can. But against such an influential, wealthy and devious opponent, one cop and six Gargoyles may be bit in over their heads. This show is bloody unbelievable! I remember it played in the block back in the day that included Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales, Darkwing Duck, etc. and I never really got in to it like I did the others. I think because the other ones are so comical and lighthearted whereas this one is more dark and serious, it’s almost filmed like a serious action drama, but as a cartoon, and back in the day as a kid I maybe wasn’t as in to something like that as I am now. But now I’m in to it, very much so, and I love it! There is one sequence early in the first season where Elisa is being pursued by Xanatos and his goons, and she leads them on a merry chase around New York that requires lots of running and hiding, and not a word is said for many minutes as the chase unfolds. It was so intense and different from any other cartoon sequence I’ve ever seen. So cool! Now if only I can find some cheaper season 2 DVD sets . . . fingers crossed!

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Over the weekend that saw my drunken pool party antics unfold I also finished reading the book I had on the go at the time. It is the third volume in The Keepers series by Ted Sanders, called The Portal and the Veil. As the events of this story kick off many of the Wardens/Keepers are out of the Warren on various bits of business, recovering from their last dangerous mission. And that is when Chloe’s mother Isabel, who is kind of a psycho, strikes. The young boy named Joshua that was tagging along with her for so long is now in the Warren, under the care of Mr. Meister and Mrs. Hapsteade, but little do they realize Isabel planted a ring on him that would lead her right to their location. She shows up one day and locates a Tan’ji known as the Laithe of Teneves, gifting it to Joshua as she knows in her heart that he is it’s rightful master. The Laithe of Teneves allows it’s owner to open portals anywhere across the Earth, and so she then convinces Joshua to open a portal out of the Warren, where she smuggles out both Joshua and Brian (along with his own Tan’ji Tunraden, with it he is able to create and mend Tan’ji instruments). She manages to convince Brian to try and mend her harp Miradel, and make it her very own Tan’ji. However, things go awry soon afterwards as the evil leader of the Riven, Dr. Jericho, can feel the Laithe’s location when a portal is opened, and so he steers his forces to the area Joshua brings them to. Said area is that of April’s old homestead, where her and her Keeper friends had already waged a battle against the Riven once before. When Mr. Meister and the Keepers get back to the Warren and find out from Mrs. Hapsteade what happened (for she suffered Isabel’s wrath during her escape attempt), Mr. Meister informs Horace that they have to enlist his own mother in the fight. Jessica was a talented tuner in her own right many years ago, and soon working alongside her son and his own Tan’ji, the Fel’Daera, they are able to ascertain where their missing threesome ended up. A rescue mission is then planned with Mr. Meister, Horace, Chloe, Isabel, April, Gabriel and Neptune all taking part. Descending on April’s old homestead they find a horde of Riven, along with a Golem, descending on the scene. During the fracas Mr. Meister manages to escape through a portal with Joshua, Isabel and Neptune, while Horace and Chloe unwittingly come face to face with an Altari, who whisks them away to his clan’s own Warren. That leaves Gabriel, April and Isabel stranded in the farmhouse while their enemies contemplate their demise just outside the house’s walls. Back in the Warren Joshua feels guilty about his role in this disaster, and so with Neptune’s advice opens a portal on the roof of the house and whisks his friends back to safety. The only problem is that both Dr. Jericho and an Auditor caught a glimpse of the Warren through Joshua’s portal, which helps them finally sniff out it’s secret location. Not long after all of our heroes reconnect at home base Dr. Jericho and his Riven come knocking. Can Mr. Meister lead a successful retreat and keep his charges safe in the process? And what of Horace and Chloe? What do all of the secrets they are learning from the Altari mean for the future of their struggle against the Riven? This book was a fast paced adventure, probably the most action packed entry yet. And despite that there was still lots of character development going on along the way, and for as many answers that were given to our heroes and their countless inquiries, that many more questions popped up in their place! I can’t wait to see how this whole thing wraps up in book four.

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The movie we watched over the Father’s Day weekend was none other than the original John Wick! I had kept hearing about this series over the last few years and I love Keanu, but for some reason had just never gotten around to watching it. Consider that problem solved! In this initial film in the series we are introduced to the movie’s titular character, who is having a rough time as he just recently lost his beloved wife Helen to disease. All he has left in his life is his tricked out 1969 Ford Mustang, and also soon a new addition from beyond the grave. For upon her death Helen had a puppy sent to John to make sure he had someone left in his life that he could love. When out joyriding with his new dog (Daisy), John stops to fuel up his ride when a young thug notices his car and asks John how much it would cost to take if off his hands. John says the car is not for sale and leaves, but the young hooligan doesn’t take too kindly to this rebuff. Later on that day, in the middle of the night, the thug and his friends raid John’s house and give him a beating, kill Daisy, and make off with his car. Upon reaching the chop shop though this young hooligan, Iosef, is confused when the shop’s ringleader wants nothing to do with the vehicle. After a bit of a kerfuffle Iosef and his goons depart, and John Wick shows up not long afterwards asking about his car. For what Iosef doesn’t realize is that John Wick is deadly. He is a former assassin who worked with Iosef’s own father Viggo, who is the head of a Russian crime syndicate in New York City. Viggo explains to his son that Wick was known not as the Baba Yaga (the Boogeyman), but the person you hire to kill the Boogeyman. And John Wick does indeed intend on doing some killing, that’s for sure! Upon meeting Helen and settling down he left his former violent lifestyle behind, but with Iosef’s foolish actions that situation has changed. And Viggo knows it too. He reaches out to John to try and smooth things over, but is greeted with silence. And that is when Wick’s killing spree begins, for John tears through Viggo’s ranks as he tries to get at Iosef. Other players enter the field of play along the way, most of them enemies, a few of them allies, but nothing deters Wick from pursuing his ultimate revenge kill. Against such highly stacked odds though can he pull it off, or will his massacre fall short of his main target? This movie was pretty amazing, and pretty bloody intense. It was one of those moody action films, very dark, with sequences of slow plot development interspersed with extended scenes of full on violent fights for survival. And it’s Keanu pulling off all of the violence, which just makes it even better! I’m not sure why it took me so long to check this one out, but I’m now very much looking forward to taking in the second installment in the series.

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Over the Father’s Day weekend Jimmer and I also finished watching the ninth season of The Simpsons on DVD! This collection is a four disc set that includes all 25 episodes from the ninth season, which holds more hilarity from everybody’s favourite animated family. Across this season we witness Homer unwillingly return to New York City, Principal Skinner reveal his true identify as Armin Tamzarian, Bart destroy Lisa’s beloved saxophone, the annual Halloween episode of course, Homer buy a handgun for family protection, Homer take over from Flanders to coach Bart’s football team, Apu lament his arranged marriage, the discovery of Angel bones at a construction site, Marge become a realtor, Bart ruin Christmas by causing a fire, a musical themed episode, Bart and Homer become carnies, all of Springfield joining a fake cult, Bart and Lisa and their schoolmates become stranded on a deserted island, Bart attempt to help Krusty the Clown climb back to relevance, Homer commit car theft fraud for Moe to help him out financially, Lisa question her future as a Simpson, Bart and Ralph forced in to a friendship by Marge, Homer join the navy, Homer get busted by the IRS, Bart and Lisa organize a TV news program at school, Homer take on the job as Springfield’s sanitation commissioner, Homer get ripped and attempt to climb a super dangerous mountain, Lisa get lost on her way to a museum exhibit, and Homer and Marge rekindle their romance with displays of public indecency. And of course there are many side plots and gags that abound along the way. I’m not sure when most people consider the series to start it’s decline, but this season was still gold, Jerry, gold! I find it so amazing that they’ve done well over 600 episodes of this show up to this point, it’s astounding. Now onwards to season ten!!

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Early in the work week that followed I finished another book, the second title from Ernest Cline (author of Ready Player One), called Armada. The main character of this story that starts out in rural Oregon is a teenager named Zach Lightman. He lives with his mom and is in the last year of high school, very close to graduating and being released in to the big wide world. His father Xavier was killed in a work accident back when Zack was just a baby, but just like his father Zack has a penchant for pop culture and video games, a lot of it inspired from the belongings Xavier left behind that Zack has since adopted as his own. He’s always longed for a great, otherworldly adventure, as opposed to the commonplace hum drum of the real world. One afternoon though Zack believes he may have inherited some of his father’s delusions, for Xavier had notebooks full of alien cover up conspiracy theories all linked back to the gaming industry, not to mention movies and TV shows. For whilst sitting in class one afternoon Zack sees an alien spacecraft from the video game he’s been playing heavily, Armada, drop out of the atmosphere and flit about the sky outside his school . . . and so he thinks he might be going nutters too! At the end of the day he races away from school and heads to his after school job at Starbase Ace, a used video game store run by a kindly man named Ray, whom Zach gets along with famously. Putting the starship incident out of his mind Zack finishes work and then goes home to see his mom and then play a live mission on Armada before calling it a day. However, when the next day arrives things get even weirder . . . an Earth Defense Alliance ship shows up at his school and whisks him away, and his boss Ray in in on it! Ray informs Zack that the alien invaders from Europa in the Armada storyline isn’t just fiction, it’s reality. Back in the 1970’s this race was discovered on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and over the course of dealing with these aliens’ robotic drones in various skirmishes over the years, humanity was able to reverse engineer their technology in preparation for an eventual invasion. And the time for this invasion has finally arrived! The Armada video game is not just a game, it’s actually a training program that for years was preparing regular civilians to eventually be competent enough to fight in the coming war, and Zack is one of the top Armada players in the world. Furthermore, Zack is shocked to find out that his father is not deceased, that he actually joined the EDA all those years ago to combat this eventual threat and was of course sworn to secrecy, having to give up his old life for the sack of safety/secrecy. So Zack’s life is suddenly turned upside down in a few ways. An alien invasion, a father back from the dead . . . a girl named Lex that he meets and has the hots for. With so much to live for now that his father is back and a potential girlfriend in the works, Zack and his friends, family, not to mention millions of strangers from across the globe, must unite to protect their home planet from the encroaching Europans. Against overwhelming numbers do these every day humans stand a chance, or is Earth doomed long before climate change or some other disaster lays the planet to waste? This book was amazing, a total page turner, so far up my alley it hurts. Reading the back cover upon picking it up the summary went on about a teenager who loves video games and is longing for an otherworldly adventure to get caught up in, to break up the monotony of boring, everyday life . . . and it resonated with me because that’s the way I have always been, even in to my 40’s! Just as with Ready Player One all of the references Cline makes to past games, movies, TV shows, comic book characters, musical acts, etc., it’s so much fun to be reminded of the old days, and even pick up on a reference or two that I was not aware of. I do hope you’re working on your third book as we speak, Mr. Ernest Cline!

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Early in the week that followed the weekend that saw summer finally arrive, both literally and figuratively, I completed another book I had on the go. It is the second book in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girls series, called 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious. This story picks up not long after the events of the first book, when Doreen Green, age 14, also known as Squirrel Girl, took down an aspiring young villain dubbed the Micro-Manager in her new home town of Shady Oaks. Helping her during that adventure was her best friend, Ana Sofia, Tippy Toe and her legion of squirrels, not to mention Doreen’s band of followers, the Squirrel Scouts. Things have been mostly quiet around Shady Oaks since that first adventure, just minor crime solving here and there, but suddenly the situation heats up. A new shopping center called the Chester Yard Mall is being developed to spring up smack dab between the town of Shady Oaks and Listless Pines . . . towns that just so happen to have much contempt for each other! The mall is having a vote to decide what the mall’s mascot should be, a cat or a dog, and they have assigned team cat to Shady Oaks while Listless Pines is representing team dog. Whichever town can stir up the most votes for their mascot animal and win the competition will receive a free pizza party at the mall on opening day! At the rally where the competition is announced the leader of the mall’s marketing team, Bryan Lazardo, hands out cat and dog t-shirts to a number of people in attendance and not long afterwards some hostilities between the two towns erupt. This Bryan fellow seems really suspicious to the girls. In the following days, both dog/cat/human hybrid creatures are spotted in each of the towns and set forth in causing much mayhem that Squirrel Girl has to snuff out. Even worse, Squirrel Girl’s new teacher seems to hate her! Things are escalating quickly but the girls still have no idea what exactly is going on. While Doreen texts with the Avengers and talks to them about the situation, Tippy Toe and her squirrel army investigate the mall premises and find a locked hatch leading to the mall’s basement, which is very suspicious. It is Ana Sofia who cracks the code though, as after doing a bunch of research online and piecing some clues together she comes to the conclusion that the mall is actually a front being operated by H.Y.D.R.A.!! But why? And why here? What is their ultimate reason for getting the two towns riled up against each other? When none of the Avengers are able to respond to Squirrel Girl’s request for assistance (as they are all up in space fighting Thanos), Squirrel Girl, along with both her human and squirrel friends, must rise to the occasion and figure it out. This was a really fun book, just like the first one. Fast paced, light hearted, and full of comical action. As the series evolves and Doreen gets more friendly with the Avengers one of the most entertaining aspects of the story is her text streams with said Avengers. All of their personalities shine through in a hilarious, slightly over exaggerated way, and it works! I’m not sure if there are more books planned for this series, but I’m sure if there are they will be as equally entertaining.

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Over my week off with Jimmer I/we got up to a bunch of stuff, starting off with a couple of book completions . . . nothing like reading poolside on a hot summer’s day, baby! The first of these books was called The Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World. As this story kicks off we are witness to the Avengers being split up across the globe, reacting to various emergencies around the world. In Berlin Captain America tracks down Baron Von Strucker and foils a H.Y.D.R.A. plot to release a deadly pathogen that will wipe out a huge chunk of humanity. In D.C. Iron Man confronts Ultron, who is using nanotech technology to try and achieve singularity, and in so doing take control of the world. Bruce Banner is on the island of Madripoor, where he tries to foil a plot by the High Evolutionary to release a gamma bomb on the world that will kill off a great many of it’s inhabitants. Thor and Scarlett Witch head to Siberia where a section of the country is warped to another dimension by the demon Dormammu, who has a plan in place to bend the Earth to his evil will. And lastly Black Widow and Hawkeye crash land in the Savage Land, where they discover an A.I.M. base that is developing mind control nanotech, which will allow M.O.D.O.K. to command the citizens of Earth to do whatever he wants them to, no questions asked. When all of these high risk catastrophes are averted the similarity between them all is that each of these opponents was going through with their respective plan to apparently try and save the world, as they claim there is a much larger threat looming that will leave the Earth and it’s occupants in even more dire straits. Is this true, or as usual are the bad guys lying to try and deflect blame? And just how will the Avengers figure this situation out coordinate a counter attack with global communications down and out? You’ll have to read it to find out! This was a good book, very fast paced with lots of action, lots of different environments involved, and of course many different enemies in the mix for the Avengers to beat the tar out of. It’s a pretty hard hitting, action filled romp, another good add to the growing library of the Marvel expanded universe!

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The second book I finished reading that week was a prequel to The Predator movie that was released in theatres last summer, called Hunters and Hunted. This story follows the ongoing establishment of a top secret government organization called Project Stargazer. It is led by an army veteran named Roger Elliott, or Pappy as he is known in closer circles, who encountered one of the Predator aliens back during the Vietnam war. Although the entirety of his squad was wiped out, Elliott managed to fight the beast off and survive the encounter although he has seen the beast in his nightmares every day since, and has turned to the bottle to help mitigate this anxiety. Project Stargazer’s aim is to bring one of these aliens in, preferably alive, so that it and it’s technology can be studied and hopefully reverse engineered. The implications such alien tech would hold for not only military applications, but also medical purposes and more could potentially be off the charts for the future of humanity. However, although there have been rumoured incursions of these aliens hunting Earth’s inhabitants going back hundreds of years, there hasn’t been a reported appearance in quite some time. Because of this the future of the project is in jeopardy. That is when one of the slick higher ups involved in the project, one Will Traeger, comes up with a plan to secure privatized funding for the project so as not to have to rely on the government and the potential cutbacks they are proposing in the future. While Traeger goes on his funding mission Pappy continues to train his specialized military team, known as The Reapers, the men who will be tasked with taking the alien hunter down should one eventually show up. These aliens have been known to arrive up when extremely hot conditions develop, and it just so happens that a brutal heat wave is blasting through the portion of Florida where Pappy and the Reapers are based, so guess what . . . soon enough one of these hunters arrives and starts offing people in their unique fashion! The Reapers are mobilized and engage the beast, but because they are forced to take it alive and not destroy it outright, they lose half of their men in the fight, four out of the eight Reapers end up in the grave at this alien’s hands. Making matters worse, once the alien is bound and brought back to base to be tested and studied, it soon afterwards engineers it’s escape, meaning the Reapers disastrous mission was all for naught! This time it’s personal as the remaining members of The Reapers head out with nothing in mind but to kill this monster. Can they do it with just half their original number? And as for Traeger, with concrete evidence in hand of this alien’s existence, not to mention a few prizes they were able to take from it during it’s brief captivity, will the future of Project Stargazer ever be in question again? This was a good read as well, very fast paced and straightforward, a good lead in to the start of The Predator movie. Particularly concerning the development of one of the films alter villains, Will Traeger. Oh how I do love the Predator franchise!!

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We also watched a few movies over the course of the week, the first one being an SNL alum masterpiece from the early 2000’s called The Benchwarmers! The main character in this story (played by Rob Schneider) is Gus Matthews, a landscaper somewhere in small town America. One day while out doing his rounds he notices a kid getting bullied on a baseball diamond by a team of young baseball players, and he goes to intervene. In so doing a challenge is issued, Gus and a couple of his friends will take on this entire little league team with the right to playing on this diamond on the line. Gus enlists the aid of his two nerd friends, brothers Richie and Clark, to fill out the rest of his three man team. For being a nerd himself Gus is surprisingly good at baseball, and despite Richie and Clark’s complete inability to play the game Gus’ team soundly beats the little league squad despite. Later on after the game while having dinner at a pizza joint, Gus and his friends are confronted twice. First they are told off by the coach of the team they beat, a douche they have always hated named Jerry. He warns them away from ever pulling such a stunt again. Leaving the restaurant the threesome are then confronted by Nelson, the young kid Gus helped out the other day during the bullying incident, and are profoundly thanked. His father Mel is with him, and it turns out that he’s a millionaire who loves how these three friends stood up to the jocks! He then offers them a proposition. He wants to build a real, authentic ballpark in their hometown and have Gus’ team compete against all of the little league teams in the region in a tournament for the rights to said field. Gus, Richie and Clark are totally on board, and thus the team dubbed The Benchwarmers is born! Mel is hoping this tournament will be a middle finger to the jocks and bullies, while in the process maybe also helping to inspire all of the nerds, losers and other such rabble out there who have always longed to play baseball to rise up and gain the courage to do so, no matter their skill level. The tournament starts off well for this team of misfits, but as it goes on the and stakes get higher and higher with each win, their opposition turns to cheating, Gus injures his hand, and his mysterious past threatens to catch up with him and blow the lid off of this ever developing underdog story. This movie was hilarious, full of goofy and slapstick kind of comedy, with a feel good vibe that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. And with the four main characters being portrayed by the aforementioned Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder and Jon Lovitz, you know it be funny! Can’t believe it took me so long to finally see this . . .

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The second movie we watched was one I’ve wanted to see for a long time now as I’ve always been a fan of Rowan Atkinson and his Mr. Bean character, the movie in question being Johnny English! This film is a comedic spoof on the James Bond style of films, starring Atkinson as the lead character Johnny English. Johnny is an agent for MI7, the top secret British intelligence agency, although he is somewhat inept and does nothing much more than office work. When the firm’s top agent comes to the office for a briefing on his next mission, Johnny hands him over his packet promising that he thoroughly vetted the intel, especially the codes for accessing a submarine that will be vital to the mission’s success. Not much later we learn that agent one unfortunately died during this mission . . . because he couldn’t access the submarine! At agent one’s funeral more ineptitude by English results in all of the other amassed agents (excluding himself) being blown up by their enemies in a disastrous explosion. This leaves MI7 with no choice but to let Johnny take to the field and complete the mission that is currently at the top of their radar . . . concerning the monarchy’s crown jewels. The jewels were recently restored by a French millionaire named Pascal Sauvage, and as they are soon set to go on display there is fear that somebody may try to swipe this invaluable treasure. At a ceremony revealing the restored jewels, presided over by Sauvage himself, the lights soon go out and when they come back on . . . the jewels are gone. Johnny’s investigations afterwards continue to show just how inept he is, but the one nugget he does get right is his gut instinct, and his gut tells him that Sauvage is in on it. His boss at MI7, Pegasus, thinks this is a ludicrous presumption and tells Johnny to leave Sauvage alone, and so he has to continue with the investigation with this block in place. As Johnny and his assistant Bough continue to try and get to the bottom of this mystery a new player arrives on the scene, a beautiful and mysterious femme named Lorna, whom Johnny can’t make heads nor tails out of. How do the pieces of this mystery all fit together and who is Lorna, what is her stake in this investigation? And most of all, no matter how many questions arise does such a bumbling stooge have any hope in hell of finding the answer to even one of them!? To me this movie was pretty funny. I get that it’s not in everybody’s wheelhouse, as this style of movie and style of actor people either tend to like or not like. But I very much love this style of movie, and as I stated above I’ve always enjoyed Rowan Atkinson and the work he’s done, especially Mr. Bean. But also Rat Race and Scooby-Doo as well. And seeing Natalie Imbruglia in a feature film was a pleasant surprise I was in no way anticipating! She hot . . .

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The last movie we watched during our week at home finished off a Johnny English back to back, for we witnessed the magic of Johnny English: Reborn! In this follow up to the original Johnny English film it’s been about seven years since the events of that first movie, and five years since an event that caused Johnny to walk away from MI7 and join a Tibetan monastery. For five years ago Johnny was charged with the protection of the newly elected president of Mozambique, but he botched the job and said president was assassinated on live television! However, one day Pamela Thornton (the new Pegasus at MI7) calls Johnny back in to service . . . and after training with his monk brothers for these past years he feels as though he is ready. Arriving back at MI7 Johnny meets old acquaintances and is also introduced to his new partner, a squeamish youngster named Colin. Johnny is briefed on his mission, which is to get to the bottom of a suspected plot to assassinate the Chinese premier during some upcoming scheduled talks with the British prime minister. This job takes Johnny and Colin to Hong Kong, where their leads bring them to the doorstep of a former CIA agent named Titus Fisher, who then reveals himself as one of the three primary members of a secret group dubbed Vortex. Fisher explains to Johnny that Vortex was behind the Mozambique assassination and are in possession of a secret weapon that can only be unlocked by using three separate keys, one of which is in Titus’ possession. Before he can explain further though Titus is assassinated and a chase ensues, a chase during which Johnny unknowingly loses Titus’ key. Returning to MI7 after this escapade he is set to present his evidence to Pegasus and company, but is dejected after realizing he lost the key. Johnny then gets together with MI7’s behavioral psychologist, a hottie named Kate, who hypnotizes him and gets Johnny to delve in to his memories of the Mozambique affair, a subject he is always sore to revisit. This practice is successful and it gives them insight as to who the other members of Pegasus might be! When Johnny and Colin’s investigations continue though, they come to the conclusion that one of Vortex’s members is actually a mole within their very own MI7 headquarters. Who can it possibly be? And can Johnny figure it out in time to stop Vortex from causing any more international carnage? This flick was a very good follow up to the original as they didn’t try to change things up too much, they just kept Rowan Atkinson doing what he does best, and that is being goofy and funny! Gillian Anderson and Rosamund Pike joining the cast were great adds, and his whole Tibetan exile at the start of the movie was a priceless way to get the ball rolling. Now we need to get our hands on the third film to complete the Johnny English hat trick!

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The following week, when Jimmer was with my parents for the week, I decided to watch some stuff that he wouldn’t or shouldn’t be interested in. The first thing I took in was the Kingsman: The Golden Circle movie, the follow up to the first Kingsman movie, and boy oh boy was it a delight! It’s been about a year since the events of the first film transpired and one night as Eggsy is leaving the Kingsman tailor shop he is bushwhacked by one Charlie Hesketh, a rejected Kingsman recruit who was presumed dead in the final battle at the end of the first film. He managed to survived though, now sporting a fake robotic arm, and he and Eggsy’s ensuing battle rages through the streets of London. Eggsy eventually shakes the villain and is then free to go to dinner with his girlfriend, Tilde the Crown Prince of Sweden whom he saved during the first movie. However, Hesketh’s robotic arm comes loose during the battle and ends up on the floor of Eggsy’s car. Being remotely controlled it then hacks in to the Kingsman’s systems and gains intel on most of it’s operations. Not long afterwards missiles are launched and the majority of the remaining Kingsman are wiped out, including Eggsy’s best friend Roxy. Eggsy’s own home is destroyed as well, he is just lucky that he and Tilde were out at the time. The only survivors of the attack are Eggsy and the Kingsman’s tech guru, Merlin. Merlin enacts their doomsday scenario, which leads them to Kentucky in the American south, to a liquor company called Statesman. Infiltrating the property they eventually discover, after getting off on the wrong foot, that the Statesman are very much like the Kingsman, only American. An American super-secret intelligence agency who then lend Eggsy and Merlin all of their resources to combat this new threat. They even have Eggsy’s mentor Harry in their possession, whom they rescued after his supposed death, only he’s suffering from amnesia and doesn’t know who he really is. While all of this is going on we are also introduced to Poppy Adams, a psychotic woman who is running one of the world’s largest drug cartels from a remote jungle setting, her organization known as the Golden Circle. Poppy is the one Hesketh is working for, and she is the one responsible for offing the Kingsman. Poppy has a dastardly plan in place, by inserting a virus in her product she is basically set to hold the world hostage. For everybody who uses her product will develop a rash, followed by paralysis, followed by death, and the whole process only takes a matter of days. She reaches out to the president of the U.S.A. to fully legalize all forms of drugs so that she can make an honest living in her chosen trade, and to give her and her organization full pardons to boot. Then and only then will she release the antidote to the infected millions. The president appears to give in to her demands, but in secret he is just playing along as he sees this scheme of hers as a way to actually win the war on drugs and eliminate all drug users in the world in one fell swoop! So it is up to the combined might of the few remaining Kingsman alongside the Statesman to make this situation right, and their timeline is tight. Will they be able to pull it off in time, or will the world’s population soon be a whole lot lower? This movie was excellent, just like the first one. The actors are all so great and charismatic, and the action sequences are just so well-choreographed and insane that it’s a wonder to behold! And I just love how out there these movies are, what with how crazy Poppy was, the wicked gadgets, robotic dogs . . . Elton John joining the cast as Poppy’s prisoner. The whole thing is just a smorgasbord of wacky awesomeness!

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The other movie I watched in Jimmer’s absence was Blade Runner 2049! This long awaited follow up to the original Blade Runner movie takes place 30 years after the original and it sees a new line of Replicants, ones that obey without question, enter society although they are still thought of as second class citizens. A small percentage of these new Replicants are tasked with becoming Blade Runners themselves, agents of order that hunt down and kill the older model Replicants that have gone rogue. The company that manufactured the original Replicants, the Tyrell Corporation, went out of business after the debacle with the original line but was purchased and revamped by one Niander Wallace, now CEO of Wallace Corporation. He’s a bit of a psychopath though and has a dangerous Replicant named Luv do all of his dirty work. Anyways, one of these newer Blade Runners, agent “K”, is out on a job and takes down an older Replicant named Sapper Morton. Upon investigating the deceased Replicant’s property a buried chest is located and later exhumed. Inside the chest are the bones of an unidentified female, and the evidence points to the fact that she died during childbirth. Upon further investigating the bones though, K makes a mind-blowing discovery when he finds that a serial number is engraved on one of these bones . . . somehow this old Replicant got pregnant and gave birth!! The ramifications are huge, and K’s supervisor Lieutenant Joshi doesn’t fail to explain that to him. They are charged with keeping order between humans and Replicants, but if word got out that it is possible for Replicants to procreate . . . they’d have an uprising on their hands! Picking up the scent on this investigation K eventually learns that the female Replicant in question was named Rachael, who had romantic ties to an old human Blade Runner named, wait for it . . . Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford, muthafukka!!). K’s next task is to hunt down Deckard, who went missing many years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. When K picks up his trail that’s when things start to steamroll along. Where is the missing baby that resulted from Rick and Rachael’s coupling? Are K’s memories telling him that he is the missing baby? And just what exactly does Wallace and his Replicant goon want to come from this situation? This movie was really, really good! Very slow moving at times, but still intense, just like the first film. The Blade Runner films are very unique and set up their own crazy world in a very effective and authentic fashion, the ideas in them are pretty out there at times but so amazing. And the visual effects are top drawer of course. Not to mention we have an older Harrison Ford reprising his role from the 1982 original, Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, even a brief appearance by Dave Bautista! The females in the film were all very much unknown to me, but they were all dynamite too. I’m not sure if there is anywhere else to go with his franchise after this movie, but I’m sure they could come up with something. I’m definitely in for more!!

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The movie we watched on the Saturday night of my second softball weekend was a family film from 2010 known as The Tooth Fairy. The film stars Dwayne Johnson as Derek Thompson, a minor league hockey player in New York state who is dubbed The Tooth Fairy, for all of the teeth he’s knocked out of his opponent’s mouths as a result of his thunderous body checks of course. He is dating a woman named Carly who has two children, a young girl named Tess, and an older boy named Randy. Tess adores Derek but Randy . . . not so much! One night when Derek has some of his teammates over for a poker game and he runs out of money, he results to stealing the money lying under Tess’ pillow as she recently lost one of her teeth. After forgetting to replace the money Tess freaks out when she wakes up and notices her tooth gone with no money having taken it’s place, and Derek almost spills the beans to her that there is no Tooth Fairy. Carly saves the situation at the last second though and afterwards tells Derek to go home, that he is not the one who gets to crush her kids’ childhood fantasies. Later that night Derek has a dream that he’s been summoned to become a Tooth Fairy for two weeks for the infraction of being a dream crusher, and his sentence is to perform the job of an actual Tooth Fairy and hopefully learn an important life lesson along the way. Upon waking he continues to believe it was just a dream . . . until a pair of wings suddenly sprout from his back! He is then whisked away to the Tooth Fairy head offices where he is met by a lanky gent named Tracy, who fills him in on the details of his sentence and everything about being a Tooth Fairy. Derek is incredulous that this has happened to him and he tries to split, but that is when the head honcho, Lily, reigns him in and explains to him that he has no other option. Basically there is nothing Derek can do to get out of the situation, and if he misbehaves and remains so combative they will just add more time to his sentence and make it even longer before he can get back to his normal life. So resentfully Derek gets down to the task of fulfilling his nightly duties, but he focuses on just getting the job done with as little effort as possible, not caring about the values of being a Tooth Fairy or the well-being of the kids he is serving. While spending his nights performing this otherworldly job he’s trying to balance it all out while patching things up with Carly, reluctantly attempting to build an amicable relationship with Randy, and salvaging a fading hockey career that begins to go down the tubes when a hot shot rookie arrives on the team and reminds Derek of just how old and washed up he is. Can Derek find a way to take this remarkable opportunity for what it is and develop a more positive outlook on life? Or will it only serve to sink him further in to the mire he believes his life has become? This movie was actually pretty funny, The Rock is so funny and charismatic that he brings the potential for hilarity to almost every scene. Is this movie a cheesy family flick, of course it is. But lots of us happen to like that kind of stuff, and there’s hockey involved to boot, so it’s win win! There are a lot of big names attached to the film too, including Dwayne Johnson of course but also Julie Andrews, Ashley Judd, Stephen Merchant, Seth MacFarlane and Billy Crystal.

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The week Jimmer was at Sport Western I finished a big book I had on the go at the time, the sixth entry in The Expanse series, called Babylon’s Ashes. As this story opens up the madman Marco Inaros and his new force, the Free Navy, are scouring the space lanes as pirates in an effort to give Belters the respect he feels is long overdue. He is commandeering all of the supply ships heading through the big ring gate the protomolecule spawned, meant to supply the hundreds and thousands of worlds that are now being explored and colonized on the other side of this gate. Marco is also responsible for sending large asteroids down the gravity well towards Earth, resulting in catastrophic damage and the deaths of millions. Fighting back against the Free Navy of course is Earth, led by Chrisjen Avasarala, and Mars as well whose leadership in in a state of transition. And don’t forget the crew of the Rocinante, which is a real dog’s breakfast of human beings including the infamous James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, Amos Burton, along with Bobbie Draper and Clarissa Mao. After Marco gives up Ceres Station to the Earth/Mars faction in an attempt to stress their infrastructure and make them look bad, a plan is formulated. A plan for Holden and crew to escort Fred Johnson to a secret meeting amongst the various factions loyal to the OPA, test their loyalty, and try to come up with a plan to destroy Marco and his Free Navy and take back control of both their worlds and their lives. While this plan is being formulated some dissent rears it’s head amongst the Free Navy. Michio Pa, one of Marco’s higher ups and infamous in her own right, does not agree with the violent way Marco is going about things. And so she decides to take her crew and her ship away, sending out an invitation to the other ships of the Free Navy, amongst which a fair number agree and decide to desert with her. Although Michio has a hate on for both James Holden and Fred Johnson, she becomes somewhat of a reluctant ally with them, at least until they can finally deal with Marco once and for all. She ends up helping the Rocinante escort Johnson to his secret meeting, a trip which he unfortunately doesn’t survive once the fighting breaks out. At this secret meeting Holden has to take Fred’s place and after some deliberation a desperate plan is formed . . . to take Medina Station! Medina is the station that borders the ring gate, Marco’s main base of operations, and is outfitted with formidable rail guns that can reduce enemy ships to their component molecules in the blink of an eye. The plan is to have the Rocinante escort a large freighter loaded with small attack ships towards Medina Station while the combined forces of Earth, Mars, and Michio Pa’s rag tag group provide a distraction to Marco’s forces. Holden and friends will hopefully be able to subtly attack the station and attempt to disable the rail guns so that they can then board it and take control of said station. With the odds stacked against them so badly can this diverse group of “allies” stick to the plan and get the job done, or are the odds just way too long? This was a great story, full of drama and action, a couple of key deaths and a few surprises along the way. I can’t wait to see where things go next! I love how the series is so technically written, it really makes you think about how much of a pain in the ass navigating and living in outer space probably would be. But also awesome at the same time!

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Late last week I finished another book, this one the first in a more recent series I just discovered, called A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting! In this story 13 year old Kelly Ferguson and her best friend Tammy are social outcasts, trying desperately to fit in with the popular crowd at school. Most pressing though is that Kelly is saving up to try and attend Camp Miskatonic in the summer, while also trying to catch the eye of her school crush, Victor. Kelly becomes so desperate that she even lets her mother volunteer her for a babysitting job (Kelly despises little kids) for her mom’s boss, who they’ve dubbed “The Ice Queen”. Making matters even more despairing is that Kelly is going to miss a Halloween party because of this job . . . a Halloween party Victor is going to be attending! When Kelly shows up for duty the child she is tending, a five year old named Jacob, doesn’t exactly see eye to eye with her. He is upset that his usual babysitter, Liz, could not make it, and come bed time he is terrified to go to sleep . . . on account of nightmares. Kelly eventually gets Jacob settled down though, and soon afterwards when she’s texting Tammy (who is having a great time at the party, btw!) she hears a ruckus coming from Jacob’s room. Upon investigating the disturbance she witnesses little troll like creatures break through Jacob’s floor and kidnap him, whisking him away from the house in a burlap sack! Kelly freaks out and has no choice but to contact Liz LeRue, professional babysitter, Jacob’s usual minder. Soon after Liz shows up, a blue haired girl a couple years older than Kelly with a very combative attitude. She gets the low down on the situation from Kelly and before Kelly knows it they are on the trail of these creatures, which are actually called Toadies. Along the way Liz reveals that there is a secret order of babysitters trained and equipped to deal with nightmare monsters, which despite Kelly’s most vehement protests she must now admit are entirely real. As the chase unfolds they visit the babysitter’s headquarters where Kelly learns that three misfits from school named Berna, Curtis and Cassie are also part of this strange order. The team then sets out together to solve this kidnapping and their adventures take them to the house party Kelly so desperately wanted to attend, a creepy old cat lady’s house, and then some other more sinister locations. The team eventually discovers that the Grand Guignol, otherwise known as the Boogeyman, is back from the dead and has big plans involving baby Jacob . . . plans that will unleash a nightmare world upon the Earth! Can this small group of professional babysitters stop such a powerful nightmare creature from enacting his evil plot? Just what kind of link does this fiend hold to Liz’s past? And what is the identity of the babysitter order’s mysterious grand president? This was a great story full of action, adventure, comedy . . . and who doesn’t like a scary monster story, am I right? I can’t wait to read what the next couple volumes hold, and even more so I can’t wait to see how Netflix’s movie version of this book turns out!

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Over the last while I had a couple more albums in heavy rotation on my stereo, one of them being the ICON release from a band simply known as . . . The Band! They are an older group who evolved in to their eventual original lineup over the decade of the 60’s, and for so many years I’ve been hearing a handful of their top hits religiously on oldies stations and what not. What really impressed me about The Band all these years later though, was learning that they are actually a Canadian outfit! Their music very much reminds me of my impressions of the American south, due to some of the subject matter in the actual songs but more so because of their overall sound as they incorporate all sorts of different instruments like the fiddle, accordion, saxophone and more amongst their arrangements. The three entries on this album that I remember so well from my childhood, and I’m sure that most of you have probably heard at least one of these at some point in your lives if only by circumstance, are “Up on Cripple Creek”, “The Weight” & “Ophelia”. Amongst the songs that were new to me in this collection my favourites ended up being “Rag Mama Rag”, “The Shape I’m In” & “Acadian Driftwood”. Such a cool and different outfit these guys were!

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You probably have something of an idea regarding the other album I’ve been listening to . . . no? Megadeth’s sixth studio release from the year 1994, titled Youthanasia! This album came after their most successful album to date, Countdown to Extinction, which was released two years prior. I’ve often commented on Metallica’s change after their first four albums, when they basically dropped the thrash and went more just heavy metal. Megadeth went through a similar change, with Countdown being the start of this change in my opinion, and Youthanasia then following it up. However, although I (and most others) don’t like the change Metallica went through, this change by Megadeth was a lot less disruptive to their sound and more of an evolution as opposed to a hard left turn. They still have elements of thrash in their sound, but there’s a lot of metal in there too, and whereas Metallica suffered for their changes, Megadeth only seems to get better and better in my opinion. There are a lot of different looks (and by looks I mean sounds) on this album, including some songs that offer a slower pace. But the breakneck riffing is still there, the cannonading drums, and of course Mustaine’s intelligent lyrics and the angry, sarcastic way he gets them across are still top drawer. He even sings a bit of French on one song! My favourite tracks on the album ended up being “Reckoning Day”, “Addicted to Chaos”, “Elysian Fields”, “The Killing Road” & “I Thought I Knew It All”. My Megadeth march is only just picking up steam, baby!!

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Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors on becoming the 2019 NBA champions! To be honest I don’t really like basketball, never have. But as the Raptors advanced deeper and deeper in to this year’s post season (a feat they’ve never managed much before), the more I found myself drawn towards witnessing just how this run was going to continue to unfold. My problems with basketball is all of the trash talk and sideshows that you seem to get with the players in that league, and the egos a lot of them have. And then on the court all of this fouling business. It seems as though you can’t touch a guy or you get fouled. And then an offensive player runs straight at a defender and knocks the guy over, and the defender gets the foul called on him. It’s so annoying, and it doesn’t compute to me. If they put the whistles away and made the game a little more gritty, I would probably be immensely more interested in it. And then all of the whining after the fouls are called. Ugghhh. Anyways, in watching the Raptors though they are a team to be proud of. For having so many good players this is a team that didn’t have an awful lot of that whininess, and none of the ego issues you find elsewhere. This team just went to work and played their game, and they did it well. There were lots of tight moments along the way, like Kawhi’s buzzer beater against Philly and then the early hole against Milwaukee. But they battled, proved themselves resilient, and as the members of the Golden State Warriors dropped like flies around them, the Raptors stood strong and took the series in 6 games for the first ever NBA title to come to Toronto. Well done! And of course a title for a team like Toronto (much like with the Blue Jays) means more than it would for Golden State, or for any other team in the league for that matter. With just the one Canadian team in the league it’s basically almost a full country of fans supporting their run, rather than that of just one city or state. The off-season has been interesting, with the whole storyline of Kawhi’s future, but at least the team and their fans can just bask in the glory that he helped deliver them a championship and they are finally on the board. Congrats, Toronto Raptors!!

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And finally, more importantly, a huge congratulations (and thank you) to the St. Louis Blue for winning the 2019 Stanley Cup! To be honest, over the course of my life I’ve never found myself a Blues fan, but I’ve also never disliked them for any reason either. So naturally when they reached the finals this year to play the Boston Bruins (who I hate with every ounce of my soul, they never should have gotten out of the first round against the Leafs but did thanks to some piss poor officiating, which seemed to be a trend this post-season), they instantly became my bona fide favourite by default. But after watching them play I found myself really enjoying the type of team they had. A calm rookie goaltender who never had two bad games in a row, a defense that are as equally skilled and mobile as they are big, and a group of forwards that had the perfect mix of skill, speed, size and just overall energy and rambunctiousness. Not to mention the team had a high percentage of Canadian players, which is usually a trend for Stanley Cup winnings teams. We’re the best hockey nation for a reason, people! And on top of that they had a couple of former London Knights junior players, not to mention some ex Maple Leafs including the more recently departed Bozak, and a couple that have been gone for a while now in Steen and Gunnarsson. This is a team their fans can be proud of considering they had a very tough start to the season. Just after the New Year arrived they were in the very basement of the NHL standings, but with the arrival of their rookie goalie Binnington and them getting their team game back on track, the Blues battled through the few remaining months of the season to sneak in to the post-season and go on to win the Stanley Cup. Congratulations St. Louis Blues, I very much appreciate your efforts in making sure the jackasses from Boston didn’t put a tarnish on the end of the 2018-2019 NHL campaign!!

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April showers . . . bring even more May showers!!

The weekend that welcomed us right after I posted my last blog was a busy one around town, and a good one for the most part. Friday night we didn’t do much after getting home from work/school, just played vids and watched cartoons and what not. But on Saturday morning Jimmer and I headed downtown as it was finally time to get my bike in for a tune up, a new chain, some new wheels . . . and the list goes on. Afterwards we headed down the road a short ways to Heroes, to get more comics for that ass! Not long after we got home we had to head back out, as Jimmer had his first ball hockey game of the season, after being placed on the Asteroids team once tryouts were completed. There was a light rain going on (which later that day turned to snow, WTF!?), but the game was a close and entertaining affair. Jimmer scored his team’s only two goals in regulation, and also added one in the shootout to help his team to an inaugural 3-2 shootout win!! For the rest of the day we just chilled and played vids before the Leafs game began. On Sunday morning Jimmer had a friend over for a quick gaming session, but that didn’t last long as we had to head downtown in the early afternoon to see the latest Original Kids production, a funny show called Curtains. Six of the high school kids that were in A Christmas Story with James were in this show so we just had to see it, and it was cool to see how excited they were that we can to see them. It’s very cool to see the bonds these kids make. After getting home we whittled away the rest of the day with some TV and vids while mrs. darthcobain17 did the weekly meal prep . . . and then of course I finished it all off with a very necessary late evening house clean.

The following weekend started off on a busy note, as we had tickets to the latest Original Kids production on the Friday night . . . Clue Onstage! It was a farcical based on the Clue board game, and it was friggin’ outstanding. It was directed by the head honcho who directed Jimmer’s A Christmas Story show, so it was expected to be amazing, and they didn’t disappoint. Before the show we stopped at The Bungalow for dinner, where I stuffed my face with a delicious ass burger. On the Saturday morning I went downtown and picked up my bike, set to begin my rides to work again with the work week that was sadly soon to arrive. Afterwards I took Jimmer to his ball hockey game and they fell 3-1 to the Rockets, with Jimmer finally being held pointless. That evening we watched the last regular season Leafs game of the year, an end to end barn burner against those douche bag Habs! On Sunday Sieve and I got out for our first hill run of the season that morning . . . back in action baby! The rest of the day I just kind of whittled away, with Jimmer and I playing vids, watching toons and what not, and me cleaning the house and getting ready for garbage day after all the food prep was done.

Unfortunately the next weekend was a bit of a gong show as we had an ongoing issue with Bell, when our TV and internet went down early in the week leading up to the weekend, and it took many hours on the phone and a couple different technician visits before they finally figured it out. So on Friday night with no service Jimmer and I simply played video games and chillaxed. On the Saturday morning it was my time to donate blood again, which went well, but afterwards I had to head to the mall and wait in line forever to pick up a new modem from Bell, which they thought was the issue at this point. Upon returning home it did not fix things, and so I waited on the phone with Bell once again as they tried to solve it from their end before finally deciding another technician had to come out to take a look, which was to happen the following morning. After that was all sorted out the three of us headed to the mall and went to the movies to see one of Marvel’s latest dazzlers! Outstanding. Afterwards we hit up Beladi’s for dinner, before returning home to NOT watch game two of the Leafs/Bruins playoff series (Jimmer and I spent the night playing more vids and watching cartoons, of course). On the Sunday morning I hung around the house while I waited for the Bell tech to arrive, and after much diagnosing he found out that the fault was at one of their main boxes that services our neighbourhood. So that meant at least a few more days without internet and TV while they got that fixed up. After he left Jimmer and I played more vids before heading out to Dollarama, Home Depot and Sobey’s, to run some errands and pick up some essentials. As mrs. darthcobain17 meal prepped in the evening Jimmer and I continued to chillax as the weekend came to a close . . . a weekend that seemed to me as though I wasted too much of my time waiting on Bell. I understand this stuff happens, but how long it took to get a grasp on the problem and how long we were without service as a result, I was not happy with. If it hadn’t been right during the first round of the NHL playoffs it wouldn’t have been quite as bad, but that just made the whole thing even worse.

Thankfully the Easter long weekend came next, as I was tired and needed an extra day off! Not sure why I was so tired, maybe it was being back on the bike, but anyhoo. On the Thursday evening we headed down to Ancaster as our friend who has cancer, it was his and his fiancé’s stag and doe. It was a bittersweet situation, given his plight, but at the same time very nice to see how many people showed up to lend their support. We took a bunch of money with us and just spent it all on everything we could . . . including many drinks, of course. Johnny and I got a bit wasted and had a time, that’s for sure! We headed to Grimsby once the stag and doe was over, as the next day we were set to have Easter with mrs. darthcobain17’s family. The Friday was a bit cooler and rainy, but Jimmer and I got outside a couple of times to play catch, and then we had a delicious Easter dinner before then heading to Dundas, to watch game five of the Leafs’ series against the Bruins with Johnny and Megan. More drinks and snacks were in store, naturally! Getting home later that night we didn’t have much going on on the Saturday, with the exception of James’ ball hockey game (they fell 5-0 to the Defenders, but actually somehow ended up getting the win via forfeit). Other than that we chilled out, maxin’ and relaxin’ all cool, and munching some Jimmy the Greek for dinner. On Sunday we had our second Easter dinner of the weekend, heading to my parents to watch game six of the Leafs’ series and stuffing ourselves full of even more deliciousness. That weekend was hard work!!

Another long weekend then arrived, but it was not for any good reason . . . it was in fact for the worst possible reason. A good friend of ours, Joe, passed away at age 36 due to cancer. Joe was a great guy, and I know people bandy that term about fairly regularly, but in this case it entirely applied and was in fact a massive understatement. He wasn’t just a great guy, he was one of the best. Generous, happy all the time, always working his ass off, he partied as hard as he worked and lived, and these are just a few of the many reasons why so many people have been influenced and touched by him over the years. You were always made to feel welcomed and valued by Joe when you hung out with him, it was all part of his charm and affable nature. It’s hard to believe I’ll never walk in to his backyard again and hear Joe yell “Lucaaaaaaasss!!” before coming in for a hug and then slapping a drink in my hand. This situation was entirely unfair. If there is anybody who deserved such a fate Joe was the furthest person from it. R.I.P. Broseph, you are already sorely missed . . .

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We found out the news about Joe on the Thursday morning, and so those last couple days at work were not fun ones. On the Friday night we didn’t do squat, but on the Saturday we of course had to get Jimmer to ball hockey (where they fell to the Rockets 7-3, with Jimmer picking up an assist). We were supposed to go to a surprise birthday party for relatives on mrs. darthcobain17’s side of the family on the Saturday night, but with Joe passing away we needed to do some shopping and pick up some clothes for his services, plus we just weren’t in the mood for it considering the circumstances and all. So after ball hockey we hit up Fireside Grill for lunch, before heading to the mall for way too many hours. We eventually accomplished our mission though and returned home to chill out for the rest of the evening. On the Sunday the wife had a training course to go to in Sarnia so Jimmer and I had the day to ourselves. I got up early and hit up the yard for my first round of spring cleaning, spending a few hours out there and getting a shit ton of stuff done (although my back and hamstrings paid for it over the ensuing days). Jimmer and I then had lunch and played some vids before I headed out to pick up Sieve, as we had planned a hill run for the afternoon and managed to survive the ordeal. Upon getting home we again spent the rest of the day just chilling. I had to take both Monday and Tuesday off, as Jimmer had an orthodontist appointment in the morning before we hit the road to Hamilton to attend Joe’s visitation on the Monday, and then the funeral and celebration of life the day after. It was hard, lots of memories and tears and all sorts of emotions (and of course many drinks), but everybody got through it all and can now just focus on the healing and getting used to a new sort of regular without Joe around. Exhausting, but it was nice to be there to see our friend off.

Some decent weather finally arrived over the weekend that came next! On the Friday night we did jack squat, after a bit of an emotionally taxing week we just chilled out. But Saturday was busy. We didn’t do much in the morning, but soon enough I had to take Jimmer to his ball hockey game where he had to fill in as their, wait for it . . . goalie!! Our regular goalie couldn’t be there so they gave us his pads after their previous game, and so we practiced a couple nights during the week. They played the Rockets in the first game of their playoff round robin tournament, and Jimmer did pretty well even though they lost 6-1 (three of them were goals that came off of breakaway opportunities). All of our parents came to watch so afterwards we grabbed lunch at a place that is new to us called Chuck’s Roadhouse. We then returned home and just bummed around for a bit in order to kill time, as we had tickets that night for Original Kids. The production in question was The Seussification of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Pretty funny and clever, and directed by a couple of girls that directed Jimmer three or four shows ago. The next morning we started off slow with some vids and what not, but as the weather outside bloomed and we had an awesome Sunday on our hands, Jimmer and I chose to bike down to the school with our ball gloves and had a catch. After getting home and refueling we then headed to Indigo to pick up some books, PetSmart to visit the kitties, and then Heroes for some comic books. Returning home we then got back in the car along with the R/C vehicles Santa brought us, heading back to Jimmer’s school. We began racing our cars in the parking lot, before shifting to the rougher, off road terrain of the playground, which was pretty fun and hilarious! Not long after getting home we had dinner, and then I gave the house it’s weekly cleaning before we chilled out with some vids to wrap up the weekend.

The Mother’s Day weekend was pretty busy all around. On the Friday night mrs. darthcobain17’s mom came down unexpectedly to hang out with her, although we were supposed to go see the show at Jimmer’s school, which this year was Shrek. So with the extra ticket we decided to take my mom instead, and the show was pretty good. No Original Kids or anything, but pretty good nonetheless (I’ve been spoiled). Afterwards we headed out for a later dinner, just the three of us, deciding on Swiss Chalet. Returning home afterwards we gave my mom her Mother’s Day gifts before she headed home, and then spent the rest of the night just watching TV before hitting the sack. On the Saturday mrs. darthcobain17 had some sort of all-day fitness thing going on so her mom, Jimmer and I headed over to Johnny’s for breakfast. We had to stop at Wal-Mart on the way to his ball hockey game afterwards as his stick was in the van . . . which was with my wife. As for the game, they lost their third and final round-robin playoff game to the Defenders 5-0. I totally wanted to punch the remaining teeth out of one of the redneck parent’s mouths from the other team. Him and his wife were just brutal, a total waste of humanity. Like that game meant everything in the world to them . . . pretty fuckin’ sad in my opinion. Returning home after the game we just whittled away the rest of the day playing vids, having a draw off, watching some playoff hockey, etc. On the Sunday we gave mrs. darthcobain17 what she wanted most . . . a clean van. Early in the morning we headed to one of those self-clean places that is just around the corner from our house, and totally detailed the interior of that thing . . . she’s such a slob! Anyways, after returning home and warming up a bit we when headed out for a late breakfast/early lunch. Only trouble was, all of the breakfast places were still super busy, which I was totally not expecting! We eventually got a table at Shelley’s and had to wait a while for the food, but it was damn well worth it. On the way home we stopped at Merla-Mae for ice cream, and then hit up Sobey’s for some groceries. Later on we were all pretty much still stuffed from lunch, so we sat down to watch a certain movie we’d been looking forward to for a while and just grazed on a bunch of snacks (both healthy and unhealthy) while we watched. We packed it in not long after the movie was over, in preparation for another work/school week.

A long weekend with bits of nice weather here and there then reared it’s head, our annual May 2-4 long weekend in particular! On the Friday night I bid goodbye to our old barbecue (it was 17 years old and one of our wedding presents, hah!) when I assembled a new Dyna-Glo I’d purchased from Home Depot. Only a minimal amount of cursing went in to the process. I also removed a plug socket at the back of our shed which burnt out last summer, and it’s an important one too as it’s the plug that our pool pump goes in to. On Saturday and Sunday (to a much lesser degree) we were downtown quite a bit as Jimmer had signed up to be in a street hockey tournament! Unfortunately the coach they got was a douche, a typical hockey parent, and it sure as hell made things interesting. They went 1-2-1 on the Saturday, not bad for a cobbled together squad, but lost on Sunday morning and were ousted . . . the coaches got in to it and everything, we were so glad to get out of there and Jimmer didn’t know what to think! Adults, they’re the worst. While at the tournament on Saturday I went for a bit of a walk and picked up some books at Heroes, and when we got home I cooked our first dinner on the new barby, while at the same time working in my ball hockey gear in the backyard. After dinner we played some vids and chilled. On the Sunday after they were ousted from the tournament we went to Billy’s for breakfast, and once we got home took our R/C cars down to the school for some action, and even made a video of them (capturing a ghost on camera in the process!). After that we played some ball hockey in the back yard and then went to the mall to do some shopping, during which we got Jimmer a new bike. It’s a sweet, orange piece of machinery! We picked up some Wendy’s for dinner and then killed the night by watching a movie. On the holiday Monday with most things closed we stuck close to home, playing some ball hockey and then replacing that plug socket in the shed. We also went for a bike ride to the school to play some catch, taking Jimmer’s bike on it’s maiden voyage! When we got home we played some vids and did some drawings before I barbecued dinner and then cleaned the house for the upcoming week. The “long” weekend was way too short . . .

The weekend that just passed was our annual boys’ weekend up north, opening up my friend Rob’s cottage! Only this year there was a deviation from the norm. Back in the fall Rob bought the property next door, so now his parents have the old place we always used to go to, and now Rob has the one beside it. He had a contractor in there all winter fixing it up and it’s friggin’ awesome inside. The work we did was mostly outdoors, as the property itself was clogged with trees and brush, and very swampy, and so we had to get rid of the remaining obstructions so that they can get some fill delivered and straighten out the yard before laying down some seed to get the grass planted and growing. Besides all of that outside work at the new place we also built some new IKEA furniture for the interior spaces, and did some jobs at the old cottage like putting out the dock, taking the shutters off the screened porch, etc. We got up there on the Thursday night and left early afternoon on Sunday, with our buddy Jeff droving up from Ottawa on the Saturday afternoon. We polluted ourselves with lots of beers, food, etc., and watched a few movies I’ve already mentioned on my blog over the years including the original Austin Powers, Team America and Hot Tub Time Machine. The weekend went all too quickly, but it was totally worth it though, so much fun!

As for the weekdays, as usual they were just as busy if not busier, than the weekends were. Jimmer of course had his week night ball hockey games for a stretch there (their season didn’t end well, they lost in the first game after the playoff round robin . . . let’s just say they were understaffed this season!). He also continued his weekly overnight at my parents’ house and we snuck in an orthodontist appointment too (braces . . . maybe, ugghhhh). He also managed to have a couple of playdates with his friends. Our furnace broke down once again, making that three times in three years, but with how many new parts we’ve got in that thing now hopefully we’ll be set for a good long while! As mentioned above we also had some serious problems with our Bell service that kept on lingering, not having internet or TV for about a week as they tried and tried to figure things out, eventually getting it right. Sieve and I have gotten together, albeit sporadically, for our retro gaming nights. Early in April I got my bike out of the shed and began riding to work once again, giving my car a bit of a rest. The Leafs crapped out in the first round against the Bruins in the NHL playoffs . . . **** me!! Most recently I built a new barbecue I picked up at Home Depot, seeing as our old one finally bit the bullet. It was a workhorse, but now we’ve got a big new Dyna-Glo in the backyard and I’m loving it! We also attended the Original Kids graduation night festivities, which are always something to witness. And lastly, just yesterday our pool opened up, so I’ll probably spend this weekend wet and surly as I try to get it cleaned up and running. Throughout these adventures we managed to accomplish the following . . .

1) I began my play on MLB 2K10 this spring by doing what I love best in video game baseball . . . destroying the New York Yankees! Well, maybe I’d like to destroy Boston a bit more, but the hatred I feel for the two franchises is pretty much equal parts. Anyhoo, here is how the latest batch of games unfolded on my season: won @ New York Yankees 10-2, won @ New York Yankees 13-4, won @ New York Yankees 9-0, won @ New York Yankees 7-3, won @ Detroit 3-0, won @ Detroit 13-0, lost @ Detroit 3-0, lost @ Chicago White Sox 3-2, lost @ Chicago White Sox 6-1 & won @ Chicago White Sox 6-2.

2) To kick off my progress on Gran Turismo 5 this time around I headed back to the B Spec Events, temporarily bumping up to the Extreme Series as I was a bit cock blocked on the series below it, since I couldn’t acquire the right kind of vehicles for the events that remained. The first event up that I could complete there was called the Schwarzwald League B, consisting of just a pair of races: Cape Ring (first) & Nurburgring Nordschleife (first). Then came the European Championship event, which held a trio of races: Rome (first), Deep Forest Raceway (first) & Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). Next was the Super GT event, which also held three races: Suzuka Circuit (first), Fuji Speedway (first) & Tokyo R246 (first). At this point I ran in to a bit of a roadblock vehicle wise, so I decided to switch over to the A Spec Events and play these same events again, and gain the progress and cash winnings that came with it under this different mode. Again, first up was the Schwarzwald League B event, with just the pair of races: Cape Ring (first) & Nurburgring Nordschleife (first). The trio of races under the European Championship event came next: Rome (first), Deep Forest Raceway (first) & Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). And then another trio of races under the Super GT event met their maker: Suzuka Circuit (first), Fuji Speedway F (first) & Tokyo R246 (first). At this point I switched over to the B Spec Events and dropped down to the Expert Series, to see if there were any events there I could complete that I hadn’t managed to yet, what with some of the new cards I’d acquired. I was able to complete the Polyphony Digital Cup event, which held three races: Circuito de Madrid Mini (first), Trial Mountain Circuit (first) & Grand Valley Speedway (first). I then flipped back over to the A Spec Events and ran the Polyphony Digital Cup event, with the same results.

3) The mop up efforts began in full swing on Lego: The Ninjago Movie Videogame. I began by playing the dojo missions, short and sweet challenges that could quickly earn us Gold Bricks and characters we could then put to good use later on when we re-did the story levels. Here is how the various dojo missions unfolded: “The Scorched Tomb” (earned a Gold Brick and a gold medal, unlocked the Lloyd [Kendo], General Kozu & Stone Warrior characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Stone and Master of the Skyward Dragon trophies), “The Collapsing Condo” (earned a gold medal, unlocked the Lord Garmadon [Pyjamas] character, unlocked the Character Creator function, and earned the Master of Triple Digits trophy), “The Slithering Catacomb” (earned a Gold Brick and a gold medal, unlocked the Pythor, Skales & Skalidor characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Serpents trophy), “The Secret Factory” (earned a Gold Brick and a gold medal, unlocked the Nya [Ceremonial Robes], General Cryptor & P.I.X.A.L. characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Machines and Master of Collection trophies), “The Stormy Docks” (earned a Gold Brick and a gold medal, unlocked the Morro, Bansha & Soul Archer characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Mystery trophy), “The Deadly Arena” (earned a Gold Brick and a gold medal, unlocked the Master Chen, Griffin Turner & Karlof characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Noodles trophy) & “The Savage Skyship” (earned a Gold Brick and a gold medal, unlocked the Nadakhan, Cyren & Flintlocke characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of the Sky and Master of Challenges trophies). With the dojo missions all completed I then went back to not replaying the story mode levels per se, but exploring the various areas of Ninjago which they took place in (basically exploring a bunch of different game hubs), in an attempt to collect all of the items I still needed to acquire. Here is how that went: “Ninjago City North” (found/earned 20 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Hammerhead, Cole [High School], Kai [High School], N-POP Girl & Angler Goon characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Student of Creation trophy), “Ninjago City Beach” (found/earned 20 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Crusty, Rocker, Ash, Paleman, Fish Bowl & Zane [High School] characters along with some new character parts, found the Master of Summoning ancient scroll, and earned the Apprentice of the Golden Art trophy), “Ninjago City Docks” (found/earned 21 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Octopus, Lloyd [High School], Great White Shark, Pufferfish Thug, Jay [Classic], Hot Dog Man & Jay [High School] characters along with some new character parts, and found the Master of Speed ancient scroll), “The Uncrossable Jungle” (found/earned 19 more Gold Bricks, and unlocked the Skylor, Bolobo, Shark Army Thug, Fangton, Acidicus, Cole [Classic] & Snake Army Brute characters along with some new character parts), “The Dark Ravine” (found/earned 20 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Lloyd [Classic], Fang Suei, Lasha, Lizaru & Ronin characters along with some new character parts, found the Master of Elements ancient scroll, and earned the Master of the Golden Art trophy), “The Lost City of Generals” (found/earned 19 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Tox, Maya, Shark Army General #1 [Fired], Neuro & General #1 [Fired] characters along with some new character parts, and found the Master of the Forbidden Dance ancient scroll), “Pt. 1 – The Unclimbable Mountain” (found/earned 14 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Lord Garmadon [Office], Postman, Slithraa & Zane [Classic] characters along with some new character parts, and found the Master of Destruction ancient scroll), “Pt. 2 – The Battlefield” (found/earned 7 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the Shade & Master of Lightning characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of the Golden Art trophy) & “Ninjago City Downtown” (found/earned 20 more Gold Bricks, unlocked the IT Bat Nerd, Dareth, Chamille, Nya [Classic], Edna & Gold Ninja characters along with some new character parts, found the Master of Fortune ancient scroll, and earned the Master of Exploration, Master of Speed, Master of the Red Arts, Master of Creation, Master of Disguise & Master of Completion trophies). And that was it, game over. This title is basically organized chaos, but it is a lot of fun and I really enjoyed tidying it up after getting through the main story mode. Another Lego game kaputs for the collection!

4) I busted a nut all over Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, gettin’ shit done, son! Picking up where I left off we had just gained access to further explore the Energy Hold area of Bowser’s body, in our pursuit of the little caterpillar sage that had so far managed to elude us. Battling many minor enemies as I progressed I eventually managed to locate an Energy Hold attack piece. Continuing on I soon afterwards found a batch of four more, while also managing to activate a couple of what were called “star panels”. The two panels I activated allowed me access to a previously closed off doorway, and within this new section of the Energy Hold I was able to gain the Drill Bros. ability. This new ability allowed us to drill in to the ground and move around, so as to avoid obstacles and barriers, activate various processes, or pick up hidden items. Returning back to the original area of the Energy Hold I then ferreted out the remaining five Energy Hold attack pieces, which granted me a new special attack called the Super Bouncer! Moving along I was then able to find the remaining star panels, gaining access to the main hidden doorway I was really interested in. Upon entering this new zone of the Energy Hold I finally spied that caterpillar scuttling away in the distance. Chasing after it we made an effort to trap the thing, but it proved to be quite elusive. Eventually it confronted us, and lo and behold it could talk! We learned that this sage was named Wisdurm, and although it sympathized with our tale of the kingdom being in peril due to Fawful’s actions, it did not want to hand over it’s Star Cure to us because it didn’t know if this news we brought it was for real or not. And so it decided that the best way to figure out if we deserved ownership of the Star Cure or not was to . . . battle for it, of course! It was the longest battle of the game to date, but I hung in there and eventually Mario and Luigi were able to best this pesky little fellow. After the fight it gave us the Star Cure and then told us to stop following it. We forged ahead, soon entering the Joint Tower area of Bowser’s body. Once there we were tracked down by one of our Toad friends, who said that if we stimulated this section of Bower’s body it would grant him the ability to perform a devastating body slam move. So we set about our task and got the job done, gifting this new move to our worst enemy . . . for all the right reasons, of course. At long last I set forth from the Tower of Yikk with this new move in my back pocket, blazing new trails and soon encountering a Goomba named Private Goomp. After some pleasantries (or unpleasantries in Bowser’s case) Goomp revealed to me that a Star Cure was rumoured to be hidden in the basement of Bowser Castle. The doc from Toad Town then interrupted with a private message, informing Bowser that the second sage who was in charge of this Star Cure was named Kuzzle, and he normally lives on Plank Beach. Upon hearing all of this news I headed for Bowser’s castle, post haste (battling minor enemies along the way). Upon reaching it again and making some renewed explorations, I was eventually led up high to a balcony where I discovered a statue of Fawful, pushing it off the balcony in disgust! I followed the statue down to the basement and explored this new area, battling more enemies and navigating pathways and treadmills strewn amongst a lava filled landscape. Coming upon some captive Bob-Ombs I freed them and for doing so gained the Bob-Omb Blitz attack for my combat arsenal. Eventually I came upon Bowser’s super-secret treasure room, but upon entering it he was dismayed to see that train tracks had been laid down right through the middle of the room! A few of his most trusted minions then entered the scene, explaining that he helped dig the tunnel earlier in the game. Before anything could be solved though, a train called the Fawful Express (driven by some Monty Bros.) came charging through. After a brief conversation they attempted to run Bowser down, pushing him along the tracks until he was crushed against a boulder. Taking control of Mario and Luigi at this point we moved down to Bowser’s Rump Command and stimulated his revival, allowing him to recover and push back against this train. Pursuing it before it could get away, I mostly used Bowser’s fire to light the vehicle up, eventually destroying it for good. After that bit of business was out of the way I backtracked to the treasure vault and attempted to extract the Star Cure from the safe. Only problem was . . . Bowser didn’t remember the combination! Taking control of Mario and Luigi I then headed towards Bowser’s Memory Banks. There a globin scanned us and identified us as a potential virus threat, generating a pixel Mario and Luigi to take us out. So yet another battle commenced! After their defeat we had to solve a puzzle in order to gain the safe’s combination. Upon giving said combination to Bowser he opened the safe and gained the second Star Cure! However, his minions then chose to double cross him for Fawful, and pushed Bowser in to the safe, locking the door behind him! In disgust Bowser then swallowed the Star Cure, pissed that it is what got him in to this predicament in the first place. Taking over as Mario and Luigi I steered them over to the Gut Check region of Bowser’s body. There we found the Star Cure he’d ingested, and then exited his body by using the pipes we had discovered earlier in the game. Our first mission was to head to Toad Town and talk to the doctor who had started us on the Star Cure quest to begin with. He first gifted us with the power to ingest air and then float like a balloon, in order to reach higher areas. He then went on to explain that the third and final sage lived on a high cliff in Plack Beach. So we set course for Plack Beach, fighting off some of the same, and some different, enemies than Bowser had faced in comparison when he was there originally. Locating the cliff we also found a hut at it’s base, upon entering it we met an old timer named Kuzzle, who was a retired sage. He enjoyed talking to us and presented us with a puzzle to solve. For doing so he gifted us with all ten of the Plack Beach Attack Pieces, which granted us a new attack called Spin Pipe. He then mentioned that he had four puzzle sacks scattered around the beach, and if we returned them to him and completed the puzzles they entailed he would reward us. We did so and gained many valuable items from the old goat! Leaving our new friend behind we then set off to scale the nearby cliff. At the top we met a strange, Squidward-like looking being named Chakron, the final sage. It said that it had been meditating about outer space high on this cliff for 1000 years, and that it had no time for us and our quest. When we mentioned that it might be time for a rest though, Chakron jumped on that idea. However, it said that only a ground shaking event would be enough to pull it out of it’s state of meditation, hinting that the answer to this issue could be found in the woods. So we traipsed off to Dimble Wood, engaging many small enemies as we went, and found the first Dimble Wood Attack Piece! I continued to roam around the woods, to areas previously explored and areas brand new, taking out hordes of minor enemies along the way. We eventually found the remaining nine Dimble Wood Attack Pieces, which gifted us a new special attack called Snack Baskets. I then steered us back to Chakron’s location where we performed a Snack Baskets attack, shaking him from his meditation! Chakron was reluctant to give up the last Star Cure, but a promise was a promise and so hand it over he did. He also helped us with transportation back to Toad Town afterwards. Visiting the doc again he took the three Star Cures and forged them in to one unit he dubbed the Miracle Cure. With it he healed all Toads of their Blorbs disease, then gave it to us to be used on Fawful’s barriers outside Peach’s castle. Before leaving his office the doc’s intern gifted us all ten Clinic Attack Pieces, which bestowed upon us the Mighty Meteor special attack. Before leaving Toad Town we visited a number of the shops and outfitted ourselves for the coming journey, before setting off for Peach’s castle. I explored it’s extensive grounds, battling many minor to middling enemies, before finally finding some serious action in behind back of the castle. Midbus showed up and spewed all sorts of trash talk our way, and then literally built an enemy out of the trash pile we happened to be near, sicking this cobbled together robot upon us before splitting the scene! We broke it in to it’s component parts after a long, grueling battle. Before it went kaputs though it cleared a path through the rubble we were surrounded by and then flung the safe Bowser was locked in high in the air and upon hitting the ground it split open, freeing the former villain. Mario and Luigi decided it was high time they get back inside Bowser’s body, so taking a nearby pipe we did just that. It turned out Bowser couldn’t move though, he had hurt his back when the safe exploded. So I steered the plumbing brothers towards Bowser’s Lumbar Nook, where Toadworth was hiding. After talking to him we used one of our learned skills to stimulate some healing in Bowser’s back . . . and we ended up healing him so well that Bowser gained a new move called the Spike Ball, what with his newfound agility and all! I used this new ability to exit the area and then actually enter the inside of Peach’s castle. I soon came upon a trio of Fawful copters that each held a coloured key. Fawful trash talked me through the copter’s speakers, before they flew off in all different directions. I couldn’t get too far without the keys, so I chased the copters through the castle’s chambers, and after obtaining both the green and red keys, was rewarded with a rare items and also with finding a caged batch of Bowser’s Magikoopa minions. Upon freeing them they joined Bowser’s ranks as one of his new special attacks! During this journey I had to engage many more minor to middling enemies, and finally managed to find the blue key, which led me to the upper levels inside Peach’s castle. In the process of accessing those upper levels I was shot upwards in Spike Ball form, and at the top of my journey a couple of massive fire breathing piranha plants shot me down! Upon landing I had to utilize Mario and Luigi, heading to Bowser’s Chest Station and repeatedly launching Bowser upwards to retaliate against these two monsters, eventually beating them down. Once that was over I began my explorations of this level, it didn’t take long before I smashed through the floor of a parapet, landing down somewhere in the middle levels of the castle. It was eerily quiet as I explored this new area . . . before I entered a chamber and found Fawful and Midbus hovering over an unconscious Peach! I overheard them talking about how the Dark Star was soon set to awaken, and that is when they noticed Bowser and took exception to my presence . . .

5) The games I was able to complete on my season of NHL 2K9 recently look as such: won vs. Buffalo 5-3, won vs. Ottawa 4-0, won vs. Florida 5-2, won @ Montreal 5-1, won @ Philadelphia 2-1, won vs. Nashville 10-1, won @ Carolina 4-3, won @ Atlanta 4-0, won vs. Carolina 12-1, won vs. Boston 7-0, won @ Minnesota 10-4, won @ Colorado 7-1, won vs. Pittsburgh 3-2 (OT) & won vs. Florida 4-1.

6) Frogger: Ancient Shadow is still somehow not complete, but boy oh boy I had really thought this was it! I thought there was just one area left to play through in the game, but it turns out there were actually two. The next area in question, and only one I was able to complete this time around, was called “Elder Ruins”. There we were able to complete the Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 & Boss levels, bringing us four steps closer to vindication . . .

7) I hit the track once more, this time on Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed, completing more events there as well. First came the European Retro Hot Lap event, consisting of three races: Hockenheimring Short (first), Circuit de Catalunya Club (first) & Brands Hatch Indy (first). Next came the European Retro League, which held four races: Alpental (first), Donington Park National (second), Circuit de Catalunya National (first) & Hockenheimring National (first, earning the Pro trophy). Three races under the Nurburgring Retro 24 event were then on tap: Nurburgring Mullenbach (second), Nurburgring Sprint (first) & Nurburgring GP (first). Old School Masters was the name of the next event, which presented four races: Motorsport Arena Oschersleben B Course (second), Enna Pergusa (second), Circuit Zolder (second) & Suzuka Circuit West Course (second). The Hot Lap Gauntlet event was next on the docket, holding three races: Riviera Port Boucle (first), Hockenheimring Short (first) & Miami Biscayne Boulevard (first). A one off race was next, coming under the Modern B Invitational event: Circuit de Catalunya National (second, earning the Tic Tac Toe trophy). Another trio of races then came up, under the Single Exhibitions event: Circuit de Catalunya National (first), Dubai Autodrome International (first) & Shanghai Bund GP (second). The 4Nations Speed Cup event was next on tap, and it contained a horde of races, which unfolded as such: Silverstone National (first), Brands Hatch Indy (first), Motorsport Arena Oschersleben B Course (first), Nurburgring Sprint (second), Tokyo Westbound Expressway (first), Suzuka Circuit West Course (third), Ambush Canyon (first) & Miami Biscayne Boulevard (first). A quartet of races then arrived under the London City Velocity Tour event, as such: London Cub Drive (second), London River (second), London Whitehall Drive (second) & London Embankment Loop (second). The Time Attack Single Exhibition event was on tap next, which held three races: Hockenheimring Short (first), Nurburgring Mullenbach (first) & Tokyo Westbound Expressway (first). Then the European Time Attack Pro Challenge event arrived, also consisting of three races: Motorsport Arena Oschersleben B Course (first), Circuit Dijon-Prenois Short (first) & Circuit de Catalunya Club (first). Next was the Asian Time Attack Pro Challenge, which lo and behold also held three more races: Suzuka Circuit East Course (first), Dubai Autodrome Club (second) & Shanghai Yan’an Road Circuit (second). The USA Time Attack Pro Challenge was next, featuring three more races: Glendale East (first), Miami Bicentennial Park Route (second) & Dakota Tri-Oval (second).

8) More regular season games fell on NHL Faceoff ’97 as well, as follows: lost @ Los Angeles 3-0, won @ Calgary 3-2 (OT), tied @ Vancouver 3-3 (OT), won @ Edmonton 3-0, lost @ Montreal 4-3 (OT), won vs. Washington 3-0, won vs. San Jose 3-1, lost vs. Boston 4-3 (OT), won vs. Detroit 4-3, lost vs. Hartford 2-1, lost vs. Dallas 2-1, won vs. Chicago 3-2, won @ Florida 4-2, won @ Tampa Bay 3-2, won vs. Philadelphia 2-1 (OT), won @ Pittsburgh 7-5, lost vs. Phoenix 4-3 (OT), won @ San Jose 2-1 & tied @ Phoenix 4-4.

9) My trek on Fortnite’s Save the World game mode continues to unfold, here are the levels I was able to knock over this time through: “Stonewood: Homebase Storm Shield Defense 4” (I began by placing an amplifier to boost our storm shield’s range and then also some defenses around it, afterwards activating the storm shield and then defending the entire setup against various waves of Husks that went about trying to tear it all down), “Stonewood: Mandatory Minimalism” (lots of people at home base were complaining of their stuff being stolen, so I headed out in to the city and found many of these items stashed in garbage cans, pondering the nature of this mystery), “Stonewood: To Boldly Go . . .” (I explored a region of the city and gained many supplies and what not, in the process attracting a powerful outlander to our cause) & “Stonewood: Leave Only Footprints” (I searched out a number of Husk encampments, gaining revenge on the fiends by obliterating them in the hordes, at the same time collecting samples from their carcasses for future study).

10) The going got a lot tougher on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, but we persevered and were able to knock off the final level in the second world, which was a tremendous boss fight. The level in question was “World 2-9: It Came From the Freezer”. Moving on to the game’s third world the levels we completed there include: “World 3-1: Looking for Mr. Tom Phan”, “World 3-2: Peek-A-Boo!”, “World 3-3: Benefits of Getting Lost” & “World 3-4: Madame Bwahstrella”.

11) The regular season games that fell on NHL 17 recently are as so: won vs. Vancouver 4-1, won vs. Los Angeles 6-3, won vs. Philadelphia 6-4, won @ Pittsburgh 3-2, won vs. Nashville 6-3, lost vs. Florida 2-1, lost @ Montreal 4-2, won vs. Carolina 5-0, won @ New Jersey 5-2, lost vs. Washington 9-5 & won @ Edmonton 4-2.

12) Progress on Mega Man 11 became infinitely harder as we went about starting the trek through Wily’s castle . . . where we ended up being tormented by a ridiculous boss who had featured in to many Mega Man games of the past! Here is how we fared on this renewed journey, knocking down the following levels: Wily castle stage 1 (defeated the Yellow Devil boss, earning the Power Gear Master and Brute Force trophies along the way), Wily castle stage 2 (defeated a pink robotic skull inside some manner of energy ring that sent destructive blasts our way), Wily castle stage 3 (had to defeat all 8 of the main robot bosses over again, earning the No Getting Away This Time! trophy) & Wily castle stage 4 (battled Dr. Wily himself inside some sort of hovering, skull shaped space ship, earning the Protector of Peace trophy). And that was it, game over, and what a game! I loved playing Mega Man 11 as much as all of the others that came before it. This series is arguably the best of all time . . .

13) I have very solid progress to report on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard! Here are the levels I ravaged over the spring: “Vengeance” (I traveled to the Jotan’s camp in Deep Springs, to slay them all and gain revenge for the devastating attack they had perpetrated on our village at the game’s outset, defeating Skulli although her husband Grimmir managed to escape, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, killed 9/9 Troll Witches, and destroyed 15/15 Troll Totems), “Paladin Crusade” (this time I traveled to Svanung Village, to investigate some metal clad invaders who had arrived on their shores, in the end having to engage the Paladin Champion and obtaining the fabled Kenaz runestone, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, killed 10/10 Elite Soldiers, and destroyed 9/10 Supply Carts), “Bishop’s Gambit” (outsiders also arrived on the shores of Jarnung Village, so I went there to repel that invasion also, gaining help from the Mire Witch along the way, in the end fighting the Bishop of Earth and obtaining the fabled Hagalaz runestone, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, killed 14/15 Priests, destroyed 10/10 Supply Carts, and earned the Metal Mayhem trophy), “Unexpected Ally” (following the advice of an old crone I took a portal to Utgard and battled through heavy troll/giant resistance in an attempt to impress Simul and her clans to our cause, finding out her army had already marched, although I found the ring of Odin’s that the crone had mentioned could be important to gaining his favour, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, killed 5/7 Jotan, destroyed 15/15 Troll Totems, and earned the Otherworld Traveler and Dawn of Winter trophies) & “Flotnar Liberation” (the recent invasions I’d repelled were launched from Hahofr, a harbour town of Flotnar, so in order to strike back at the Imperium’s forces I first needed to take control of this region, which I liberated by blazing through the town and destroying all in my path, recruiting a trader named Fardain who would teach us the route to sail south, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, freed 5/5 prisoner groups, destroyed 5/5 Vanirite Shrines, and earned the Liberator of Flotnar trophy).

14) I got back to the action and intrigue of Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition, picking up where I last left off I had just taken control of Catwoman. She was looking at getting Poison Ivy’s assistance with a job, but before trying to track her down I had to stop by Selena’s apartment for some kit, taking out a small number of thugs who had been casing the joint. I then hit the rooftops and tracked down Ivy’s base of operations, dispatching all of the perimeter guards before finagling my way inside. There was some bad blood between the two though, which Ivy was not soon to forget apparently, and so she sent a number of plant zombified goons my way! I dispatched them all but Ivy had the last laugh when she was able to subdue Catwoman personally. Control then shifted back to Batman at this point. I was tied to a chair in the lair of Joker and Harley Quinn, and Joker then went on with a spell of storytelling. He was indeed sick with a blood condition, that much was true, although he was by no means dead. Not yet, anyways. To try and secure my aid, Joker admitted to injecting Batman with a dose of his own poisoned blood . . . not to mention sending out deliveries of said blood to hospitals all around Gotham! He said that Mr. Freeze had been working on an antidote for the condition, but the evil genius had gone silent recently for some unknown reason. Upon my release I had Alfred scan for the coldest part of Arkham City and then made a beeline to that region, assuming that would be where Freeze was located. Along the way I ran in to a terrified civilian, who said he had been hired by Hugo Strange to do some electronics work. Upon the job’s completion though Strange had thrown him in Arkham instead of rewarding him! Before this man could go on in much more detail he was sniped from afar and snuffed out. I examined the forensics and made my way to where the shot was fired, examining the evidence it led me to believe that Deadshot was the culprit, deepening the intrigue of this whole situation. Moving on I then ran in to Bane, and from his actions it seemed as though we were on the same page in wanting to track down missing containers of the Titan virus, which is what was responsible for turning Bane in to his monster like state. We agreed to work together and each try to locate and destroy six of said crates. Moving on I finally approached the area where I believed Mr. Freeze to be holed up . . . fittingly enough inside the old G.C.P.D. building! After some exploring I managed to find a way in and broke the Penguin’s communications encryption, meaning I could then listen in on all of the conversations between him and his goons. I made my way through the building stealthily, taking out a handful of said goons before interrogating the last one. He said Penguin had Mr. Freeze captive inside the museum, so I then made my way to exit the building, although Penguin tried to trap me inside. I circumvented this attempt and then hit the streets, soon afterwards coming across the first two containers of the Titan virus that I’d vowed to find and destroy. And so I did!

15) The regular season games that are now in the books on NHL 11 unfurled thusly: lost @ Boston 2-1, won vs. New York Rangers 4-3, lost vs. Ottawa 6-1, won @ Washington 3-2 (SO), won vs. Buffalo 3-0, lost @ Tampa Bay 3-2, won @ Florida 4-1, won vs. Vancouver 2-1 (OT), lost vs. Nashville 3-2 & lost vs. New Jersey 4-3 (SO).

16) Splatoon 2 continues to be oodles of fun! Continuing on with the Regular Battles we got up to more action and played in a couple more arenas we hadn’t seen in our previous rounds, which include the New Albacore Hotel and Camp Triggerfish. After reaching level 10 we were then able to participate in Ranked Battles, which take place with more experienced players and feature a different kind of objective. The two game types we’ve experienced so far include Clam Blitz (be the first to fill the opposing team’s basket with 100 clams), Rainmaker (obtain the Rainmaker weapon and be the first team to hold on to it for a certain amount of time), Splash Zones (gain control of a certain section of the arena and hold on to it for a total amount of time before the other team can do the same) & Tower Control (take control of a moving tower and stay aboard as it moves through a number of checkpoints). The arenas we’ve waged these battles in include The Reef, Snapper Canal, Arowana Mall, Sturgeon Shipyard, Port Mackeral, Ancho-V Games, Skipper Pavilion, Inkblot Art Academy, Humpback Pump Track, Goby Arena, Blackbelly Skate Park, Walleye Warehouse, Manta Maria, New Albacore Hotel, Camp Triggerfish, Musselforge Fitness, Kelp Dome, Piranha Pit & Wahoo World. I also took part in the Easter weekend “Splatfest” event, choosing to play on the side of team Tortoise. I played many events, which took place at Piranha Pit, MakoMart, Manta Maria, Blackbelly Skatepark, Shifty Station & Goby Arena, managing to get my rank up to Tortoise Defender in the end. Another Splatfest event arrived over the recent long weekend, where I chose to battle for team Teleportation against team Time Travel. I participated in battles at the Shifty Station, Ancho-V Games, Musselforge Fitness, Humpback Pump Track & Starfish Mainstage arenas. Before the event ended I had increased our rank to Teleportation Defender. Overall we are now at level 16 and have seen our Ranked Battles rating climb as high as a B-.

17) Mega Man 3 is now kaputs!! After a brief hiatus upon seeing who was waiting for us in the next section of Dr. Wily’s castle, we eventually got back at it and dug in for some serious gaming. Here is how the last number of levels unfolded: Wily castle stage 2 (defeated the Yellow Devil boss), Wily castle stage 3 (defeated the Mega Man clones), Wily castle stage 4 (defeated all 8 of the robot masters once more), Wily castle stage 5 (defeated Wily, who was piloting some sort of spider shaped robot) & Wily castle stage 6 (defeated the Gamma robot along with Dr. Wily himself). And that was it! Once getting past the Yellow Devil it was pretty much smooth sailing. A great game, but let’s be honest . . . are there any bad Mega Man games?

18) Picking up where I left off on Aqua Moto Racing Utopia I continued on with the events under Ski Division. First up was the Caramba Swimwear Ski Racing Cup, which held four races: Through the Shipyard (fourth), Wild Swirls (first), Near the Hull (seventh) & Night Waves (second). Next came the Elemental Sports Water Tournament, containing four races: Against the Skyline (second), Indoor Madness (second), Bungalow Beach (third) & Coral Zone (second). The penultimate circuit on this mode was the XRC Racing Open, which contained four races: Under the Bridge (third), Ancient Tour (third), Among Giants (third) & Wild Ride (fourth). The final circuit of events was called the SpeedCrew Extreme Tour, and it held five very difficult races: Forest Run (sixth), White Cliffs (third), Below the Crane (fourth), Narrow Pathways (third) & Roar of the Waves (second). Overall I finished second in each circuit, which allowed me to finish off this game mode in full. The next option under Championship mode saw me hop on some of the bigger jet skis that you don’t stand up on (unless you want to), which was called the Runabout Division. The first event available was called the WB Racing Beginner Challenge, and it held four races: Aquatic Dream (second), Metropolis Trip (first), Inside the Dome (first) & Big Pipes (second). Then came the Wavestar Wild Race event, containing just three races: Exotic Waters (second), Triple Ripple (first) & Mangrove Mania (fifth). Next was the Ignited Amateur Championship, also featuring three races: Old Passage (fourth), Sun Isles (second) & Between the Barges (first). The Deepblue International event then reared it’s head, holding three races: Gator Lands (third), Pier Pressure (third) & Green Stream (first). Next up was the Wavepro Ocean Challenge event, which featured four races: Water and Fire (third), Rocky Shore (first), Glory Run (third) & Crossing the Rig (first). And last but not least was the Mizumoto World Finals, here is how those four races unfolded: Inside the Harbor (second), Canal Race (third), Tight and Crowded (second) & To the Reef (fifth). My total results pitted me between first and third, variously, over the course of these different events. The final mode under Championship was the Freestyle Division set of events, and they weren’t races but timed competitions where you had to do stunts and gain the most points . . . and they are super hard apparently! I went through it just to say I did, but I couldn’t even come close to the leaders. The first event up under this mode was the Edge Stunt Show, consisting of three competitions: Fond of Fame (fifth), Alluring Lagoon (sixth) & Soar Like the Dragon (seventh). Then came the Neptune Grand Challenge event, also holding three competitions: Splash in the Mud (seventh), Stunt on the Beach (seventh) & Monumental Jumps (seventh). Last was the Jet Heads Racing Showdown event, which increased to four competitions: Lush Opportunities (eighth), Towards the Pier (fourth), Stunt Overflow (seventh) & Showtime (seventh). Overall my finishes in each event were in the sixth/seventh place range. And that was it, all done! This game has some good, crisp graphics behind it (and decent gameplay), but overall it just seems to be . . . lacking something. It’s fun and all, but it’s nowhere near as good as Nintendo’s old Wave Race series, which to me is the granddaddy of jet ski video games. Still worth a play, especially considering this game is now only $20, but I was expecting a bit more . . .

19) Monster Madness: Grave Danger is now complete, and oh what fun we had! The action picked up at the beginning of chapter two, called The Shopping Maul. The levels we had to defeat there included Parking Lot Go Boom, Shopping Day & Maul Field Tour. Chapter three was called Hell School and the three levels we completed there include: Track & Field, Inside Hell School & School’s Out! Cemetery Scary was the title of chapter four, and we defeated all levels there as well, including: Cemetery Trek, Sewers & Swamps & Ancient Catacombs. The fifth and final chapter of the game was called Evil Castle, and here are the final levels we beat in order to complete the game: Road to the Castle, Dungeons of Darkness, Rooftop Rumble & Showdown! And that was it, the city is saved . . . or is it? After beating the game we decided to give the Challenges mode a go, which basically contains a bunch of mini-games you can complete in order to unlock different outfits for the game’s four main characters. Here is how our progress went amongst the various offerings under this mode: Suburban Warfare (B ranking), Jack Attack (B), Witch Hunt (C), Lava Battle (A), Monster Race (F), Match ‘Em (B), Slice N’ Dice (C), Monster Onslaught (F), Castle Brawl (F), Hill Defense (B), Zack-Man (C), Dodgeball (D), Leprechaun Roundup (C), UFO Shooter (A), The Gauntlet (F), Carnage (B), Sort or Explode (C), Zombie Cats (B), Death School (B), Home Run Derby (C), Pizza Delivery (D), Zombie Dance-Off (D), Monster Survival (F) & Construction Destruction (B). And that was it, another game in the books! This one is a little rough around the edges in terms of the polishing of the graphics, and also some sound volume levels, but it makes up for those issues with such a high fun factor that the game turns out pretty solid in the end. We both really enjoyed playing this fun filled, hack n’ slash adventure.

20) After finishing Dr. Wily’s Revenge I decided to start out on my next Mega Man handheld adventure, a solid title originally released on the GameBoy Color that I had no idea existed . . . Mega Man Xtreme!! This title takes place within the Mega Man X storyline, in between a couple of the early games in that series I believe. It is the year 21XX and humans co-exist alongside robots dubbed “Reploids”. Most Reploids are good, however some out there are what you would consider evil, known as Mavericks. Two robots from the past, named Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero, are the police force that bring these Mavericks to justice. However, recently an unknown attacker broke in to the mother computer and messed with the programming of many other Reploids, causing a number of them to go haywire. The only way to stop them is for X to go inside the mother computer in a digitized version of himself, and stop the madness from the inside. The levels/bosses I had to defeat during my journey include: defeated Storm Eagle (gaining the Storm Tornado weapon), defeated Flame Stag (gaining the Speed Burner weapon), defeated Chill Penguin (gaining the Shotgun Ice weapon) & defeated Spark Mandrill (gaining the Electric Spark weapon). At this point the regular levels were over and it moved more in to the mode where you are attacking the final base (like in other games the trek through Dr. Wily’s castle, comparatively). At the end of each of these legs were various bosses, which included some sort of spider bot, a dude encamped in a metallic treaded behemoth that was bristling with artillery, a battle against all four of the previous robot bosses followed by the game’s main villain, Sigma, and then one final fight against Sigma who donned some sort of gigantic, wolf themed suit of armour for the battle. Upon the game’s defeat “Hard Mode” then became available, allowing me to go through the game again and defeat even more types of bosses. After briefly trying this mode though I realized it should have been named “Way Too Hard” mode . . . so I gave up with the completion on the normal difficulty being good enough for me. A pretty good game, if a bit short.

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21) Also, with having finished off Mega Man 3 we of course moved right along to Mega Man 4! After putting a stop to Dr. Wily’s plans three times up to this point, the finally fades away. But taking his place is a new scientist named Dr. Cossack, who enters the fray and thirsts for acknowledgement. Picking up where Wily left off he sends eight powerful and corrupted robots Mega Man’s way, meaning the Blue Bomber must again jump to action to save the world! Armed with a new mega buster weapon that now allows Mega Man to charge his shots, our hero heads out to eliminate this “new” threat. The order we defeated the eight robot masters in was as follows: defeated Skull Man (gaining the Skull Barrier weapon), defeated Toad Man (gaining the Rain Flush weapon as well as the Rush Marine Adaptor), defeated Bright Man (gaining the Flash Stopper weapon), defeated Pharaoh Man (gaining the Pharaoh Shot), defeated Ring Man (gaining the Ring Boomerang weapon), defeated Dust Man (gaining the Dust Crusher weapon), defeated Dive Man (gaining the Dive Missile weapon) & defeated Drill Man (gaining the Drill Bomb weapon as well as the Rush Jet Adaptor). The scene then shifted to Dr. Cossack’s lab, and here is how that journey went: Stage 1 (defeated some manner of robotic, insectile drilling machine), Stage 2 (defeated a violent, shifting computer console), Stage 3 (defeated a pair of psychotic, twin robotic spiders) & Stage 4 (defeated Dr. Cossack and then learned the truth about Dr. Wily’s involvement and blackmail). It was then onwards to the final journey on the game . . . why Dr. Wily’s castle, of course! Here is how that went: Stage 1 (defeated a Metall Daddy boss), Stage 2 (defeated a Tako Trash boss) & Stage 3 (re-defeated all 8 of the robot master bosses followed by Dr. Wily in his flying skull machine) & Stage 4 (amongst darkness defeated Wily in his little flying pod). And that was it, another Mega Man game in the books. And as usual it was a consistent, fun and satisfying gaming experience. Seriously, what an effin’ series!!

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22) I tracked down some more Ben 10 games at Game Cycle, as Jimmer and I played one a while back and recently he mentioned that he liked that game, so I thought why not? The first one we started of the new batch is a continuation from the game we played that he was thinking about, this next installment being Ben 10 Omniverse 2. In this follow up to the original Omniverse game Ben has been exiled to space by Emperor Milleous of the Incursean Empire. However, Ben was rescued by Azmuth, the creator of the Omnitrix, and together they plan a way to sneak around the Incursean warship they find themselves stowing away on, in an attempt to get back to Earth. The levels we’ve completed on the game so far are as such: Learning the Ropes, Stow Away, Mess Hall Mashup, Welcome to Erf & Undertown and Beyond. So far compared to the first Omniverse game this one is just OK, unfortunately.

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23) You may have guessed this by now, but with Mega Man 4 out of the way we of course then turned our attention to Mega Man 5! In this installment eight robot masters are once again up to no good, with it being up to Mega Man to put a stop to their antics. But in this instance it doesn’t seem to be Dr. Wily who is behind it all. Proto Man, brother of Mega Man who has lent his assistance in past engagements, is apparently behind the scheme and has even kidnaped Dr. Light. So we charged up our Mega Buster and went to town! Here is the order in which we overcame the robot masters: defeated Star Man (gaining the Star Crash weapon as well as the Super Arrow gadget), defeated Gravity Man (gaining the Gravity Hold weapon), defeated Gyro Man (gaining the Gyro Attack weapon and Rush Jet ability), defeated Crystal Man (gaining the Crystal Eye weapon), defeated Napalm Man (gaining the Napalm Bomb weapon), defeated Stone Man (gaining the Power Stone weapon), defeated Charge Man (gaining the Charge Kick weapon) & defeated Wave Man (gaining the Water Wave weapon). We then made the march on Proto Man’s castle and began the second half of this game, here is how that journey went: Stage 1 (defeated a version of the Darkman robot that was like a small tank in appearance), Stage 2 (defeated a version of Darkman that had shields that attacked us), Stage 3 (defeated a version of Darkman that had a very busy arm cannon) & Stage 4 (defeated a version of Darkman that was a combination of the last two robots, after it’s defeat Dr. Wily showed up and admitted that this whole scheme was his doing, that he had framed Proto Man for these crimes!). This revelation of course then led us to Dr. Wily’s castle, and here is how our final journey of the game unfolded: Stage 1 (defeated a tall robot that could come apart in sections and hurl said sections at us), Stage 2 (defeated a large robot head inside of a ring of protection), Stage 3 (defeated all 8 of the robot master bosses again, followed by Dr. Wily inside some manner of UFO) & Stage 4 (defeated Dr. Wily, whose first from was inside a skull tank/truck, followed by a disappearing hover pod of some sort). And that was it, another Mega Man game down . . . it’s almost as if we cannot be stopped!!

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24) With us making some PS4 completions recently I decided to get started on a newer retro platformer inspired masterpiece called . . . Axiom Verge! The story begins with the tale of some sort of lab technician/scientist who seems to be experimenting on some sort of alien find, when all of a sudden something goes wrong during his testing. When this fellow comes to he awakens in some sort of pod in the middle of an alien landscape, and must set about figuring out just what the hell happened, armed with a weapon known as an Axiom Disruptor. Over our initial foray in to this game we’ve defeated many aliens, many small ones but also some bigger ones, including a boss or two. We managed to pick up a few more weapons including the Multi-Disruptor, Nova and Kilver, along with a special drill that helps us bore through certain types of rocks. Another gadget we gained later on is called the Address Disruptor, which messes with the pixelated structure of certain objects. We also found some pickups that increased the size our weapons’ ammunition and the damage that it does, not to mention a number of Health Nodes and Health Node fragments, which help to increase to our health bar. A Power Node fragment was also acquired, which will eventually serve to increase our weapon power. We found a Journal Page and added that to our inventory. Finally, a few trophies were earned by our initial play on this game, including Xedur, Telal and Hack. This is a very fun game, it reminds me a lot of the earliest Metroid games!

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25) Of course with Mega Man 5 completed we moved on to Mega Man 6 . . . and this one I know I never played when I was younger . . . forging new ground here! Anyways, the story behind this one is that in the year 20XX a fighting tournament has been organized for robots. However, a powerful man named Mr. X makes his presence known, explaining that with the world’s eight most powerful robots at his disposal he is going to use them to take over the world. Oh, and also that he was the one secretly backing Dr. Wily and his zany schemes for all those years! So once gain Mega Man is called in to duty to stop a handful of armoured bots from ruining life as he knows it. Our journey through the game unfolded as such: defeated Wind Man (gaining the W. Storm weapon), defeated Flame Man (gaining the F. Blast weapon and Rush Power Adaptor gadget), defeated Blizzard Man (gaining the B. Attack weapon), defeated Plant Man (gaining the Plant B. weapon and Rush Jet Adaptor gadget), defeated Tomahawk Man (gaining the Silver T. weapon and Beat B. Parts), defeated Yamato Man (gaining the Y. Spear weapon and Beat E. Parts), defeated Knight Man (gaining the Knight C. weapon and Beat A. Parts) & defeated Centaur Man (gaining the C. Flash weapon and Beat T. Parts). It was then on to ravage Mr. X’s castle! Here is how that journey went: Stage 1 (defeated some sort of robotic drone defenders that traveled along a pre-determined track), Stage 2 (defeated a bot made of pistons that climbed the wall and fired ordnance at us), Stage 3 (defeated one of the helmet robots that was piloting some manner of tank type vehicle) & Stage 4 (defeated Dr. Wily, who revealed he was the true villain behind this scheme, he was piloting some sort of robotic swinging mace). If you’ve been following along, then by now you know that at this point it was high time for us to head off to Dr. Wily’s castle and beat the game for good! Here is how that final journey unfolded: Stage 1 (defeated a robotic Brachiosaurus), Stage 2 (defeated a bubble shooting spider tank type of robot), Stage 3 (defeated all eight of the original robot masters from earlier in the game) & Stage 4 (defeated Dr. Wily, whose first phase was a hovering contraption with crushing spikes on the bottom, and then his second form the now infamous disappearing hover pod). After the last fight Mega Man finally managed to catch Dr. Wily and jail him! Series over?

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26) Jimmer and I decided to start on a game for the Nintendo Switch that we just recently learned about and were super excited for . . . Cuphead!! In this title Cuphead and his best mate Mugman live in the region of Inkwell Isles, under the watchful eye of the Elder Kettle. However, one day they journey across the tracks and enter the Devil’s Casino, only to go on a major run at the craps table! Soon enough the devil himself enters and makes them a deal for one last roll of the dice. Untold riches for them if they win, but if they lose the devil will claim their souls! Much to Mugman’s dismay Cuphead agrees without a second thought and throws the dice . . . only to lose miserably. The pair beg the devil to let them out of the agreement, and he says he will . . . but only if the duo travel the land and collect on all of the missing souls that the devil has swindled other citizens out of. And that is where our journey began. So far the levels we’ve completed are as such: Forest Follies (earning a B rating), Ruse of an Ooze (B- rating, collecting the soul contract for Goopy Le Grande), Threatenin’ Zeppelin (C+ rating, collecting the soul contract for Hilda Berg), Treetop Trouble (B- rating), Floral Fury (C+ rating, collecting the soul contract for Cagney Carnation), Mausoleum I (gained a new super weapon), Botanic Panic! (B rating, collecting the soul contract for The Root Pack), Clip Joint Calamity (C+ rating, collecting the soul contract for Ribby and Croaks) & Pyramid Peril (B rating, collecting the soul contract for Djimmi the Great). This game is absolutely amazing!!

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“Free Game(s) of the Month” – Continuing on with the Zone of the Enders: HD Collection I maintained my play on the initial game in this collection, picking up a couple more trophies including Hacker & Gun Runner.

I also started up on one of the PS4 downloads from a few months back or so, called Rogue Aces. This game is a more simplistic run and gun style of flying game where you are tasked with taking on a number (100 in total) of short missions to help your side win the war! At your disposal you’ll have your plane’s unlimited supply of machine gun ammo, along with a limited number of bombs and missiles. In between missions you can land on your side’s aircraft carrier and repair as well as top off your weapons, before heading back out in to the chaos! This game is so much fun and has a very Neo Geo look to the graphics, which is amazing. The flight control is so intuitive and easy, and the game looks and sounds fantastic, also quite funny at times. Over the course of my play across a handful of different modes of play, I managed to obtain a number of trophies including On The Head Son, Mow Down, Baron Schmaron, Grand Theft Aircraft, Lucky Son Of A . . ., War Rations, Wait . . . Wha . . . ?!, Strafe Magnate, The Long Drop, The Head Of The Snake, Hop, Skip And A Jump, Call The Ball, Scuttle Bonus & As It’s Meant To Be Played (Vega’s Homage). And that’s about it, such an amazing little game!!

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“NNGRR” - Just as the weekend arrived that saw me pick up my tuned up bike, I finished reading my first book of this blog period, called Who is the Black Panther? This Marvel story takes place quite a ways after T’Challa has assumed the kingship of Wakanda and become the latest Black Panther. The action starts out with him and his entourage in New York City, attending the opening of a Wakandan museum exhibit. After years of isolation from the rest of the world, T’Challa believes it is finally time to bring their advanced nation out of the shadows and become more open with the rest of the world. However, after a terror attack in which the Black Panther has to intervene, he then travels back to the familiar comforts of Wakanda. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., a blowhard military stooge named General Matigan believes it is the U.S.A.’s right to take Wakanda’s supply of Vibranium (and everything else that comes with it) for themselves. He is warned against this course of action by the Wakanda experts on staff, told that the Wakandans are not to be trifled with, that it would be better to work with them and become allies rather than to try and take them by force. Matigan brushes this advice off though, secretly instigating a course of action that will eventually spill much blood. He contacts a Belgian mercenary named Ulysses Klaue, or Klaw for short, a formidable assassin with a blood feud against the royal family of Wakanda! Klaw enlists another mercenary, a Frenchman named Batroc, to lead the assault with him. On top of that they add Rhino, the Black Knight and Radioactive Man to their roster, not to mention the entire army of Niganda, the neighbouring country to Wakanda whose ruler M’Butu has always wanted to claim Wakanda’s riches for his own! The Wakandans don’t see the invasion coming until it is on their front doorstep, and to make matters worse things at home are already in a state of turmoil. T’Challa has been questioning the continued purpose of his cadre of female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje. T’Challa’s mom Ramonda is upset with him because he continues to put himself in danger for no apparent reason. And T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, is upset with him for never taking her and her ideas/suggestions seriously. But with this unexpected attack coming everybody will have to stow their beefs for another day . . . if there is another day. Can T’Challa and his loyal subjects of Wakanda repel such a sneaky and well-crafted invasion, or will Wakanda finally be exposed to the rest of the world whether they wish it to be or not? This was a pretty good story, helping to expand on my understanding of Wakanda and it’s place in the Marvel universe, and the main characters that make up it’s leadership. Lots of violence too, there were a number of deaths, and I like how the Black Panther goes savage on people with little or no afterthought . . .

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The movie we went to see the weekend I donated blood was the amazing Captain Marvel! As the film opens up we are introduced to a certain Kree (a savage, war faring race) named Vers, a loyal soldier in their military cog. However, lately she’s been having dreams featuring visions of a past life she can’t remember. Her mentor, Yon-Rogg, is attempting to train and prepare her for future warfare, urging her to keep her emotions in check, which are being adversely affected by her dreams and the confusion they bring regarding her unknown past. Upon visiting the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, Vers is surprised that it takes on the form of an older woman that features prominently in her dreams, and it too urges control over her emotions. Not long after this experience Yon-Rogg puts a team together to go and extract one of their allies, a spy, from the clutches of the Skrulls, a shape shifting species that are mortal enemies to the Kree. This rescue team ends up being ambushed and Vers is taken captive by a Skrull named Talos, who prods away at Vers’ memories while she is in captivity. Vers manages to engineer an escape though, and the escape pod she commandeers deposits her on Earth right in the middle of the 1990s, huzzah!! She immediately tries to contact Yon-Rogg and tell him what has transpired, then sets to the task of tracking down Talos and his Skrull compatriots. Along the way Vers experiences push back from some agents belonging to a certain organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D., most notably a young Nick Fury. As the situation evolves Vers and Fury form a bond and begin to work together, and she is able to gain some of her memories back. Vers discovers that she used to be a test pilot on a project dubbed Pegasus, which was led by the older woman from her visions . . . one Wendy Lawson. The aim of Lawson’s project was to create a faster than light jet engine that would help put an end to war. Vers, or Carol Danvers as she was formerly known, also remembers her best friend and fellow Pegasus test pilot Maria Rambeau. Along with Fury, Carol pays Maria a visit and gets filled in on what happened six years ago when Carol vanished and was presumed dead in a Project Pegasus test flight crash. When Talos suddenly shows his face and convinces Carol and friends to listen to his story, her world is turned upside down. Carol is enraged to learn that for these last six years her Kree compatriots have been feeding her a load of bologna about her origins, about their relationship with the Skrulls, and worst of all she learns that her mentor Wendy Lawson was a complete fraud! A mission is planned, for Carol and her newfound allies to head up in to space and access Lawson’s hidden lab, and make things right. Along the way she’ll have to face off against her former Kree allies and confront the Supreme Intelligence, and in doing so reforge herself in to the powerful Captain Marvel!! This movie was brilliant. Dazzling special effects, awesome story, great action, and amazing performances from the actors involved. I also love how the time frame was the mid-1990s, which made the soundtrack an absolute delight, and a lot of the vintage visual references were amazing to see as well! My favourite part of the film though, was of course Brie Larson. She’s been on my radar ever since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and I was very excited to see that they cast her in the MCU, which next to the Star Wars galaxy is probably my most anticipated movie universe these days. Can’t wait to see what they have in store for Endgame!!

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Over the Easter long weekend I finally got around to watching Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. And I don’t see why everybody hated it! The film opens with a brief scene of Superman’s battle in Metropolis against General Zod and his forces, where during the course of said battle many buildings are destroyed causing countless civilian deaths. One of the buildings destroyed belonged to Bruce Wayne, who loses many of his employees to the violence. Bruce sees Superman as nothing but a threat to the safety of the planet and it’s citizens, and vows to eventually stop this alien from causing more damage. Fast forward a couple of years or so and many things are happening all at once. The safety issues Superman represents has spread and split people in to two camps. Some want to see him gone, as they fear he represents a volatile and unknown threat to humanity, while others see him as a saviour and a hero, a powerful alien who should be revered. This matter has gone straight to the political world and inquests are being held as to what kind of decision should be made regarding Superman’s future on Earth, and how he should be handled. Clark Kent (Superman, for those of you living under a rock) in the meantime is urging his supervisor at the Daily Planet to allow him to report on the Batman story, as Clark doesn’t look kindly on a vigilante running amok that thinks he’s higher than the law. As for Batman (Bruce Wayne, again for those living under said rocks), he is currently on a rampage. Bruce is tracking a group of big time thugs who all seem to link back to the eccentric but brilliant scientist known as Alexander, or Lex, Luthor. As for Lex Luthor, he has approached a senator from Kentucky regarding the recent find of a large store of Kryptonite, the only substance known to weaken Superman and other metahumans of his nature. Lex asks this senator if he should build a weapon out of the Kryptonite, just as an insurance policy against Superman, should he ever go rogue. Lex is denied though, and so he takes matters in to his own hands, heading to the crash site of the Kryptonian vessel and embarking on a bit of an experiment. At a gala hosted by Lex, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne come face to face, and after a brief conversation it is clear the pair’s views on current events are at great odds. Bruce is only at the gala to obtain some intel from Lex’s computer servers, but getting the drop on Bruce is a beautiful woman named Diana Prince, who is also after some of Lex’s intel. Bruce is baffled by her appearance and that she was able to get the drop on him. Their paths eventually cross again though, and Diana surprises him again by giving Bruce back the device he used to extract the info on Lex. Upon investigating this data he realizes that Diana is impossibly old, yet looks so young, it is clear there is something special about her. Bruce also views video entries detailing her and other individuals with extraordinary abilities, and ponders heavily on the matter. While this is all unfolding Lex is continuing to stir up trouble, using Batman’s long seeded emotions and fears over his parents’ deaths against him, using Lois Lane to get at Superman, all the while motivating an unavoidable battle between Batman and Superman in hopes that Superman will off Batman and then Lex can use the Kryptonite to off Superman, leaving him alone as the true super power in Metropolis and Gotham! Events don’t exactly unfold as Lex envisions though, as eventually Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman team up to take him on, going head to head against the abomination Lex births in the depths of the Kryptonian spacecraft. But can these three heroes defeat this monster? And even if they can, how much damage will be done and how many innocent lives will be lost along the way? I personally thought this movie was great. I loved the performances of the three main heroes and the super villain, I thought the story was a good one, and the action too. And how they began to bring the heroes together in a way that sets up the Justice League movie was pretty cool also. It’s not the best super hero movie out there, but it’s a great watch whatever the case. I’m starting to lose faith in humanity any more, always having to complain about something just for the sake of it . . .

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Early in the work week that followed Easter I finished watching a cartoon series from my youth . . . Jem and the Holograms! This DVD set I got from Amazon a while back, and it’s a monster, all 65 episodes from three seasons spread across 8 discs. The main character in this series is a young woman named Jerrica Benton, who owns and runs a music company called Starlight Records. Her parents are both deceased but were both in the music industry, her mom being a singer and her dad more on the technical/business side of things. He ran Starlight Records and left the company to Jerrica upon his death, but perhaps the most important thing he left behind for her was an experimental computer console he had been piecing together over the years dubbed “Synergy”. It is an advanced artificial intelligence capable of projecting holograms and performing other amazing feats. Using Synergy’s capabilities Jerrica takes on the persona of Jem, and together with some other girls she grew up with including Kimber (her sister), Aja, Shana, and eventually Raya, they form a band called Jem and the Holograms which take the music world by storm! It’s not all rainbows and bunnies though as the girls take on the task of running Starlight House, a home for orphaned girls, which pretty much taps out all of the earnings Jem and the Holograms bring in. Complicating matters is a rival group called The Misfits, which include Pizzazz, Roxy, Stormer and eventually Jetta. They are always trying to climb over the Holograms in the charts and sabotage their plans on a routine basis. Later in the series another rival band from across the pond enters the fray, The Stingers, which consist of Riot, Minx and Rapture. The Stingers also don’t care much for the Holograms, all except Riot, who takes a serious liking to Jem and pursues her relentlessly, causing stress between Jerrica/Jem and her boyfriend Rio. But throughout it all Jem and her Holograms persevere in all aspects of life and rise above their petty competition, ending the series on an upbeat, positive note. As a kid I really enjoyed this show. Jem was on at a time when Transformers, G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Voltron, Robotech and the like were still in heavy rotation, so it wasn’t always close to my first choice to watch. But somehow I fit it in amongst all the rest and it provided a bit of diversity in my cartoon watching frenzy, being so much different from all of these more action oriented series. It was still a great watch all these years later as well . . .

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Later that same week I finished reading my next book, The Complete Predator Omnibus. For those of you who might read my blogs regularly you may know by now that I’ve read most of the Alien Omnibus’, as well as the Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus, so this tome was logically to follow. And what a book! This volume contains three Predator focused “short” stories called Concrete Jungle, Cold War and Big Game. Concrete Jungle focuses on two New York detectives named Schaefer and Rasche, who used to work in narcotics but have since been moved to homicide due to some incidents. However, when a mass killing sees many of the drug peddlers they’ve been after for so long killed and skinned the pair, especially Schaefer, are desperate to find out who done it. As they revisit the scene Schaefer ends up confronting an unimaginable, otherworldly creature that tosses him around like a child’s plaything! Barely surviving the encounter Schaefer suddenly realizes that the stories his brother told him about a mission gone wrong in a jungle on the other side of the world was definitely more than it seemed. For Schaefer’s brother is Dutch, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the original Predator movie! Schaefer seeks to find out what really happened in that jungle 6 years ago, and just what the hell these creatures are now doing in New York City. Most important though, he wants to find out how to defeat these aliens and where the hell his brother disappeared to after that ill-fated mission! In book two, Cold War, it’s a continuation from this story. Schaefer is still working the beat in New York City while Rasche, having seen enough of the big city and the craziness it offers, has moved his family across the country and is now working as a small town sheriff in Oregon. Trouble finds them again though when a Predator ship crash lands in the Siberian wasteland, near one of Russia’s oil pipelines. The aliens quickly make short work of most of the Russian forces in the region, and when the U.S. finds out about the incident they mount a mission to recover the alien tech before the Russians can. And seeing as how Schaefer seems to have an innate understanding of the creatures, he is basically forced to come along on the mission. Once again Schaefer must go toe to toe with these beasts, while Rasche finds out about the situation and does what he can to help from the home front. But can this pair get lucky twice against such a sophisticated enemy? The third story, Big Game, is a complete departure from the previous two. It takes place in the New Mexico desert and focuses on a main character named Enoch Nakai. He is a corporal at Cole Army Base and he is also Navajo. Amongst his people he is rumoured to be the great “monster slayer” of lore, stories that have been passed down from generations. One day while on tank duty Nakai’s friend, Dietl, is struck down by a bolt of blue energy that seemingly came from . . . nowhere. Reporting the incident to his superiors, Nakai soon learns that they have discovered a manner of strange spacecraft landed in the desert nearby. As the army’s investigations of this spacecraft and it’s mysterious occupant unfold, more and more soldiers are killed and it’s apparent they are up against something they’ve never seen the likes of before. Due to the circumstances Nakai is given a three day leave, even though he doesn’t want it, but thankfully for him it is good timing as the alien’s ship detonates not long afterwards and eradicates the entire base! In response the army calls in a team of big guns to root this alien out once and for all. In the end though it will come down to the one on one scenario of predator vs. prey. But which side of the paradigm will Nakai fall under? These were three excellent stories! The first two I really enjoyed on their own, but then the link to Dutch and past Predator goodness was just an added bonus. And the third story was so different from the first two that it gave the whole collection a bit of diversity. Great action all around. Is there a volume two on the way, perhaps?

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Early in the weekend that saw us head to Hamilton for our friend’s passing I ended up watching Justice League, wanting to hit it while I was still hot after seeing Batman vs. Superman. This film picks up a couple of years after the events that brought about Superman’s death, and the world is still in mourning. Crime, fear and desperation are on the rise without the man of steel patrolling the skies and doling out justice, and Bruce Wayne knows there is something even worse coming on the horizon. Together with Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, he is attempting to recruit other metahumans to their cause in order to be prepared for whatever form this currently invisible threat takes. Bruce heads to a small, remote fishing village to recruit Arthur Curry, otherwise known as the Aquaman . . . but he wants nothing to do with Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, the Batman. Bruce experiences much better luck though when he tracks down Barry Allen, The Flash, who is all too willing to join the ranks of Batman’s burgeoning squad! Diana in the meantime has been sent out to investigate a youth named Victor Stone, who was thought to have perished in an accident but was in fact kept alive by his scientist father, now dubbed . . . Cyborg! He doesn’t want to join at first, but over time Diana gains his trust and wins him over. While all of this is happening all hell is literally breaking loose. An ancient demon named Steppenwolf has broken his chains and plans to rain down terror and misery across the Earth. His plan is to acquire three mystical boxes that, when combined, form a weapon dubbed The Unity, which Steppenwolf will then use to re-forge the Earth to his liking. He begins on Themyscira, the home of Wonder Woman’s Amazon sisters, and after a hard fought battle makes away with the first box. Queen Hippolyta sends a message to Diana, warning her of this danger, and so the Justice League (including Aquaman, who eventually sees reason) then focuses their attention on protecting the other two boxes. After Steppenwolf acquires the second box Bruce Wayne decides on a drastic plan of action . . . to use the third and final box to resurrect their fallen comrade Superman, who he feels is the only being capable of stopping Steppenwolf. Diana disagrees with this course of action but Bruce, with the backing of the others, goes ahead with it. The results are disastrous at first as Superman is very confused upon his revival, but Lois Lane soon intervenes and manages to calm him down and remove him from the situation until he can organize his thoughts and emotions. With Steppenwolf moving in on the third box though Superman needs to make a decision on what he wants to do, and he chooses to fight. And so the battle begins. The new, fully functional Justice League featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and The Flash, engage the fiend Steppenwolf in a battle to save planet Earth. At five on one odds will this battle be easy peasy for our heroes, or is Steppenwolf even more powerful than he seems? Just like Batman vs. Superman I thought this flick was a really good watch with a solid story and some great action. For such a dark movie there was a fair bit of lighter moments worked in to the mix, and the post credits scene with Lux Luthor and Slade point at even better things to come. Next stop . . . Aquaman!

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Also not long after getting home from the funeral services I finished reading my next book, this one another from the Marvel universe called Ant-Man: Natural Enemy. In this story Scott Lang, the Ant-Man, has recently moved to the upper east side in New York city with his daughter Cassie and only wants to put his shady past behind him, be a great father, and moonlight as Ant-Man when the need calls, helping to keep the city and world safe in relative anonymity. However, his life is turned on it’s side one day when some feds come knocking. A former colleague of Scott’s in the criminal underworld has just recently escaped from prison, a fellow named Willie Dugan. A few people Dugan worked with in the past have turned up dead, apparently at Dugan’s hands, and the feds believe Scott and his family might be next on his hit list . . . especially seeing as though Scott testified against Dugan and helped put the fiend in prison to begin with! Scott poo poos the feds’ concerns, not believing his family is in any trouble, but against his will agents are assigned to shadow him, Cassie and also his ex-wife Peggy, who is out on the west coast. Nobody is happy with the situation but they get on with their lives despite the intrusion, and Scott even manages to wrangle a date with a hot woman named Jennifer! He is conversely disappointed when he finds out Cassie swiped his Ant-Man suit and used it to shake her agent, in order to head to school and gain revenge on a friend of hers who had thrown her some shade. Soon enough though Scott’s worst fear comes to bear when he learns that the feds were indeed correct in their assumptions regarding Dugan’s future behaviour. Cassie is abducted in broad daylight outside of her school after the agent assigned to her, Roger, is shot by her abductors. Scott is then contacted by Dugan, who is on to the fact that Scott is Ant-Man. He sets up a private rendezvous for them to make a deal for Cassie’s life. So Scott then dons the Ant-Man suit and rushes to the address Dugan provides him in upstate New York. Once on site he locates Cassie and also the dead bodies of Dugan and his cronies, but is promptly disabled by a mysterious stranger before he or she flees the scene. With Cassie’s help Scott gets the Ant-Man suit back up and running again and they begin the trek home, concocting a story around these events that will not get them in trouble. Scott’s real concern though is the identity of the stranger who saved their lives, but at the same time also disabled Scott’s suit. Is there another threat out there plotting against Scott and his family? And what is with the sudden rash of disease afflicting the local ant population? This adventure is not over just yet, but Scott is determined to bring about it’s demise. Will he be able to do so, or will this unseen enemy get the better of him? This was an exciting, fast paced story that helped delve in to the life of Scott Lang a little more, as well as the Ant-Man suit and the details behind what makes it tick. Tony Stark figured in to the story a bit as well, which provided some insights on the friendship he and Scott share. Thanos is the next character on my Marvel book list, so stay tuned for that adventure in the near future!

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For the past while Jimmer and I have been watching a certain show on Netflix that was inspired to us after we watched Sam & Cat . . . and that show would be Victorious, the program that featured the origin of the super loveable Cat character! Anyways, the show revolves around a young woman named Victoria (Tori) Vega. Her sister Trina attends a fancy school in the Los Angeles area called Hollywood Arts, where young artists and performers go to hone their various crafts before setting off in to the world of entertainment. Trina is set to star in the school’s big showcase but unfortunately comes down with a swollen tongue. Tori is roped in to taking her place at the last minute even though she doesn’t attend the school, and her ensuing performance is a smash hit. It is so good in fact that she is offered a spot at the school no questions asked! Tori accepts and then begins classes, most notably under the tutelage of an eccentric and funny teacher named Mr. Sikowitz. It’s not long before Tori has made a handful of friends including the very musically talented Andre, the dim witted but super adorable Cat, nerdy Robbie (along with his ventriloquist dummy Rex), the handsome Canadian Beck, and Beck’s terrifying but sexy girlfriend Jade. Tori and Jade aren’t necessarily friends so much as frenemies, but you get the gist. At first Tori suffers some setbacks and doesn’t know if she’s cut out for life at Hollywood Arts. But with the help of her friends she finds her way and unlocks all of her talents, embracing her new direction in learning with open arms. Over the course of the show numerous support characters like Trina, Sinjin, Burf, and of course the hilarious Sikowitz chip in on the antics, which sees the kids deal with the rigours of attending such a prestigious school, along with their own personal problems. It all results in a very lighthearted, slapstick, Nickelodeon type of goodness that just can’t be ignored. This show is every bit as addictive as Sam & Cat. Now if only Netflix would add iCarly to their roster we could witness Sam’s beginnings as well!

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The day we went back to Hamilton for Joe’s memorial birthday celebration I finished reading the first book in a new series called Max Tilt. It’s written by an author named Peter Lerangis, whose Seven Wonders series I highly enjoyed, so this choice was a no brainer. The first book is called Fire the Depths and as it opens up we are introduced to one of the story’s main characters, a young boy named Maximilian Tilt. He is a 13 year old boy who lives in Ohio and has developed some mental peculiarities. Adding more stress to Max’s life though is the fact that his mom is really sick, not to mention that his dad has in effect quit his job in order to care for her, putting even more stress on the household. His mom’s condition becomes so bad that his parents need to travel to Minnesota so she can start a new experimental treatment. Coming to take care of Max while his parents are away is his cousin from Canada, Alex. She is a headstrong young woman who is taking a year off after school to focus on writing a book. Things don’t go so smoothly in the days after Max’s parents depart for Minnesota though. They discover that the Tilt family’s financial situation is so bad that the house is going to be foreclosed on in three weeks, and to make matters worse the electric company just recently shut off the power! Max and Alex embark on a plan to round up as much stuff in the house as they can find, and then sell it online to help at least pay off the electric bill, and maybe take care of some other expenses. In the process of doing so, in a secret area of the attic, they discover a shrine devoted to Jules Verne, the long deceased, world famous author. The kids both know that they are related to him, but this find leaves them flabbergasted. They decide to sell the treasure chest they find amongst this shrine, and a buyer is lined up to arrive the next day. However, it’s the secret document hidden inside the chest that really ensnares them. This document, written by Jules Verne himself, hints at the fact that his book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was in fact no work of fiction. There may just have been a real Captain Nemo, a real Nautilus submarine, and a real live adventure surrounding those things! The note also explains that if the reader wishes to discover great fortune, while at the same time making sure a world threatening plot dreamed up by that same Captain Nemo all those years ago never sees the light of day, then they will have to embark on a journey of their own . . . a journey retracing some of the steps Jules Verne and the despicable Captain Nemo trail blazed back in the past. However, the next day when the buyer shows up for the chest the kids are confronted by one Spencer Niemand . . . a descendant of Captain Nemo himself! A desperate chase is then on, for Max and Alex to complete this journey and keep Niemand in the dark, so Max can use the fortune to save his mom and solve his family’s financial troubles, while also saving the world from Niemand’s horrible vision. But what hope do two kids have against a grown adult with the backing of his multi-million dollar corporation and all of it’s resources? This was an awesome read, so fast paced, full of adventure and intrigue and mystery, and of course a good dash of humour. Books that retrace history, whether it be mysteries of the real world or of fiction always pique my interest. That sense of mystery and anticipation, I love it, this series is going to be right up my alley I can tell. I know there are three books in it so far, whether that will be the total or there are more to come I’m not sure, but needless to say I am completely on board for the rest of this adventure!

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The movie we watched on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend was the second in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, called The Crimes of Grindelwald. The events of this film take place not that long after the those of the first movie, in 1927. The ministry of magic in New York is transferring the vile prisoner Grindelwald over to Europe so that he can be tried for his numerous crimes, but an escape attempt has been engineered and is successfully accomplished. Grindelwald lays low at first, sending out some of his agents to work on leading the young man Credence in to his presence, so that Grindelwald can ultimately lure him to his side. Grindelwald’s ultimate goal is to have magicians everywhere ruling the world, not seeing Muggles as fit to have a say in future events, and Credence is one of the keys to this future. In the meantime Newt Scamander, beast charmer extraordinaire, is doing his usual thing. Collecting, caring for, and cataloguing any sort of magical beastie he can get his hands on. He is soon summoned to the Ministry of Magic by his brother Theseus however, on the subject of having his international travel ban lifted (after the events of the first film, of course). The higher ups say they will indeed lift the ban . . . if Newt promises to work for them and head to Paris to track down Credence. Newt declines and upsets his brother, but Newt just plain refuses to choose sides in this brewing conflict. Later on at home his friend Jacob and his lady Queenie (Tina’s sister) arrive unexpectedly, but Newt feels as though something is off. He lifts some sort of love spell from Jacob that Queenie had put him under (because she is not allowed to associate with a Muggle and Jacob didn’t wanted to put her in danger). Afterwards they fight about their relationship with Queenie storming off. Newt is later approached by a young Albus Dumbledore and persuaded to travel covertly to Paris and do the job that the Ministry had originally asked of him. The rumour going around is that Credence is actually the long lost brother of Leta Lestrange (who is engaged to Newt’s brother), and the only one reputed to be able to kill Dumbledore. Grindelwald of course values Credence for this ability, while Albus and the Ministry very much don’t want that to come to pass and so want him on their side. Albus is helpless to confront Grindelwald directly because of a blood oath the two made when they were younger and in a relationship at Hogwarts. Newt finally agrees, and so he and Jacob are soon on their way to gay old Paris. Once in the city many things happen. Credence’s trail is picked up, having been forced to work at a circus of freaks and during this time having developed a friendship with a young woman capable of turning in to a snake . . . named Nagini (whaaaaaaaattttt!?!?). Newt and Jacob locate Tina and eventually clear up a misunderstanding that saw Tina believe Newt was the one marrying Leta and not his brother Theseus. Queenie gets recruited to Grindelwald’s forces. And Jacob gets some help and advice from a certain friend of Albus’ named . . . Nicholas Flamel (another whaaaaaaatttt!?!?). In the end forces good and bad are all drawn to a location where Grindelwald is having a rally, a rally that quickly turns disastrous for the good guys and will help spread Grindelwald’s cause across the globe. Will our intrepid heroes manage to turn this disadvantage around at all? Will they merely manage to survive the battle and regroup for the rest of the war? And what of the secret identity of Credence? This movie was great, I really enjoyed all of the twists and turns, mystery and intertwined fates and relationships. I love the tie-ins to the Harry Potter movies, what with Dumbledore factoring in pretty heavily, learning the backstory of Nagini, seeing the Mirror or Erised revisited, and also getting an actual glimpse at Nicholas Flamel. It seems as though this series is just ramping up, the war is now on. I’m not sure how many movies are planned to flesh the rest of this storyline out, but I’m totally on board!

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The movie we watched on the Sunday of the Mother’s Day weekend was none other than . . . The Penguins of Madagascar! We had really wanted to watch this after Jimmer played Kowalski in his Original Kids performance, plus we had attachments to the three kids that played the other Penguins, so it was hilarious to watch this adventure and imagine our four real penguins in their shoes. Anyways, the movie starts off with a brief sequence from the past, when the young penguin brothers Skipper, Kowalski and Rico are out on the tundra migrating with their fellow monochromatic fowl. When an egg goes rolling by though, and nobody thinks to go get it before something bad happens, the three brothers turn their backs on nature and go after it themselves! After a hair raising chase they manage to catch the egg, which then hatches, birthing them a new brother, who they dub Private. Skip ahead many years later and the four penguins are with the rest of their zoo buddies at the circus, after the events of Madagascar 3, although they soon depart and head to the facility at Fort Knox in order to raid the vending machine and get Private a bag of Cheese Dibbles for his birthday. However, upon doing so the four brothers are then abducted and taken to Venice, where their captor is revealed to be a world famous scientist named Octavius Brine. In truth though Brine’s countenance is just a disguise, for underneath lies . . . a purple octopus named Dave?!? Dave explains to Skipper and crew that he kept on getting kicked out of zoos around the world whenever the cute and cuddly penguins arrived and stole his thunder, rendering him unwanted and unloved by the public. And so this octopus, the evil genius that he is, has invented something called the Medusa Serum. It is a substance that, when exposed to all of the penguins he plans on capturing, will render them hideous monsters, leaving them unloved and unwanted by the public just as he was for so many years! Skipper and crew engineer an escape to the streets of Venice, and are rescued at the last second by a wolf and his associates, who work for a covert organization known as the North Wind. They don’t take the penguins and their abilities seriously though, and have them sent to one of their facilities in . . . Madagascar of all places! However, once again Skipper and crew engineer as escape from this latest situation and get down to business. Penguins all over the world have suddenly started to go missing in mass quantities, and they know it’s the work of their arch enemy Dave. Skipper feels it’s up to him and his brothers to save penguin kind, and so they set out to do so. However, North Wind is attempting to do the same. Seeing as the two factions don’t get along they not only have Dave and his octopus forces to contend with, but each other as well. And what about Private, who feels as though he is not a valued member of the team, more mascot than anything else? Maybe this mission will be his time to shine! This was a great movie, so lighthearted and funny, colourful and adventuresome. I’m so glad I finally got to watch it, we had a good laugh imagining Jimmer and his penguin theatre friends playing out the events of the movie . . . especially the butt slapping!!

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As the May 2-4 long weekend approached I took a couple of hours one night to watch a movie I’ve had on my shelf for a while now . . . Goon: Last of the Enforcers! This is a sequel to the original Goon movie, and it picks up at the start of a brand new season for the Halifax Highlanders. Pro hockey is going through a lockout so all eyes are on the minor league teams, meaning Doug “the Thug” Glatt and the rest of his teammates have a huge shot at getting noticed. However, in their opening game of the season against the Reading Wolfdogs, Doug is challenged to a fight by a psychopath named Anders Cain. Cain cheapshots Doug with a head-butt before the fight begins and he never manages to recover, getting beaten badly and injuring his right shoulder in the process, effectively forcing him to an early retirement. This doesn’t please his wife, Eva, but when she finds out she’s pregnant with their first child it will at least allow them to settle down and become a proper family, what with Doug not being in danger anymore and being away for stretches at a time on road trips. She even manages to get him a job at an insurance company . . . which he hates. Doug just can’t stay away from the ice. He approaches his old rival, Ross “the Boss” Rhea, who is out of hockey but currently the champion of a sideshow league that features hockey fighting only. Doug wants Ross to train him to fight with his left hand, and also to just become a better hockey player in general, and Ross finally agrees. While the weeks and months pass as Doug secretly trains with Ross, the Highlanders owner (Hyrum Cain) looks to shake things up since the team went on a massive losing skid after Doug left the team. He makes a trade for his own son, the aforementioned psychopath Anders Cain, which needless to say doesn’t sit well with the rest of the team. On the ice it’s not any better. Cain’s violent temperament cancels out any positives his skill brings to the table, and the Highlanders continue to flounder. Eventually though Doug and Ross are showcased in the fighting league’s next event, which takes place in the Highlanders’ home arena! Hyrum takes notice of both Doug and Ross, and together with the coaching staff decide to bring Doug back, assuming after his performance that he is healed up and good to go. And that is where things get interesting. Can Glatt and Cain coexist on the same team after what happened at the start of the season, doubly so seeing as how Cain is a psychopath? And what of Doug and Eva’s marriage and relationship, how will she react to Doug wanting to play again? It all culminates in an epic battle during the last game of the season, with the Highlanders on the brink of a playoff spot . . . just how will it all unfold? This was a great movie, so much violence and so much raunchy humour . . . two of my favourite things! And the talent involved is fantastic. Of course you’ve got two big actors in Sean William Scott and Liev Schreiber, as two of the leads. But then you’ve got some great Canadian content too with Jay Baruchel (who is the brainchild behind the whole series), Alison Pill and the delicious Elisha Cuthbert. And then of course there are some pro hockey players appearing in a lot of the scenes including Colton Orr, George Parros, Georges Laraque and Brandon Prust . . . and probably some others I missed that I didn’t recognize at the time. I assume there won’t be a third movie based on how this one ended, but I’m all in if it ever does come about!

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The movie we watched over the May 2-4 weekend was one I’d wanted to see for a long time, for sentimental reasons mostly, none other than Thunderbirds. This movie is based on a show I watched as a kid that was filmed with those marionette type of puppets and toy vehicles and what not, it was very cool. Click here to see the old show intro. Anyways, in this Hollywood update from 2004 a young man named Alan Tracy is attending a fancy boarding school, although his attention is focused on anything but his education. For he has a family secret, a big one. His father, a former astronaut named Jeff Tracy, leads a team known as the Thunderbirds! The Thunderbirds operate advanced machines to help mitigate disasters and save lives around the world, and Alan is desperately waiting in line to become the next member of the team. His four older brothers including Scott, John, Virgil and Gordon are already full-fledged members of the team and Alan is feeling as though his time will never come. However, his opportunity is much closer at hand than he thinks. Alan and his friend Fermat (son of the Thunderbirds main engineer, who is nicknamed “Brains”) are extracted from school early one day and flown back to top secret Tracy Island where the Tracy family lives, by an ally named Penelope Creighton-Ward and her butler Aloysius. At the same time the Thunderbirds are engaged in an operation to rescue some oil platform workers in the middle of the ocean, where a fire is threatening to blow them to kingdom come! During the rescue one of the oil workers fires some sort of a tracker at Thunderbird 1, afterwards we learn that this fellow’s boss will be using said tracker to hunt the Tracy’s down and dispatch them. This fiend, known as The Hood, has a vendetta against Jeff for not rescuing him during a past operation concerning a mine cave in. The Hood survived the ordeal and plans on making Jeff and his family suffer as much as he did. The Hood also has psychic abilities that make him a much more powerful foe than an ordinary human man would be. The Hood and his hench people track the Tracy’s to their secret island in his submarine and then launch a missile in to space, attacking Thunderbird 5, where Jeff’s son John is manning the space station. The plan works perfectly, enabling the Hood and his forces to move on the Tracy’s compound after the Thunderbirds scramble and take off to rescue John. That means the safety of the Tracy compound falls in to the hands of Alan, Fermat and Brains, along with a young girl named Tin Tin (her and her father Kyrano live and work on the island for Jeff, and Kyrano just so happens to be the Hood’s brother). What chance do a few young kids and an eccentric engineer have against a psychopath like the Hood and his vicious forces? And furthermore, just what are the Hood’s aims in taking over the Thunderbirds operation? This movie wasn’t received well, and I never imagined it would have been. These types of family films never impress the critics for some reason, once more proving that there is not really a use for “critics” in this world anymore anyways, not that there ever was if you ask me. To me Thunderbirds is a fast paced, lighthearted family film with lots of fun and adventure. Bill Paxton was a beaut, so it’s nice to see another one of his past works. It also featured a young Vanessa Hudgens as Tin Tin. And then of course the nostalgia factor for me was really high, as I really enjoyed the old Thunderbirds show when it was on TV.

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Over this past weekend that saw me up at the cottage I finished reading my latest book, a Star Wars title called Thrawn: Alliances. This story takes place during the height of the Empire, when Emperor Palpatine senses something in the Force . . . in particular a threat from out in the Unknown Regions. Wild Space, if you will. In order to investigate this unknown threat Palpatine brings in two of his most trusted top agents. Of course one of them is his right hand Sith, Darth Vader, for obvious reasons. Grand Admiral Thrawn is the other member of this pair, a slick thinking Chiss alien whose people actually live out in the Unknown Regions, thus giving him a bit of an advantage on the matter. The pair aren’t thrilled to be working together though. Vader questions Thrawn’s loyalty to the Empire, while Thrawn doesn’t appreciate Vader’s rash, aggressive, and usually violent way of dealing with situations. But work together they do as they head out to the Unknown Regions to try and ferret out whatever situation it is the Emperor got a sniff of. While this story is unfolding another side story is told as well, from many years prior to this adventure, during the Clone Wars. Chance happenstance bring Anakin Skywalker and Thrawn together on the planet Batuu. On the information discovered by one of her trusted friends and handmaidens, Padme Amidala heads to Batuu to investigate what is assumed to be some significant Separatist activity. However, when she doesn’t report in Anakin has to go searching for her and instead finds Thrawn, and after a hesitant introduction to each other they decide to work together as their ultimate goals seem to align somewhat. As these two adventures, separated by many years, unfold and evolve, parallels and contrasts are drawn between the two missions these powerful characters participated in, and how they each handled them. In the end both missions meet with success, but Vader is left with many questions when all is said and done. Is Thrawn indeed loyal to the Empire and not his own people, the Chiss? Does he suspect that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are one and the same? And did he know all those years ago that Anakin and Padme were more than just colleagues? I found this to be a very interesting book, almost as if the story and events were secondary to the interplay between the two main characters, and how each influenced the other. I have a feeling that this story and some of it’s locales, like Batuu, are going to factor in to future Star Wars lore quite heavily. Overall this is a very interesting book, a little different than the usual Star Wars fare but none the less interesting and exciting.

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Over the last two months I’ve again had a couple of albums in heavy rotation on my stereo, the first of which is as classic as you can get . . . The Sex Pistols’ lone studio album dubbed Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols! The Sex Pistols are infamous for a number of reasons. After forming in the mid 1970’s they went on to release just the one aforementioned album in 1977, and it is perhaps the greatest punk rock album of all time. Fast, catchy, and wild power chords drive the backbone of their sound, and lying overtop it all is Johnny Rotten’s snide, sneering, attitude filled drawl, laying bare the problems facing the common folk of 1970’s Britain. They shocked the world with one of the singles from the album, called God Save the Queen, where they call her a fascist and “not a human being”, amongst lots of other stuff. Their behaviour and language was brash and crazy, one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve ever seen. And then of course there was their short stint together as the band broke up in 1978, followed by Sid Vicious’ death by heroin overdose after he allegedly murdered his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. All of the antics and craziness aside, this is one of the best albums ever recorded. It falls in to the category of if you were stranded on a remote island for the rest of your life and could only take ten albums with you, let’s say, this one would make the cut without a second thought. A masterpiece, truly. My favourite tracks on the record include “Liar”, “Problems”, “God Save the Queen”, “Seventeen” & “Sub-Mission”.

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The other album I’ve been listening to, and I’m sure you’ve probably picked up on the theme by now if you’ve read my last few blogs, is Megadeth’s fourth studio album called Rust in Peace. Released in 1990 this album is popularly considered one of their best, and it is quite brilliant. Despite the lineup changes the band has gone through over the years (there were two new members on this album alone) I have always found their sound quite consistent. This fourth album of the band’s early career was every bit as good as their previous three releases, and continued the early metal masters’ ascent to the top of the metal heap. The only difference I noticed with this album versus the three that came before it is some different vocal styles from Dave Mustaine on a few of the songs, and a lot more backing vocals from the other members of the band. Whatever the case it’s definitely another masterpiece! My favourite tracks on the album include “Holy Wars . . . the Punishment Due”, “Hangar 18”, “Tornado of Souls” & “Rust in Peace . . . Polaris”.

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It's been a couple of Mega months . . .

Well, unfortunately these last couple of months started off on a very bad note, when right after I posted my last blog we learned that mrs. darthcobain17’s uncle had died in a car accident out on the east coast. Leading up to that first weekend in February she headed down to visit with her mom and grandma before they flew out there. mrs. darthcobain17 returned home and so Jimmer and I tried to cheer her up over the weekend before she herself had to fly out for the funeral the following week. On the Friday night we had Wok Box for dinner, which always cheers me up! We watched the hockey game and I fell asleep well before it ended . . . this getting old business is really something. On Saturday we spent it mostly around home, we played some vids and I worked on my crafts and drawings, and went outside to play ball hockey. Our side door handle broke so I had to fix it, and while I was taking care of that mrs. darthcobain17 prepared a bunch of food for Jimmer and I for when she’d be away. That night we watched another Leafs game . . . and this time I at least waited to fall asleep until right after it was over, not during! On Sunday we spent the morning chilling, but in the afternoon Jimmer had his Original Kids rehearsal and I attended the first parent meeting for costumes and props, which went well. I had to take off early from that though as I had a book club meeting. I’m not even mentioning the book this time around because it was a deep thinker, and that I am not. These other people in the club are SO much smarter than I am!! mrs. darthcobain17 in the meantime spent her day at the gym and then at work, getting caught up for the time she was going to need to take off for the funeral, and that was our weekend in a nutshell.

The following weekend again sadly involved a funeral, that of one of our Hamilton friend’s father. On Friday night we didn’t do much, and then on Saturday Jimmer and I pretty much spent the whole day around home. It was snowing perfectly so I went out back for a few separate ball hockey sessions . . . making sure to take a hot coffee along each time! We also played vids, I worked on more drawings, and we generally just sat around snacking, reading and watching TV, most notably the Leafs game (beating the Habs, baby!). mrs. darthcobain17 went grocery shopping as she wasn’t going to be able to do it on Sunday, as is her usual routine. On Sunday the morning was relaxing, but before lunch mrs. darthcobain17 had to head to Toronto airport to pick up her mom and grandma, who were just getting back from the east coast. Then she had to get to Dundas to attend the aforementioned funeral. I had to stay behind as I needed to get Jimmer to his Original Kids rehearsal, during which the parent costume session ramped up with the costume pull that happened the previous weekend. We managed to find a few more useful items and I spent the rest of the time cutting up fabric for the Fusa costumes. After rehearsal we stopped in quickly at Heroes, where I picked up some more comics, then Jimmer and I headed home for dinner and to watch an oh so rare Sunday evening Leaf game!

The Family Day long weekend was next on tap, and wouldn’t you know it just as it was coming up I caught a brutal cold that pretty much killed my energy on Saturday and Sunday. Murphy and his god damned laws!! On the Friday night I cleaned the house as mrs. darthcobain17’s mom was coming down the next morning for a visit. After finishing that Jimmer and I killed the rest of the night by playing some vids and what not. On Saturday I got up and played some early morning vids, before heading outside to play some ball hockey with Jimmer. Nanny eventually arrived, soon after her and mrs. darthcobain17 left the house for an afternoon at the spa. When they got home we decided to order dinner from Bangkok Pad Thai, as well as some movie popcorn from Silver City, then sat down to watch Madagascar in honour of Jimmer’s upcoming musical. I tried to stay awake for what remained of the Leafs’ game afterwards, but I felt like shit and so just went to bed and read some comics before I fell the hell asleep. On Sunday mrs. darthcobain17 got up for the gym, and soon after her mom left for home, after which I gave the house another good clean. Over the course of our Saturday the mess got stirred up all over again unfortunately. Eventually I took Jimmer to the market for his Original Kids rehearsal, and us parent volunteers continued work on the costumes and props. After we got home James’ friend Tyler invited him over for a playdate, and so he spent a couple of hours down the road. When he got home we had dinner and finished the night off by playing vids and watching a movie. The holiday Monday was a wacky one. I was hoping for it to be relaxing but it was just kind of weird. It snowed a lot overnight, so Jimmer and I went outside and shoveled, then played a bit of ball hockey afterwards. A little while before lunch Tyler invited James over for another playdate, this time a real quick one, and while he was down there his other friend Jacob called and asked about doing something! So once James got home he called Jacob and they arranged to meet at the school and play outside for a while. All this time mrs. darthcobain17 was meal prepping for the week ahead . . . which meant she made a bunch for great food, but also a great big mess in the process. So for the third time in four days I got out my tools of the cleaning trade and made things right. Later, well after Jimmer got home, we had dinner and then watched another movie to massage the long weekend home. I was quite sad it was over and seemed to pass so fast, having felt like crap and having to clean so much to boot . . . but that’s life, I suppose.

The following weekend was a busy one around town, although on the Friday night we didn’t do much. mrs. darthcobain17 brought home Wendy’s for dinner, after which Jimmer and I re-watched Avengers: Infinity War. On Saturday the morning was just a bunch of lazing about. I played some vids and went outside to play ball hockey, also continued trying to knit my wife a scarf, then had a nice hot bath and read my books. In the afternoon we headed out though as we needed to get Jimmer (who just keeps on growing) a bunch of new shoes, afterwards hitting up the movies to see a certain film that James and I especially were very excited had been recently released! Afterwards we roamed the mall where I found a 2 for $10 CD sale at Sunrise, and so picked up a couple of new albums. We had dinner in the mall, at Jimmy the Greek, and on our way home stopped at a new spot called Big Orange to try bubble tea for the first time . . . I liked it! When we got home we watched the hockey game before calling it a night. Sunday was a bit of a busy one. We goofed around a little bit in the morning, but we then had to leave to get Jimmer to his rehearsal, while we adults worked on props and costumes. Afterwards we met my parents at the market and headed over to The Works for a late lunch/early dinner, to celebrate my mom’s birthday, which was the next day. On the way home we stopped by an arena close to home to watch a bit of a hockey game for one of the kids James played ball hockey with in the summer, but didn’t stay too long. After getting home the wife meal prepped for the week and I had an impromptu nap while Jimmer played some vids! Getting so old . . . naps, never needed them before. Anyhoo, that was the weekend in a nutshell!

We finally had some real plans on the weekend that was next in the que. On the Friday night Jimmer and I were supposed to go to the movies but he bailed on me at the last second, so we just bummed around the house instead. On Saturday we just tooled around a in the morning and early afternoon, up to our usual weekend layabout activities. But in the late afternoon we all took off to Dundas, to pick up our friend Johnny and go out for dinner (we ended up choosing Fionn MacCool’s). The reason for the visit was to attend one of our friend’s fortieth birthday party, and attend it we did. Good god they even dished out shots, and a lot of them! I had a lot of fun, but made a mess of the outside of the van door just as we were about to get home. Hah! The next day started rough, but I had put the worst of it behind me by the time I had to take Jimmer to his Sunday rehearsal. During said rehearsal us parents finished off a few of the last things needed in the props/costume department, and made sure all of the kids knew what was theirs. It slowed down near the end so I even managed to nip out and fit in another trip to Heroes. After getting home we played some vids while mrs. darthcobain17 meal prepped for the week, and I even had an impromptu nap! A fun weekend for sure, but also a tiring one . . .

Craziness abounded on the weekend that saw March Break arrive. A couple of days earlier, on the Thursday, Jimmer’s latest show opened up. Madagascar . . . A Musical Adventure! And it was fantastic. Everything came together perfectly in the end. Actors, costumes, props, tech, they had a great opener and kept it up throughout their run. On the Friday night he didn’t have a show, so we watched an old horror/thriller movie I really enjoyed as a kid (see more on that way, way below). On Saturday James had two shows, so we were at the market for most of the day. Since he was one of the mic’d characters we had to be there a little earlier than most, so the routine became that we got the four penguins’ faces painted up, and helped them get in to their costumes, then went to watch the show or just hang around the market and drink coffee if we didn’t have tickets to a particular performance. Between shows on Saturday we went to Olive R. Twists for lupper, with mrs. darthcobain17’s mom and one of her friends that likes to see the shows as well. On Sunday there were two more shows so that dominated our day once again, this time between shows we went to the tried and true The Works to get our eat on! And that was our whirlwind weekend . . .

The weekend that closed March Break continued to be crazy as it also saw a close to James’ show . . . and what a run it was! On the Friday night they had just one evening show to do. After work I brought one of James’ friends down to the market to see it. When the show was over we hit up Dairy Queen for some ice cream, and then returned to our house where the boys had a sleepover (Fortnite and Mega Man and then bed, basically). mrs. darthcobain17’s mom was also in town to see the show again so it was a more crowded house than usual! On Saturday it was closing day, so we took James’ friend home early and then got down to the market to prepare for their noon performance. We had a little extra to do that day because we had organized a pizza party in between shows where the kids would give their directors their gifts and what not. It was a bittersweet finale, but at least I got to put on the penguins’ makeup and help them get in to their costumes one last time, not to mention getting to see the show a couple more times as well. It’s hard to see these shows go, as I find I usually get attached to one or two of the kids that I help out during the run, as well as some of the parents that I’ve worked with on the costumes and props. But at least I’m getting used to the routine by now, after five shows and all! Anyways, after the 4pm show, for which eight of our family friends came to watch (Sieve and his brother Pswayas, and all of their families), we put the show away during strike and it took a fraction of the time that A Christmas Story did. Afterwards we stopped by Sieve’s house as all of them had gone back there to learn the gender of Sieve’s next baby, so it was nice to be able to spend a bit of time with them after the show. Upon getting home I cleaned the house (it was a bit of a disaster after the sleepover and a rushed breakfast the morning after) before chilling for the rest of the night. On Sunday, other than James meeting a friend down at the school to play for an hour or so, we did jack diddly squat . . . and it was glorious!!

The most easy going weekend we’d had in quite a while then came upon us, and for a couple reasons. First of all, mrs. darthcobain17 went to Collingwood for the weekend with her friends, to celebrate one of their fortieth birthdays, so she was out of the way. And also theater was over so we had no major commitments on that front. That left Jimmer and I all alone to do whatever we wanted, mwooh hah hah! On Friday night we didn’t do much except play video games and watch TV. On Saturday morning I got up and actually did my one job of the weekend, since it was finally sunny and dry outside for a change. I took down all of the outdoor Christmas decorations and stowed them in the shed, and tidied up the yard of all the winter garbage that had blown around. After having a nice long bath and some lunch we then headed out so Jimmer could play in his second ball hockey exhibition game of the season, where they do all the evaluations and then split up the teams. This one was a beatdown for his team, I lost count of the score, but I do know that he notched a goal. After the game we went to Wal-Mart and picked up a couple of cheap games for the Switch (finally, huzzah!!) and also some snacks for the Leafs game that night. Upon getting home we played more vids before eating dinner and then watching the game. After Jimmer went to bed I continued on with the vids until I could no longer stay awake. On Sunday we played more vids, went out back for a couple of ball hockey sessions (and finally found one of our long lost balls in the bushes!), and even played an indoor game of hide and seek. Eventually the wife got home though, and so the fun was over . . . as was the weekend.

The weekdays were busy for the most part, but there were stretches where we had a bit of time to spend doing nothing much of anything unless we wanted to, which was all pretty much dictated by Jimmer’s theatre schedule. The weekdays were dominated by work for us and school for Jimmer of course, but as for the week nights a great many of them were spent getting James back and forth for his Madagascar rehearsals, as well as doing what I needed to in terms of costume/prop help alongside the other volunteering parents. Many Leafs games were watched, and there are now only a half dozen or so regular season games to go before the playoffs begin . . . oh, baby!! Jimmer had his usual overnights at my parents’ house, at least until they headed off to Florida in early March. Sieve and I got back in to the Bill 69 video game routine and made a bit of headway there. The week before March Break, just as James’ show was set to open, was dominated by their tech and dress rehearsals, along with scrambling to get all of the last minute items ready for the show. And then of course March Break was dominated by the actual show. After Madagascar came to a close, that freed up our schedule quite a bit, although recently Jimmer just completed his exhibition games for the upcoming ball hockey season and has been placed on the Asteroids team! Now with the spring having arrived and the weather finally starting to get nicer I can turn my attention to getting outdoors and cleaning up the yard, as well as getting my biked tuned up and back on the pathways to work. I can’t wait! In between all of my sessions of adulting, here is what I/we managed to get accomplished . . .

1) Pikmin 3 is finally complete, it all came to a head pretty quickly there at the end! Anyways, continuing my explorations on day fifty-eight we soon discovered that the Hocotation we rescued wasn’t actually Olimar, but instead his partner Louie! We then picked up on a signal coming from a new region called Formidable Oak, and so we headed there post haste. Beginning our explorations we climbed the trunk of a large tree, locating a data file along the way. Coming to a flat area at the top of this tree stump we found Olimar lying unconscious with some golden glob like creature hovering over him. We defeated it, or so we thought, then recovered Olimar’s body and traipsed off to piece a route back to the Drake. We found another data file early in these travels, and then discovered that the glob creature was not dead, only stunned, so it reformed and gave chase, wanting to reclaim Olimar desperately for some reason unknown to us! So we fled through this unfamiliar territory, breaking down various types of barriers and defeating enemies as quickly as we could (finding a couple more data files in the process), reclaiming Olimar over and again whenever the creature would catch up to us and take him back. After a while the sun began to set so we had to give up on our task and abandon Olimar for the night. On day fifty-nine we repeated this very same scenario, only this time with the progress we made the day before we were able to push further in to this territory than we were able to manage the day prior. We placed some bridge pieces and used bombs to create a shortcut for future use, but again we had to abandon Olimar to the blob when the sun sunk low in the sky. Day sixty unfolded much the same, in that I placed some more bridge pieces and completed some electrical circuits to activate a series of platforms we needed to aid further passage, but again the glob escaped with Olimar at the end of the day. By day sixty-one I was getting déjà vu! I placed the last of the bridge pieces I could find, but that was about all I could get done. To change things up a bit, on day sixty-two I revisited the Tropical Wilds region in an attempt to rustle up the last of the fruit that I had missed on my initial times through. I ended up finding a data file, a Mock Bottom fruit, and spent some time spawning more Pikmin to replace all those I’d lost in my battles with the glob. For the next three days, sixty-three through sixty-five, I continued to scour Tropical Wilds and found fruits including a Searing Acidshock, Slapstick Crescent and Zest Bomb, while also generating a ton of new Pikmin. On day sixty-six I tried the Garden of Hope region, spawning more Pikmin and finding the last fruit available there, another Searing Acidshock. Day sixty-seven saw me head to the Distant Tundra region, where I found the last two unclaimed fruits, a Portable Sunset and some Dusk Pustules. For the next three days, sixty-eight through seventy, I returned to the Twilight River region. There I found four data files and recovered all of the remaining fruit, which included some Dusk Pustules, not to mention a Citrus Lump, Juicy Gaggle, Crunchy Deluge and Tremendous Sniffer. I also bolstered my Pikmin ranks something fierce! On day seventy-one I returned to Formidable Oak and continued my frantic surge to the Drake. I found a data file and had my pink Pikmin lift up a clipboard to make a bridge I couldn’t access quite yet. On day seventy-two I finally completed the last steps in forging a path out of the caves, by completing one final circuit that had eluded me all this time! Entering a clearing outside the caves though, the golden glob creature made it’s final attack on us, putting up one hell of a fight! I had it almost whittled down and defeated, but before I could finish it off the sun went down. So bright and early on day seventy-three I headed back to it and finished the job, no problemo. Afterwards Olimar thanked us and gave us the cosmic drive key, which allowed us to blast off and return our valuable payload of seeds to our home planet of Koppai. We promised to drop off Olimar and Louie on Hocotate along the way, seeing as their own ship was destroyed. And that was the game! I dabbled in the Mission mode afterwards, but didn’t get too far in to it. I had played enough Pikmin 3 as it was! An excellent game though. Such an original idea, and very unique in how it unfolds and is presented to the user. I am quite interested in exploring the two games that came before it, should I ever get the chance . . .

2) The great plod resumed on MLB 2K10, here are the next batch of games that I got out of the way on my current season: won vs. Cincinnati 8-7 (17 innings), won vs. Cincinnati 3-2, won vs. Cincinnati 5-0, won vs. Chicago White Sox 3-0, lost vs. Chicago White Sox 6-5 & won vs. Chicago White Sox 4-0.

3) On NHL 10 meanwhile the action heated up greatly for the first round of the playoffs . . . and we drew one of our hated rivals in the Philadelphia Flyers for said matchup! Here is how that series unfolded: won vs. Philadelphia 3-1, won vs. Philadelphia 2-1, won @ Philadelphia 3-2 & won @ Philadelphia 4-1. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference the New York Rangers needed all seven games to get past Atlanta, Washington sent Montreal packing in five games, and Pittsburgh gave Boston the sweep treatment. In the west Columbus needed all seven games to oust Los Angeles, Edmonton required the same to defeat Phoenix, Anaheim handled Vancouver in five games, while Calgary somehow swept Chicago. This set up a second round series for us with the Pittsburgh Penguins . . . so we would crush all of Pennsylvania’s NHL hopes over the course of a few virtual weeks . . . excellent! Here is how that series boiled out: lost vs. Pittsburgh 2-1 (OT), lost vs. Pittsburgh 5-3, won @ Pittsburgh 4-0, lost @ Pittsburgh 4-3, won vs. Pittsburgh 5-1, won @ Pittsburgh 3-2 . . . & lost vs. Pittsburgh 1-0!!! WTF!?!? This series was bullshit, we vastly outplayed them every game but they were able to score whenever they needed to, while we ran in to a hot goalie at the worst possible moments. Not thrilled that our season was all for naught, but at least it might be a good lesson for Jimmer. Our playoff leaders were: Goals (Wallin with 11), Assists (Mayers and Komisarek with 6), Points (Wallin with 16), Penalty Minutes (Wallin with 20), +/- (Komisarek with +14), Powerplay Goals (Blake with 1), Shorthanded Goals (Wallin with 2), Game Winning Goals (Wallin and Blake with 2), Shots (Wallin with 46), Faceoff Wins (Wallin with 44) & Hits (Komisarek with 35). As for our goalie, here was Osgood’s line: 7-4 win/loss record, 1.70 Goals Against Average, .913 Save Percentage, 218 Shots Against, 19 Goals Against, 1 Shutout & 4 Assists. NHL 10 is a fantastic entry in EA’s longstanding series . . . but this loss still rankles me!!

4) The action continued to ramp up on Gran Turismo 5. I last left off in the midst of the A Spec Events, under the Amateur Series, and had one more event to close out there. It was the Supercar Nostalgia Cup, which consisted of three races: Rome (first), Suzuka Circuit (first) & Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (first). I then bumped up to the Professional Series and began tidying up the unfinished events I had left there. First was the Supercar Festival, which held three races: High Speed Ring (first), Superspeedway – Daytona (first) & Nurburgring GP/F (first). Then came the one-off Lupo Cup at Nurburgring Nordschleife (first). Next was the Japanese 80’s Festival, which contained a pair of races: Autumn Ring (first) & Deep Forest Raceway (first). The Lamborghini Exclusive one-off event was next, which took place at Rome (first). Then came a pair of races under the British Lightweights event: London (first) & The Top Gear Test Track (first). Another one-off event then reared it’s beautiful head, called La Festa Cavallino: Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). The last event under the Professional Series was a cumulative points championship called the Gran Turismo World Championship. It consisted of five races, which went as such: Circuit de la Sarthe 2009 (first), Nurburgring Nordschleife (first), Circuito de Madrid (first), Cape Ring (first) & Grand Valley Speedway (first). I then headed over to the B Spec Events and completed the very same Gran Turismo World Championship event there, which was the last one I needed to put in the books. Here is how that went (it might look a bit familiar): Circuit de la Sarthe 2009 (first), Nurburgring Nordschleife (first), Circuito de Madrid (first), Cape Ring (first) & Grand Valley Speedway (first). Staying with B Spec I then bumped up to the next circuit, called the Expert Series. First up was another points championship called the Tuned Car Championship, consisting of five races: Suzuka Circuit (first), Road Course – Daytona (first), Grand Valley Speedway (first), Special Stage Route 5 (first) & Tokyo R246 (first). Then came the MR Sports Cup, which held three races: Deep Forest Raceway (first), High Speed Ring (first) & Circuit de la Sarthe 2009 (first). A pair or races was next under the Turbo Challenge event: High Speed Ring (first) & Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). Then came another points championship event, called the Japanese Championship. It was made up of five races: Tsukuba Circuit (first), Fuji Speedway F (first), Grand Valley Speedway (first), Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first) & Suzuka Circuit (first). Another duo of races was then on tap, within the Schwarzwald League A event: Nurburgring GP/F (first) & Tokyo R246 (first). Then came a one-off event called the Gallardo Trophy: Rome (first). At this point I got stuck as I needed a much faster ride, wo the then went back over to the A Spec Events and played through these same series. First up was the Tuned Car Championship, consisting of five races: Suzuka Circuit (first), Road Course – Daytona (first), Grand Valley Speedway (first), Special Stage Route 5 (first) & Tokyo R246 (first). Then of course came the MR Sports Cup, which held three races: Deep Forest Raceway (first), High Speed Ring (first) & Circuit de la Sarthe 2009 (first). The pair or races under the Turbo Challenge event came next: High Speed Ring (first) & Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). Then came the next points championship event, the Japanese Championship, made up of five races: Tsukuba Circuit (first), Fuji Speedway F (first), Grand Valley Speedway (first), Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first) & Suzuka Circuit (first). The duo of races within the Schwarzwald League A event were then conquered: Nurburgring GP/F (first) & Tokyo R246 (first). And finally was the one-off event called the Gallardo Trophy: Rome (first). Throughout this action I earned just a couple trophies, including Professional Series Complete & Finale.

5) Marvel Ultimate Alliance, mercifully, is finally complete!!!!! At least, kind of. Anyways, the next level, the eleventh level in total, was called “Skrull Homeworld”. With the crystal now in our possession the only object we required in order to turn Dr. Doom’s own plan against him was the Muonic Inducer, a device that was used by . . . wait for it . . . Galactus! He uses it in the process of devouring worlds and converting them in to energy to suit his needs, and we had learned he was heading to the Skrull home planet in order to devour their world. So we headed there and upon landing immediately ran in to Galactus Hulks and Skrull Soldiers, who didn’t give a care what our intentions were! Battling through these forces we disabled a number of magnetic shield generators that were important to Galactus’ current task. Eventually we encountered Paibok and Super Skrull, lieutenants of the Skrull Empress, and they wanted to beat us down badly. Before any dukes were thrown the empress intervened and asked of our intentions. She insisted that if we were there only and truly to battle Galactus and foil his plans, then we would lower a hangar door for her, allowing her to escape in her spacecraft. So we set off once more and battled through more hordes, running in to Ultrons now as well. Eventually we located the controls to the hangar door and used them to open up said door. When we then returned to the empress she double crossed us and sicked both Paibok and Super Skrull on our squad after all! We beat the pair down though and afterwards exited in to the city proper, right away witnessing the towering Galactus causing all sorts of havoc on the horizon. Keeping our distance from the behemoth we battled more enemies and destroyed some core drills that were also vital to the big man’s plans . . . and that is when he finally took notice of our team. He sent a number of his Punishers after us, but we fought off all comers before running in to Titannus. He was a Skrull, angry at his own people for putting him in the Super Skrull program against his will, and he was running amok. We beat him down, afterwards getting a communique from Nick Fury to hurry our asses up. Galactus finally gave chase at this point and we stayed out in front of him as long as we could, until a confrontation became imminent. The Silver Surfer showed up at this point, after talking to him we used a trio of towers to send feedback at Galactus and distract him, at which point the Surfer harried him and dealt out much damage. After a few rounds of this process we finally beat the monster unconscious and got away with his Muonic Inducer, returning to base with our hard won prize. The final level was “Dr. Doom’s Castle”. Now that we had the M’Kraan Crystal powering the Muonic Inducer, we were ready to confront Dr. Doom and steal Odin’s powers back from him, using this jury rigged device. The only catch was that we needed to get close enough to touch Doom in order for it to work. So Nick Fury flew us to the villain’s castle and we forged onwards in to it, but Dr. Doom basically controlled reality, so it was obvious he was leading us along at his own whim. Battling many Doom Bots along the way we learned that we needed to acquire a few of Dr. Doom’s belongings before we were to confront him. Before we could put any effort in to such a search we came upon dark versions of Colossus and Captain American, corrupted by Doom’s influence. But we beat them down easily enough and then obtained the first item on our list, Dr. Doom’s gauntlet! Plowing ahead our next test were dark versions of Psylocke and Cyclops, who we defeated as well, afterwards obtaining Doom’s armor. After nabbing this second item we entered Dr. Doom’s lab (finding a damaged Ultimate Nullifier device along the way) where we discovered a captive Odin! Dark versions of Thor and Spider-Man entered the fray and so we beat them down, then using the defeated Thor’s hammer to free Odin, who was then whisked away to safety by Valkyrie. We then picked up Doom’s last item, his mask. It was then time to confront the fiend himself, and upon doing so Doom blathered on for a bit before setting dark versions of the Fantastic Four on us . . . and what a battle it was!! The battle was so hard we could never complete it . . . so GAME OVER! This game, although I love it in premise, is not without it’s downsides. First, the motion controls in some of the boss fights, I didn’t like it. The insane difficulty level on some of the sequences, I didn’t like that either. And the game was just kind of glitchy at times throughout as well. I plan on one day getting the second installment if I can find it for cheap, just to see if they improved on it at all, because it’s a great idea having a game that can utilize so many different characters. But this first one should have had a bit more work go in to it before it was released to the masses . . .

6) The complete insanity continues on Lego: The Ninjago Movie Videogame! We finally managed to complete the game, at least on our initial go round. The levels we dusted this time around were: “Chapter 12: The Unclimbable Mountain” (earned/found 2 Gold Bricks, earned 2 Ninjanuity Tokens, and unlocked the Koko [Office] character), “Chapter 13: Flashback Battle” (earned/found 2 Gold Bricks, Fire Spinjitzu Mastered, earned a Ninjanuity Token, unlocked the Lady Iron Dragon, Kai [Unmasked] & Jay [Unmasked] characters along with some new character parts, Elemental Weapons unlocked, and earned the Master of Stairs trophy) & “Chapter 14: Ninjago City Downtown (plus the brief Destroy Lego City bonus level afterwards)” (earned/found 5 Gold Bricks, earned 2 Ninjanuity Tokens, unlocked the Ed, Gravis, Lord Garmadon, Koko, Garma Mecha Man, Green Ninja Mech Dragon & Mr. Liu characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Student of the Golden Art, Master of Beasts, Master of Ninjago, Master of Destruction & Master of Upgrades trophies). The mop up effort comes next . . . and I have a feeling it might be a long one . . . this game is chaos!!

7) There is more progress to report on Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. When I last left off we had just rescued Peach, but the orbs that had kidnapped her reconfigured in to a boss . . . a boss that took me many, many god damned tries to finally beat! But beat it I did. Afterwards we all talked about finally trying to escape Bowser’s body, as none of us had given this any thought yet, being so focused on finding Peach and what not. At this same time Fawful was shooting a strange laser beam at Bowser’s lower half (him still being stuck in the floor and all), telling Bowser that his plans had changed and he now needed to pull Princess Peach out of Bowser’s body. On the inside, hearing this, Peach knew exactly why Fawful was after her . . . because of the Dark Star. The Dark Star is an ancient star found long ago buried beneath the castle. It is an evil thing, and if any evil doer were ever to get their hands on it, they would become fiendishly unstoppable. The Dark Star was moved long ago, hidden underneath Toad Town and guarded all the while, with Peach being the only person capable of setting it free. Suddenly a great light appeared above Mario, Peach, Luigi and Starlow, and a magical hand shot out and pulled Peach away from them! Fawful now had her in his clutches. After Fawful and Midbus departed with Peach, Bowser finally managed to escape the floor and ran off all of his fatness on a treadmill. And then he unwittingly ignited a stash of Bob-Ombs and blew his own ass to a new area of the kingdom! Exploring this new area I found Bowser had ended up in what seemed to be a mine of some sort. Running in to new enemies that seemed to be half Goomba and half living volcano, I defeated those who barred my progress. Using Bowser’s fire breath I ignited bombs that blasted open new areas whenever I hit a dead end. Eventually I stumbled upon the Monty Bros., who were having trouble with their drill in finishing off a tunnel they were trying to dig. When I showed up they told me I had assigned them this project a while back, which I had planned to utilize in order to kidnap Peach. They told me that the tunnel they were working on would lead us to Toad Town, and so I “helped” them with their drill, requiring Mario and Luigi to stimulate Bowser’s legs for the power required for the job. Setting off in to Toad Town afterwards Bowser didn’t make it far before he tripped some sort of alarm and got his ass tasered six ways from Sunday! Taking control of Mario and Luigi we headed to the region of Bowser’s body dubbed Pipe Town. Once there an elderly Toad informed us that taking these pipes could lead us back to the outside world. So we took one and ended up in . . . Toad Town, of course! We explored the tunnels beneath the town, taking out some chicken themed enemies, before switching to the open air above, running in to some blue Koopa Troopas who went on about wearing a shell and the abilities it could grant us. They then gifted us with 10 Toad Town Attack Pieces, which granted us the Yoo Who Barrel attack ability. Heading back underground we stumbled upon Bowser’s unconscious form, wondering what had happened to him. Then the security system flared to life and so we high tailed it out of there, leaving Bowser to get tasered for a second time! Moving along we battled more enemies as I encountered a series of stone walkways suspended over a murky body of water. Solving some puzzles with our new shell ability we bashed a few blocks and thus opened up a mysterious door within this chamber. Guarding the chamber within were a couple of Toads . . . a couple of Toads who were acting quite suspicious! It turns out they were a couple of minor enemies in disguise, and after dispatching them we entered said chamber and beheld the Dark Star. Fawful chose this moment to show up and snatch it away though, and the prick was pretty smug about it all to boot! He mentioned taking over Peach’s Castle so we departed the chamber and made that our next destination. We engaged more enemies as we fought through the caves, eventually surfacing close to Toad Town. All the talk was about a new mall that was set to open up any time now. Ignoring that we approached Peach’s Castle when suddenly a series of barriers were erected in front of us, placed there by Fawful no doubt! Turning back in defeat we headed in to town to have a look at the mall, which had just opened up for business. We talked to a lot of the mall patrons about the various stores and other events that were going on, then made a couple of visits and purchased gear items as well as some badges. We then entered the doctor’s office and faked an illness, after which a mysterious Toad with a crystal ball diagnosed us with . . . Bowseritis!! Just then Bowser (hearing his name) showed up and took us to task, but we beat him down easily enough and had him seeing stars. We asked this Toad if he knew how to get rid of the barriers, but he informed us that he could not do it himself. However, if we were to obtain the three Star Cures held by the three sages, then we might get somewhere. Bowser overheard this and set off to find them for himself, but little did he realize that the first sage was actually within his own body, the strange worm/caterpillar thing we battled a while back to release Bowser’s flame ability! So we took a nearby pipe back inside of Bowser and set off to the Energy Hold area of his body to search this “sage” out. We gave chase but the worm soon eluded us when it ducked past a barrier we could not find a way around. Control then switched over to Bowser, who was set to rumble through Dimble Wood in search of the first sage. Moving through the region I battled some new enemies, including these walking sunflower type chaps. In my explorations I soon found a way to go underwater, encountering some aquatic themed enemies and sending them to Davey Jones’ Locker! Resurfacing in a new area I spied a wooden ship and eventually made my way to it. Before it lay a couple of flowers that got Bowser all verklemped, so utilizing Mario and Luigi we headed to Bowser’s Nose Deck, manipulating the pollen to make Bowser sneeze. Said sneeze blew the ship to another shore, so I chased after it once more. Again I met with more flowers, and so had to initiate another sneeze. This one sent the boat through to an impassable area I had encountered earlier in my wanderings, breaking down the barriers as it went. Before going to investigate this new development I saw this weird structure with a propeller on it sticking out of the water nearby. I went to check it out and it turns out said propeller was attached to the head of a massive being that was half robot and half stone building . . . and of course I then had to do battle with the behemoth! This one only took a couple of attempts, and after the fight I continued rambling along, beginning with a trip inside this now grounded enemy. Making my way to it’s topmost level I discovered a book, within which resided the consciousness of a being named Yikk. This Yikk ruminated on the “riddle of the Boo” and then went on about a Boo-ray machine he’d invented. I gave it a try and Yikk said I could use it any time I wanted. Fiddling with the machine then prompted a switchover to Mari and Luigi, who were drawn to Bowser’s Energy Hold. Once there they discovered that the Boo-ray machine shining on Bowser’s gut had removed the barriers that were in their way when chasing after the bug (sorry, sage) a short while earlier! Onward, ho!

8) I completed a bunch more games on my season of NHL 2K9, as such: won vs. New York Islanders 9-4, won @ Buffalo 4-1, won vs. New Jersey 8-1, won @ Boston 11-1, won @ Pittsburgh 5-0, won @ Atlanta 13-3, won vs. Dallas 6-1, won @ New York Islanders 5-2, won @ Washington 5-2 & won vs. Atlanta 5-3.

9) Sieve and I finally got back at Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn once our regular vids sessions restarted again in February . . . at least for one level, anyways! And what a game, the action and hilarity just continue to astound. The level we completed this time around was “Level 3: Sunset Strip”. During this batch of play we earned the 500 Little Pricks and Going Down For The Last Time trophies.

10) Jimmer and I continue to love the zany action of the original LittleBigPlanet game! Picking back up in The Canyons region we had one last level to beat there, as such: Serpent Shrine (6,852 points and 74% of items collected, earning The Canyons trophy). The scene then shifted to The Metropolis region, and here is how we fared there: Lowrider (4,887 points and 88% of items collected), The Drag Race (709 points), Subway (8,165 points and 56% of items collected) & The Construction Site (10,829 points and 81% of items collected, earning The Metropolis trophy). The scene then shifted to a region known as The Islands, where our progress unfurled as so: Endurance Dojo (11,756 points and 70% of items collected), Sensei’s Lost Castle (10,650 points and 64% of items collected, earning the Sticky Fingers trophy), Daruma San (5,557 points), Wheel of Misfortune (1,187 points), Roller Castle (21,246 points) & The Terrible Oni’s Volcano (2,442 points and 70% of items collected, earning The Islands trophy). The story moved us along to The Temples region at this point, and here is how we’ve fared there so far: The Dancers’ Court (19,738 points and 85% of items collected), Elephant Temple (5,972 points and 77% of items collected), Pillar Jumping (361 points), The Shifting Temple (9,660 points), Fire Pits (13,535 points) & The Great Magician’s Palace (2,175 points and 78% of items collected, earning The Temples trophy). The scene then shifted to one last region of LBP, called . . . The Wilderness. And here are the levels we defeated there to win the game: The Frozen Tundra (35,048 points and 52% of items collected), Spline Rider (20,380 points), The Bunker (2,894 points and 48% of items collected), Rotor Tubes (15,152 points), The Collector’s Lair (11,901 points and 69% of items collected) & The Collector (1,067 points and 100% of items collected, earning the Just Beginning trophy). And that was it, game over . . . and what a game! This one is a total 10. At the time LBP came out it was so original and unique, and very engaging. Some of the game’s visuals are so cute and cuddly, while other things could come straight out of your nightmares. It’s a game full of contrasts, curiosity and exploration, and I love it. Lucky there’s a couple more to play in the series, too!

11) Frogger: Ancient Shadow is now almost complete (I believe), and damn that game got hard in a hurry! We last left off in the “Hidden Caves” area, finishing if off by completing the final two levels, which included Level 3 and Boss. This opened up the “Dr. Wani’s Mansion” area, and here is how we fared there, completing: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Boss. Not much more to come . . . hopefully!

12) I burned more rubber, this time on Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed! Resuming from where I had left off I next had to partake in a number of events under the Drift category. First up was the Sideways Fest event, which consisted of four races: Miami Park Drift (first), London Millenium Drift (first, earning the Sports License trophy), Hazyview Oval (first) & Circuit Dijon – Prenois Short (N/A, my first non-finish!). Then came the Amateur League Showdown, which held a pair of races: London Millenium Drift (N/A) & Miami Park Drift (third). The Drifters Sidewinder Tour came next and it held a whopping five races, as such: Rustle Creek (first), Dakota Club (second), Brands Hatch Indy (third), Willow Springs International Motorsports Park Horse Thief Mile (second) & Tokyo Docks Drift (first). The fruitless Semi-Pro League Showdown got me next, consisting of three mostly pathetic races: Rustle Creek (first), Tokyo Docks Drift (N/A) & Willow Springs International Motorsports Park Horse Thief Mile (N/A). An event called the Drifters Smoke ‘M Tour then reared it’s not quite as ugly head, containing four races: Miyatomi (first), Tokyo Club (second), Autopolis International Racing Course Lakeside (third) & Circuit de Catalunya Club (second). The Irwindale Wheels on Fire Festival came next, holding three races: Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Drift Course 1 (second), Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Oval (first) & Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Drift Course 2 (second). The Pro League Showdown then surfaced, which also held three races: Circuit de Catalunya Club (first), Tokyo Dockside (N/A) & Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Drift Course 1 (third). An event named the Ebisu Super Battle arrived next, holding another trio of races: Ebisu Circuit South Course (third), Ebisu Circuit West Course (second) & Ebisu Circuit Touge Course Challenge (third). A four race night time extravaganza dubbed the Drifters Starlight Tour was next on the docket, as so: Miami Dock Drift (third), London Millenium Drift (N/A), Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Drift Course 2 (third) & Tokyo Docks Drift (third). Mercifully the last event of this rotten drift sequence finally arrived, called The Final Slide. It held four races, on which I did not perform well at all: Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Drift Course 2 (third), Tokyo Docks Drift (N/A), London Millenium Drift (N/A) & Miami Park Drift (N/A). I didn’t even care about all of the DNFs, I was just so happy to be done with drifting! Some games do it right, some don’t . . . this is one of the ones that doesn’t. Moving on to more civilized racing events the next event up was called The Eliminator, consisting of three races: Miami Bayside Run (first), Shanghai Yan’an Road Circuit (second) & Tokyo Westbound Expressway (first). That’s more like it!! Moving along the Japanese Retro Hot Lap event was on tap, and it held three races: Tokyo Dockside (first), Autopolis International Racing Course Lakeside (first) & Ebisu Circuit West Course (first). Next up came the Japanese Retro League event, and here are the races it entailed: Ebisu Circuit South Course (second), Suzuka Circuit East Course (first), Tokyo Circuit (first) & Autopolis International Racing Course Lakeside (first).

13) My regular season on NHL Faceoff ’97 continues to roll, and this game is much harder then it’s predecessor. I think it’s the Leaf team in this version though, they have absolutely no speed . . . and it’s killing me! Anyways, here is the latest batch of games to hit the books: lost vs. Phoenix 2-1, won @ Detroit 5-1, tied @ San Jose 2-2, lost @ Phoenix 8-2, won @ Colorado 5-2, lost vs. Pittsburgh 7-4, lost @ St. Louis 7-1, lost vs. Chicago 4-3, won vs. New York Islanders 5-2, won @ Edmonton 4-2, lost @ Vancouver 3-2, won @ Calgary 5-2, won vs. Colorado 5-3, lost @ Washington 5-3, won vs. Los Angeles 4-2, won @ Hartford 12-6, lost vs. Calgary 6-2, lost @ Chicago 3-2, won vs. Dallas 3-1, lost vs. Colorado 3-2, won vs. St. Louis 4-0, won @ New Jersey 4-1, won vs. Ottawa 3-1, lost vs. Anaheim 4-1, lost vs. Vancouver 5-4 (OT) & won @ Anaheim 3-1.

14) I continued my trek on the main story mode of Fortnite, called Save the World. Here are the latest levels to fall: “Stonewood: Retrieve the Data” (a weather balloon with valuable intel was off course and set to land out in the open, so I was tasked with locating the landing site and building fortifications around it, after it landed I then defended the intel against waves of attacking Husks, rescuing a couple survivors along the way and earning the Retrieve the Data trophy), “Stonewood: Homebase Storm Shield Defense 3” (once again I continued to build up defenses around our storm shield and then expanded it’s range, repelling the three waves of Husks that came at me upon doing so), “Stonewood: Audition” (Lars, who I’d met and helped earlier in the game, wanted to set up a lab at our home base and so in order to facilitate that I went out in to the city and tracked down five crates of required equipment, fighting off many Husks as I did so), “Stonewood: Build Off” (two of our builders named Kyle and Penny built a structure around an Atlas machine, my task was to add some traps to it and then see if it would hold up while I defended it against many waves of Husks), “Stonewood: Enter the Ninja” (I had to deploy another Atlas device and defend it from waves of Husks while a mysterious figure watched from a distance, in the end I convinced this ninja named Skirmisher Edge to join our ranks) & “Stonewood: Rescue the Survivors” (I had to scour an area of town and bring back at least 6 survivors, along with anything else I wanted to get up to within the time limit I was given until extraction, along the way I earned the Hired Gun, Man on a Mission & Rescue the Survivors trophies).

15) I plowed through the remaining episodes on Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. Here is how that transpired: “Episode 3: More than a Feeling” (we entered the temple Peter Quill’s mom had steered us towards through his visions, once inside finding the empath known as Mantis stuck in a tomb, so she joined our team and with her help we traveled to the temple where the Eternity Forge was meant to fulfill it’s purpose which left Star-Lord with a crucial decision to make, along the way I earned the Living in the Past, A Kind of Magic, Masters of Reality, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Blood on the Tracks & The Dark Side of the Moon trophies), “Episode 4: Who Needs You” (we had to escape Halla and her use of the Eternity Forge, getting stuck in the caverns beneath the temple in the process, during our long escape we lost both Nebula and Drax and the Guardians split up after leaving the planet, along the way I earned the Women and Children First, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Out of our Heads, Obscured by Clouds, Everybody Knows This . . . & Bridge Over Troubled Water trophies) & “Episode 5: Don’t Stop Believin’” (Star-Lord went about reuniting the Guardians and with them at his back they came up with a plan to stop Halla once and for all, defusing this potential Kree uprising, along the way I earned the Everything Changes, Wish You Were Here, Diary of a Madman, Bringing It All Back Home, All Things Must Pass, Brothers in Arms & A Little Help From My Friends trophies). Although I can’t give a 10 to a game where it’s basically just a movie and you press buttons merely to influence it’s outcome, this Telltale Games installment is perhaps as close as I’d get! This game keeps a consistent look with the Guardians’ movie universe, is very funny as well, and the voices all sound very authentic to boot. And the soundtrack . . . a delight of course!!

16) Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle continues to be a fun, funny and colourful experience, and the difficulty also shot up a bit as we moved in to the second world. This time around we were able to complete the following levels: “World 2-1: Cold Hands, Warm Heart”, “World 2-2: Undergarment Gulch”, “World 2-3: Guardians of the Oasis”, “World 2-4: Square One”, “World 2-5: The Gatecrashers”, “World 2-6: Shields of Sherbet Desert”, “World 2-7: Temple of Bwahmanweewee” & “World 2-8: Call of Sherbet Mountain”.

17) With NHL 15 falling on the PS4 we then started on the next EA hockey game we hadn’t yet played for that system, which was NHL 17. Before you even start the game you must play game one of the previous season’s Stanley Cup final matchup, which in this case was the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the San Jose Sharks. Jimmer took the Sharks, I took the Penguins, and I proceeded to beat him down by a score of 3-0 . . . he was not happy! After getting to the game’s main menu afterwards we then each created a player for ourselves, assigned them to the Toronto Maple Leafs, before embarking on a season with our beloved blue and white. So far the games we’ve played on said season have unfolded thusly: won @ Ottawa 6-2, lost vs. Boston 5-4, won @ Winnipeg 4-1, won @ Minnesota 2-1, lost @ Chicago 1-0, lost vs. Tampa Bay 4-3, won vs. Florida 4-0, won @ Montreal 4-2, lost @ New York Islanders 5-4 (OT), lost vs. Edmonton 2-1 & lost @ Buffalo 3-2. Along the way we earned a couple trophies, which included Not My Bottle! and Just in Time!.

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18) Another new PS4 game we started up was one Jimmer and I were both super pumped about as soon as we heard it was being made . . . Mega Man 11!! Being a child of the original NES, Mega Man and Capcom are arguably my favourite game series and game producer of all time, so any time a new Mega Man game gets produced I’m always up for the challenge. Mega Man 11 goes in to a back story between Dr. Light and Dr. Wily, from when they were much younger. Dr. Wily wanted to use a double gear system he had invented in his robots, which would make them super powerful but also put great strain on them. In the wrong hands Dr. Light worried that this technology could become quite problematic, and so he and Dr. Wily had a falling out because of it. Many years later Dr. Wily is back and he is angry, unleashing a horde of robot bosses on the world. It’s up to Mega Man to stop him yet again . . . only this time Dr. Light has installed the double gear system inside of our hero to give him a little boost in his abilities! At this point it was then go time, once getting acclimated to the tendencies of this updated evolution of the Mega Man game I wasted no time in completing all of the game’s main stages and laying waste to it’s bosses. The order in which I defeated the stages went as such: Block Man, Torch Man, Fuse Man, Acid Man, Impact Man, Bounce Man, Tundra Man & Blast Man. During these initial boss stages the trophies I earned along the way included Location, Location, Location, Bullet Blaster, Collateral Blammage, The Harder They Fall, Better You Than Me, Bullseye!, Three Birds, One Stone, Everything-Proof, Power Up, Collector, Explosives? What Explosives?, Mid-Boss Buster, One Down, Seven to Go . . ., Now We’re Getting Somewhere & Where’s Wily? This game is friggin’ awesome . . . as I fully expected it would be!

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19) For a long time I’d been wanting to start up on a game I got two Christmases ago for the PS4, and so I went and did just that over the long weekend . . . the game in question being Vikings: Wolves of Midgard! This game is based on Norse mythology and as it opens up we learn that the nine realms are in turmoil, all hell is breaking loose and if left unchecked Ragnarok will arrive and the end of days will put a stop to everything and everyone! But that is when an unsung hero, one nobody saw coming, arises from a village of outcasts known as the Ulfung. This hero will stand up against these various forces and set the nine realms straight . . . you control this hero! As the game starts up you choose your character (male versus female, then name him/her and trick out their appearance). Once that bit of business is out of the way the action starts up and you embark on your epic journey. So far the levels I’ve completed look as such: “Jotan Ambush” (I repelled an invasion of our village by Jotan forces, saving Helga and Hildibrand in the process before meeting all survivors in the mead hall, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, killed 30/30 Tomte, and earned the Ulfung Savior! trophy), “Dealing with Jokul” (I then headed to the fjord fields and cleared out the Jokul threat that was amassing there, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, killed 2/2 Jotan, destroyed 8/10 Jokul Totems, and earned the Jokul Challenger trophy), “Old Enemy” (I raided a neighbouring village of rivals called the Svanung, taking the fight right to their female leader and her body guards, besting them in battle and getting their tribe to swear fealty to the Ulfung, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, killed 15/15 Houndmasters, and destroyed 10/10 Svanung Flags), “Horror of Fangskar” (I helped out Helga who was originally from Skald, an island with a secret, arriving there I battled many trolls and in the end battled a female troll named Grindill who ended up being Helga’s mother, while also saving her father, a human runesmith named Frakki who then joined our ranks, along the way I found 1/3 Iron Skulls, killed 2/20 Fenvaitir, and destroyed 30/30 Tomte Huts), “Hunt Wolves” (I headed to the Fjords Wilderness to slay as many of the encroaching wolves as I could, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, killed 2/2 Jotun, destroyed 10/10 Jokul Totems, and earned the Tomtecide & Hunter trophies), “Hunt Trolls” (I traveled back to Fangskar Village and cleaned up the trolls that remained there, along the way I found 3/3 Iron Skulls, killed 20/20 Fenvaitir, and destroyed 30/30 Tomte Huts) & “Iron Fist” (I traveled to the Jarnung Village, a tribe only concerned about themselves and their precious stores of iron, never coming to our tribe’s aid when we needed it, so I attacked and thought I’d show them what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a raid with nobody there to bail them out, in the end I had to fight the Mire Witch and her monster made of iron, along the way I found 2/3 Iron Skulls, killed 19/20 Shieldmaidens, and destroyed 9/10 Jarnung Flags). Savage effin’ game!!

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20) With Pikmin 3 finally being completed I decided to start up on one of the few remaining unplayed games I have in the bin for the Wii U, called Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition. I’ve only played one other game in this series, which was Batman Arkham Origins for the 3DS, which takes place well before this game in the timeline. Anyways, as this title starts up we witness a bunch of Two Face’s thugs planning something in some sort of ramshackle room. Suddenly Catwoman intercedes, and I took control of her, beating these thugs down and then raiding Harvey’s safe, where I obtained some sort of data card I plugged in to my phone. Then somebody put a gun to my head before the scene abruptly shifted to Bruce Wayne. Going against his normal behaviour Bruce had decided to take a political stance and was railing against Arkham City, basically a contained city of the worst criminals known to man, right smack dab in the middle of Gotham! Suddenly the rally is raided, and Bruce Wayne is captured taken within Arkham City by a mad doctor named Hugo Strange. Wayne is processed in to the system, handcuffed and left to fend for himself. This is where I took control of the billionaire, fighting off my angry fellow inmates and encountering a journalist named Jack Ryder, who I tried to protect. Eventually the Penguin showed up and took the piss out of me as well, but I turned the tables on him, taking out his thugs and freeing myself of the handcuffs in the process, before landing a good blow on the bloated freak himself! With his team down and out for the time being I chose to make my escape, heading upwards and outwards, soon climbing to the top of the Ace Chemicals building. Regaining communications with Alfred I had him deliver one of my batsuits to the roof of the building, gearing up and then getting familiar with my wrist gauntlet (aka the Wii U control pad and it’s many capabilities). Hacking in to my tormentors’ comms I learned that Catwoman was being held in the nearby courthouse by Two Face, and if anybody knew what the situation in Arkham was, it would be her. So I took off towards said courthouse and beat up the goons guarding it, before entering and beginning my infiltration. I then literally dropped in on poor Harvey Dent and took him and his goons to task, eventually freeing Catwoman from her violent fate. I asked her about something called Protocol 10, as well as about Hugo Strange, but she didn’t seem to have much intel to give me. Just then a sniper attempt on Catwoman was foiled at the last moment, when I noticed the laser tracer on her face. It was obvious that it was the Joker who had made the attempt, so I then examined the forensic evidence behind the shot, gleaning that it was fired from high up in a nearby church. Making my way there I again beat up the goons that were guarding the place, before bursting inside. Harley Quinn was in the church though, and she had a couple of hostages at gunpoint. She then left on an evil errand, leaving her goons with instructions to destroy me if I got up to anything. So I immediately dropped a smoke bomb and then grappled up to the ceiling, where I went about dropping down and picking off each goon one by one, all stealthy and shit. Once the hostages were freed I made my way up to the bell tower. At the top I found the gun but not the Joker. He actually had the gun rigged up to be fired by remote control! The maniac then announced to me via a video screen that the bell tower was rigged with explosives, and I managed to just barely escape before it was all blasted to hell. The good news is that I was able to trace the source of the radio signals used to remotely fire the gun, and so I began moving through the city towards what I assumed was Joker’s actual location. This journey brought me to the Sionis Steel Mill, where the only way in was down the main chimney! It was hot and dangerous, but I made my way through the chimney and in to the guts of the mill with relative ease. From some tunnels under the floor I witnessed Harley abuse a doctor named Stacy, who she’d tasked with fixing a condition the Joker was apparently suffering from . . . but from the way she was being treated it was obvious she hadn’t any success. They carted the doc off to the smelting chamber to dispose of her, and so I popped up from the floor and proceeded to beat down all thugs, although Harley and Joker managed to squirrel themselves away in the business office while I was doing so. Once the ass kicking was complete I decided to backtrack and save the doctor before moving in on Harley and Joker. After many more beatdowns I brought Stacy out of danger and then inquired as to the nature of Joker’s ailment. She said he had some sort of blood toxin that was slowly killing him, which the maniac apparently blamed on something called “Titan” . . . whatever that means. I made the trek back to the business office and attempted to rouse Harley and Joker from their hiding spot, but they sent more goons after me, including a one armed bruiser dubbed “The Hammer”. It was my toughest fight yet, but I persevered and then infiltrated the office, where I found Harley agonizing over a seemingly passed away Joker. However, this dead man was just a dummy and soon enough the real Joker attacked! They used some gas to knock me out . . . things went very dark for Batman at this point.

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21) With NHL 10 ending so . . . abruptly, we got started on the next installment for the PS3. Why, NHL 11 of course! I set up a season with the Leafs and here is how our first batch of games unfolded: lost vs. Montreal 3-0, lost vs. Ottawa 5-0, lost @ Pittsburgh 3-1 & lost @ New York Rangers 6-0. Insert a decrease in the difficulty level here! Picking back up where we left off, here is how things went from that point onwards: won vs. New York Islanders 5-1, won vs. New York Rangers 2-0, lost @ Philadelphia 5-1 & lost @ Florida 3-2 (SO).

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22) I also figured I should start up another game on the Switch, just to be able to mix things up on that console, and so I decided to embark on Splatoon 2. It’s very similar to the first game in that for the story mode the Great Zapfish that powers Inkopolis has gone missing once more, and you are the one recruited to track it down and get to the bottom of the new (yet familiar) mystery. And then of course there is the online multiplayer mode in which you enter arena battles in teams of four, setting forth to ink more of the arena than your rivals and win the contest, leveling up along the way and purchasing all sorts of gear to make your character more skilled. I haven’t begun the story mode just yet, I’m focusing first on getting in to the online battles and increasing our rank. So far we’ve battled in the Wahoo World, Inkblot Art Academy, Walleye Warehouse, Moray Towers, Manta Maria, Goby Arena, Piranha Pit, Humpback Pump Track, Starfish Mainstage, Kelp Dome, Ancho-V Games & Arowana Mall venues, winning at least as much as we’re losing, maybe a bit more. As of the time I cut this blog off we’d helped our character reach rank 9. Still tons of fun, such a great concept for a game!!

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23) With how much of a Mega Man frenzy James and I have been in lately I decided to make a few downloads to my 3DS, games I didn’t even know existed up until recently. The first of these I started playing is Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge! It was released on the original GameBoy way back in the early 90’s, and the game brings back bosses from the first two NES Mega Man games. The story is a familiar one, after Dr. Wily’s first couple of defeats against Mega Man he is still not giving up, one more attempting to take over the world by corrupting the robot masters that were originally created in order to help the world. At the start of the game you are tasked with defeating four levels against bosses from the original Mega Man game, and then when you move on to Dr. Wily’s castle afterwards, four bosses from the Mega Man 2 game get in your way. Here is how my progress went on this game: defeated Elec Man (gaining the Thunder Beam weapon), defeated Ice Man (gaining the Ice Slasher weapon), defeated Fire Man (gaining the Fire Storm weapon) & defeated Cut Man (gaining the Rolling Cutter weapon). Moving on to Wily’s castle I then defeated Quick Man (gaining the Quick Boomerang weapon), defeated Bubble Man (gaining the Bubble Lead weapon), defeated Heat Man (gaining the Atomic Fire weapon) & defeated Flash Man (gaining the Time Stopper weapon). After these four were trounced a mystery bot then challenged me, and after Googling him I found out his name is “Enker”. Anyways, I defeated him and thus gained the Mirror Buster weapon. I then had to make my way through the last section of Wily’s castle before I confronted the brainy villain once and for all, who came at me from within some sort of robotic vehicle featuring a skull design, of course. I took it down and embarrassed Wily once again, saving the world and completing the game! This was not the most inspired Mega Man game as it recycled characters from other games in the series, but it was still very fun, challenging, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Totally worth the $5 I paid for it!

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24) As for a combined effort between the two of us, Jimmer and I decided to put some work in on Mega Man 3, originally released for the NES back in 1990 or so. The story behind this entry in the series is that it is a time of relative peace, and Dr. Wily has seemingly put his evil ways behind him. Together he and Dr. Light are working to design a giant robot dubbed Gamma, to be deployed as a peacekeeper for their world. In order to complete it though, the pair need to retrieve eight elements from around the galaxy . . . eight elements that are being protected by the latest eight robot masters, which have for some reason gone berserk. Just what is going on here? Better call Mega Man!! We get our first experience with Proto Man in this game, fyi. Anyways, getting in to the action on this game here is how our journey unfolded: defeated Magnet Man (gaining the Magnet Missile weapon), defeated Hard Man (gaining the Hard Knuckle weapon), defeated Top Man (gaining the Top Spin weapon), defeated Shadow Man (gaining the Shadow Blade weapon and Rush Marine ability), defeated Spark Man (gaining the Spark Shock weapon), defeated Snake Man (gaining the Search Snake weapon), defeated Gemini Man (gaining the Gemini Laser weapon) & defeated Needle Man (gaining the Needle Cannon weapon and Rush Jet ability). At this point, once all eight bosses were out of the way, four of these levels reopened with some minor differences. And within each level there was a mid-boss and a final boss, both of which were two of the various resurrected bosses from Mega Man 2! We took on these four levels and defeated these bosses in the following order: Flash Man, Bubble Man, Wood Man, Heat Man, Metal Man, Quick Man, Air Man & Crash Man. After a brief stalemate duel against Break Man (otherwise known as Proto Man), we then headed to Dr. Wily’s castle for the last legs of the game! At the end of the first leg we defeated a robotic vehicle that hovered over the water we found ourselves in, shooting explosive turtle bots at us . . . and that is as far as we’ve managed to get for now. Such fun!

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25) After unexpectedly finding a couple of less expensive games for the Nintendo Switch we got started on one of them right away, called Aqua Moto Racing Utopia. Basically it’s a jet skiing game where you compete in races, do tricks, etc., very much like popular games of the past like Wave Racer and Jet Moto. Anyhoo, getting right in to it after learning the basics during the game tutorial and setting up our racer profiles, we embarked on the Championship game mode, starting off in the Ski Division. The first set of events there was called the Atlantis Beginner’s Cup, which consisted of four races: Vacation Race (second), Muddy Shores (third), Unruly Sea (second) & For the Crowd (third). Next up was the Travel Neat Worldwide Race Tour, composed of three races: Urban Waters (first), Great Falls (second) & Rough Rocks (fourth). In both events I finished second in the overall standings, and that’s all I’ve been able to get at so far . . .

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26) Since we made a couple of PS3 completions I decided the next co-op James and I would embark on is Monster Madness: Grave Danger. I saw this one at Game Cycle a while back and just couldn’t resist, it appeared to be right in my wheelhouse! The story focuses on a teenager named Zack, who has a girl named Carrie over at his house and together they are doing their homework. Zack longs to tell Carrie how he feels about her, but before he can get up the courage to do so his buddy Andy stops by and wants to hang out. Making matters even worse is when a prissy girl named Jennifer then arrives and demands her completed homework back. Worst of all though, is when the doorbell next rings it’s not one of his schoolmates but a pack of brainthirsty zombies, hell bent on tearing the kids and their town apart! It is then up to these teenagers to take the fight to the zombies and save themselves and their community from utter destruction. This game is pretty cool, just pure hack and slash mayhem, and along the way you can unlock and upgrade all sorts of different weapons for your character of choice to wield in their war against the undead. We began play on chapter one, called Suburban Nightmare, and here are the levels we had to complete there: Zack’s House, Streets of Suburbia, A Walk in the Park, Downtown Invasion & Bob’s Junkyard.

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Now that we belong to PlayStation Plus I’m starting a new section of my blog called “Free Game(s) of the Month”. With PlayStation Plus you are able to download various titles each month for free as part of the membership benefits, and I have taken advantage of all of these offerings so far. For these free games I’m not going to go in to great detail like I do with all of the games above, which I purchase on purpose, because I’m sure some of the games I download I’ll like, some I won’t like, so I’m just going to play through them as fast as I can and make a brief mention of them in my regular posts. The first game I’ve decided to try, the one I’m most excited about, is called Onrush. It is a racing game unlike most racing games. There are no start or finish lines, instead the competitors are divvied up in to two teams, and the winning team is the one that scores the most points. Points are earned by using your boost, performing jumps and such, and of course by causing destruction, most notably that of your rival team. It is super fun and easy to play, and during my Onrush journey I was able to earn the following trophies: What does this button do?, No Hard Feelings, Stay on Target, Ready for the RUSH, Origins, Off the GRID, Ground Pound, Paying your disrespects, Uprising, #Crashtag, Classy, Stampede!, Another Consonant Please, Not now chief, I’m in the Zone, We’re DRINKING, Karen!, Regeneration, In the Spotlight, Burnt Out, Starpower, Formula 15, Driving Club, Snowbound, Superstars, Founder, Dizzy Heights & It’s not an addiction, it’s a lifestyle. Super fun awesome game!!

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Another of these free games I got started on was the Zone of the Enders: HD Collection for the PS3, which includes the original Zone of the Enders game along with the Zone of the Enders: the 2nd Runner title. I began with the original game, which features a young boy named Leo as the main character, growing up in the late 22nd century. He calls a colony orbiting Jupiter home but soon finds himself embroiled in a war amongst mech suited warriors (which were designed mostly for hard space labour and military enforcement) when he accidentally ends up piloting one dubbed Jehuty, acquitting himself quite well! The trophies I’ve earned during my journey so far on the initial game include KO Neith, Homecoming King, The Bigger They Are, Power Down, Anti-Virus, Learn Gooder, Weapon Finder, The Seeker, Porter Pounder & Good Samaritan.

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“NNGRR” - Over the course of the second weekend that came about during this blog period I finished reading another book I’d picked up, called Iron Man: The Gauntlet. In this story, after a brief flashback to the 1980’s when Howard Stark shapes Tony Stark’s future actions by preaching one of his “lessons”, we meet up with the billionaire superhero as he is overseas in Ireland. Operating out of his high tech yacht off the Irish coast, Tony is to make an appearance (in the suit, of course!) at an upcoming environmental summit. However, before the summit begins strange activity is detected from a nearby unpopulated island, and when Tony and his suit’s A.I., whom he has dubbed Friday, go to check it out they find a gunboat loaded to the teeth docked covertly on said island’s shore. Upon investigating the boat Tony is debilitated with some sort of magnetic trap, taken captive by a group of people seemingly led by a young red headed Irish girl . . . who sounds an awful lot like Friday! Tony finds out that this femme was indeed acting as Friday, after hacking Iron Man’s systems, a feat that nobody had been able to manage up to that point. The reason Saoirse (her real name) performed this act is because when she approached Tony a while back about freeing her sister Liz from captivity on an island nation near Africa, he denied her. The leadership there had recently changed and Tony didn’t want an incident with Iron Man to destabilize the steps that were already being taken to improve things in the region. But as much as Tony is surprised by Saoirse’s ability to successfully trap him, it is then Saoirse’s turn to be surprised when she finds out the man now helping her with her plans to free her sister is actually the Mandarin in disguise! He has no intention of helping Saoirse. All he wants to do is kill Tony Stark, and then spread more terror by executing all of the ministers at the environmental summit. As Saoirse is then taken in to captivity Tony is soon released, given a brief window of time to rest and recover before he is to face the Mandarin in one on one combat. Although Tony and Saoirse are separated, they are of the same mind in that they need to escape the Mandarin and his goon’s clutches, and prevent the disaster at the summit from unfolding. Can this pair use their big brains to figure a way out of this debacle and save many lives, or will they each only end up as a couple more casualties amongst a bigger body count? This was a really good book, fast paced with lots of action and banter, and the more low key environment was a little different from the typical super hero adventures. I thought he did a good job at capturing Tony Stark’s personality in how Tony talked and acted while in various different scenarios throughout the story. Plus in the back of the book there was a small bonus section stuffed with full colour Iron Man comic art! Beauty.

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Around that same time Jimmer and I finished watching season eight of The Simpsons on DVD. The season eight set contains all 25 episodes over 4 discs, bringing us more hilarious tales of America’s favourite animated family. The season kicks off with the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode, and in the adventures that unfold afterwards we witness the family move to Cypress Creek where Homer starts a new job, Moe identifies Homer’s ability to take a beating and turns him in to a boxer, Mr. Burns receive a visit from his long lost son Larry, Bart begin working at a house of burlesque, the divorce of the Van Houtens, Lisa begin crushing on the school bully Nelson Muntz, a hurricane destroy the Flanders’ household, Homer go on a hallucinogenic journey after eating a rare hot pepper at the chili cook off, Mulder and Scully visit Springfield to investigate an alien being Homer encounters in the woods, Marge start up her own business of selling hot pretzels, Homer and Mr. Burns team up in a competition at the power plant’s employee retreat, the arrival of a magical nanny to help Marge preside over the wacky Simpson household, Homer voicing a new Itchy & Scratchy character named Poochie, Homer making a new gay friend named John, Sideshow Bob being released from prison only to have his very own brother set him up for more crimes, Bart not taking too well to Lisa being put in charge of him and Maggie as their babysitter, Homer bootlegging booze after the town’s new laws force it to go dry, Principal Skinner and Ms. Krabappel begin a workplace romance, Bart acquire a credit card and buy all sorts of stuff including a new dog, Lisa help Mr. Burns get back on his feet after losing the plant and his fortune, Marge doling out advice at the church after Reverend Lovejoy loses his way, Homer unwittingly make an enemy of the new guy at work, an episode featuring a few potential Simpsons spin-off shows, and Bart being sent off to military school with Lisa actually wanting to tag along willingly. This season too is riddled with classic Simpsons episodes, pure comedy gold! My favourites amongst this mix are the ones where Homer accepts the job from the criminal mastermind, the one where Homer trips out on the hot pepper and converses with the mystical coyote, the X-Files episode, the one where Homer bootlegs booze, and the one where Homer sparks the ire of new guy Frank Grimes at the nuclear plant. My ultimate favourite though, is the one where Marge gets involved giving advice at the church. Because while she is doing that Homer and the kids discover a Japanese dishwasher detergent box that seemingly has his face on it! The brand is called Mr. Sparkle and when they investigate this coincidence further it leads to hilarity. You can view the Mr. Sparkle commercial here. Overall this was another highly pleasing 25 episodes of one of the best TV shows of all time . . . now onwards to season nine!!

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The first of the two movies that Jimmer and I watched over the long weekend was another Adam Sandler gem (carrying on from my last blog post) . . . the long anticipated Grown Ups! I can’t believe I still hadn’t seen it up to this point. Anyways, back in 1978 five friends won a public school basketball championship together, and at a rented lake house afterwards their coach left them with inspiring words. Act in life as they did in their basketball championship. Leave everything on the court and when that final buzzer of life goes off, have no regrets. Many years later, with these five fellows having grown old and having built families of their own, they are saddened to learn that their beloved coach has recently passed away. They reunite for coach’s funeral and then plan to spend the fourth of July weekend at the very same lake house they were at all those years ago, where they will spread coach’s ashes. These five fellows include Lenny, a mega rich Hollywood talent agent who is married to a fashion designer named Roxanne. Together they have three children named Greg, Keith and Becky, and Lenny is a mite embarrassed by their lifestyle and his children’s arrogant attitudes that have sprung from said lifestyle. Next we have Eric, who is married to a woman named Sally, and he is hiding the fact that he recently lost his job. Together they have children named Donna and Bean. Bean is four and still breast feeding, which is driving Eric up the wall. Then we have Kurt, a stay at home father who gets no respect from his wife Deanne and her mother Ronzoni. Together they have two children named Andre and Charlotte. Then comes Rob, a hippy dippy type who has gone through a few marriages, resulting in a few kids from different baby mamas, although he is now hooking up with a much older woman named Gloria. And then there is Marcus, a single ladies man who of course borders on the pervy side! While at the lake house these five friends have a great time ribbing each other, but as the hours and days unfold the struggles they are all going through in their personal lives begin to bubble to the surface and hilarity ensues. In the end though, they scatter coach’s ashes and the five friends become closer with each other, as well as with their own families. Not to mention indulge their bitter childhood rivals in a rematch of the championship basketball game! This movie was hilarious! I’ve heard so many negative reviews about it over the years, although after watching it I’m not sure why. Any time you have a Sandler spawned comedy you know it’s going to be hilarious and a bit dirty, there are going to be some violent slap stick moments, but there is also going to be a pretty decent story involved. Add in the fact that the five main characters are played by Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade and you just can’t go wrong! Throw in some Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Steve Buscemi, Colin Quinn and Tim Meadows and you really can’t go wrong!! It’s maybe not something you should watch with your 11 year old, but close enough for me. We both loved it . . .

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The other movie we watched that weekend was, duh, Grown Ups 2! In this sequel we fast forward a few years from the events of the original film, and some time during that span Lenny and his family up and moved to his original Connecticut small home town. It is the last day of the school year and it starts off with a bang when Becky leaves their house door open overnight, and they wake up to a deer ravaging their household! Once the smoke has cleared and the kids are off to school the day takes some bizarre turns. First of all, the high school bus driver stops by Lenny’s place as Lenny is seeing his own kids off for the day, and this fellow is in no shape to be driving. So Lenny takes control of the bus and makes stops by Kurt’s house and Eric’s mom’s house, picking up his two friends along the way. After delivering their payload of students the trio then head over to K Mart and taunt some of their rivals from their old basketball days. In the meantime, after waiting at the train station to meet the son her never knew he had, Marcus eventually joins them there as well. Talk turns to Lenny backing down from an old bully back in the day, named Tommy Cavanaugh. The group then heads to Becky’s ballet recital, more to ogle the dance instructor than to watch the actual recital, afterwards Lenny is shocked to see that said instructor is actually dating Tommy . . . who is ripped! The boys finish up their afternoon by visiting the old quarry they used to swim in, which has since become a hangout for college kids. The grown up kids spark the ire of the college frat brothers, who ultimately force them to jump off the cliff . . . naked! Talk during the day has also centred around everybody thinking that Lenny should throw a party to celebrate the end of the school year and start of summer, which he tries to get himself out of. But as the day rolls on it snowballs, and by nightfall a massive 80’s themed extravaganza is in the works! However, little do they know that Marcus’ son Braden, having seen the incident in the quarry, totally trashed the frat house in the meanwhile. So as the party gets going and the night starts to get hilarious, Lenny and company end up with some uninvited guests and a massive brawl breaks out! A brawl that will tighten bonds amongst Lenny and his friends, as well as with their life long rivals. Again this was another hilarious romp, maybe not quite as funny as the first one, but still pretty funny. Although Rob Schneider didn’t come back for this film there were some cool new additions in Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Shaq, and even Stone Cold Steve Austin! How about you go ahead and make this a trilogy, Sandler?

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Just as the work week that followed was about to end I finished reading my next book, which was a prequel story to the more recent Pacific Rim: Uprising movie, called Ascension. It’s been about a decade since the events of the first movie, when the Kaiju spawning breach was sealed in the Marianas Trench, and there hasn’t been a Kaiju since. However, the PPDC has not been idle, maintaining a fleet of Jaegers (giant robots designed to fight the Kaiju monsters) at the Moyulan Shatterdome in China. Ranger Lambert is set to welcome the latest round of PPDC cadets being entered in to Ranger training program, these youngsters all aspire to find a suitable drift partner and eventually become future Jaeger pilots! Amongst the small handful of candidates are Ou-Yang Jinhai (whose parents famously piloted the Jaeger known as Shaolin Rogue) and Viktoriya Malikova (who was brought up to believe her parents piloted the Jaeger known as Cherno Alpha). As they arrive and are briefed on their new situation, it’s not long before they are allowed to enter the Conn-Pod (head) of the Jaeger dubbed Chronos Berserker, which is now piloted by two recent graduates of the Ranger training program, Braga and Vu. They even get to witness a demonstration of Chronos Berserker’s abilities as Braga and Vu take the bot out for their maiden voyage. However, during the display something malfunctions and the two pilots believe they are actually being attacked by Kaiju, and Chronos Berserker responds accordingly. The lives of everybody in the vicinity are at risk, as the craziness escalates and they can’t seem to bring Braga and Vu out of their panic, Lambert has to break in to their drift and bring them both out of it. He succeeds in doing so, but the stress put on Braga’s mind during the experience ends up killing him. Moyulan is put on lockdown as an investigation is launched to discover exactly what happened. Ultimately they discern that somebody had accessed Chronos Berserker’s Conn-Pod and, using a pen drive, downloaded some sort of program in to the robot that caused Braga and Vu to experience their very realistic seeming encounter with a Kaiju. Suspicion soon falls on Jinhai and Vik, doubly so when Jinhai admits he misplaced the pen drive he was assigned upon arriving at Moyulan. Lambert and the PPDC have nothing solid to go on though, so while the investigations continue the cadets, including Jinhai, Vik, Renata, Suresh, Ilya and Ryoichi get back to their training. It is obvious to Jinhai and Vik though that with the pall of suspicion cast over them, their fellow cadets no longer trust them, which leads to some long, frustrating days. Eventually the pair, who have a remarkable drift compatibility, feel they must take matters in to their own hands in order to reveal the true perpetrator of these crimes. Will they succeed and reveal the PPDC’s true enemy, or will this organization get away with their nefarious plot and make a strike with nobody seeing it coming? This was a really cool, fast paced story. During it’s events there were a lot of memories/flashbacks described from Jinhai and Vik’s lives, which dug deeper in to some of the battles we witnessed in the original Pacific Rim movie and beyond, and how those experiences shaped everyone involved in this story and the world in general. I would be very, very happy if they kept building on this franchise and continue to flesh it out, because it’s absolutely amazing . . .

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The movie we went to see on the weekend that then arrived was of course The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part!! This follow up film opens not long after the events of the first movie, with everything continuing to be awesome for our hero Emmet. However, soon enough aliens from the planet Duplo arrive in Bricksburg and their initial encounter doesn’t go so well. The aliens begin tearing Bricksburg apart, and after the city is rebuilt they come back again, and again, and again. Eventually, five years after this initial encounter, Bricksburg no longer exists. In it’s place is the post-apocalyptic wasteland now known as Apocalypseburg! It’s citizens have given up on rebuilding, and because of this they haven’t heard from the aliens from Duplo in some time. Emmet is still his cheery old self, the only person who hasn’t succumbed to the hard life they all now have to live, and Lucy berates him for it. She says he needs to grow up, get hard, and realize that things are not awesome! Eventually another alien shows up though, just one, and it is not a type they have ever seen before. The alien proves to be quite powerful and chases the city in to hiding, eventually making away with five of it’s most capable inhabitants in Lucy, Batman, Unikitty, Benny and MetalBeard. She whisks them back to her home planet explaining that her queen, Watevra Wa'Nabi of the Systar System, intends to marry their leader (who she determines is Batman), creating a union between the two cultures. Lucy is certain that there are dubious intentions behind this scheme of Waterva’s, but as her friends all fall prey to the luxury of their new surroundings, Lucy finds herself the only one left trying to stop the marriage from happening and coming up with a plan of escape. Meanwhile, back in Apocalypseburg Emmet follows Lucy’s earlier advice and attempts to get hard. He builds himself a space ship and, all by his lonesome, blasts off in to space to track down his friends and rescue them from their alien tormentors. Along the way Emmet encounters a roguish character named Rex, whom he instantly takes a liking to, and who he begs to help him become the kind of man Lucy so desperately wants him to be. Rex agrees and together they set forth to complete Emmet’s rescue attempt. But there is more than meets the eye going on behind this whole situation. Just who is this Rex and what are his true intentions? And what of Waterva, why does she really stand to gain by completing this union? This movie was awesome, at least as good as the original was . . . and that was one hell of a movie! The story, animation, humour, it’s all top notch. It doesn’t get much better than this not only for animated movies, but just movies in general. And as was the case in the original movie the Lego action that is taking place during the film is all a result of the humans controlling the toys. In this case the apocalypse experienced at the beginning of the movie is when Finn’s sister Bianca comes on the scene and wants to play with him, but the two don’t necessarily get along all that well, and the story unravels from there. Loved it from start to finish, bring on the trilogy!!

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The week of James’ show opening I managed to knock down the book I had on the go at the time, the third entry in The Blackthorn Key series, called The Assassin’s Curse. As this story opens up Christopher Rowe, the resourceful apothecary apprentice to the late Benedict Blackthorn, is on his way to meet King Charles along with his best friend, Tom the baker’s son. The pair are very nervous as they don’t know why they’ve been summoned by his majesty, but upon their arrival Lord Ashcombe (who they are familiar with via their past adventures) assures them it’s all good. When they are finally brought before the king he informs them that he merely wanted to lay eyes upon and thank the two boys who had kept the king out of danger not once, but twice, most recently with their investigations behind the plague outbreak all over London. It turns out they are going to save King Charles one more time, as at the very party they are attending to meet him, an assassin makes a poisoning attempt on the king that Christopher manages to figure out and foil at the last moment! As the dust settles and the matter is investigated (the assassin managed to escape after Tom almost caught him) a wider plot is revealed . . . a plot to wipe out the entire ruling family of France (whom King Charles and his sister Minette, who is also in attendance, are related to). Witnessing first-hand the resourcefulness of Christopher and his best friend, Lord Ashcombe comes up with a plan. He plans to send the duo to France with Minette, Christopher posing as a baron and Tom his bodyguard, so they can secretly investigate this assassination plot and figure it all out before anybody gets killed. Also coming with them is their other best friend Sally, who is being assigned directly to Minette’s retinue of servants. After arriving in France the trio’s initial forays lead nowhere and a couple of attempts on Minette’s life are foiled, but only out of sheer luck, not because of their ingenuity or skill. But after stumbling upon an ally in this fight quite by accident, they soon learn why these assassination attempts are taking place. For legend tells that the person who wipes out the ruling family of France will earn the fabled, massive horde of treasure accumulated by the Templar Knights! Shame was brought upon the Templars over 300 years ago by the Iron King of France, and since then their organization has operated in secret, always offering up puzzles and clues to where their horde is located, to those who are bold enough or clever enough to accept the challenge. After realizing they have no idea who the assassin (or assassins) are, Christopher believes they would be better off to try and locate the treasure and diffuse the situation that way, instead of attempting to discern who is behind the assassinations. For if the treasure was finally exposed the assassins would have no reason to continue going after the ruling family. And being a master at codes and riddles, Christopher is up to the challenge, with his two best friends along for the ride to help him along the way. Can they pull off yet another miraculous victory, or will royal blood soon flood the streets of Paris? This was my favourite book of the series so far, and the other two were brilliant, so that says a lot! I love it when authors base a fictional story around the constructs of real history, and help you learn about things along with way, in this case the Templar Knights and the history of their rise and downfall. It’s a very interesting and mysterious subject, and it just makes such a wonderful story that much better. I can’t wait for book four!!

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As the weekend of Jimmer’s show opening approached I went berserk on a bit of a movie watching spree, the first one I viewed on my own and had desperately wanted to see it since the summer . . . The Happytime Murders!! This film is the brainchild of Jim Henson’s son, Brian, although it isn’t your normal, cheery and innocent Muppet movie. In this film we are introduced to a world where humans and puppets coexist, but not in any equal sort of way. Puppets are treated as second class citizens and the situation is only getting worse with time. Enter Phil Phillips, a puppet private investigator who seeks to bring justice to his fellow puppets who have been done wrong. When we see Phil arrive at his office a puppet named Sandra is waiting there to hire him, interested in finding out who’s begun blackmailing her. When Phil heads out afterwards to investigate his first lead, he stumbles upon a massive puppet massacre and one of the victims is a character named Mr. Bumblypants, a former star on the beloved The Happytime Gang TV show. The LAPD soon arrive on the scene, including a detective named Connie Edwards. Many years prior Phil and Connie made history when they became the first human/puppet police team in the world. However, when Phil had a chance to take out a puppet that was holding Connie at gunpoint, he missed the shot and hit a bystander instead, and everybody thought it was because he was unwilling to kill another puppet. He was then let go immediately. It’s obvious that the pair still have much animosity and unresolved feelings between each other as they investigate the massacre. The LAPD write the event off as a robbery gone awry, but Phil believes it’s more, and when his brother and former Happytime cast member Larry is killed not long afterwards by a pair of dogs, Phil and Connie decide to team up once again and get to the bottom of things. As their investigations unfold more and more of the Happytime Gang cast are being offed, and our heroic pair believe they are close to finding out the truth behind this puppet plundering plot! But as the murders continue to unfold Phil and Connie end up being framed for the crimes, and they no longer know who they can trust. It’s up to an unlikely hero to step in and help out, and that hero is Phil’s human secretary, Bubbles. Will she be able to pull this pair’s asses out of the fire, or will the mastermind behind this plot get away scott free? This movie was so funny I could hardly help myself! Seeing humans and puppets put together in a serious cop/crime drama story was just ludicrous, and then it was so raunchy and funny to boot it just put it right over the top. This film didn’t do so well with the critics if I remember correctly, just proving once more that critics are a bunch of stupid assholes you should just ignore anyways. So good!

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The next film we watched, just Jimmer and I, was an old Stephen King inspired horror classic from when I was a kid . . . Pet Sematary! And I hadn’t seen it in years either, so although I remembered the general gist of it, most of the details were a surprising rediscovery for me. The story is this. A young family moves away from the big city of Chicago, to a small town in Maine called Ludlow. The man of the family, Louis, is to be the new town doctor. Tagging along with Louis are his wife Rachel, their young daughter Ellie, and infant son Gage. Also making the trip is the family cat, Church, whom Ellie absolutely adores! Upon their arrival the Creed family is greeted by an old man that lives across the street, Jud Crandall, who seems affable enough. When Ellie inquires as to what lies at the bottom of the path that makes up a part of her new backyard, Jud shows Ellie and her family that it leads to a pet cemetery. An old one that Jud’s own childhood dog is even buried in! On Louis’ first day of work the victim of an accident, Victor Pascow, is brought to his office but he is unfortunately beyond saving. Later on, during his dreams, Louis is visited by Pascow, who desperately warns him not to pass beyond the barrier of scrub brush in the pet cemetery that Jud showed his family. When Rachel then takes the kids back to Chicago to visit her parents, Louis is saddened to discover that Church has been killed, struck by one of the big rigs that fly up and down the road outside their house 24/7. That’s when Jud steps in. Knowing Ellie will be heartbroken to lose her pet Jud takes Louis to the pet cemetery, and passes beyond the barrier Pascow mysteriously warned Louis against, eventually steering the pair to an old Micmac burial ground. There they bury Church and, lo and behold, the next day . . . Church is alive! He is alive and back at the house, although he doesn’t smell great. But something is obviously off with the feline. The normally affable cat is a lot more miserable than usual, hissing and scratching and what not. But upon returning home Louis’ family doesn’t seem to notice any difference and so Louis puts the matter behind him, as shockingly amazing as it is. Not too much later though, while having a picnic outside with his family (and Jud), Gage gets away on the adults while they are attempting to fly a kite and wanders in front of a truck just like Church must have. Of course you know where this is leading!! Louis struggles with the decision but eventually gives in, taking Gage to the burial ground and completing the deed. Later that night, once the witching hour has passed, the rocks stir above Gage’s grave and he is released back in to the world. But as Louis soon finds out, if the difference in Church was noticeable upon his reanimation, Gage’s transformation is a thousand times worse! As Gage begins pulling Louis’ own world out from under him a father is confronted with his worst possible nightmare . . . to off his own son. What a flick this one is! It is so slow moving for the most part, but it’s one of those movies that is so creepy and weird that that kind of pace just makes it even weirder and better. I’m amazed at how they were able to get that cat to behave so well all those years ago, before they were ever able to CGI it in there instead of having a live animal. I know they made a reboot of this film recently, so I may have to check it out as well and see if it’s any good.

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The final movie I watched that weekend was a long awaited sequel brought to us by the Broken Lizard comedy troupe . . . none other than Super Troopers 2!! This story takes place many years after the events of the first film, when a squadron of Vermont state troopers was disbanded after a ride-along gone wrong ended up seeing the demise of beloved former child actor Fred Savage. Since that time the guys have been working in construction and other blue collar pursuits, but one day the gang is reunited when their former boss, Captain O’Hagen, invites them all on a fishing trip north of the border . . . Canada, baby!! Once the entire gang is assembled, including Mac, Rabbit, Thorny, Foster . . . and yes, even Farva, the Captain explains the real reason for this escapade. It has recently been discovered that a small portion of the Canadian province known as Manitoba is actually located on U.S. soil. The mayor of the small town this land lies on, Guy Le Franc, has agreed to turn the land over to them but the situation is deemed to be dicey, what with a number of Canadians now forced to become American citizens against their will. These five former officers and their Captain have been given a second chance, to head to this region and set up a police force, and cooperate with the Canadian authorities on making the transition as easy and seamless as possible. Upon their arrival they meet with the mayor and his hot ass attaché, Genevieve, along with a trio of Canadian Mounties and many of the town’s citizenry. Things go south almost immediately and it is clear that these Canadians are not happy with the situation, not at all wanting to become part of the United States. The Mounties too are obviously resentful of the American interlopers, the only person that seems to truly be treating them in a welcome fashion is Genevieve (who also seems to have a thing for Rabbit). As our super troopers attempt to smooth things over in the coming days it is apparent the Canadians want none of it, but when they locate random caches of various drugs stashed in spots along the border, they realize they may have more trouble on their hands than just easing tensions with their new countrymen. The troopers now have a real crime to solve and if they can manage to do so, surely it will mean their reinstatement. But up against this mystery, not to mention the angry townsfolk and prank playing Mounties, will our half dozen fish out of water officers be able to pull it off, or will their names all be discredited for a second time around!? Oh my god this movie is so funny. I think it was even funnier for somebody like me, being Canadian, because a lot of the jokes were culturally specific and most U.S. viewers would have no idea what the hell they were talking about. Their abuse of the French language especially is one of the funniest aspects of this film. They are relentless and they are hilarious! I’d love to see another Super Troopers movie made to turn this in to a trilogy, because these guys are so bloody funny . . . although hopefully it doesn’t take 17 years this time!!

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In the middle of the work week that followed, March Break dammit (no break for me!), I finished watching volume 2 of the Power Rangers Turbo TV show. This is a 3 disc set that includes the final 22 episodes of the series, and not long after it opens up the plot takes another big shift. Divatox’s brother, General Havoc, shows up and aids her forces in the fight, bringing his own Zord in to the mix. Not long afterwards Divatox relocates her main hub of operations from the submarine that is always lurking beneath the waters to a base stationed in outer space, where she keeps an eye on Angel Grove and the Power Rangers from a distance. All the while she is sending her maniacal allies to Angel Grove to cause issues for the Rangers, and these beings have a wide range of powers, from the ability to manipulate time or make things invisible, to the powers of musical brainwashing and even a vampire! Along the way the Rangers lose the Turbo Megazord to Divatox, who also sets her sights on the Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster vehicles. Complications arise when she also endangers the Phantom Ranger and Blue Senturion, the Rangers’ two most important outside allies. But our heroic quintet battle through all of this adversity and keep Divatox from pushing through her ultimate plans of evil. The series then culminates in a two part finale though which sees the Rangers finally put on their heels! Zordon gets in touch with the Rangers, saying he is under attack on the planet Eltar. So Dimitria and Blue Senturion depart to aid him in that fight, leaving the Rangers on their own with just Alpha as their sole remaining ally. Divatox unleashes a behemoth of a monster on the Rangers at this point, named Goldgoyle, and he lays waste to their Zords! What’s worse, Divatox then releases hordes of Piranhatrons on the Rangers’ home base, after Elgar ferrets out it’s location. During this attack the power chamber is destroyed, meaning the Rangers’ powers are fully stripped from them. Just as it seems they are about to face a full on defeat, Divatox is summoned by a messenger to the planet Cimmeria after being informed that Zordon has finally been defeated. The series ends on a cliff-hanger as four of the five Rangers, including T.J., Carlos, Ashley and Cassie board a NASADA space shuttle and blast off towards Cimmeria to aid Zordon and confront Divatox. The second half of this season (series) finished with quite a bang and kept up the consistent shenanigans of those episodes that came before it. There was quite a bit of variation thrown in to the second half of the series though, with more powerful enemies entering the fray and major scene changes taking place. But the fun loving, ridiculous nature of the action and humour that makes up a Power Rangers series was present all the while, and no matter how many episodes you watch, no matter which series it is, they just never seem to get old! I haven’t found the series that comes after this one (Power Rangers in Space) for cheap just yet, but I 'spose I’ll get around to picking it up at some point . . .

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Early in the work week that followed March Break and the closing of Jimmer’s show, I finished my latest read. It was the tenth book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, called Resurrection! The storyline of the original series ended in book nine, so this book was indeed a resurrection of the series and a brand new adventure. It’s been quite some time since the closing of book nine, which saw Valkyrie move to the U.S. and live in Colorado for a while, after the horrific nightmare in Roarhaven and the battle against Darquesse. Valkyrie has recently finally moved back to Ireland but has not visited her family at all, still feeling a lot of shame and guilt over the events that transpired, especially that of what she had to do to her sister Alice. Skulduggery finally pays Valkyrie a visit, who is living at her deceased Uncle Gordon’s house, and he asks Valkyrie to give him 24 hours. If she decides she doesn’t want to be his partner and do the job anymore, she can then walk away. At long last she relents and he fills her in on what’s going down. Roarhaven has changed greatly in the years Valkyrie has been gone, building up in to a large magical community where everybody is free to believe in what they wish, provided it doesn’t endanger anybody else. However, for years there has been rumours of an underground movement building against the magical sanctuaries of the world, which they have dubbed the “anti-sanctuary”. Investigations haven’t revealed much, but they believe young people are being recruited to it’s cause through the new magical school in Roarhaven, Corrival Academy. So Skulduggery and Valkyrie head to the school and recruit a student named Omen Darkly to be their eyes and ears in the school. They choose him because Omen’s brother, Auger, is prophesied to be some sort of chosen one in the battle to come . . . while Omen is basically the unchosen one. He is virtually invisible to most of the other students and teachers at the school, and that is why Skulduggery and Valkyrie think he’ll be perfect for the job. Omen is honoured that they ask him to help out, but when he begins his investigations Omen gets in a bit over his head, although he manages to dodge trouble at the last moment whenever it seems as though he’ll be caught. The information Omen feeds our heroic duo help them unravel the mystery of this anti-sanctuary, which is being led by a powerful and mysterious being named Lethe. His plan is to revive an evil woman named Abyssinia, who will lead the anti-sanctuary in starting up a war against the mortals, a war that they plan on winning and thus seeing themselves at the top, rulers of the world! With Valkyrie so out of practice and still figuring out the extent of her altered powers can our number one detective duo snuff this threat out, or will Abyssinia finish what Darquesse started so long ago? This was a great return to the Skulduggery Pleasant series! An intriguing storyline, fast paced and violent action, lots of mystery, humour, and our heroes second guessing themselves throughout it all, adding a whole other layer of uncertainty to the adventure. There is one more volume to date that has been published after this one, called Midnight, and I plan on picking it up as soon as it’s released in paperback!!

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On the Sunday night as our boys weekend came to an end, Jimmer and I watched the latest Marvel movie on our radar . . . Venom!! As this flick kicks off we witness a space mission set to return to Earth, which has been undertaken by the Life Foundation. However, something goes wrong during the descent and the shuttle crash lands in Malaysia, killing all but one of the crew on board, but more importantly releasing one of the samples this crew was bringing back with them. This sample, some sort of alien symbiote, takes up residence in one of the EMTs on the scene, who then begins making some sort of journey on foot. Meanwhile, across the globe in San Francisco a happy couple is going about a new day. Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter with a popular television show gets set to face the morning as does his fiancé, Anne Weying, a lawyer currently employed by the Life Foundation, whose headquarters happen to be located in San Francisco. One night Eddie creeps on Anne’s computer though and discovers that the founder of Life, one Carlton Drake, is maybe not so noble as he seems. Apparently there are mountains of secret lawsuits being directed his company’s way from the families of so many people that have died in the name of his research, and this ill-fated space expedition is just the latest example. When Eddie uses this information against Drake in an interview for his show, Eddie is promptly fired, as is Anne, and because he used her Anne walks out on Eddie. Fast forward half a year or so and Eddie is struggling to get by, living in a dingy apartment, but one night is approached by a scientist who works for Drake named Dora Skirth. She tells Eddie about the alien symbiotes and how Drake is now testing them on humans, not caring about the high body count these tests are resulting in. When Dora smuggles Eddie in to the Life Foundation late one night to do a bit of sleuthing, so he can set the truth free, one of the patients ends up transferring the symbiote over to Eddie, who then miraculously escapes the facility due to the abilities this alien gifts him . . . although adjusting to this new organism is anything but smooth. Despite Eddie’s troubles, the symbiote seems to find him a suitable host unlike all of the others it had been tested on, and Eddie eventually gets used to the new voice in his head . . . the voice of Venom!! It’s not long before Drake sucks the truth from Dora though and then turns his attention to Eddie and getting his precious symbiote back. As Eddie and Venom turn back Drake’s advances the two seem to somehow bond, and Venom confesses to Eddie that the comet the symbiotes were found on is actually traveling through space in search of a world they can take over and strip of it’s natural resources . . . and Earth seems like a good fit! However, Venom has begun to like Earth, and Eddie as well, and so he doesn’t want to see that happen. There is only one problem. Another of the symbiotes named Riot has taken over Carlton Drake’s body, who now plans to blast off in to space and retrieve all of the other symbiotes from the comet and return to Earth with them! It’s up to this unlikely duo of Eddie the human and Venom the symbiote to engage Riot and stop this from happening, for if not Earth soon won’t know what hit it. From what I hear the reception of this movie was pretty mixed, but I thought it was just fantastic! Venom is one of my favourite Marvel characters, and with the effects they are able to pull off these days he just looked fantastic. The action was intense and amazing, and there was a ton of humour built in to the film also, especially between Eddie and Venom as they conversed with each other. This movie is up there with Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy as my favourite Marvel movies of the expanded cinematic universe. Bring on another please!!

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A day or two later, earlier this week, I finished reading a new book I recently found at Indigo and was thrilled about . . . The Magic Misfits! It is the first book in a new series written by one, wait for it . . . Neil Patrick Harris! I loved the Nightmares series by Jason Segel, and this one looked to be right up my alley as well, so I was fully on board after just seeing the cover. The main character in this story is a young boy named Carter Locke. As a small child he grew up with his loving parents in a diminutive red cottage, where his father taught him about magic, how to do tricks and what not. And Carter was good at it too, for he has very fast hands. However, one day his parents never came home and soon enough he was forced to live with his uncle Sylvester, or “Sly” as he was more commonly known. Sly is also adept at trickery, although he uses it for nefarious purposes, to con people out of their money and belongings, eking out a living by traveling around as a con man. With Carter under his control Sly’s game only grows, but Carter vows to never personally be the one to steal anything from anybody. One day, when the pair are staying at a halfway house and Sly steals a precious necklace from the kindly lady who feeds them, Carter can no longer take it and he runs away. Sly almost catches up to him, but at the last minute Carter is able to jump a train and travel off in to the distance. When he eventually wakes he discovers that the train has brought him to a place called Mineral Wells, which looks like a cool, rustic kind of small town. Descending on Mineral Wells Carter visits B.B. Bosso’s traveling circus, scoffing at all of the fake trickery on display by this great “magician”. While exploring Carter meets a kindly old man named Mr. Vernon, who truly does seem to know magic, and is also quite friendly. He warns Carter away from Bosso and his crew, and sure enough later on in the night after noticing Carter’s quick hands, Bosso and his goons offer him a place in their crew. Carter says he’ll have to think about it and then hightails it out of there, ending up sleeping on a park bench for the night. The next day Carter ends up finding Mr. Vernon by using the card he had given Carter the night before, locating the man’s downtown magic shop! While there he meets Mr. Vernon’s adopted daughter, Leila, who is something of an escape artist. Heading back out in to town while Leila goes to school, Carter ends up foiling some of Bosso’s pickpockets alongside another young magician named Theo, who specializes in levitation! Later on they both end up at Mr. Vernon’s shop, where Leila is surprised the two have met, and she introduces Carter to another one of her friends, the wheelchair bound Ridley . . . who is quite skeptical of the new kid! Plans are made for the four of them to visit Bosso’s circus that night and ride the rides, which Carter loves since it’s the first time he’s felt that he’s ever had friends. But at the same time he is on alert around Bosso and his goons, trying his best to not be noticed. Eventually it comes to their attention that Bosso’s grand finale before he leaves town is to perform a trick using one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, the Star of Africa, which is traveling through the region and will be loaned out for the performance. However, they also learn that the true nature of this trick is for Bosso to steal the diamond and replace it with a fake, gaining untold riches in the process! It is up to this band of Magic Misfits, along with their two new friends, twins Izzy and Olly, to do something about Bosso’s upcoming theft. But what chance do six magic loving kids have against a villain like Bosso and his legions of ne’er do wells? I loved this story. It was an absolute page turner full of mystery, fun, danger, and humour, and I also really enjoyed the remote, classic small town setting it unfolded in. Apparently there are supposed to be four books in the series in total, so I can’t wait for the next three to eventually be released. Way to be, NPH!!

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Lastly, I’ve had a couple CDs in heavy rotation over the last couple of months, the first of which is the ICON entry from Canadian band The Pursuit of Happiness. This disc contains twelve of their greatest hits amongst their many years of recording. Formed in Toronto in the mid/late 1980’s, this Canadian outfit was a band I always knew about growing up, but didn’t pay much attention to because there always seemed to be other albums I wanted to get my hands on first. However, after hearing them repeatedly on one of our local radio stations here recently, I decided to pick this album up and oh boy was it well worth it! Turns out I knew quite a few of the songs on this album, I just had no idea many of them were by The Pursuit of Happiness. Their music is a bit diverse, as although I suppose they’d be labeled an alternative band and do have some songs that fall under that category, they also exhibit elements of classic rock, while on the other side of things they can also get a bit cute and jangly, with some female backing harmonies mixing in with Moe Berg’s lead vocals. The one thing I noticed after repeated listenings was the clever way the songs were crafted. The subject matter is mostly focused on various types of personal relationships and presented in an open, honest and intelligent way, while at the same time the lyrics are framed in a subtle, sometimes beat around the bush sort of arrangement that really make you think about what Moe is saying. My favourite entries in this collection ended up being “I’m an Adult Now”, “Hard to Laugh”, “Two Girls in One”, “Cigarette Dangles”, Kalendar” and “Gretzky Rocks”. It doesn’t get any more Canadian than writing a song about the Great One, baby! Outstanding stuff . . .

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The other disc I had doing laps was the next Megadeth album on my list, 1988’s So Far, So Good . . . So What! This is the band’s third studio album, the one that came right after Peace Sells . . . but Who’s Buying?, which I mentioned in my last blog. What can I say other than this album continued them along their rising ascent to heavy metal fame in those early years, every bit as fierce and riffingly outrageous as the albums that came before it and would soon come after. It amazes me how good this band was from the outset, but more impressively how they haven’t slowed down all these years later in to their career. Most bands as they age slow down, become a bit less fierce, but not Megadeth. The getting is still as good as gold! My favourite tracks on this album ended up being “Anarchy in the U.K.” (a Sex Pistols cover), “Mary Jane”, “502” and “In my Darkest Hour”. On to the next!!

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It's cold out there . . . but I'm on a hot streak!!

As if I even need to state that the past couple months were once again busy as shit . . . when Christmas is involved that’s a given! It’s been another wild adventure, and we kicked it all off on that first weekend after my last blog post. On Friday night it was the usual, Jimmer was at his Original Kids rehearsal, and that was about it. I began my Saturday with a morning hill run with Sieve, followed by a brief stint of errands (mostly show related). Returning home we bummed around for a bit before getting ready to head to my parents’ house for one of our annual Christmas parties, this one with my closest set of cousins as well as my closest family friends (the brothers Sieve and Pswayas). I ate WAY too much . . . a full pizza and so many pieces of peanut butter cheesecake. Anyhoo, Sunday was spent mostly around home, but not in a fun way! I headed outside in the early morning to put up the Christmas lights, get a final rake done, and clean out the eaves troughs. mrs. darthcobain17 had been inside prepping food for the week so when I came back in the house I then had a kitchen to clean up . . . oh, joy. Once everything was done Jimmer and I played a bit of vids before it was time to head to his Sunday night rehearsal, where the adults managed to continue to pick away at the costumes and props.

The following weekend began on the Friday night with another Original Kids rehearsal. Unfortunately Sieve and I’s plans didn’t match up for the weekend, so on the Saturday morning I just did a neighbourhood run on my own, and after getting home got ready quickly and headed out to do some Christmas shopping. I put a good dent in my list . . . I think Christmas will be fun this year! Scattered over the Friday night and Saturday morning I also started bringing up the Christmas trees and decoration boxes, so on Saturday afternoon mrs. darthobain17 began decorating. As for Jimmer and I . . . we went to the movies! Upon getting home we watched the hockey game before turning in for the night. Sunday was a massive day. With James’ show starting in less than a week at this point, the big rehearsals began to gear up. On the Sunday we were at the market for 8 hours, and the kids even had a potluck to help them get through it. Apparently the rehearsal went well, and us parents got tons of stuff done with regards to starting to finish up the costumes and props. We stopped and picked up Wendy’s for dinner on the way home as everybody was gassed.

A Christmas Story finally opened up the next Friday evening, and boy was it fantastic! All of the kids were brilliant. We had tickets for opening night, with an extra too, so I asked Sieve if he wanted to come. He was blown away by a lot of the performances and especially the intricacy of the choreography and how fast the kids had to move and get props in and off and around the stage. On the Saturday they had two shows, an afternoon and an evening. We stayed backstage for the afternoon show as lots of help is required with this production, what with the amount of quick changes and props that need to be arranged and accounted for. We had tickets for the evening show but mrs. darthcobain17 let hers go and stayed backstage while I watched again. Our friends Megan and Johnny came down from Dundas to watch, and our friends Jo & Chris and their kids came to see it too. Afterwards we headed to Oliver R. Twists with Johnny and Megan for a post-show drink or two. On Sunday there was just one show, a matinee, and we had tickets for this one too. This time mrs. darthcobain17 took in the show for a second time while I stayed backstage to take care of business. My mom and aunt and cousin were in the audience this time, along with a lot of mrs. darthcobain17’s family. Afterwards we headed out with her family to Crabby Joe’s near the highway, to have dinner before they headed back home. And then we headed home to take care of some long neglected chores, not to mention a quick grocery shop, before an exhausting weekend came to a close.

A Christmas Story closed the following weekend, and it was equal parts relief and equal parts sadness for most involved I do believe. They had another evening show on the Friday night, and then on Saturday they had a matinee and an evening show to perform. I started the Saturday morning off with a neighbourhood run, followed by some last minute Christmas shopping. The run probably wasn’t a great idea, considering how tired I was from the show and how much my feet already hurt, but what are you gonna do? In between the two shows the kids from the cast exchanged Secret Santa gifts, and everybody had pizza and cake to celebrate one of their birthdays, for little Avery. Before their final show on Sunday, a matinee, everybody thanked us parent volunteers, which was a pretty emotional time. We also gave the director and other artistic staff their gifts. Like I said, after the show emotions were high, but they went out with a bang, and mrs. darthcobain17 even told me the show had been nominated for an award it was so well received. We began the strike right after the show wrapped up, and after stopping at Globally Local for dinner on the way home, that pretty much wrapped up our weekend as well.

The end of that weekend and James’ show led in to a bit of a weird time, as Christmas always seems to be for me. Both Jimmer and mrs. darthcobain17 are at home full time because his school and her work both shut down for the holidays, but I am not so fortunate. The Monday was Christmas Eve, so I worked just over a half day I guess in the end, and when I got home we headed to my parents’ house for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner there. Lots of eating and lots of presents all around! With how busy we’d been this year we stayed home on Christmas Day for the first time in . . . maybe ever, and it was glorious. Usually we visit my dad’s side of the family, or head out to visit the in-laws. But this year we stayed home and enjoyed the down time, the only time we left the house was to have dinner at the Mandarin, making Christmas Day even easier! On Boxing Day we headed down Grimsby way to visit with mrs. darthcobain17’s family, doing even more eating and gift giving, and then came home the day after (I took one official day off of work), stopping along the way to have brunch with Megan and Johnny. That left me with just one lonely work day on Friday before another weekend arrived . . . and I was very cool with that!

Over the course of that particular weekend we didn’t do much, especially Jimmer and I. During Christmas I had attracted a cold and had way less energy than usual. My exercising and running fell off the map and I spent the weekend recovering, doing a bit of house tidying, playing vids, reading books, working on some crafts, watching TV, and I even threw in a couple of relaxing bubble baths for good measure! As the weekend came to a close I had to go in to work on the Monday, which was New Year’s Eve, and I sadly ended up working a full day. Still recovering from our busy December we did nothing to celebrate that night, we just stayed in and ordered nachos, played vids, watched TV and just generally clowned about. mrs. darthcobain17 fell asleep way before midnight so she didn’t even witness the arrival of 2019, not even close! On New Year’s Day we did nothing but clown about, the same stuff as usual, and even went out back to play some ball hockey in the snow. For the rest of the week I was back to work, but Jimmer had fun during this time when he went to a friend’s house one night for an overnight, and then went to Skyzone with him the next day. And that led us in to another weekend . . .

That next weekend saw a bit more action than the one before it, and it began on the Friday night when I went for a run after getting home from work and eating dinner. I needed to get my ass moving and back in shape at this point, so that was where I started. Other than that though it was pretty much just a co-chillin’ kind of night. On Saturday morning mrs. darthcobain17 and I headed down to the market to meet up with James’ director and some of the parents/kids from his show to do the official strike, and finally put A Christmas Story away. So sad. Jimmer stayed home to work on the audition song for his next show. When we got home I went for another run, and in the late afternoon we all headed to my parents’ house, where along with my Aunt Sue we celebrated my dad’s seventieth birthday! We had a great dinner, a bunch of drinks, gave him some presents, played a game, and watched the Leafs drub the Canucks. Overall a stellar evening! On Sunday I was tired from my two runs in a row after being sick and doing diddly squat over the holidays, so I took it easy on the exercising and instead did the final post-Christmas house clean. I then headed out mid-afternoon to join up with my first book club meeting, downtown at Coffee Culture. It was a group called the Fellowship of the Worms, which I found on a website called Meetup. I didn’t attend the first meeting (where they reviewed The Fifth Season, see below), but this meeting I attended they actually reviewed a graphic novel . . . so yeah, they are right up my alley!! There were only about seven of us, and a few really smart people, so I felt like the dumb one and didn’t say all that much, but I had a great time and it was nice to meet some new people. After the meeting I moseyed on down to Heroes as I hadn’t bought myself some comics in a while . . . and to be honest I did a bit more damage to the Mastercard, like it needed it. Upon getting home we had Swiss Chalet for dinner and then just prepared for the Monday, which would see those two fools finally return to work and school, mwooh hah hah hah ha!!!

A sleepover at our house kicked off the next weekend, when Jimmer’s friend Tyler came to spend the night. We had Pizza Pizza for dinner, and afterwards I played some online Rocket League with the boys before leaving them to do whatever it is they did. I played some vids, watched some TV and worked on my crafts while they played on their own. In the morning I had my bi-monthly appointment to give blood and so left right after breakfast. Returning home I began a bit of a house clean before we walked Tyler home. Upon getting back I finished my cleaning and for the rest of the afternoon Jimmer and I played vids, did some drawings, watched TV, etc., before having dinner and watching the Leafs game to cap off the night. On Sunday morning I headed out for a run around the neighbourhood, slowly trying to get my ass back in shape after the Christmas season. It was finally seeming to get easier, although this particular run featured some slippery sidewalks and biting winds despite that. Yay!! Not long after getting back I took James to his Original Kids rehearsal (we found out his role over the weekend, Kowalski the penguin!), then returned home to spend a number of hours by myself playing vids, drawing, crafting, and even doing a couple of minor chores. And that’s pretty much how the rest of the day would continue on to close out yet another all too short weekend . . .

The penultimate weekend of this post began a bit early for Jimmer, as he had a PD day on the Friday. He slept over at my parents’ house the night before and during the day he and my dad went to an indoor golf centre that we got my dad a gift certificate for at Christmas. As for mrs. darthcobain17 and I, we visited a brand new restaurant called Beladi’s for dinner after work. Later on I went and picked up Jimmer, and we watched the rest of the Leafs game upon returning home (after hitting up Dollarama for some discount art supplies). Overnight it snowed quite a bit, so Jimmer and I went outside and shoveled the next morning, following it up with some snowy ball hockey in the back yard! Once we found ourselves cold enough we headed inside for some vids, but left a while later to meet my dad at the movies, to cash in the other gift card we got him for Christmas. Upon arriving home we had dinner and then played some vids and board games to close out the night. On Sunday a super cold front moved in so I went outside to shovel first thing . . . and wished I hadn’t! I ended up canceling my plans for a run later that day, and I don’t shy away from the cold too often. So for the rest of the day we lazed about and got up to our usual tomfoolery, mixing in a number of chores throughout the day, getting them done in waves so as not to overexert myself.

This past weekend a wicked cold front and a bunch of snow moved in for really the first time this winter, so it was a mostly indoors weekend at home for us! On the Friday night Jimmer and I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I had already reviewed way back when it was first released in theatres. Other than that we simply played vids, watched TV, and generally laid about. On the Saturday I didn’t do any exercising at all, deciding to finally take some time off. We watched Solo: A Star Wars Story in the morning (already reviewed as well, back when it first came out) and then went out back to play some awesome, cold weather ball hockey in the yard. Afterwards I had a nice hot bath to chill out and warm up. After dinner we decided to watch a double feature from a former SNL performer that I grew up loving. It was a questionable parenting decision to let Jimmer watch these films, but that’s being an only child for you! On the Sunday the only thing we had going on was Jimmer’s Original Kids rehearsal mid-day, other than that we just played more vids and ball hockey, did some drawings, and capped the day off by watching Rampage (also already reviewed, back when it first came out). This was exactly the kind of weekend I needed at this point. Cozy, low key, and chillaxed.

As for the weekdays, they were of course quite busy as well. Things got crazy in the first couple weeks of December as we got closer to show time. There were added rehearsals (and then eventually the tech and dress rehearsals) which pretty much meant we were at the market every day . . . it became our second home for a while there! We also went to Original Kids to see the show that went before A Christmas Story, which was A Wonderful Life (before the show we had dinner at Waldo’s, om nom nom). After A Christmas Story closed, and after the nonsense of Christmas/New Years’ was behind us, Jimmer got back at it with his audition for his next show, Madagascar: A Musical Adventure, and then began his rehearsals for that new production soon afterwards. We also took in the final Original Kids show of the fall/winter season early in the New Year, which was Newsies (having The Works for dinner beforehand, om nom nom). Jimmer also got back in to the routine of having a sleepover at my parents’ house one night a week, once our schedule was back to normal. Together we’ve been watching a ton of Leafs’ games, witnessing their ping ponging momentum swings take them (and us) all about. Sieve and I even managed to just sneak in our first vids night of the New Year, which was our first vids night in a long, long time, thanks to the busy Christmas season. Other than that I’ve been trying to keep up my running as best I can, although with the snow, wind and colder temperatures it’s been much tougher to do so. Just a couple more months to go though and spring will be knocking on the door! Through all of this craziness I got a bunch of important stuff accomplished, as such . . .

1) Jimmer and I are now officially Stanley Cup champions on NHL 15!! Picking up where we left off we were in the middle of the second round of the playoffs, up against our rivals from Detroit, the Red Wings. Here is how that series unfolded: won vs. Detroit 6-0, won vs. Detroit 5-1, won @ Detroit 8-4 & won @ Detroit 3-2. Elsewhere in the East Washington easily handled Florida in just five games. In the West Dallas did the same with St. Louis, while Nashville ousted Los Angeles in six games. That meant our next opponent were the Washington Capitals, which is becoming a pretty good rivalry! Here is how that series unfolded: won vs. Washington 8-3, won vs. Washington 8-1, won @ Washington 5-3 & won @ Washington 11-3. So long, Crapitals!! Over in the West Nashville disposed of Dallas in six games, setting up a Stanley Cup showdown between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Nashville Predators. Not quite a classic rivalry, but I suppose it would have to do! The series to end all series then unfolded as such: won vs. Nashville 9-0, won vs. Nashville 5-1, won @ Nashville 9-2 & won @ Nashville 10-2. Our playoff leaders boiled out as so: Goals (myself with 21), Assists (Rielly with 21), Points (myself with 36), Penalty Minutes (myself with 77), +/- (Phaneuf with +45), Powerplay Goals (myself with 1), Shorthanded Goals (myself with 2), Game Winning Goals (myself and Kadri with 3), Shots (myself with 65), Faceoff Wins (Bozak with 121), and Hits (myself and Rielly with 32). I was also awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP. During this final run of playoff action we earned a trophy, including Great Broadcast Everyone! After this main action was all overwith I dabbled in the Play Now mode, partaking in some one-off games just to see if I could earn a few last trophies. I did so, obtaining the Coast to Coast, The Whole Package and True Broadcast trophies. NHL 15 is another great hockey installment from EA! Maybe not at the top of the heap, but awful close.

2) The dam finally broke on Pikmin 3, as I made a super batch of progress this time around! The action kicked off on day forty-six of my explorations, which saw me head to the Twilight River region in search of this Olimar fellow (and the cosmic drive key we so desperately required). Right off the bat I used my pink Pikmin to free up some trapped lilipads, which once they got moving down river allowed us to reach new areas of this region and set up some shortcuts. Along the way we received a garbled transmission from Olimar, who said he was at the top of a giant tree and that a creature of some sort was zoning in on him (we also found a data file in our travels). Unfortunately the sun went down before we could start our search for him in earnest though. On day forty-seven we returned to the region and began our explorations, spending most of the day clearing the way of enemies, of which there were many, spawning new Pikmin with their carcasses in order to bolster our ranks. We also broke down an electrical fence and found two more data files along the way, not to mention a Portable Sunset fruit. Om nom nom. Day forty-eight saw the same type of action continue, and we also ran in to our first enemy that wasn’t a type of insect. It was this nasty, long billed bird that shot up from the ground and loved to feast on my Pikmin! We eventually defeated it and found another data file, then used more lilipads to reach even further in to this region. We found some bridge pieces that I believed were going to lead my team to it’s ultimate destination, but I wasn’t able to find all of them before the sun went down. We also managed to find an Insect Condo fruit. Day forty-nine was more of the same, I used more lilipads to reach new areas and find more bridge pieces, as well as a pair of Blonde Impostor fruits. On day fifty I finally managed to locate the last of the bridge pieces (and another data file), then went and used said bridge. It led us to the trunk of a large tree, and after a long climb up said tree we finally spied Olimar lying unconscious on a canopy of leaves! Before we could grab him though, a swarm of small hornet like creatures that I’d encountered earlier in this region showed up and whisked him away, and not long afterwards their queen arrived on the scene. A desperate battle then began, but I had to retreat before being able to defeat this fiend as the sun went down on yet another day of action. I went and finished the job once day fifty-one blossomed, defeating the queen and freeing our mysterious spaceman (and gaining yet another data file). I used all of the enemy carcasses to spawn more Pikmin, to make up for the ones that fell in battle, and also gained a Seed Hive fruit. Taking Olimar’s body to the Drake we discovered that his space suit had put Olimar in a forced cryo-sleep. So we could not question him about the cosmic drive key and would just have to be patient as we waited for him to wake up! And that is how our day ended. During the night Olimar awoke from his forced sleep, landed the Drake in the Garden of Hope, and then took off in to the wilds with our entire juice supply! So as day fifty-two dawned we headed out to try and catch up with him. The path Olimar took opened up some previously inaccessible areas of this region, and it was a big day of discoveries. I recovered four data files, found a new strain of Pikmin (blue ones, which can swim!), a couple piles of bridge pieces that we used to construct a bridge out of, as well as a Sunseed Berry fruit. Along the way we took on many enemies, most of them new underwater varieties that my blue Pikmin exclusively handled. On day fifty-three we returned to his area and continued to explore, both over the bridge we built but mostly more underwater areas, finding a data file as well as a Citrus Lump fruit. I also found the beginning of a stash of pieces that didn’t build a bridge but some other sort of structure, although I wasn’t able to complete it before the sun went down. On day fifty-four I continued these explorations, recovering a data file as well as both a Velvety Dreamdrop and Searing Acidshock fruit. Day fifty-five saw more breakthroughs. I found the last of those strange pieces and completed the resulting structure they built, an overturned pot in the middle of the water. It made a good jumping point, allowing me to reach yet another unexplored portion of this region. In this new area I defeated a big crab type enemy, afterwards finding a data file and a Scaly Custard fruit, not to mention a pile of bridge pieces that would allow our whole squad access to this area in the future. Day fifty-six was a turning point as I found the rest of the bridge pieces, allowing my whole squad to access this new area I had discovered. Moving beyond it in to the unknown we came to a muddy clearing and found three data files, spied Olimar’s abandoned ship in the distance . . . and was then attacked by some sort of bizarre, lumbering swamp beast!! On top it featured an indistinguishable object that was encased in crystal, so we went about breaking this crystal down and then attacking the creature underneath with hordes of Pikmin, losing many in the process. The sun went down before we could finish this battle though. So on day fifty-seven I headed right back and finished this creature off! Upon doing so it spit out Olimar (along with our juice supply and the captain’s rubber ducky, although the space explorer was once again in stasis), a Wayward Moon fruit, and we then used part of the beast’s carcass to spawn more Pikmin. We spent the rest of the day continuing our explorations of this region, finding a Lesser Mock Bottom fruit and defeating some minor enemies and using their carcasses to help replenish our lessened Pikmin ranks. I think this game might be getting close to done, oh boy oh boy!!

3) Slow and steady progress resumed on MLB 2K10, here is how the next batch of games washed out: won @ Baltimore 2-1 (11 innings), won @ Baltimore 8-6, won @ Baltimore 2-0, won @ Tampa Bay 2-0, won @ Tampa Bay 3-0, lost vs. Kansas City 2-0 (10 innings) & lost vs. Kansas City 4-3.

4) On NHL 10 we began our current round of progress by finishing off the remaining games in our regular season, which went as such: won vs. Edmonton 4-1, lost @ New York Islanders 2-1, won @ Ottawa 2-0, won vs. New Jersey 6-2, won vs. Montreal 2-1, won vs. Florida 3-2 (SO), lost @ Atlanta 2-1 (SO), lost vs. New York Rangers 2-1, lost @ Pittsburgh 3-1, lost vs. Atlanta 3-1, won vs. Buffalo 3-2 (OT), won vs. Boston 5-2, lost vs. Philadelphia 3-1, won @ New York Rangers 2-1 & won @ Montreal 5-1. Our team leaders for the season were: Goals (Blake with 35), Assists (Kaberle with 51), Points (Blake with 72), Penalty Minutes (Kaberle with 75), +/- (Komisarek with +88), Powerplay Goals (Stajan with 3), Shorthanded Goals (Wallin with 5), Game Winning Goals (Blake with 7), Shots (Wallin with 267), Faceoff Wins (Wallin with 262) & Hits (Komisarek with 274). And for the goalies the leaders were: Wins (Toskala with 38), Goals Against Average (Toskala with 1.63), Save Percentage (Toskala with .927), Shutouts (Toskala with 10) & Assists (Toskala with 8). Overall we finished with a record of 59-17-6, good for 124 points and first place overall! And now the playoffs loom . . .

5) I resumed my progress on Gran Turismo 5 under the B Spec Events, picking up my progress on the Amateur Series. The first event I completed this time through was the European Hot Hatch Championship, which consisted of two races: Eiger Nordwand Short Track (first) & Rome (first). Then came a one race event called the NR-A Roadster Cup: Tsukuba Circuit (first). Next was the Festival Italia event, which held two races: Rome (first) & London (first). The Supercar Nostalgia Cup was next on the docket, containing three races: Rome (first), Suzuka Circuit (first) & Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (first). I then went backwards a bit and shifted down to the Beginner Series, using a newly purchased Ferrari to knock over another event there called the European Classic Car Championship. It consisted of two races: Circuito de Madrid Mini (first) & Cote D’Azur (first). The Lightweight K Cup event came next, holding just two races: Autumn Ring Mini (first) & Suzuka Circuit East Course (first). Another one-off event was next, called the Vitz Race: Fuji Speedway F (first). The Japanese Classics event was then on tap, made up of three races: Suzuka Circuit East Course (first), Tsukuba Circuit (first), Grand Valley East (first). Popping back up to the Amateur Series the Japanese 90’s Challenge is what I managed next, which held two races: Tsukuba Circuit (first) & Cape Ring North (first). Then, after finally managing to acquire a pick-up truck, I entered the Pick-Up Truck Challenge event. It held two races: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (first) & Superspeedway – Daytona (first). A one-off event was next, the Classic Muscle Car Championship: Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). And finally came the Tous France Championnat event, which held two races: Circuit de la Sarthe 2009 (first) & Circuito de Madrid (first). At this point I nudged up to the Professional Series as I’d now completed everything under both Beginner and Amateur. First up was the one-off Mini Challenge event: Circuito de Madrid (first). Then came the Muscle Car Championship event, which held two races: Road Course – Daytona (first) & Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (first). A one-off event called the Lupo Cup is what I was then able to complete: Nurburgring Nordschleife (first). After adding a Lamborghini to my stable I could then enter the one-off Lamborghini Exclusive event: Rome (first). I then used that same vehicle to conquer the Supercar Festival event, which was made up of three races: High Speed Ring (first), Superspeedway – Daytona (first) & Nurburgring GP/F (first). Then, after finally building enough cash to purchase a Ferrari Enzo, I completed the one-off La Festa Cavallino event: Autodromo Nazionale Monza (first). Next came the Japanese 80’s Festival, which was made up of a pair of races: Autumn Ring (first) & Deep Forest Raceway (first). Then came the British Lightweights event, which also held two races: London (first) & The Top Gear Test Track (first). At this point I decided it was high time I get back to the A Spec Events, and do some actual racing myself! First I went to the Beginner Series and completed the only event remaining there that I had failed to try, the Japanese Classics event. It consisted of three races: Suzuka Circuit East Course (first), Tsukuba Circuit (first) & Grand Valley East (first). I then bumped up to the Amateur Series and completed the first of the two remaining unbeaten events there. It was the Pick-Up Truck Challenge, which held two races: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (first) & Superspeedway – Daytona (first). Throughout all of this rubber burning action I earned some trophies, including Half a Century of Cars, High Roller, Beginner Series Complete, Loony Tune, Amateur Series Complete and Sky-High Roller.

6) I do believe we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance . . . at long last! The ninth level of the game was “Niflheim”. We were instructed to head to this land of the Frost Giants to check on Odin, who had gone there himself to quell a bit of an uprising. Upon entering Niflheim we talked to an old woman, a fortune teller named Volla, about Odin’s whereabouts. She also asked if we could possibly find her missing ring (I didn’t). Heading off in to the tundra my team engaged reanimated Viking corpses along with many Dark Elves. Eventually I stumbled upon Ulik and Kurse discussing having tricked Volla, so I got the drop on them and beat them both senseless! Moving along afterwards I discovered Odin’s battleground, which had been littered with destruction. The Frost Giants then began to descend on my foursome, along with more Dark Elves, but we dispatched all comers and even destroyed one of the elves’ catapults. Coming upon a cratered clearing I spied the remains of the Twilight Sword, which Dr. Doom had traded to Mephisto in order to get him to play his part in our evolving battle against the Masters of Evil. An even bigger surprise soon arrived though as Ymir, King of the Frost Giants, showed up and attempted to crush us! He also informed us that Odin had been defeated and captured, soon Loki would fulfill his quest to become the new ruler of Asgard! I used Ymir’s minions’ own weapons against him, and eventually laid the brute down, moving along and taking on hordes more enemies. Eventually I reached a gate with Baron Mordo and Ultron stranded outside of it, pissed that Dr. Doom and Loki had moved on with their plans without them. Once more I engaged these bosses in battle, and upon their defeat I made my way to the Raven’s Spire, where Loki was attempting to gain possession of the fabled Destroyer Armor! Beating Loki down we completed our mission by taking said armor back to HQ with us. However, this was not really the end of the level. Seemingly back at HQ we talked to Nick Fury about locating the four fabled swords that would allow us to free the Destroyer Armor from it’s prison of ice, which Sif then opened portals to. After obtaining all four swords Loki revealed himself as Nick Fury, and that this whole sequence was a trickster illusion! Loki then took possession of the armor, and we chased him through a series of portals, eventually turning Loki’s own power within the Destroyer Armor against him, freeing it from his possession. Sadly Dr. Doom then showed up, informing us he had stolen Odin’s powers for himself. Just as he was about to destroy us a being known as the Watcher swooped in and saved my team, transporting us to the Inhumans’ moon based home of Attilan. This Watcher knew the only way in which we could defeat Dr. Doom and his newfound powers, although it would be difficult. The tenth level was called “Shi’ar”, and to set it up our leadership group outlined just how powerful Dr. Doom had become, in control of Odin’s power, and how nobody, not even Xavier and the X-Men had since been able to bring him down. This left them with one last theory. To defeat Doom we would have to beat him at his own game . . . by stealing back Odin’s power! In order to do so we would need to obtain the powerful M’Kraan Crystal, which was in the possession of one Lilandra, leader of the Shi’ar Empire. It was assumed she would be sympathetic to our plight, knowing that Dr. Doom would not stop once he’d destroyed the Earth. So we headed out and boarded the Shi’ar capital ship . . . which was in a state of pandemonium! Fortunately we immediately encountered an ally named Corsair, who informed us that the devious Deathbird had staged a coup and wrestled the Shi’ar leadership away from Lilandra, which very much complicated our situation! So we set off through the ship, with Corsair at our side, taking down tons of Shi’ar soldiers, gunners and drones. Our first task was to head to engineering and disable the ship’s power core, bringing it out of lightspeed and stalling whatever Deathbird’s plans were. To do so we found an elevator and plunged downwards to engineering where we encountered Gladiator, who was loyal only to the Shi’ar’s current leader and not any one individual. We dispatched him easily enough though and disabled the power core, then went looking for an airlock that would take us to the outer hull of the ship. Once outside our purpose was twofold. We wanted to locate the communications dish and sent out a signal to Lilandra’s Shi’ar allies, informing them of the ship’s position and to come lend aid in repelling the coup. Second, we wanted to disable the ship’s gun batteries so Deathbird’s troops wouldn’t just shoot these allies out of the sky upon their arrival. We managed to get it all done, facing off against Warstar (who we defeated) and Starbolt (who we avoided) along the way. We then headed inside to the observation deck, soon encountering two more bosses in Hussar and Neutron. We beat them both senseless and continued to forge our way through the ship, finally encountering the bitch herself . . . the elusive Deathbird!. After a long fight we finally bested her, but she escaped and then set a plan in motion to engage the ship’s self-destruct mechanism and kill all those aboard. We rushed through the ship and disabled various power sources as well as some laser focusing crystals, just in time to stave off the self-destruct. Once this relative safety had been reached we nabbed the M’Kraan Crystal before warping back to base . . .

7) Baja: Edge of Control is the first game to be completed this time through! Picking up where we left off we were working amidst the final class of events, called Trophy Truck. The next event on tap there was the Fabtech Dirt Chaos League event, which consisted of eight races: Peralta Canyon (second), Broken Arrow (second), Sundance Peak (first), Inversin Summit (first), Scorpion Ridge (fifth), Face Rock Ridge (first), Superstition Hill (first) & Dusty Valley (first). This was good enough for the overall event win, as well as three new vehicles for our collection. Then came the MasterCraft Sky Ranch Rally. We could only manage fifth place on the first stage, and while we placed first on the second and final stage it wasn’t good enough for a podium finish . . . and no new vehicles. The Best In The Desert Black Canyon Rally was on tap afterwards, where we placed first in all three stages, winning us the event as well as three new vehicles! The penultimate event of the game was called Earl’s Agave Peak Hill Climb, which we won, unlocking two new vehicles. The last event, which we knew we were going to lose before it even begun, was the BFGoodrich Open Class Challenge. We finished eighth, dead last. Even on the last level, with the best truck, we had no shot at winning this type of event at all! Anyways, afterwards we dabbled in the multiplayer mode, using the little wee trucks we unlocked all along, before calling it a day. Overall this is a solid game, but nothing great. It looks great, and controls well, but there isn’t much to it otherwise. The racing is very fun but also quite repetitive, so it gets old quickly. Still lots of fun though, especially if you can get a good deal on it.

8) We made a bit more progress on Lego: The Ninjago Movie Videogame, the next levels that fell to completion include: “Chapter 8: Battle of the Masters” (earned/found 1 Gold Brick, Spinjitzu & Earth Spinjitzu Mastered, unlocked the Cole [Unmasked] & Lloyd [Unmasked] characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of the Fallen trophy), “Chapter 9: The Dark Ravine” (earned/found 3 Gold Bricks, Ice Spinjitzu & Water Spinjitzu Mastered, unlocked the Sensei Yang, Snappa, Nya [Unmasked] & Zane [Unmasked] characters along with some new character parts, unlocked Gold Weapons, and earned the Student of Collection & Master of Shortcuts trophies), “The Dark Swamp” (earned/found 1 Gold Brick, earned a Gold Medal, unlocked the Acronix, Krux & Samurai X characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Time trophy), “Chapter 10: The Lost City of Generals” (earned/found 7 Gold Bricks, Lightning & Green Spinjitzu Mastered, earned 2 Ninjanuity Tokens, unlocked the Ray & Kai [Training] characters along with some new character parts, and earned the Master of Dance trophy) & “Chapter 11: Escape the Generals” (earned/found 1 Gold Brick, earned 1 Ninjanuity Token, and unlocked the Lord Garmadon [Jungle] character along with some new character parts). In the various game hubs between levels we were able to earn/find 1 Gold Brick and also earned the Student of Exploration trophy.

9) I finally got past the part I was stuck on in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story! This hurdle was the big Wiggler I ran in to at the farm, by far my hardest fight of the game up to that point. Eventually I managed to best the creature, but moving on afterwards Bowser was then struck with a stomach ache. Starlow had Mario and Luigi investigate Bowser’s nerve cluster, where they found some sort of parasitic worm causing Bowser distress by literally sucking the life out of him. Figuring the worm must have been in the carrot Bowser ate we prepared for another battle, to remove this fiend from the equation. It was another battle that required many, many . . . many tries to complete. But complete it I finally did! Continuing on through the nerve cluster we avoided small little white enemies with spears, eventually running in to Toadbert. He hadn’t seen Peach either but briefed us on what he had seen going on from inside Bower’s nerve cluster, particularly with regards to those little white enemies we had run in to, which appeared to be some sort of defense mechanism within Bowser’s body. He took off and left us to it, so we then clobbered one of Bowser’s nerve endings with a hammer, resulting in Bowser’s punch power being increased . . . enough so that he could now punch through solid rock! Using this new ability I made my way back to my cronies, where we then used the cannon to launch the Banzai Bill at Bowser’s Castle. Midbus and some Goombas saw it coming and so they had the castle blast in to the air like a spaceship, avoiding the attack and heading toward the forest. Once there it dropped on top of Bowser, who afterwards was unresponsive. Mario and Luigi headed to the Rump Command area of Bower’s body, where some creatures called Evoglobins begged us to save Bowser. Boarding a couple of small boats we surfed the adrenaline channel, shooting adrenaline and causing it to build up in Bowser’s system. Suddenly he came alert and grew gigantically, removing the castle that was pinning him down and then setting forth against it in battle. I turned aside all waves of attacks Midbus threw my way, sending the freak packing in retreat, vowing to get back at me once I returned to my normal size. Setting off in to the forest once more I soon discovered the path to Bowser’s Castle, engaging these sunflower looking enemies along the way. I also managed to rescue a horde of trapped Shy Guys, adding them and their services to my growing arsenal. Continuing onwards towards the castle I engaged many enemies in battle before Midbus noticed my approach from the castle, beginning preparations to take it up in to the sky. Once airborne they blasted a massive cannonball at me, which Bowser caught but could just barely manage to hang on to. Taking control of Mario and Luigi we headed to Bowser’s Arm Center and gave his muscles a big blast, causing him to hurl the cannonball back at the castle! This caused it significant damage and prompted it to settle back down in place on the ground. Moving on once more I finally managed to enter said castle, where none of my former minions recognized me, all babbling on and on about how wonderful Lord Fawful is. After talking to a number of these hair brained fools I discovered that Fawful was currently taking over the Mushroom Kingdom, and had turned Bowser’s Castle in to a theatre of sorts. Incredulously exploring this “theatre”, Bowser was angered to find it full of his former minions, all excited to see the show and not remembering who he was at all. Not long after Bowser was given a special seat of honour by a couple of in the know Goombas, Fawful showed up and worked the crowd, then triggered Bowser’s seat to launch him on to the stage! Fawful then revealed his goon, Midbus, and a battle between the two behemoths began. It took many, many . . . many tries, but eventually I managed to figure this battle out and sent Midbus packing. After the fight Fawful threw a feast to celebrate, and of course Bowser couldn’t resist. In the banquet hall a bunch of Boos forced Bowser to eat and eat and eat . . . and eat, until he was as round as a bowling ball! He became so heavy he fell through the floor and got trapped, and thus called on Starlow and the gang to sort things out. I then took command of Mario and Luigi and entered a new area of Bowser’s body, called Bowser’s Flab Zone. Setting off in to this new unknown we first found a Flab Zone Attack Piece. We also began to encounter some new enemies, dispatching them all before finally locating Princess Peach! Unfortunately a horde of blue orbs with faces on them showed up and whisked her away, and so we gave chase. Luigi ended up falling in to a pit though, but was rescued by a Princess Lipid, who then gifted us each with a badge. When used in battle after being fully charged up these badges provided us with helpful boosts. Moving along after this encounter we found eight more attack pieces and then talked to a curious Globin who wanted to quiz us about Bowser. For passing his test we earned some coins as well as some advice on how to proceed. Soon after we found the final attack piece and thus gained the helpful Spin Jump ability! Eventually we tracked down Peach but the orbs from earlier showed up and coalesced in to some kind of monster, and thus another big boss battle began . . .

10) I’ve decided to finally put Rogue Stormers away . . . not even close to a completion! We could never even beat the second level. This game does not save along the way, and it doesn’t explain itself all that well either. Apparently your character is supposed to evolve and upgrade along the way, but no matter how many times we play we always get stumped on the second level and our character never seems to get any stronger/better. One death and you’re back to the beginning, square one. I hope to come back to Rogue Stormers one day, but I have so many other games to play that I will probably actually be able to beat that I don’t want to spend any more time on this one without making any progress. Fun. But hard. Too hard.

11) Rad Rodgers has also been completed, and I thought in no way would this happen based on my most recent round of play! Anyways, here is how the last three levels unfolded: “Level 8: Raging Ruins” (92% completed), “Pogo Vertigo 3” (100% completed) & “Level 9: Malignant Grove” (50% completed and boss defeated). Rad Rodgers has a decent amount of levels, and they are in no way easy, especially as you get further in to the game, but this batch of levels I defeated was labeled as “World 1”. So I thought there were going to be more worlds involved with this title, but apparently not! Overall this title is pretty damn good though. Great visuals and gameplay, hilarious and filthy humour and language, and the throwback design to it captures the nostalgia factor for gamers of my generation. Not to mention it’s quite challenging without being impossible. Definitely a worthy add to the collection, especially at $20!!

12) Our Rocket League season on Pro came right down to the wire! We had a slow start and were out of a playoff spot for most of said season, but in the second half we heated up a bit and managed to just sneak in at the last minute. Here is how the remaining games of that season unfolded: won vs. Dragons 4-0, won vs. Rebels 3-2, lost vs. Rovers 4-2, won vs. Monarchs 4-3 (OT), lost vs. Cyclones 6-3, won vs. Express 4-1, lost vs. Bombers 5-3, won vs. Seekers 5-3 & won vs. Guardians 4-0. Our opening game of the playoffs was going well until later on in the match, when I was about to score a long range goal. Jimmer tried to take it from me, but ended up shooting wide instead!! Thus the game went to overtime, where the extra session went on for quite a while. In the end we fell to the Dragons by a score of 3-2, eliminating us from the post season. Have a look at it on my You Tube channel and see if you can find that turning point of a moment! We then chose to venture out in to some online play with random strangers (more on our newfound ability to do so, below), first competing in a number of 3v3 matches which went as such: won 7-2, lost 8-3, lost 2-1 (OT) & lost 4-1. We then played some 4v4 matches too, which went a little better: lost 3-2 (OT), won 4-3, won 3-2 & won 5-3. We gained some trophies during this play, including Budding Artist, Far, Far Away . . ., My World is Fire and Far, Far Away. At this point I’ll probably stop reporting on our Rocket League shenanigans and rate the game here on Gamespot, as we’ve played through it quite a bit. I’m sure we’ll continue to dabble with it from time to time though. Such a fun game, a total 10 hands down!!

13) More games are in the bank on my season of NHL 2K9. Here is how they went: won @ Edmonton 4-2, won @ Vancouver 12-3, won vs. Boston 8-1, lost vs. Chicago 6-5, won vs. Atlanta 4-2, won @ Ottawa 6-1, won vs. Philadelphia 5-1, won @ Los Angeles 10-2, won @ San Jose 5-3, won @ Phoenix 3-0 & won vs. Washington 4-3.

14) Sonic Lost World is my next game completion, and here is how the action unfolded in the game’s remaining levels: Silent Forest Zone 3 (1,485,100 points and 2/5 red coins), Silent Forest Zone 4 (1,619,000 points and 3/5 red coins), Sky Road Zone 1 (1,670,000 points and 1/5 red coins), Sky Road Zone 2 (1,818,300 points and 5/5 red coins), Sky Road Zone 3 (1,826,400 points and 2/5 red coins), Sky Road Zone 4 (1,998,900 points and 4/5 red coins), Sky Road Zone ? (3,141,400 points), Lava Mountain Zone 1 (2,502,900 points and 4/5 red coins), Lava Mountain Zone 2 (2,536,000 points and 2/5 red coins), Lava Mountain Zone 3 (2,757,700 points and 1/5 red coins), Lava Mountain Zone 4 (2,983,700 points and 3/5 red coins), Hidden World Zone 1 (2,990,100 points), Hidden World Zone 2 (3,015,600 points), Hidden World Zone 3 (3,044,200 points) & Hidden World Zone 4 (3,109,000 points). And that was it! After defeating the Sinister Six, and then of course Dr. Robotnik (he showed his true colours in the end!) my journey was over. Overall this game was pretty fun, had a great story, and looked fantastic visually. But as with more recent Sonic games the controls were off. In this game it was just a little, enough to make it a minor nuisance and not anything more than that, not like with Sonic and the Lost Rings or Sonic and the Black Knight. They also didn’t explain all that well the various moves you can pull off in the game, which often led to me becoming stuck for a spell until I figured it out. Sonic: Lost World is a solid game, easily the best one I’ve played in a while from the newer generation of Sonic games.

15) Jimmer and I continued along with Sackboy’s adventures in LittleBigPlanet. Picking back up in The Savannah region we completed the remaining levels there as such: The Meerkat Kingdom (26,371 points and 65% of items collected, earning the The Savannah trophy), Flaming Seesaws – Easy (4,336 points), Flaming Seesaws – Medium (6,116 points), Flaming Seesaws – Hard (9,540 points), Tunnel Plunge (2,768 points) & Meerkat Bounce (25,545 points). The scene then shifted to The Wedding region, where we completed all levels as so: The Wedding Reception (7,907 points and 41% of items collected), The Darkness (4,007 points and 73% of items collected), Skulldozer (39,619 points and 100% of items collected, earning the The Wedding trophy), Boom Town (5,163 points and 76% of items collected, earning the Forager trophy), Wrestler’s Drag (13,553 points) & Cowabunga (1,701 points). The scene then shifted to The Canyons region, where we completed it’s levels in the following fashion: The Mines (8,729 points and 50% of items collected), Roller Run – Easy (4,958 points), Roller Run – Medium (3,291 points), Roller Run – Hard (10,861 points) & Puzzle Wheel (1,676 points).

16) Remarkably I am now also a Stanley Cup champion on NHL Faceoff, which I absolutely busted my way through! To start off, here is how the remaining games in my regular season went: won @ Detroit 1-0, lost vs. Los Angeles 1-0 (OT), tied @ New York Rangers 0-0, won @ Dallas 1-0, lost @ Pittsburgh 1-0, won vs. St. Louis 1-0, won vs. Colorado 2-1, won @ Philadelphia 2-1 (OT), won vs. Winnipeg 2-0, won vs. Vancouver 2-1, won vs. St. Louis 3-0, lost @ Calgary 2-0, won @ Edmonton 3-2 (OT), won vs. San Jose 1-0, won vs. Pittsburgh 3-0, won vs. Vancouver 1-0, won @ San Jose 2-1, won @ Anaheim 2-1 (OT), won @ Colorado 1-0, won @ New York Islanders 2-0, won vs. Winnipeg 2-0, won vs. Chicago 1-0 (OT) & won @ Chicago 2-1. I took home honours for top spot in the league with a pretty win laden record, which set me up for a first round playoff matchup again the Dallas Stars. They gave me some really tight competition during the regular season so I was pumped to play them! Thankfully I won the first game against Dallas because it turned out that in this game the first three rounds of the playoffs were single game eliminations, and the finals were only a best of 3 series, instead of all rounds being best of 7! I won the game versus Dallas by a score of 1-0. Elsewhere in the West Calgary beat Colorado, Vancouver defeated Chicago, and St. Louis ousted Detroit. In the East Hartford beat Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers eliminated Washington, Montreal edged out Philadelphia, and Boston sent New Jersey packing. In the second round I faced off against Calgary and had a much easier go of it, defeating them by a score of 4-1. In the other Western Conference series Vancouver took out St. Louis, while in the East the New York Rangers beat Hartford and Montreal squeaked by Boston. So I had to engage Vancouver in the conference finals, winning once again, this time by another slim 1-0 margin. In the East Montreal got by the New York Rangers, setting up a classic final showdown between Toronto and Montreal! I came back to win the series after dropping the first game, here is how it all unfolded: lost vs. Montreal 1-0, won vs. Montreal 2-1 & won vs. Montreal 2-0. More Stanley Cup hardware for yours truly! This game is fantastic, so much fun, so realistic, and the games are so close. For it’s era I would say that NHL Faceoff would easily have been the second best hockey simulator out there, after EA’s NHL Hockey franchise of course. Bravo!!

17) Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is also now kaputs! Picking up where we left off the remaining songs in the game’s story mode, or Career mode if you will, went as such: Hard to Handle (63,750 points for a 4 star rating), Always on the Run (125,279 points for a 5 star rating), Back in the Saddle (119,570 points for a 5 star rating), Beyond Beautiful (104,948 points for a 5 star rating), Dream On (130,414 points for a 5 star rating), Cat Scratch Fever (103,288 points for a 5 star rating), Sex Type Thing (133,991 points for a 5 star rating), Guitar Battle vs. Joe Perry (completed), Mama Kin (165,135 points for a 5 star rating), Toys in the Attic (87,583 points for a 5 star rating) & Train Kept a Rollin’ (148,033 points for a 5 star rating). Afterwards I went and spent our hard earned rock n’ roll cash on some bonus songs, which we then completed. Those extra tracks included: Walk this Way (131,296 points for a 5 star rating), Rats in the Cellar (154,792 points for a 5 star rating), Kings and Queens (142,019 points for a 5 star rating), Combination (107,616 points for a 5 star rating), Let the Music do the Talking (124,701 points for a 5 star rating), Shakin’ my Cage (160,386 points for a 5 star rating), Pink (110,975 points for a 5 star rating), Talk Talkin’ (57,009 points for a 4 star rating), Mercy (120,171 points for a 4 star rating), Pandora’s Box (157,986 points for a 5 star rating) & Joe Perry Guitar Battle (129,644 points for a 5 star rating). Guitar Hero by nature is a pretty specific game that can’t really be messed with all that much, so this is simply another solid and fun to play entry in a revolutionary series. As long as they keep the music behind the games relevant and rockin’, these games will continue to rock this guy’s world. Lots of fun!

18) Frogger: Ancient Shadow sure got more difficult in a hurry! But we kept at it and got some more levels completed. Picking up where we left off in the “White Savanna” area we finished things up there by completing the final two levels, which included Level 3 & Boss. The area that became available next was called “Hidden Caves” and it got quite a bit more difficult, for the most part. So far there we’ve completed just Level 1 and Level 2.

19) Another completion I managed is Hellboy: The Science of Evil. Wasn’t expecting that one to end so quickly, but it was fun while it lasted! When I last left off I was in the midst of the second level of the game. Resuming my trek I ran in to an old monk, who mentioned that somebody had come along this route before me . . . somebody that had sparked the Guardians’ (the samurais I’d been fighting) ire! He also asked me to ring a bell when I got to a certain area, I’d know it when I found it. Moving along I was soon attacked by some sort of cyborg/mutant gorilla, which traipsed off in to the forest after I offered up some resistance. Next I found a small building with a big log suspended outside of it, which I used to ring a bell that was hanging within said building. Upon doing so the most vicious samurai yet descended upon me! After beating him down a stone bridge formed which ultimately led me to a large building that I found Von Klempt exploring. He set that nasty gorilla on me, which I defeated by bringing the whole building down around us (and during the fray the gorilla even knocked Von Klempt off a cliff, so double score!). Afterwards I returned some sort of mystery object to the monk, completing my quest. The third game level took me back to the present, in some sort of eerie Romanian village upon waking up from my nasty fall. I resumed my chase of the witch (who could frustratingly transform in to a flock of Ravens), taking out many Bambinis while also talking to a few skeletons along the way. Yep, you heard that right. Eventually these undead beings began referencing some manner of creature from below that had brought destruction upon the village, an evil even worse than the witch. Continuing along I began running in to Nazi soldiers, and strange red alien vines began littering the landscape more and more. My travels led me to a large church where my final battle with the witch soon began. After a long, frustrating battle complicated by hordes of Bambinis, I eventually dropped the large church bell on top of the witch, ending her days. However, I also plummeted in to the hole left in the church’s floor after her, ending the level. The next level began as I started my explorations of the crypt beneath the church that I had ended up dropping in to. I immediately encountered some Nazis and dispatched them, moving along I came to a series of tunnels that were more natural and not man made, leading me on a circuitous expedition through the bowels of the Earth! The alien vines began showing up en masse throughout this journey, as well as these strange alien beings that resembled large star nosed moles, only they walk on two feet like a man. Don’t Google a star nosed mole fyi, you’ll never be able to unsee it! Soon I saw what looked like a big, weird alien octopus hanging in the middle of a huge chamber under the Earth, having wrapped itself around a massive pillar. Not sure what to make of it I continued on, first moving downwards and then eventually upwards again. Along the way I had to beat back a horde of Nazis that were overseeing some pumping equipment, appearing to bring up something from far below. I entered an underground arena where I did battle with more of those alien beings, including one of their bruisers. I also ran in to a series of pits that featured statues that spouted fire whenever I fired my enemies in to them. That chamber eventually came crashing down around me, upon finding my way out of the rubble I traveled upwards to a stone chamber that looked to be some sort of altar room. Just beneath this altar room is where the slumbering alien octopus had set up shop, so I destroyed the room and sent both it and the alien freak beneath it tumbling down in to the abyss . . . but once more I ended up going along for the ride!! The game’s fifth level then warped back in time again, about 40 years in the past when Hellboy found his way to Tunisia. There was tell of some sort of oasis in the region that was more than a mere illusion, and Hellboy was out to discover the truth behind it. Entering said oasis I began by trekking through a sandy, craggy environment, littered with palm trees and a small river. I encountered a creature that looked like Abe Sapien, who mentioned his team was there to subdue a creature . . . but then “they” showed up, the Nazis. Moving forward I soon came upon the ruins of an old city or something, where undead Nazi zombies began attacking me! There were also alien vines/tentacles showing up now as well, but different from the ones I’d encountered earlier in the game. Running in to another Abe Sapien being it gifted me a bullet box I could use to craft bigger bullets. Ultimately my journey on the surface of Tinisia came to an end when I located a stone tower. Entering it I proceeded downwards through a cracked floor, in to the bowels beneath the sands of the desert above me. Finding a route through this crypt I battled more zombies and forged my path by utilizing a series of oversized gears and pulleys. At the end of this road was a large orange crystal, and from within it burst forth another alien freak, a huge worm like creature with flailing tentacles! Scattered across the ground around it were remains of these orange crystals, which I had used to combat the zombies throughout the level. They were the key to beating this beast as well, stunning it with said crystals before I could lay some real damage on it. In a final push it burst forth from it’s chamber, up to the sands above. Acquiring a sword I then laid the final strokes on it, slaying the beast and ending this threat once and for all. The sixth and final level then arrived, and it brought us back to current times. After fighting that bizarre, underground alien creature earlier in the game, and having gone plummeting with it in to the depths, Hellboy was carried down an underground river and washed up on a shore somewhere in Eastern Europe. Upon this shore was a craggy landscape featuring a castle in the near distance . . . a castle inhabited by Herman von Klempt, arch nemesis to Hellboy! Drying myself off I soon found an underground passageway that opened up in to a large subterranean base and supply depot, obviously being used by the Nazis. von Klempt’s zombie soldiers showed up once again so I then began brawling my way through the rest of this facility, in an effort to get to the control room where that snake was hiding out. Scaling a series of high metal scaffolding I came upon another gorilla, this particular one firing a machine gun around the place willy nilly. I chose to avoid the beast and move on, considering the amount of zombie soldiers I had on my hands to begin with. In a circular chamber with lots of cells and strange equipment a skeleton filled me in on the history of this castle, a castle that for it’s entire existence had always attracted evil mad men to claim it as their residence, this most recent occasion of course being von Klempt and his horrific supernatural genetic experiments. Moving along I encountered another armed gorilla but this time had to lay the boots to it, not long afterwards encountering yet another one! After defeating this second beastie, alarm klaxons began ringing out all through the castle and the star-nosed mole beasts that were in captivity throughout this castle’s bowels were all released, mixing with the zombies. This at least was fortunate, as they seemed to like to fight each other as much as they did me! Ascending the large central chamber of this area of the castle I eventually popped up in to an outdoor courtyard. von Klempt showed up and brought with him hordes of those gun toting gorillas, not to mention a few of the star-nosed mole heavies! This was a tough bit of battling, but eventually I cleared the area before finding a bridge that led to the castle proper. Fighting my way over it I then passed through what appeared to be von Klempt’s office, before heading upwards to the control room. He taunted me before releasing the results of all his work . . . some manner of horrific, supernatural beast that was massive in size, sported a skeleton for a face, and came with a host of tentacles it could use to scoop me up and deliver all sorts of pain! This final fight unfolded in a few separate stages and took place both inside and outside the castle. After a number of tries I finally finished both this beast and von Klempt off, using one against the other, ending the game. Hellboy: The Science of Evil is quite fun, a simple beat ‘em up with lots of environmental objects you can use for weapons. The only downsides to it is that overall it is on the shorter side, and the action does get a bit repetitive after a while. A solid game but nothing ground-breaking. A big bonus to it is that all of the main actor’s voices are the real thing!

20) With Borderlands falling and Hellboy having moved along so quickly afterwards I fired up another PS3 game, the one I chose was Shift 2 Unleashed, a racing game that apparently hails from the Need for Speed franchise. When you start this game up you have no choice but to enter Career mode, where a professional racer named Vaughan Gittin guides you through the beginning of your racing career. From entering your first race, buying your first car, upgrading that car, teaching you little tricks along the way and explaining different events, he is your guide throughout your Shift 2 Unleashed racing experience. Anyways, when the mode first started up I ran a bit of practice in a GT-R, a tutorial of sorts, before actually entering a race against real opponents. I won this race, at Suzuka Circuit, afterwards using my credits to purchase my first ride, which I made a Honda Civic. Using this vehicle I then set out on my career, starting with the Modern D series of events. The first event was called Single Exhibition, consisting of two races: Shanghai Yan’an Road Circuit (first) & Monza Jr. (first, earning the Cub Scout trophy). Then came the Open Season event, consisting of three races: Riviera Monument Loop (first), Circuit de Catalunya Club (first, earning the Nailed It trophy) & London Club Drive (first). The last of these events was the Tour-du-Monde event, which was made up of four races: Tokyo Dockside (first), Suzuka Circuit East Course (first), Nurburgring Mullenbach (first, earning the Amateur trophy) & Miami Bayside Run (first). I then moved on to the next sequence of events, the first one being the Hot Lap Gauntlet event. It was more time focused, and it consisted of three races: Brands Hatch Indy (beat the pre-determined lap target, earning the Sizzlin’ trophy), Donington Park National (beat the pre-determined lap target) & Nurburgring Sprint Short (beat the pre-determined lap target). Next came a big step, the Modern C Invitational event. It was a one off race at Suzuka Circuit West Course, which I won, unlocking the Modern C family of events for play! The first event I ran afterwards was called Single Exhibition, and it consisted of three races: Donington Park National (first), Miami Bayfront Park Loop (second) & Circuit Dijon-Prenois Short (first). Then came the Glendale Midfield Festival, which consisted of three stages: Glendale Club (first), Glendale East (first) & Glendale West (first). The Continental Tours event was next in line and it was a bit different. It featured a few different sets of races that were broken down in to a pair of race stages. Here were the respective results: Nurburgring Sprint Short (second) & Circuit Dijon-Prenois Short (first), Suzuka Circuit West Course (second) & Tokyo Club (second), Dakota National (first, earning the Semi-Pro trophy) & Miami Bayfront Park Loop (third). After this event I then got a drift tutorial from Vaughan that came in three stages. Upon completing them all I earned the Grass Roots and Badge Earner trophies.

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21) With NHL Faceoff being completed I then set out on the next game in store from that franchise, which is NHL Faceoff ‘97! Of course I started a season with the Leafs right off the hop, here is how the initial batch of games have transpired in that regard: won vs. Anaheim 3-1, won vs. Edmonton 5-2, won vs. Tampa Bay 2-1, won vs. Chicago 3-2 (OT), won @ St. Louis 3-2 (OT), won @ Dallas 3-2 (OT), won vs. San Jose 4-3, lost @ Boston 2-1, lost vs. Phoenix 3-1, won vs. Los Angeles 4-0, won @ New York Islanders 6-1, lost vs. Detroit 5-2, won vs. St. Louis 3-2, won @ Ottawa 3-1, won vs. Edmonton 5-2, lost @ Philadelphia 3-0, lost @ Anaheim 6-1, lost @ Los Angeles 2-1, won @ Phoenix 5-3, won vs. Buffalo 3-2, won @ Buffalo 2-1 (OT), won vs. Montreal 5-1, won vs. Vancouver 3-2, lost @ Detroit 2-1, won @ Dallas 4-3, lost vs. St. Louis 4-3 (OT), lost @ New York Rangers 7-2, lost vs. New York Rangers 4-0, won @ Chicago 2-1 (OT) & lost vs. New Jersey 3-1. So far I’ve found this one isn’t quite as good as the original NHL Faceoff, but close . . .

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22) On a Christmas shopping trip to Game Cycle I found a GameBoy Advance titled for myself that really sparked my interest, called Frogger’s Adventures: Temple of the Frog. In this game Frogger is informed by Lumpy that the Elder Council has reported on a villain named Mr. D. stealing the four elements that keep Firefly Swamp alive and in balance, scattering them across four dangerous regions. It then became Frogger’s task to brave the dangers each region presents and track these elements down, before engaging in a final confrontation with the mysterious Mr. D. I blasted through this game pretty quickly, the first region was called Goblin Caverns: Area 1 (collected three Fire icons), Area 2 (collected 5 Fire icons) & Area 3 (defeated the goblin King Ijnek and his fire wand, reclaiming the element of Fire). The second region was called Ancient Ruins: Area 1 (collected 3 Earth icons), Area 2 (collected 5 Earth icons) & Area 3 (defeated the Rattlesnake boss and reclaimed the element of Earth). Then came the Sea Town region, as such: Area 1 (collected 3 Water icons), Area 2 (collected 5 Water icons) & Area 3 (defeated Stripe the Shark and reclaimed the element of Water). The fourth and final region was called Sky City and it went as so: Area 1 (collected 3 Wind icons), Area 2 (collected 5 Wind icons) & Area 3 (defeated the Sultan boss, reclaiming the Wind element). I then headed to the Temple of the Frog to confront Mr. D., which went as follows: Area 1 (collected 3 Frogger icons), Area 2 (collected 5 Frogger icons) & Area 3 (defeated the Mr. D boss, turning his own elemental powers against him and saving Firefly Swamp). And that was it, game over! This title was a quick little romp, as I find most GameBoy Advance titles to be. But like most other GameBoy Advance titles as well it was super fun, looked great, and controlled like a dream. I love that handheld system!

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23) For Christmas I purchased a Playstation Plus membership for Jimmer and I, and the Fortnite game to go along with it! We just couldn’t resist finally finding out what all the rage is about. With regards to the game’s main single player story mode, the plot behind it is that a massive, purple storm suddenly ravages the land, wiping 98% of the world’s population away with no trace . . . leaving in it’s place hordes of zombies! As the story continues we witness a survivor of the storm running from zombies, attempting to reach a safe house used by an organization of survivors that fight back against the zombie hordes. When this fellow reaches safety and is briefed on the organization’s methods the game then begins, with the player taking control of the leader of this resistance, a female named Ramirez. I took control of her as she was fighting her way out of a cavern, mowing down zombies with her gun. Reaching the outside world I then hustled to one of our newest outposts, fighting more zombies along the way and then setting up some traps upon reaching it. Meeting up with some comrades inside the outpost I then explored it’s lower levels, where I found a rocket. It was out of fuel so I quickly rustled some up and then launched said rocket, which once up in space would allow us the use of satellite technology in our fight against the undead masses. While the rocket was prepping for launch I had to stave off a final push by the zombie hordes, using both my gun and a sword I’d found to dice them up good! During the completion of this initial mission I earned the Gunsmith, Take Out Those Husks & Some Sort of Rocket trophies. I then continued on with the story and knocked down a number of additional levels, as such: “Stonewood: Homebase Storm Shield Defense 1” (we rolled out a storm shield and I built fortifications and traps around it, then had to fight off waves of Husks when we expanded the shield’s radius, for completing the mission I earned the Shelter from the Storm, Construction Leadership, Dragon Slash! and Outlandish! trophies), “Stonewood: Before and After Science” (I gathered resources to build an Atlas device in the suburbs, powering it up and activating it, then defending it from waves of Husks, for completing this mission I earned the Before and After Science trophy), “Stonewood: Ride the Lightning” (I met up with a guy named Lars who studies storms and gains info from them, then protected his equipment against waves of Husks until he could launch it in to the sky, for completing this mission I earned the Ride the Lightning trophy), “Stonewood: Homebase Storm Shield Defense 2” (continued to build up defenses around our storm shield and then expanded it’s range, repelling the two waves of Husks that came at me after doing so) & “Gimme Three” (located and deployed another Atlas device, then defended it against waves of Husks, rescuing three survivors in the process). The big reason this game is so well known though is because of it’s online multiplayer mode, which pits people around the globe against each other in online battles that you can operate solo, as part of a pair, or in squads of teammates. There are a number of different themes these battles can take place under, which change daily, keeping the game different and interesting. Jimmer and I have taken turns dabbling in this mode as well, to varying degrees of success. Lots of fun so far!!

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24) With some PS4 completions in the books I decided to start out on a game I’d been sitting on called Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. It’s made by Telltale Games, the same outfit that does the Minecraft story adventures. So this game is less an action game, and more of a movie/show where you press buttons every so often to influence your character’s comments, decisions and actions, and the plot changes and adapts depending on these choices and reactions you make. There are a small number of episodes in this game, and so far here is what I’ve got done: “Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blue” (the main character you control is Star Lord, who is brought in by the Nova Corps to engage Thanos and in the process gets a hold of the Eternity Forge, for completing the episode I earned the Appetite for Destruction, Permanent Waves, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, We’re Only In It For The Money, Electric Warrior & It’s Only Rock n’ Roll trophies) & “Episode 2: Under Pressure” (we went on the lam trying to keep the Eternity Forge out of Halla and her Kree forces’ clutches, at the same time trying to figure out what it is and what the Kree runes on it’s surface translate to, for completing the episode I earned the Double Fantasy, Creatures of the Night, Every Picture Tells A Story, Too Fast For Love, Fly By Night & Space Oddity trophies). Such an awesome looking game, and the soundtrack is sublime!

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25) One of the big presents we got at Christmas this year was a Nintendo Switch, huzzah!! We’ve got a few games for it so far, but the one we started on is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, a truly crazy merging! The game starts up and we are introduced to a young, mysterious girl who is ruminating on her latest achievement. She is a smart, techie kind of person and has invented a set of goggles that combines two things together in to one improved thing. The possibilities are endless, solving the energy crisis, etc. However, when she is frustrated by an overheating problem she’s been experiencing, she and her robot companion Beep-O decide to take a break. Just then the Rabbids show up in her lab, in their washing machine time machine, and get their hands on the goggles! The Rabbids do what they do, and soon enough they and the world of the Super Mario Bros. (for this mysterious femme is a big fan and has lots of collectibles) are combined. Mario ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom with a couple of stable Rabbid allies, but the rest of those crazy critters are running amok and the kingdom is in chaos. They must find the Rabbid who wears the goggles and stop it before anything dreadfully serious happens. And that is where this turn based, RPG hybrid type of game starts up. So far we’ve completed the following levels: “World 1-1: Unlikely Heroes”, “World 1-2: Flower Bud”, “World 1-3: Danger From Above”, “World 1-4: Welcome to the Jungle”, “World 1-5: Brother, Where Art Thou?”, “World 1-6: On the Bubble”, “World 1-7: Do U Stack Up?”, “World 1-8: Precarious Pillar” & “World 1-Boss” (defeated Rabbid Kong). This game looks and plays fantastically, it is so much better than I imagined it would be!

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“NNGRR” - On the Saturday of the weekend where James had the long Sunday rehearsal (the weekend before his show opened) we went to the movies and saw Ralph Breaks the Internet, the follow up film to Wreck-It Ralph! It’s been about six years since the events of the first film, which brought arcade video game characters Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz together as best friends. Ralph is loving this new life with his best friend, but Vanellope now longs for . . . something different, something more. In an effort to give his friend some variation to her daily routine, Ralph crafts a detour on one of her race tracks. She loves this new adventure, but the human player controlling her during this race gets overzealous when she can’t seem to control Vanellope and breaks the game’s steering wheel. While all of this has been happening the other big news around the arcade is that Mr. Litwak has hooked his establishment up with the internet! Overhearing his conversation with the kids who broke Sugar Rush’s steering wheel, Ralph gets an idea. They can go to the internet, to eBay in particular, and obtain the one Sugar Rush steering wheel that is out there for sale (for if they don’t, Vanellope will soon be gameless as Mr. Litwak will be forced to scrap Sugar Rush). So one night Ralph and Vanellope sneak over to the Wi-Fi hub and zoom off to the internet, where they are blown away by the wide open world they are greeted with. Amazon, Google, You Tube, oh my! They manage to find eBay and place an outrageous bid on the steering wheel, afterwards becoming dismayed to discover that it costs actual money to buy. They then have 24 hours to come up with the cash or lose the wheel. Meeting with a shady pop up ad proprietor, the duo embark on a quest to obtain virtual items that people on the net will pay actual cash for. The queen of all these items is a car from a game called Slaughter Race, which they have to steal from a character named Shank. They enter the Slaughter Race game and Ralph is terrified, while Vanellope is thrilled and enamoured. They almost get away with the theft, giving Shank and her cronies their hardest challenge yet, and upon being apprehended Shank and Vanellope develop a real friendship. She steers the pair to a higher up at Buzz Tube named Yes, who helps Ralph become an internet sensation, filming all sorts of hilarious videos with him and converting all of the hearts he earns in to cold, hard cash. As the duo are finally about to reach their goal and obtain the steering wheel, Ralph overhears a conversation between Shank and Vanellope, during which his friend admits to wanting to stay in Slaughter Race . . . she feels as though it’s her calling. Ralph is heartbroken and then goes to extremes to prevent him from losing his best friend, asking a shady character to help him introduce a virus in to the Slaughter Race game. In the end Ralph needs to fix this disastrous situation he has engineered and save not only Vanellope and the internet, but himself . . . from himself! This was an outstanding movie. The first film was so good, and they hit this second movie right on the head as well, equally as brilliant. So funny, so much action, and so much spot on satire regarding the internet. This is easily one of my favourite movies of the year. Plus, it’s got John C. Reilly and even Stan Lee even makes an animated cameo!!

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That same weekend, after we polished off our Wendy’s upon getting home from rehearsal, Jimmer and I watched Ant-Man and the Wasp! When this story picks up it’s been almost two years since the events of Captain America: Civil War, when Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) got involved in the Avengers internal struggles, and he is just about finished his resulting house arrest. He’s going crazy for the most part, but having lots of fun playing with his daughter Cassie when it’s his turn for custody. He hasn’t spoken to Hank Pym or Hank’s beautiful daughter Hope Van Dyne since his house arrest started, but one night while dozing in the bath he has a dream, or a vision of sorts. When Scott visited the quantum realm during his previous adventures he somehow unknowingly became linked to Hank’s wife, Janet, who 30 years ago was lost to the quantum realm, seemingly forever. Using a secret cell phone Scott keeps hidden from the feds he leaves a message for Hank, and not long after he is knocked out and taken from his home by Hope, who deals with the ankle bracelet by leaving a decoy behind at Scott’s home to make everything seem situation normal to the fuzz. The trio then begin theorizing about what Scott’s dream meant, Hank is certain it means Janet is still alive and that they can retrieve her. However, they need a part for the equipment Hank uses to access the quantum realm from within his lab, and they turn to a sleazy, black market thug who ends up wanting Pym’s valuable research and equipment for himself. Around this same time the mysterious “Ghost” being whom Ant-Man had to deal with in past adventures, capable of moving through walls and what not, is also after them. This Ghost, revealed to be a young woman named Ava (daughter of a former partner of Pym’s) believes Janet’s quantum energy can be used to stabilize Ava’s bizarre condition and save her life. So Scott Lang, who only wanted to get through the next couple of days without incident, so as to finish his house arrest tenure and win back his freedom, now has multiple problems on his hands. He wants to help bring Janet back from the quantum realm and thus repair his relationship with Hank and especially Hope, but is tasked with doing so while also dealing with deadly threats from this back market thug and also the ruthless anti-hero Ghost. And to top it all off he’s got to keep it on the down low so the feds don’t realize he’s slipped his house arrest! The action that unfolds while Ant-Man manages these affairs is fast paced, spontaneous, and often times hilarious. This is a great follow up to the original Ant-Man movie. It kept the spirit of Paul Rudd’s character alive, featured some awesome effects and action sequences, and of course is very funny to boot. They’ve found really cool ways to utilize the shrinking/enlarging abilities of Ant-Man and Wasp, keeping it new and different, which makes for very exciting viewing. These are very underrated Marvel characters so I’m glad to see they’re fleshing them out a bit with these two movies . . . and hopefully more appearances to come in the future of course.

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Just as that weekend closed and a new work week began I finished a book I’d been working on, a choice inspired by a book club I was looking to join. Said work was called The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. It takes place on a fictional continent known as “The Stillness”, a continent that is ironically not still at all, in fact it is quite volatile and destructive. Over thousands of years the history of this continent is measured in seasons, a season being a disastrous event like a volcano erupting or some plates shifting that ignites disastrous environmental effects which seem intent on wiping all life from the surface of the Stillness once and for all. The reason for these events are hung on the heads of the Orogenes, humans that have the ability to feel and manipulate the environment around them, sucking life from all life within their radius and using that energy to power their abilities. Most Orogenes are just normal, peaceful people, some don’t even know they have the gene until a situation occurs in their life that causes their ability to show itself, often times to dangerous effect. Because of the nature of these abilities all discovered Orogenes are sent to the biggest city in the Stillness, Yumenes, where they train at the Fulcrum, taught to hone and control both their abilities and their urges to use said abilities. They are kept in check by a force known as the Guardians, beings who are able to track and negate the Orogenes’ abilities when in proximity to them. The main character we meet right off the bat is a woman named Essun, who is an Orogene in hiding within the town of Tirimo. We meet her just as her world, and the world in general, is falling apart. A seismic event from the North is spewing ash and destruction throughout the land, but even worse she discovers that her husband, Jija, has killed her young son Uche. Uche was apparently just outed as an Orogene and his own father ended his life because of it. Jija, along with their daughter Nassun, have since departed from Tirimo. After the shock and grief of it all wears off Essun hits the road and follows Jija on the path she believes he would have taken, south, away from the spreading disaster. On the road she meets a strange boy named Hoa, whose appearance is quite bizarre, and then a woman named Tonkee, who is not quite what she seems. At the same time we are introduced to two other characters. One is a young girl named Damaya, a girl who has recently been found out as an Orogene. She has been disowned by her parents and soon a Guardian named Schaffa comes to pick her up and take her to the Fulcrum in Yumenes, to be trained up and learn control. As the months go by we witness her quick development and also her knack for wandering. Together with another young girl named Binof they make a discovery at the center of the Fulcrum, a discovery that will make them question the truth behind the Stonelore (history and instruction handed down over the years, as their successors have weathered various seasons and other significant historical events across the Stillness) they’ve been fed all of their lives. The second character we meet is a slightly older Orogene who has studied at the Fulcrum, a young woman named Syenite. She has earned four rings and is on her way to a fifth, soon tasked with a mission that may very well help her earn this next ring. She is to travel with a rare ten ringed Orogene named Alabaster to a coastal city called Allia, where their harbour has been clogged up by a mass of coral. Under Alabaster’s supervision she will clear this mass and earn the Fulcrum a significant fee for doing so. However, as the pair travel (and mate, as they are forced to try and have an Orogene child together) Alabaster inspires Syenite to question their role in the grand scheme of things, and the way they are puppeted around by the Fulcrum and their Guardians. As they travel the land and are exposed to many different experiences, Syenite begins to see the wisdom behind Alabaster’s questioning. Once in Allia things don’t go that well with the assessment of the harbour job, but when the local government officials force Syenite to proceed, a massive alien obelisk (of which many hang in the sky around the Stillness, nobody knows why or what they are) is unearthed from beneath the coral. This kicks off a massive volcanic event that wipes out Allia and it’s inhabitants. Syenite and Alabaster are transported to a nearby island known as Meov by an alien being known as a Stone Eater. Free from the Fulcrum and it’s Guardians they decide to live out life on Meov, at least for the time being. The story culminates when Essun doesn’t find her daughter, but instead finds a group of people living below the Earth. From within this group Essun’s past comes crashing back to her. The biggest revelation though (spoiler alert, I don’t know how I didn’t see this coming) is that these three female characters the book focuses on are all the same person, just at different stages of life! This book was fantastic, a real page turner. It was kind of based in a real life, Earthy type of environment, but had many alien and science fiction elements to it that made it something entirely different, a real unique kind of story. And it’s part of a trilogy too, so I can’t wait to see how things develop and what the mystery and secrets are behind everything, especially those alien obelisks. I’m glad I looked for a book club, otherwise this would have never landed on my radar!

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The day James’ show opened I finished reading a book I had on the go alongside The Fifth Season. It is called Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, and is a prequel to the newer Spider-Man game on the PS4! As the story opens up Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, is on patrol in New York City, on his way to investigate a break in at a pet store. He ends up confronting a rather dense man who was attempting to steal some snakes, but senses that this guy is not the true villain in this bizarre crime but a pawn, and so he goes easy on the fellow. Based on a tip from the perp he tracks down a construction site where he engages some small time thugs, but soon afterwards a person shows up who seems to have super powers of his own and can mimic all of Spider-Man’s moves! The fight is a stalemate and Spidey takes off, returning to the scene of the earlier crime to see if he can find any clues that might have been left . . . but instead he finds the perp he tracked down earlier has been murdered in cold blood. A police officer named Yuri Watanabe gets the drop on Spidey and informs him that he is a suspect in this murder investigation, showing him footage of the Spider-Man doppelganger he so recently fought committing the crime. Yuri knows it’s not him though, the impostor’s costume is different, and his voice and way of talking/acting is totally uncharacteristic of the real Spider-Man. He learns that the construction site he was drawn to for the fight with the impostor is actually owned by Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin of Crime, whom Spider-Man hates with a passion! He tried to take Fisk down in the past and almost had him, but his lawyers got him off and now he’s back in New York, playing the part of the philanthropist by offering up an affordable housing program, suddenly seeming to care for the people of New York City. Spider-Man doesn’t buy it, and neither does Yuri. The two agree to work together covertly to try and bring him down for good this time. Getting down to business they make slow progress and eventually a whole bunch of complications enter the fray. First, a mysterious young woman named Maya, Fisk’s adopted daughter, gets in Spider-Man’s way. She is hell bent on revenge against him, as she has been told all her life by Fisk that Spider-Man killed her father. Also, MJ finally snags her first job in journalism and one of her first assignments is to interview Fisk about his new philanthropic ways. She knows he’s a bad seed just like Peter does, but that doesn’t make Peter feel any better about her putting herself in potentially dangerous situations so often. With the fake Spider-Man running around committing crimes, and seemingly fooling a lot of the populace along the way, public opinion on the super hero becomes split, thanks in no part to J. Jonah Jamieson getting a new radio show and voicing his ludicrous opinions. The increased workload for Spider-Man causes him to lose his day job at the lab, split up with MJ, have to cut back his ties with Yuri, and in the process come no closer to bagging Fisk. With mayor Norman Osborn (yes, the Norman Osborn) anticipated to soon appoint Fisk as the city’s commissioner of finance, which would be an ultimate disaster, Spider-Man must dig himself out of his personal hole and finish what he started. This was a great story, I was not expecting Kingpin to be the villain of the story as I’ve always considered him a more minor Marvel character, but it was great! It was a fun, fast paced story and it has made me even more interested in trying out the PS4 game than I was before. I just gotta wait for a couple of price drops to happen first!!

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Over the lazy weekend that came just before New Year’s Eve I got a bunch of things done, the first of which saw us as a family view the just recently released on Netflix fourth season of Fuller House! Guilty pleasure time!! The overarching storyline is that of the imminent arrival of Stephanie and Jimmy’s baby, as Kimmy Gibbler is looking as big as a house. Along the way we see Max fall out of love with Christmas because he misses his deceased father, D.J. and Steve awkwardly going about the start of their renewed relationship, Jackson and Rocki take their relationship to the next level only to see Jackson mess it all up, Danny becoming depressed with his retirement and itching to get back at it with Rebecca, D.J. and Matt becoming veterinarian partners again after clashing over unresolved feelings, Stephanie struggle with her seemingly dead career in the music industry, Ramona dealing with mean girls at school, a girls’ night out mixed with more uncle Joey babysitting antics, amongst much other tomfoolery. It all ends with the dramatic arrival of Stephanie and Jimmy’s child, making the Fuller family even that much . . . fuller. Ba dump, ching!! This is another outstanding batch of episodes from this revived sitcom, and as usual I can’t wait for more! The humour can be cheesy, but also quite refreshing and original. Plus the characters are all so loveable. And although the show is quite light hearted most of the time, it doesn’t shy away from diving in to issues that are greatly affecting today’s society. I hope they keep on pumping episodes and season out for as long as they can stand it!

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The next thing I completed that weekend was watching the volume 1 DVD set of the Power Rangers Turbo TV show! This 3 disc set is the first half of the Power Rangers Turbo season that was preceded by the Power Rangers Turbo movie, which I reviewed in my main post from the end of November. As the season starts off peace has returned to Angel Grove after the Turbo Rangers discovered their new assignments in life and fought off the villain Divatox’s evil scheme. However, it doesn’t remain peaceful for long as Tommy, Adam, Tanya, Kat and Justin are put to work once more by Divatox and her minions. Divatox’s main method of madness is to have her main minions Elgar, Rygar and Porto, along with many other one-off villains she brings in to the fold, plant detonators in strategic places around Angel Grove. Her aim is to cause destruction, sow chaos, and ultimately eradicate the Rangers, allowing her a foothold of control to take over planet Earth! As her various attempts are foiled by the Rangers many other momentous events take place, such as the departure of the Rangers’ mentor Zordon and his assistant Alpha, who return to the planet the wizard Lerigot originally traveled to them from. Soon enough a new mentor joins the team though, a female named Dimitria. Events also see the arrival of some new allies including the robotic alien named Blue Senturion, the vehicles dubbed Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster, not to mention a brief appearance by the Phantom Ranger. The biggest happening though is the implementation of a new team of Rangers. Although Justin, due to his young age, continues on as the Blue Ranger, Tommy, Adam, Kat and Tanya are retired from the force for services rendered and replaced by newcomers T.J., Carlos, Ashley and Cassie! As expected the action in this series is fun, ridiculous and funny, and the effects ludicrously toy like. A typical Power Rangers series . . . and I love it! I must admit I was not ready for nor expecting a change of the Turbo Rangers guard halfway through this first volume, but I got used to the new Rangers very quickly and found myself liking them just as much as the originals pretty soon afterwards. I can’t wait to see what the second half of this series has in store!

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The last thing we got done that weekend is that Jimmer and I watched a movie called Krampus: The Christmas Devil . . . a low budget B version flick based on the Christmas villain, not the high falutin’ one we watched last year! The movie starts off with a brief narration regarding Krampus, the evil brother of Santa Claus, who instead of doling out presents to good little children each December, nabs the bad apples and snuffs them out for their transgressions. We then witness a scene from 1983 where Krampus takes a young boy from a small town in New York State, carrying him in a sack and attempting to drown him in a small pond. Unbeknownst to Krampus though, this young boy named Jeremy Duffin somehow escapes and returns home with a new outlook on life. Fast forward many, many years and Jeremy is now a cop with the local police department. He is married to a beautiful woman named Rebecca and has a beloved daughter named Heather. After his near miss at the hands of Krampus all those years ago Jeremy changed his ways, and ever since his passion has been tracking and trying to solve the disappearances of young children. Right now a rash of disappearances has happened in his very own town . . . and he knows who is behind it! Although Jeremy doesn’t know it’s the supernatural beast Krampus, per se, he knows in his heart that it’s the same monster who once tried to take him. Zeroing in on Krampus’ location Jeremy almost has the fiend, but Krampus gets the drop on Jeremy and his team, eventually killing his two fellow officers Norris and Walker while once again Jeremy manages to escape at the last moment. He returns to the station battered and babbling, and so the chief takes his gun and badge away and tells him to return home for some rest, as he’ll get some other officers to handle the situation. Stopping at the bar on the way home though, Jeremy mixes it up with some fellow cops who don’t like the fact that he got some colleagues killed. Meanwhile all is not well at the Duffin homestead. A criminal Jeremy had captured in the last year and sent to prison, Brian Hatt, has recently been released and has revenge on his mind. What’s more, one Heather Duffin has made Krampus’ naughty list and he only has 6 hours left in which to take hr. The action culminates at Jeremy’s family home where he must confront not one but two different threats, and let’s just say things don’t go entirely his way . . . leaving the story on quite a cliff-hanger that begs for a sequel! Like I said this is a very B kind of movie. The acting isn’t that great, the effects aren’t top notch, and the cast is a bunch of unknowns. But these are some of my favourite types of movies! Lots of violence and suspense, a bizarre mythical creature, and even a pair of titties . . . what more can you ask for at Christmas time!?

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A day or two before my first book club meeting I finished reading through the graphic novel I mentioned high above, called Gideon Falls book 1: The Black Barn. As it opens up we are introduced to two characters. One of them a seemingly middle aged man named Norton, who appears to have a bit of a mental problem. Wearing a protective breath mask he scours the city he lives in for pieces of trash, mostly nails and such, in some sort of frantic search for the unknown. The other is an older man named Wilfred, a priest with a troubled past who is assigned to oversee the parish in a small, rural town called Gideon Falls. As Norton’s journey unfolds we see him visit a doctor, a psychiatrist, who is not impressed with his activities and threatens to institutionalize him again if he can’t correct his behaviour. He tries but fails, and finally figures out what this quest for garbage really is during dreams and visions . . . he is destined to build the Black Barn! When eventually his psychiatrist has visions of the same barn, she comes around to whatever it is she used to think he was smoking and they agree to move forward together. Meanwhile Wilfred’s experience is even more harrowing when one night after moving to Gideon Falls he is awakened by Father Tom, the man he replaced at the church who is supposed to be dead. Tom leads him out in to a cornfield where Wilfred experiences a vision of the Black Barn and finds an elderly citizen of the town murdered in cold blood. As one of the town’s cops, Clara, investigates Wilfred’s involvement in this murder he does his own bit of investigating, researching long told fables of this sinister Black Barn and introducing himself to Clara’s father, who says he belongs to an old organization called the Ploughmen. Through the years they have tried to protect people from and unravel the mysteries of, the Black Barn. Wilfred doesn’t believe it though and poo poos these claims, but eventually when he witnesses Clara disappear inside the Black Barn in pursuit of a homicidal maniac and then follows her in, he then believes in the evil it represents when he experiences it’s insanity first hand! In the end we see Norton and his new partner in crime find the site where the Black Barn used to sit in the large metropolis they reside in . . . Gideon Falls! This story was so fun, so mysterious, and quite evil. Just what is inside this Black Barn, and is it trying to get out or lure people in? What are it’s ultimate goals? And how are Norton’s Gideon Falls and Wilfred’s Gideon Falls related? Is the Black Barn a time machine, or are these parallel universes or dimensions? I can’t wait to find out! Although I bought the physical copy of this first volume I won’t be able to afford the entire series, which will see volume 10 released some time this month. So the rest I’ll probably read online, if you are interested click here to check it out.

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Right around the time where my family got back to reality after their break over the holidays I finished reading another book, this one The Complete Aliens Omnibus volume 6. It contains two “short” stories set in the Aliens universe, the first one called Cauldron. In this story we are introduced to the crew of the Virginia, a cargo hauler bound to link up with another ship called the Umiak in order to transfer over some cargo. However, the ship’s bosun and his girlfriend have taken on a secret and highly illegal job. They are covertly overseeing the transport and transfer of a number of Xenomorph eggs in cryo-stasis on to the Umiak. This pair finds out the hard way that inside their precious cargo container is not exactly what they have been led to believe, and soon enough the crew is decimated amidst a full on Xenomorph outbreak! Meanwhile, onboard the Umiak, the not so scrupulous captain of the vessel is resenting the presence of a number of young cadets that are used to supplement the ship’s income. Smart kids from around the galaxy are brought on board the ship to learn the various aspects of space faring, which looks good on a college resume. However, when the Umiak docks with the Virginia and the automated cargo transfer is completed, the captain has more to worry about than a bunch of teenagers. The Xenomorphs spread over to the Umiak and the only person who has any sort of plan to stop them is a cadet named Ned, who is a sheep farmer back on Earth. Using his knowledge of animal behaviour Ned hopes to see his fellow survivors through to a rescue. The second story is called Steel Egg, and it focuses on one of human kind’s very first run-ins with the Xenomorphs. An anomaly is detected in orbit around Saturn and so a United Nations vessel (backed by “The Company”) are sent out to discover what exactly it is. Hot on their heels is a vessel from the CANC (Chinese/Asian Nations Cooperative) though, their main political/technological rivals. The Captain of the United Nations vessel, Daryl Corgan, is flabbergasted to discover that this anomaly is actually a giant alien ship shaped like a steel egg! Putting a team together he descends to the alien craft and they make their way inside, discovering a wealth of alien technology. They access records of the seemingly peaceful aliens who built said technology, but in the process they also view footage of another alien species tearing these others apart. Soon enough part of his squad falls upon some dormant Xenomorph eggs and the face huggers strike. Having no experience with such situations, events spiral out of control and a couple of Xenomorphs are set loose upon Corgan’s ship, the Hornblower, while one remains aboard the Steel Egg. The Hornblower’s exobiologist, a smug bastard named Reynolds, only thinks of the glory in this scientific discovery and sabotages his own shipmates, after having made a deal with the CANC before the mission. In the end, after Corgan’s crew is absolutely obliterated, Corgan and his shipmate Ashley Norton end up meeting one of the peaceful aliens Corgan had dubbed Giffs. Together they all head to the Steel Egg on a desperate mission to stop Reynolds, kill the Xenomorphs, and prevent this plague from being set loose on planet Earth. Both of these stories were very good, nothing short about them. The mystery, suspense and action backing them were top notch, and the varying situations in which they brought the Xenomorphs in to the story continue to keep all of these adventures unique and different from one another. I’m pretty sure there is a volume 7 already out, so bring it on!!

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Over the weekend that saw the sleepover take place at our house I finished reading yet another book, the fourth entry in the Magisterium series, called The Silver Mask. As events start up it’s been about six months since the end of the last story, and Callum Hunt (Call for short) has been stuck in mage prison all the while, once it became public knowledge that the evil mage Constantine Madden’s soul resides within his body. He goes through rounds of questioning, the same thing over and over, but mostly Call is despondent because of the death of his best friend and magical counterweight, Aaron, and because he misses his other friend and crush, Tamara. One day though Call gets a visitor, his frenemy Jasper, but during this visit pandemonium breaks loose and Call suddenly realizes he’s being sprung! He is delighted to find out that his rescuer is Tamara, aided by her devoured sister, the fire elemental Ravan. Upon being fully rescued though Call is a little more nervous to find out that the person backing Tamara on the rescue is Anastasia Tarquin, Constantine Madden’s mother who now views Call as her own son and is a bit off her rocker. He accepts the situation for what it is, but things get even worse when Tamara and Call are informed that Anastasia is in league with Master Joseph, the former teacher at the Magisterium who was Constantine Madden’s right hand fiend. Taken to Joseph’s estate the three kids, along with Call’s wolf Havoc, are put in an entirely different kind of prison (albeit a little less confining and with much better food). The worst part of it all is that Alex Strike is also there . . . the jerk who killed Aaron! The kids resist Master Joseph at first, but eventually he settles on a deal with them. If Call works to continue Constantine Madden’s work in trying to find a way to successfully revive the dead (sweetening the pot by revealing their possession of Aaron’s dead body), then he will let all three of them go. He assures them that tensions will ease between their forces and the Magisterium once they find out Constantine Madden’s dream was finally realized and Aaron is back alive. During the ensuing days Tamara and Jasper try and find ways of escaping, and Call plays along with it, but secretly he wonders that if he succeeds in actually bringing Aaron back, could it actually work to their advantage? Along the way Call and Tamara develop a budding romance, which confuses him greatly, but it all goes up in smoke when Call finally does find a way to bring Aaron back from the dead. Tamara is shocked because she feels Call lied to her in not mentioning the fact that he really was going through with Master Joseph’s plan, and also because the revived Aaron just doesn’t seem quite . . . right. The situation all goes to hell when Tamara and Jasper escape without Call, leaving him and Aaron in Master Joseph’s clutches. When Call’s friends get back to the Magisterium and inform them of what went on, they immediately march on Master Joseph’s estate and another mage war is set to be uncanned. Can Call desperately come up with a last minute plan that will circumvent such an event from happening, or soon will many deaths be pinned on his shoulders, worsening his reputation and further ruining his life? This was another excellent read from the duo of Holly Black and Cassandra Clare! So fast paced and exciting, with such dire consequences at hand, and featuring characters you really get attached too. Although there was something of a resolution as the end of this story, they left things wide open to take off in another direction. I can’t wait for volume five!

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Right in the middle of January Jimmer and I finished watching a series on Netflix from Nickelodeon . . . the notoriously delightful Sam & Cat!! We’ve watched this show for years, but I’ve never sat down and watched the whole thing from start to finish. Sam & Cat is a spin-off from two other Nickelodeon shows, iCarly and Victorious respectively. In Los Angeles Cat Valentine (who starred in Victorious) lives in a condo with her elderly Nona and attends school nearby. Meanwhile Sam Puckett (who starred in iCarly) has been motoring down the west coast after Carly left for Italy. When she stops at a food truck to get a burrito Sam witnesses from afar, Cat getting herself in a predicament that ultimately dumps her in the back of a moving garbage truck! Racing to the rescue Sam enters the truck and saves Cat, and afterwards the pair return to Cat’s condo. The two hit it off, in a bizarre, awkward and hilarious kind of way, and soon afterwards Nona announces that she is moving in to a retirement home called Elderly Acres. This gives Cat a great idea, who is terrified to be on her own without Nona . . . Sam could move in and become her new roommate! The pair decide to go for it and in order to make themselves money start up Sam & Cat’s Super Rockin’ Funtime Babysitting Service! Between the kids the duo end up babysitting, not to mention their friends and family including Nona, Dice (a young boy in the complex who is always up to some sort of scheme) and Goomer (a dim-witted MMA fighter that Dice manages), the pair get up to all sorts of hijinks! The action is ridiculous, hilarious, and often times violent . . . so much slapstick! The two actors who play Sam and Cat, Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande respectively, are so adorable and funny, and play off of each other so well, it’s a shame they had to cancel the show. There is only one season, worth 36 episodes, but there were supposed to be more. Apparently Nickelodeon did the whole nickel and diming thing when it came to their salaries and it caused a controversy that resulted in the show ending. I don’t get it, when a studio has a show with two central characters like this that are in effect equal . . . then pay them equally, don’t dick them around! Has nobody learned this lesson by this point? Honestly. Anyways, at least we’ll always have these 36 magical episodes that were able to be produced. I’ve really got my fingers and toes crossed for an eventual reunion/reboot!!

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The movie Jimmer and I took my dad to see with his gift card was (of course) . . . Bumblebee!! In this reboot of the Transformers live action movie franchise the film kicks off with a brief sequence on the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron, in the midst of the great war. Optimus Prime and his Autobots are in retreat, hoping to escape and live to fight another day. That is when Optimus tasks one of his most trusted comrades, B-127 (soon to be known as Bumblebee) with an important mission. Bumblebee is to head to a remote planet called Earth (this story taking place in the year 1987) and scout it out as a temporary headquarters for the Autobots, where they can regroup before taking the fight back to the Decepticons and reclaim Cybertron. However, upon landing on Earth Bee runs in to a couple of problems. The first is a human military officer named Jack Burns, who works for . . . wait for it . . . Sector 7! He is flabbergasted by the alien robot’s appearance and of course the military goes at it all guns blazing. The second problem is the appearance of a Decepticon triple changer named Blitzwing (yeah, effin’ Blitzwing, one of my faves!!). Although Bee eventually destroys Blitzwing, the Decepticon takes his toll on our hero by ripping out his voice module and leaving him teetering on the edge of system shutdown. An indeterminate time later we are introduced to the human hero of our story, a 17 year old female named Charlie. She is in a bad place, having lost her father and not dealing well with her mom’s replacement in that aspect, Ron. She and her dad used to spend time together trying to fix up an old Corvette, and so she has vowed to complete the work herself, as difficult as it is. One day though, at the junk shop she frequents for parts, she spies an old yellow Volkswagen Beetle lying under a tarp and is instantly taken with it. She makes a deal with the owner, a grumpy old coot name Hank, that if she can get it running the car is hers . . . and he agrees (maybe he’s not so grumpy after all). Soon afterwards she succeeds in this task, but not long after getting it home and in the garage she is shocked to see the vehicle transform in to a large robot! She quickly gets over her fear though, as she realizes this robot is actually afraid of her and seems to have lost it’s memory. The two develop a great friendship but Charlie explains to Bee that he can only be a robot in front of her, if anybody else sees him it could lead to great trouble for him. A boy named Memo, who is interested in Charlie and lives nearby, accidentally discovers this secret but she makes him promise to keep it hidden, and then soon after they start to develop a great friendship as well. At this time though, unknowingly, a couple of Decepticons named Shatter and Dropkick pick up on a signal Bumblebee emits and track him to California. The pair of baddies meet with Sector 7 and convince them that they are the good guys, after an escaped convict named B-127. They are after the location of the Autobot leader Optimus Prime and will stop at nothing to obtain it. So it is up to Bee, Charlie and Memo to evade advances from both the two Decepticons and all the might of Sector 7, and get them to see the truth of the matter. A tall task for sure, but one that is super entertaining to see unfold on the big screen! This movie was awesome, so much fun. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission. If flies by pretty quick but there are so many classic bots represented in G1 live action glory, it’s fantastic. Wheeljack, Ratchet, Soundwave, Shockwave and more! There were some other cool nods to the Transformers’ past as well, like the inclusion of You’ve Got the Touch in the soundtrack, which was featured in the original Transformers animated movie. Such a great movie, I highly recommend Bumblebee and hopefully it spawns a half dozen sequels!!

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Late last week I finished another book, this one from the ever expanding Marvel universe of books, called Spider-Man: Forever Young. The book unfolds in two parts, and as it opens Peter Parker has just recently begun his higher education at Empire State University. However, trouble is soon sniffing at the university’s doorstep on a couple of fronts. First, there is a potentially violent protest being staged against the school’s desire to put funding towards the renovation of one of it’s buildings, instead of making tuition more affordable for it’s students. At the same time the university is putting on display an ancient stone tablet that is supposed to hold some sort of great secret, although this secret has never been able to be translated. The leader of the Maggia, the biggest mafia outfit in town, learns of the tablet and he feels he knows exactly what secret it holds, and so he wants the tablet badly. For this fellow, a decaying old man named Silvermane, believes the tablet to be some sort of fountain of youth. Hearing of the Maggia’s desire to obtain the tablet Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin of Crime, wants it even more just to upstage the Maggia. In the midst of the student protest the Kingpin and his stooges make their play to nab the tablet, only to have Spider-Man show up and throw a monkey wrench in to the mix. Ultimately the Maggia are the ones who end up taking the tablet home, and Silvermane has his own stooges abscond with Doctor Curt Connors (aka The Lizard) to translate the tablet and mix up a batch of workable formula, using the well-being of Curt’s family as “motivation”. Spider-Man again tries to intervene and succeeds at freeing the Connors family, but Silvermane manages to drink the formula and the results are . . . somewhat unexpected. In the aftermath of the entire affair the tablet ends up being secured, nobody truly knows just what happened to Silvermane, and the Kingpin of Crime is in some sort of coma after seeing his son alive again after he was presumed dead. The second part of this story happens two years later and many changes have taken place. Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, is dead, at the hands of the Green Goblin (as is her father Captain Stacy, in unrelated events). The Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) is also dead after a fight with Spider-Man, and although it wasn’t really Spider-Man’s doing Norman’s son Harry, Peter’s best friend, is blaming it all on the Wall Crawler and has since fallen to addiction. To cap it all off, Peter suddenly learns that his Aunt May has been suffering from a liver ailment and her days may be numbered! His friends turn up their noses at Peter when he doesn’t agree to act as an organ donor (due to his radioactive blood and all), and his moonlighting as Spider-Man is also causing his school work to suffer, so much so that he is on the verge of being academically expelled. That is when something from his past suddenly re-emerges. One night at a police storage facility Peter foils a break in attempt by a young man intent on stealing the stone tablet that caused such trouble a couple years back. Strangest of all, this young man looks like a dead ringer for the former Maggia head honcho Silvermane, albeit much younger! Spider-Man delves in to this mystery, enlisting the aid of Curt Connors. During his investigations Spider-Man is approached by Vanessa Fisk, the Kingpin’s grieving wife. For Wilson Fisk is still in a coma and Vanessa offers to pay for an expensive, experimental treatment for Peter’s Aunt May, providing he can obtain the tablet and hand it over to her, thinking it might be the one and only thing that will bring Wilson back at this point. And so Spider-Man has a dilemma to deal with. Save his aunt and potentially help resurrect one of the most vile criminals on the planet, or stand by and do nothing and watch her die. Just another day, and another predicament for your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man! This was a great book, harkening back to Spider-Man’s earlier years. I always get confused on the whole Gwen Stacy versus M.J. issue though. Does he ever date both, or are they two different Spider-Man story arcs that are exclusive of each other? I should probably Google it.

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The two movies we ended up watching this past Saturday night made up a classic Adam Sandler double shot (yes I know, more questionable parenting decisions here). The first of this duo was the brilliant . . . Billy Madison! In this film Sandler stars as the titular character, who is heir to the Madison hotel fortune. However, Billy is a very immature young man, only getting through high school because of bribes offered up to the principal by his father Brian, and about a decade later he is simply soaking up the life of the privileged with no worries or responsibilities troubling his mind. Every day he has a couple of his friends over and they eat, swim, get wasted, and wait for Billy’s nudie magazines to arrive in the mailbox. Oh, and lighting bags of dog crap on fire and leaving them on people’s doorsteps is also a hilarious past time they pursue. However, one day after more of his antics Billy is faced with a cold hard fact from his father . . . who has decided to leave the hotel chain in control of one of his right hand men, Eric Gordon, upon his retirement. Billy and another of Brian’s top aides, Carl, know that Eric is evil and will only change things at Madison Hotels to suit his own selfish desires. This prompts Billy to offer his father an alternative . . . let him go back to school, starting at grade one, and spend two weeks in each grade up until he actually manages to graduate high school for real this time, to prove he is serious about keeping the company in the family. Brian accepts and is impressed by Billy’s idea, and while Eric is pissed about the delay he has no doubt that Billy will ultimately fail this challenge. And so it begins, the following Monday Billy is off to school! Over the course of his rejuvenated scholastic career Billy plays the bully, gets bullied himself, makes many new friends (all of them very much younger than himself of course), and even falls in love with his grade three teacher, Ms. Vaughn. Throughout this journey though, the main thing is that Billy matures, learns, and becomes aware of the past mistakes he made that led him to this point in life. Unfortunately Eric bribes Billy’s principal to say that Billy offered him money in exchange for passing grades, and so Billy’s quest comes to a disappointing end. But through the gumption of Veronica Vaughn giving Billy an attitude adjustment when he gets all woe is me, and his young schoolmates standing up to their principal, the truth is finally revealed. Eric says it’s too late though, the deal has been closed, and that is when Billy offers one last suggestion, to Eric this time. A one day academic decathlon between the two of them, winner take all, and Eric can’t help but accept. Has Billy learned and experienced enough to beat a man with some serious schooling of his own and who has helped run a Fortune 500 company for the last number of years? He may just surprise us!! This movie is just outright hilarious and has prompted so many one-liners and quoted situations between me and my old university friends. The plot is ridiculous, Sandler is even more ridiculous, and it all meshes in to one of the funniest comedies of all time. It’s got some great other SNL alum in it too including Norm MacDonald and the late but incredibly great Chris Farley. And that Veronica Vaughn . . . she is one fine piece of . . .

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The other Sandler flick was the stupendous Happy Gilmore! In this film Sandler stars as the titular character once again, but this time instead of a privileged dunce he is an aspiring hockey player who isn’t any good and so has struggled to make anything of himself. He’s a huge hockey fan and has one hell of a shot, but other than that it’s all downhill. He can’t skate and has anger issues, to name a couple of things. Happy soon has the worst day of his life. First, he is cut from tryouts yet again. Upon getting home he finds out his girlfriend is leaving him because he’s a loser. And then he learns that his precious grandma is getting kicked out of her beloved home because she hasn’t paid her taxes for the last number of years. So he takes her to a retirement home and then begins brainstorming ways to make money fast. While supervising the fellows that are clearing out his grandma’s house, they discover some golf clubs and begin driving some balls down the street. When Happy takes a turn the two movers are blow away, as he rips a 400 yard drive on his first ever golf shot! Believing it beginner’s luck they have him try it again, and he manages the feat two more times, no problem. An idea then springs to mind and Happy heads to a local driving range where he charges people to watch him drive the ball. His long drives catch the attention of the club pro, a former pro golfer named Chubbs Peterson who lost his hand to an alligator! Chubbs tries in vain to get Happy to enter in a local tournament which, if he wins, would earn him a spot on the pro tour. Only when Chubbs mentions the money he could earn in doing so does Happy become receptive. And so this partnership begins, and the tournament day arrives. Happy’s unorthodox shot, his outbreaks of foul language and his propensity for beating people up that piss him off make for an interesting day on the links. But despite his horrendous short game Happy wins the tournament and is primed to join the tour! Chubbs wants to train Happy before he joins, but Happy needs the money and so he goes it alone. Happy immediately pisses off the top golfer on the tour, Shooter McGavin, who believes it’s finally his time to win a gold jacket no matter what. As the tour unravels people flock more and more to watch Happy play, increasing the tour’s viewership and bringing in a whole new demographic of fan. Shooter becomes more and more angry and goes to the tour director and begs for Happy to be kicked out because to his antics. The tour’s PR director, Virginia Venit, begs for Happy not to be kicked off, mentioning the positives Happy is bringing to pro golf. She promises to work with him and get him to tone down the tomfoolery and so it is agreed, he’ll stay on the tour. Shooter manages to get the drop on Happy though when he buys Happy’s grandma’s house when it goes up for auction, mentioning exchanging it for Happy quitting the tour. But that is when Happy issues a challenge to Shooter. Mano a mano on the last event of the tour, winner gets both the gold jacket and the house, loser gets nothing. Can Happy get the drop on Shooter and save the day, despite Shooter’s less than honest actions to try and stop Happy? This movie of course is a little more special than the rest to me, simply because of the hockey angle. But once again it’s a ridiculous plot, with a ridiculous character, and it works like butter! So much violence in this one too, I love Happy’s anger and how he just beats the shit out of people who get all up in his grill. Hah! Another SNL alum, Kevin Nealon makes an appearance. Carl Weathers was a really cool cast as Chubbs. And Bob Barker’s cameo is hilarious! This is total must watch shit people . . .

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Just yesterday I finished reading another book, this one titled Young Leafs, which is the tale of the reversed fortunes of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise in recent years. This tome focuses on their 2016-2017 season, the year where the Leafs had all of their top rookie talent in the lineup for the first time, including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and more. Despite expectations being poor, the playoffs thought to be an absolute long shot, the Buds stayed healthy and played themselves in to the playoffs during the second last game of the regular season. Laying before them in the first round was the top team in the league that season, the Washington Capitals, and the Leafs were considered the definite underdog by far. Despite losing the series in six games though, the Leafs gave the Caps all they could handle, with I believe all but one of the games going to overtime. The Leafs were burdened with some bad bounces, and also some piss poor officiating when the Caps were seeming allowed to take liberties with Leaf players, but the same was not to be said of the Leafs being able to take advantage of the Caps. Call ‘em straight even stripes, or not at all, I say! All in all though it was a season beyond wildest expectations, and this book breaks the whole thing down, going in to specific detail on both the change of regime organizationally, and also breaking down the upbringing and career paths of the Leafs’ top rookies. I’m not sure if this book would appeal to anybody outside of a Leaf fan, but for those of us who bleed blue and white it’s pure gold, baby!

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Over the past couple of months I’ve had a few CDs in heavy rotation, the first of these being Greta Van Fleet’s most recent release, the Anthem of the Peaceful Army album. If you recall I mentioned their From the Fires album in my last post and absolutely loved it. This new album isn’t quite as good, but it is close.