The Agent Reviews A Game: Teddy Terror

Can you BEAR the horrors? Source:

Can you BEAR the horrors ahead?

Wow, it’s actually been a while since I gave my feelings on a game I’ve played. In my defense, the budget has been tight lately and gaming is one of those luxuries I’ve had to forgo.

However, I found this early access game on Steam for dirt cheap. And with Halloween coming up fast, I felt a game about the nightmares of a small child and his attempts to literally conquer his fears was worth looking into.

Now, if my obsession with The Binding of Issac should teach you anything, it’s that I have a soft spot for the Rogue-Lite genre. I can appreciate a game that plays differently every time you pick it up. But if it’s originality we’re talking about, Teddy Terror has one of the most stand-out ideas I’ve seen in a Rogue-Lite.

Most of the games in this genre are top-down dungeon crawlers where you kick in the door, beat up the baddies, nab their loot and repeat. However, Teddy Terror mixes this up with one major change; you have no weapon.

The only thing you have to defend yourself with at the start of the game is your precious teddy bear. Teddy acts as a boomerang that can temporarily slow down the monsters but can’t damage them; a mechanic that will be familiar to my fellow old school Legend of Zelda players. Instead, you’ll have to guide the creepy crawlies into environmental hazards (which are just are dangerous to you, of course) and traps that Teddy can activate by throwing him into them. Clear out all the monsters and you’ll move to the next floor. If you’re lucky, you may even land in a treasure room where you have a chance at scoring some new gear.

This simple change in gameplay from Action RPG to Puzzle Strategy alters the entire feel of the game; you actually have to think your actions through and plan them carefully while dodging the ugly mother-hubbard’s chasing you. In other words, it recreates a horror aesthetic without most of the tropes of horror games by making you feel powerless and forcing you to Home Alone your way to safety.

That said, the game’s not without glaring issues. While the normal difficulty can be breezed through, there’s a massive spike in higher difficulties by virtue of the bosses regenerating their health over time – meaning that the game centered around careful timing and patience is now a speed run.

The game also features unlockable characters, but they don’t seem to play any differently. So unless you REALLY want to roleplay as YouTube gamer H2O Delerious (and I do), There’s no real reason to unlock them.

There’s also a recently added ‘Invasion’ mode where you fight waves of baddies and buy your stats bonuses instead of finding items, but it got very repetitive very quickly and didn’t hold my attention long.

That said, the game is still in the development stage (early access, remember?), so these issues could very likely be ironed out by the time the full game is completed. What’s more, even with its warts, I still had fun with it. I’d normally recommend waiting until development is finished and seeing how they change things before committing to purchase like this, but at five dollars, I can’t really complain about this cheap and cheerful romp through a child’s nocturnal hell-scape.

One Bad Movie Night: The Agent Watched The Company of Wolves

So, with Halloween quickly coming up, I wanted to talk about some horror/monster movies that I’ve seen. But, as I got ready to do so, I realized that most of the movies I’ve talked about here end with me being very charitable and positive afterwords.

Let’s not kid ourselves; I’m not the kind of person that gives praise blindly. I’m merely human and, as a human, I’m very much capable of dislike. And one of the things that I dislike is The Company of Wolves.

Giving a plot synopsis, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be a fantastic movie. A young girl named Rosaleen is dreaming about living on the edge of a dark wooded area and living with her grandmother(played by Angela Lansbury of Murder, She Wrote fame of all people) as she spins yarns of supernatural tales with a distinctly lupine focus to them – specifically tales of wolves disguised as men and how she needs to be wary of them. Oh, and in case you couldn’t catch the more subtle hints, Rosaleen’s most distinguishing feature through most of the film is her red hooded cloak.

Yes, this is a British, horror/fantasy re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood with werewolves. That should be AMAZING.

But, in one of the most frustrating moments in my life as a film lover (second only to counting the number of times I writhed in my seat in rage every time Star Trek: Into Darkness referenced and ruined a line or moment from the original series/movies), what could have been a great example of a fairy tale getting back to it’s darker roots through the art of horror cinema devolved into a pretentious, messy jambalaya of amateur metaphors and grade-school symbolism that would make even the most stuck-up art snobs hang their head in shame.

The plot moves at a snail’s pace as we spend most of the movie with Rosaleen’s go-nowhere, cutesy, burgeoning romance with a young boy that adds almost nothing to the film. Also, bare in mind that this and every other major event in the film is happening via dream sequence (which we are reminded of by occasional cuts back to Rosaleen in bed in modern times) thus removing their sence of agency.

Instead, the main focus is on the short stories that Granny tells which, while absolutely the most interesting parts of the film, seem to happen too far and few between the filler and just make me feel like the writers just really wanted to make a werewolf anthology film rather than waste time with the Little Red Riding Hood plot points.

Besides, the movie finds a way to ruin those moments as well by the end.

Turns out (spoilers for 30+ year old movie), Granny’s folk tales were real and were meant to be warnings to keep Rosaleen away from men in an effort to protect her womanhood.

Yep, they went with the single most annoying interpretation of the classic story; Little Red Ridding Hood as an allegory for female sexual awakening. Trust me on this; if you ever want to piss off an English major, just bring this up.

I hate this interpretation of the story and especially in this form. It’s incredibly sexist to men and women alike – painting all men as sexual apex predators and all women and their virginity as something frail and sacred to be coddled and protected.

To the movie’s credit, it is visually interesting. The sets and costumes are well designed, the wolf transformations are the best I’ve seen outside of Hemlock Grove, and I’ll be damned if Angela Lansbury doesn’t give it her all given what she had to work with (seriously, she’s the best performer in the whole movie).

That said, it simply wasn’t worth sitting through a 95 minute artistic depiction of puberty (Get it. Werewolves. Hair growing in weird places. Hurr hurr hurr) just to get there. If I may be so bold as to paraphrase “The Cinema Snob” Brad Jones, if I want to see Angela Lansbury in a tale of the supernatural, I’ll stick with Bedknobs and Broomsticks, thank you very much.

Sharing the Love and the Screams with Screaming Soup!

For those of you who never thought you’d see a skeletal cowboy, a humanoid catfish, a werecoyote, and a native american toilet paper mummy riff on bad movies over their favorite drinks – here you go.


As those of you who follow on Facebook and Twitter know, I’ve been getting a lot of love lately and I try to give it back with my #ThursdayThanks posts. But I wanted to give a special thanks to someone with big aspirations whose work I really enjoyed.

Not long ago, I got a message on Twitter about a horror movie review show called Screaming Soup! that seemed interesting. Normally, I ignore these door-to-door tactics, but I decided to check it out on a whim to see what it was about. I was not disappointed with the results. So, to show my appreciation and spread awareness for a fellow enterprising creative talent on the ‘net, I’m going to give a constructive critique in as close to the style of the show as a literary medium will allow.

Screaming Soup! seems to get it’s name from the now canceled show Talk Soup that spun off into simply The Soup. Just as those shows recap and review talk shows and general pop culture respectively, Screaming Soup! does the same with B-grade horror and monster films.

So what sets this show apart from other horror and schlock film critics? How about the fact that it features an animated cast? In other words, imagine The Soup revamped for horror films with a format akin to Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and hosted by Deadwest -a man that’s equal parts Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex, and Svengoolie. That’s Screaming Soup! in a nutshell.

Looking at the negatives of the show, or “the sours” as Deadwest would say, most of them fall on the show’s opening title sequence. Don’t get me wrong; the theme song is catchy as hell and I will catch myself headbanging to it if no one’s watching. But I do take some objections with it in some places.

For example, there’s one lyric in the theme that refers to “gay-ass monsters made of clay.” Really, dude? You’re using gay as an insult in 2015? I get that most of the humor of this show revolves around immature comedy that spoofs the man-childish glee of bad horror cinema, but there’s a fine line between immature and borderline insulting. I don’t think anyone involved with the show has a “God Hates Fags” sign in their closet, but it does make defending otherwise brilliant work that much more difficult.

Also, as awesome as the rest of the theme is, I feel it runs a bit too long. Episodes tend to run five to nine minutes and the title sequence takes up about a minute of it. If it was trimmed by half to make room for one or two more clever jokes and the lyrics were changed from “gay” to “lame”, I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest.

Those jokes are a good jumping-off platform to the good parts of the show – “the sweets” if we’re still using Deadwest’s terminology.

As stated, the humor is very similar to Space Ghost: Coast to Coast tinged slightly off-color to reflect the nature of the types of exploitation horror that tend to dominate the line up. Recurring gags of this nature include the “Pissing Time” clock that counts the seconds and minutes of time where nothing happens in the movie and you can safely run to the bathroom, the “Bogus Scares” counter that tracks the annoying jump scares, an end movie body count, and a “Tit Counter” that tallies up the number of times the actresses go topless.

Another awesome thing about this show is how well characterized the cast is despite having just one guy, one girl, and a text-to-speech program for one lady to do all the voices. Everyone comes together to bring color to the setting of the Howl Inn. From Deadwest’s lovable invisible specter girlfriend Mandy to the urban hipness of the blaksploitation throwback monster Eb’nstein to the house sad-sack and Creature from the Black Lagoon parody Catfish, all of them add character to the show and help to keep things fresh (Sidenote: my favorite character so far has to be Peyote; the werecoyote trucker).

I mentioned before that the episodes run significantly shorter than the average review show, but I feel that works to it’s benefit. Animation, even simple animation like this, takes a lot of time and effort and you need to cut corners where ever you can. Screaming Soup! takes advantage of shorter running times by cutting out the plot-point by plot-point analysis style of other shows and removing the spoilers that they would have contained as a result.

Now, I’m not in the business of rating the films, games, and shows I talk about like Deadwest. But if I were, I’d have to say that Screaming Soup! is a solid four out of five that, with a little polish, could become a five out of five in future seasons. It’s inventive enough to stand out as welcome addition to the world of online film critics. I recommend this show to fans of Count Jackula and Diamanda Hagan who want something new, want fewer spoilers, or are just looking for something to enjoy during their lunch break.

But what do I know? Like Deadwest himself, I also like Killer Tomatoes.

The Agent Reviews a Game: Ingress



Choose your sides wisely, agents…


I talk shop about games a lot here at the Archive and I’ve even reviewed a few, but this will be a first for me. Today, for the first time, we’ll be covering a mobile game.

I made brief mention of Ingress back in my April Fool’s recap, but I really wanted talk about it in detail because it does something that electronic games in my day never did – make the people playing them get outside and explore the world.

As mentioned previously, Ingress (literally meaning entrance for those who had to look it up in a thesaurus like me) is an Augmented Reality game (AR for short) that turns the world around you into the playing field.

There does exist a story in Ingress, but it’s one of the most unobtrusive plots I’ve encountered that one can take or leave at will since Team Fortress 2. The main framing device involves the discovery of “Exotic Matter” or XM that has been linked to a little known and unseen race called the Shapers. The discovery of these two has divided humanity (read: the players) into two factions of agents; the Enlightened who believe that XM and the Shapers can lead humanity into a new age of prosparity and enlightenment and the Resistance who fear a possible Shaper invasion and seek to stem of the flow of XM into the world.

The Gameplay is simple enough; after choosing a side as either Enlightened or Resistance, you must use your GPS-enabled mobile device with the aid of an AI companion to seek out portals where XM is entering the world and claim them for you team. This is done by hacking portals to receive items including resonators to claim portals, resonator mods to reinforce captured portals, XMP (Exotic Matter Pulse) Bursters to attack and destroy enemy resonators and mods, and portal keys that you need in order to link multiple controlled portals together to form control fields.

In order to find portals, you have to explore the world around you. Portals can be anywhere but are most commonly seen at monuments, memorials, parks, and various other places where tourists or recreational groups may be expected to gather. Once you are in range (roughly 35 meters), you can interact with the portal as you need.

I have very few qualms with the game overall. It’s addicting, it forces me out of the house to walk and get fresh air, and it helped me to discover a lot of interesting places that I never notices before. I’ve also been quick to make new friends on both sides (cooperation between factions to build neutral zones and set rules of engagement is surprisingly common).

If I had to criticize anything, which I do for the sake of this article, it’s that the leveling system creates a significant divide among players. Those just starting out will struggle to find any portals they can claim from opposing factions as the more powerful resonators and XMP’s are only available to higher lever players.

On the other hand this does encourage cooperation with other players. By connecting with local players in my region, I was able to coordinate an item drop to restock my supplies and reinforce portals that I lacked gear for at the time.

Overall, if you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house, I’d happily recommend Ingress. It’s free for Android and Apple devices and easy to get into. Just be prepared to occasionally pull your hair out when you finish securing your neighborhood only to have someone take down that one portal that brings down the entire field you established.

The Agent Reviews A Game: Loadout

I sometimes find it difficult to keep my mind occupied during the day outside of my necessary routine of job searching and housekeeping. As a result of my limited funds, (I am a resent college grad with a lot of loans to pay back, after all) I can’t indulge in many luxuries.

To that end, speaking as a gamer, the free-to-play market becomes all the more valuable to my mental health to ensure regular challenging stimulation. You can thank the crew at Rooster Teeth for introducing me to a new F2P game on Steam; Loadout.

Normally this wouldn’t be the sort of game I would look into, but as we’ve established, I’m in no position to be choosy. So I figured that, since it has been years since I did a proper review of a game (my first was a well crafted, fan-made Mega Man game that used the Zandronum engine), I’d like to give everyone my take on it. So let’s break it down.

The Basic Summary

This is one of the most simply constructed games I can recall in recent memory. There is no plot or story – at least not one that is easily seen. There is a lot of ado about a material called Blutonium and fighting over it, but it rarely comes up in gameplay.

It’s basically the barest bones of the modern day First-Person Shooter (though in Loadout, the camera is placed over the shoulder) which plays to its F2P nature; it has few frills and doesn’t get hung up on details.

There are two key focus points the game wants to bring to your attention. The first is the cartoonish levels of violence and gore. As you play, you will find you, your teammates, and your opponents having your limbs whittled to the bone, your heads reduced to not but a brain and eyes, and holes the size of ten-pound rutabagas punched in your stomach – none of which seems to impede your characters ability to fight.

The second focus is the game’s namesake; the loadout mechanic. Players earn both experience points and in-game currency called Blutes to purchase various parts for your weapons allowing you to make the perfect tool for you (my personal favorite combination is the triple barrel rocket launcher with sidewinder missiles carrying an incendiary flak payload).

The Good News

“I’m flying! Weeeee!”
Source: VentureBeat

Normally, I would be put off by the gore of a game like this. In this case, however, I can’t take a game this over the top seriously. VentureBeat got it right when they likened Loadout to “… a Looney Tunes cartoon directed by Quentin Tarantino.”

Also, the weapon crafting mechanic is a lot of fun. Part of the challenge and entertainment value of the game is testing out different combinations of parts to get the desired effects. It ensures that you keep playing to find that perfect set-up.

The characters, despite never speaking and having no guiding story to define them, have loads of personality. They all boast an over designed style reminiscent of the toys marketed to young boys in the 90’s (Mad Balls come to mind) that play to the anarchic sense of humor the game has.

The Bad News

Insert The Lonely Island’s “Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions” here.
Source: MMO Reviews

As I played through Loadout, there was a niggling voice in the back of my mind that I had played this game before and it had nothing to do with how annoyingly pervasive the Shooter genre of games is. Suddenly it donned on me; this was Gotham City Imposters.

Other than the modified weapon system, the game was borrowing mechanics and sensibilities from Gotham City Imposters which itself felt like a half-hearted attempt to make the multiplayer from any Call of Duty game made in the last seven years more light and fun but was bogged down by it’s repetitive nature and technical limitations.

Loadout, in turn, suffers from similar problems. There are only four game modes playable across six maps, so the game gets tiresome after a while. They will most likely add to it in the future, but unfortunately, they must be judged for what they are now.

Also, where all of the attention was placed on the weapon customization, little was given to the character customization. There are only three character bases to build from – a white male, a black male, and a white female – and almost all of their wardrobe (read: anything that is not default for the character base) must be bought with real cash. Even Gotham City Imposters gave you the option of using in-game currency to buy clothes and only made you pay for exclusive content.

The Final Verdict

On one hand, Loadout is a generic Shooter in an age of generic Shooters (that, thankfully, seems to be slowing down). On the other, however, it’s probably one of the better generic Shooters to be released recently.

You can certainly do far worse than Loadout and spend more money in the process, but nothing stands out and tells me that this will be the game to knock Team Fortress 2 off of its El Dorado-esque plies of gold and loot and redefine the free-to-play market.

To sum up in a simple analogy, Loadout is to the Shooter genre as ClayFighter was to the Fighting genre; the very best of the boilerplate in its field. Give it a try, but don’t expect too much for nothing.

Three Very Good (Spoiler Filled) Reasons To See Disney’s Frozen

Any movie that I’m still talking about about three days after seeing it must be good.
Source: The Disney Wiki

Let’s get something VERY clear; I have had a grudge against Disney since 1989 at the mere age of five (We’ll get into why later, trust me.) So understand how amazing Frozen is to make me forgive Disney for what I have calculated as a near 77-year long sin.

I’m not spouting hyperbole when I say that Frozen is the greatest film Disney has produced – not counting anything Pixar or Marvel related – since The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So, in order to convince you to go and see this movie and enjoy it for it’s warts and all, I’m going to describe in detail the great things about this film.

The Soundtrack

For once, the best song in a Disney film isn’t from a villain.
Source: Flavorwire

Here’s the rub; normally, I despise musicals with a passion.

For one, actors rarely make good singers in my experience (Exhibit A: Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time”) and singers make even worse actors (Exhibit B: the opening moments of the “Imma Be” video). For two, it’s very distracting. Just as I get emotionally invested in the action on screen, I get cinematic whiplash as the characters break out into song. It’s just not what a normal person would do in a dramatic situation – it’s what you would do for cheap laughs.

All of this was true for me in Frozen, but I quickly realized that, taken on it’s own without the movie, the soundtrack is beautiful. This is especially true of the main song “Let It Go” preformed by Idina Menzel of Wicked fame who, incidentally, is one of the few people that can act AND sing (sadly, I’m still bitter because I’m convinced she deserved better then Glee).

If I can find this soundtrack on CD (yes, I still use CD’s), I will buy it just to flaunt it in the face of my friends who criticize me for not giving musicals a chance and say, “See! I’m NOT impossible to please now, am I?”

The Comic Relief

I love you, cold, moronic, ball of snow! *Sob*
Source: Inside the Magic

Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that my girlfriend convinced me otherwise, I would have given the whole movie a miss just because I misjudged the stupid snowman.

Olaf, the talking snowman, is actually far more charming than the trailers and adverts painted him to be. At first, I wrote him off as very similar to Claptrap from Borderlands – annoying and very quick to wear out his welcome.

But, as it turns out, I grew to love Olaf as much as Anna and Elsa did. Underneath his facade of comedy is a legitimately tragic and lovable character – a creature of ice and snow that desperately wants, but sadly can’t, experience warmth without melting. He can’t even get the “warm hugs” that he loves so much.

Trust me, you will feel for Olaf by the end of the film just as I did.

The Big Twists

Elsa’s about to blow your mind.

Okay, this is where the BIG spoilers show up. So if you have not seen Frozen yet, stop reading this, bookmark it, go watch the film, and come back. Seriously, if you read beyond this point, the entire movie will be ruined for you. Go watch it first. Get it? Got It? Good.

So there are two amazing plot twists in the story that spit in the eye of Disney’s previous conventions of their Princess mythology. Those conventions are what got me to hate Disney Princesses in ’89. That was the year that The Little Mermaid was released.

In addition to getting the previous two aspects of a movie wrong (seriously, I don’t get the appeal of Jodi Benson’s singing voice and Sebastian has all of my hate), the movie baffled me as a child because I didn’t get why Ariel would sell her soul (voice and soul are thematically the same here) for someone she barely knew and hadn’t even spoken with prior. As an adult, I look back on this outdated patriarchal sensibility and realize how lucky she was that Eric wasn’t a total creep. Not to get too lurid, but throwing yourself at people without knowing them is a good way to leave yourself open to a VERY dangerous situation.

The two big reveals in the third act of Frozen defy this trope that has so long plagued Disney. The “good” princess Anna is accidentally cursed by her sister Elsa with a slowly freezing heart that threatens her life. It’s revealed that the only way to thaw her heart is an act of true love. Everyone assumes that this means a kiss from her true love Hans, the prince of the Southern Isles whom she had agreed to marry the same day she met him.

However, when Kristoff, the mountain man that had been guiding her returns her to the castle to get her kiss from Hans, he reveals that he only asked her to marry him so that he could eventually claim the throne since, being the youngest of thirteen brothers, he’d never rule the Southern Isles. It’s just as Elsa warned in the first act – “You can’t marry a man you just met.”

At this point now, you’d expect Kristoff to be the man to save the day and rescue Anna. Well, You’d be wrong again! In fact, it’s not a kiss that saves Anna at all. Instead, it’s Elsa’s tears. Her weeping for her sister shows that she truly cares about her – an act of true love from a source no one could have expected.

Also, there’s something touching about Elsa’s arc of childhood repression and delayed teenage rebellion. If I wasn’t disillusioned into thinking that a smaller section of the corporate whole wrote this, I’d think that Disney might be feeling guilty about what they’ve done to their former starlets.

Seriously, You Better Have Seen This Movie By Now

Like I said, Frozen is far from perfect. The music – beautiful as it is – is still distracting, Olaf – charming as he is – is still annoying, and the references to modern life fracture my beloved immersion in the old world Nordic story slightly.

That said, this is still one of the best things Disney has ever made and has insured that I’ll be following them very closely from here on out. You’ve raised the bar very high and very quickly, Disney; Maleficent better be life changing.