Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheeseburger Apocalypse Now

The Apocalypse was foretold. And now, it is upon us! Gaze upon it, if you dare!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Out with the old

Seeing as how I'm no longer a part-time video game columnist, I no longer have much left to sustain the blog with. Sure, I'm playing games more, but I can't stand to write exclusively about them anymore.

You've noticed how low the volume and frequency of new content has been here at Game Brain. That's my fault entirely. But there's also the name: it never really grew on me. It was always just... there. It was fine for the column, but it's a little blunt. And limiting, since I want to expand into other areas of geekdom.

So from now on, all Game Brain content will be posted on the new site, which I will reveal shortly. I hope to have a wider range of content, and some more contributors. Y'know, some specialists. If you're really into, say, comic books, I could use a knowledgeable reviewer/commentator.

We'll have some cool new features, too. I'm really excited about the premise; it took me at least a week to come up with a good name. It's a little strange, but a lot of fun. It won't jump out at you and say "Hey, this site's about video games and stuff!" But I'm sure "Left 4 Dead" fans will recognize the reference.

With that, I have a lot of work to do to get the new site up and running. I'm actually planning posts for a change, so hopefully we'll have more content more often. Like always, I'd appreciate your help and contributions as well.

The mystery site will be revealed soon... 'til then, I'll be going to summer classes and performing on a Battlefield near you.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Off Season

Between summer classes (starting next week) and my job search in full gear, it's looking like video game business will remain in the backseat for a little while longer. I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas and need to recover a little bit.

Those action figures I mentioned earlier are done; I just need to get some decent photographs of them.

Other than that, I can't promise much. One endeavor that I'd really like to try is a tribute to the Build engine... the foundation of historic titles like "Wolfenstein," "Doom," and "Duke Nukem 3d." People these days complain about how the Unreal engines are overused. The Build engine was the original go-to for shooters of the 1990s. I want to download and play as many of the Build engine games as I can and do a big review.

In the meantime, check out this "documentary" on the engine:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This is it

This week's column is up at

Oh, did I mention that it's the last one?

Yep, my two-year stint as a writer is over. Now I can focus more on bite-size content for the blog. The Herald is going to need a new columnist now; it's my hope that someone takes over the video game column.

With a Western Michigan University student representing in the Herald, and me keeping the blog running, I think a lot of cool things will happen. It's a long shot, but I can dream, can't I?

I know it's been a while since I announced those mystery action figures. They're about 90% finished. I just need to add a few touches and get a decent photography setup. Look for that to be my next major post. But it might be a while; final exams are next week, and I'll be in Las Vegas for a printing convention shortly after.

In the meantime, see you in "Bad Company 2!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This week's column is up at It's the second-to-last column of the semester and my run at the Herald. Sadly, no one has stepped up to fill the void in columns next year. I would prefer video game-related writing, but I'm biased.

So, I have one last column to write, and one last plea to have someone pickup the torch. To be honest, it'll be a relief to take a break from writing and school in general. There's so much left to do this semester, and classes to take in the summer. I'd better graduate soon, because I'm outta money and patience.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

News Review for You

It's a grab bag of random news commentary in this week's column over at

Friday, April 2, 2010

Some like it 'Dark'

I know it's a little late, but my review/commentary of "Perfect Dark" for Xbox Live Arcade is in print and online at I daresay that "Dark" has dethroned "Shadow Complex" as the king (or queen?) or XBLA titles. I recommend both games, but Joanna... it's been too long. And you've aged beautifully. In fact, it looks like you've had a little work done...

The only time in "Perfect Dark" you'll be on your ass like Agent Dark here is if you take me on in the Combat Simulator. Bring it, you "Halo" generation punks!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Column Casting Call

Hey there, visitor. Are you currently enrolled as a full-time student at Western Michigan University? If you are, I need your help.

Sadly, Game Brain is approaching the end of its run under my stewardship. I will be graduating this summer, so the weekly print column will be gone next school year.

There, there. Dry your tears. This is why I'm asking for your help. I need a Bronco to take up the reigns of the weekly column for Fall 2010 and beyond. We need somebody to keep representing the video game community at the Western Herald. Believe me, full-time columnists are rare but greatly appreciated.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

100th Post: This Week's Column

Here's an interesting idea; throw out the old letter grade system and use XP in school grading. One prof in Indiana is trying just that in his video game design classes.  This week's column explores this concept and asks some questions about its viability in education and the workplace.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's so gamer guy!

This week's column is up over at It covers Microsoft's recent repeal of regulations against displaying sexual orientation or religion in Xbox Live gamertags.

Speaking of Microsoft, I played "Perfect Dark" today instead of studying for an exam before work. Oh. My. God. It is gorgeous. It has everything from the original and then some. I can't wait to get some multiplayer games going. I'll have to make a practice setup so my friends and I can get into the swing of things. I could go on, but there's a busy week to finish.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

From Pixels to Plastic (Preview)

For the past few months now, I've been chipping away at a video game-related craft project. There are some really amazing custom action figures on display throughout the Internet; more than a few are of video game characters.

I can't come close to the level of expertise of many customizers out there, but I try my best. I've picked up on a few techniques that have finally allowed me to achieve the effects I need, so I figured it was time to make the figures I always wanted when I was a kid.

From the pic, it should be fairly obvious who one of the custom figures represents. The other will take some guesswork on your part. Both figures are 75% done; I waiting on some new parts for one and am improving the paint job on the other.

Things are pretty busy for me, so it's rare when I have a chance to do projects like this. So it might be a while before I get the figures finished and photographed (a whole 'nother can of worms). In the meantime, see if you can guess who the mystery figures are and stay tuned for the big reveal.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Doctor's Orders

This week's column is up at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sorry I'm late

Forgot to post the link to last week's column. Which reminds me, I have to get next week's column under way soon. Term papers have been taking a higher priority, although I've been taking plenty of time off for gaming over Spring Break.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Choose Your Character has an article on the characters of BioWare games. Funny but true. I frickin' hate Carth Onasi, anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Law & Order: Video Games Unit

Ahoy, maties! This be a tale o' software piracy from the Land Down Under! That's pirate speak for "this week's column is up, it's about the piracy of "Super Mario Bros. Wii" thanks to an Australian bloke.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spy vs. Pyro?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alien ❤ Predator

Love is in the air. Whether your blood is fluorescent green or a potent acid, are hearts quicken at the thought of "Aliens vs. Predator." It's a stretch for Valentine's Day, I know, but I think you'll enjoy  my column over at
"Aliens vs. Predator is set to release next week for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. The demo has gotten a bad rep due to lag, but I still have high hopes for the full retail game.
Get a room, you two!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

'Manual' upload

Notice that video game manual getting a bit thin? Find out why in this week's column.

Oh, and I need some ideas for a Valentine's Day column. It seems that my bosses want to see one again this year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Zelda CD-I (WTF?)

"I can't wait to bomb some Dodongos!"

Neither can I, Link... neither can I. If by "bomb some Dodongos" you mean "drink until I forget this game footage," most certainly yes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Microphone Check

Plug in your headsets and tune in to this week's column at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Novel Graphics

This week's column is up. Video games and printing, like alcohol and night swimming, is a winning combination.

UPDATE: Pictures from the print edition are now included on the webpage. I'll provide more related images (including my Left 4 Dead card) if anyone's interested.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Year's Revolutions

The first column of the new year is up. Funny thing is, the delay of "Star Wars: The Old Republic" necessitated a rewrite.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Living by the "Creed'

It’s not every day that one is able to play as a playboy millionaire assassin in video games. Even rarer is the sequel that surpasses the original.

“Assassin’s Creed 2” was an after-holiday present to myself, and a steal at only $40. I haven’t had an engrossing single player experience since “Batman: Arkham Asylum”, so the break from multiplayer was a refreshing change of pace.

AC2 is fodder for the "video games as art" argument in a big way. The developers at Ubisoft obviously put a lot of time and research into the game, and it shows. Its quite possibly the most stylish and artistic real-world-style game since "Bioshock". You'll have as much fun just looking at the game as you will playing it.

Found in translation
Set in Renaissance Italy around 1480-1490s, AC2 has an abundance of authenticity. Granted, there are liberties taken with a few historical characters. And even if there were inaccuracies in historical facts and locations, only a Renaissance scholar could spot them.

The mixture of authentic Italian with English makes the dialogue understandable and flavorful at the same time. Thanks to my knowledge of Spanish, I was able to interpret much of the language without subtitles (Italian and Spanish are very similar).

The player character, Ezio Auditorre (Et-see-oh), shares many of the attributes of Altair from “Assassin’s Creed.” He has conversations with his dying victims, even when surrounded by guards. He scales any climbable surface with ease, and has a fondness for piles of hay and leaves.
Without giving away too much of the plot, Ezio’s road to vengeance is twisted and often baffling. The conspiracy against his family is lead by a cadre of Templars, the bad guys who seek to rule the world. Ezio is aided by – and eventually joins – the Assassins, the good guys.

For the life of me, I couldn’t tell the bad guys apart. Pretty much any jerk with a poofy shirt, robe, or big hat was a bad guy that needed to be killed. They didn’t even have to be a templar; maybe the poor shmuck raised taxes and pissed somebody off.

Another problem was the names. They were all Greek Italian to me. I didn’t care whether his name was Ravioli Linguini de Fettucini; if he wore a robe and had bodyguards, he was a target.

Places to go, people to kill
There are a half-dozen city-states to visit over the course of the game. While all beautifully realized and rendered, if you’ve seen one rooftop, you’ve seen ‘em all. There is a fast travel mechanic if you don’t feel like a five-minute horse ride. And you will be traveling a lot, if only to collect money and turn in items at the Auditorre villa.

The majority of movement is on foot. Ezio isn’t all full-tilt killing machine; several missions require stealth and hiding in plain sight. Often, simply alerting a guard will fail the mission. The movement while running, jumping, and swinging from surface to surface is fantastic… except when it isn’t.

Footraces and pursuits of targets across rooftops are the worst kind of mission. The computer controlled characters are always faster and know exactly where to go. You, on the other hand, have to make split second decisions just to keep up. One wrong move and you’ve either broken your neck from a fall or fallen too far behind. Be sure to have plenty of patience saved up for the Assassin’s tombs; they combine time limits AND jumping puzzles.

When in Rome…
Killing people is what Ezio does best and where the game mechanics excel. If you can suspend disbelief of a heavily armed and armored assassin waltzing around town killing people without much notice, the killings are great fun.

 Ezio Auditore: Lover, fighter, amateur chiropractor

Ezio is not a one-man army, however. While certain factions can be hired to fight for you or distract guards, Ezio kills best on a one-on-one basis. You’re better off running away from large groups of guards than standing your ground. If you have to fight, get to a rooftop where you can knock them off one-by-one. No matter how Errol Flynn you are, the armored dude with the axe will end you.

There are quite a few puzzles to solve and hidden items to collect. Even after completing the main quest, there’s plenty of excitement for you around Italy.

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