Friday, March 03, 2006

Why I Enjoy These #1

Here's the way I've decided things will work: One cartoon and one game will be in each of these review columns. It's here that they will be examined. They will not be given a score or even reviewed. I will simply say what it is about them that causes me to enjoy or despise them.

Animation: Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo
Bobobo is an oddity. I say this not because of the pure wackiness that the show obviously is, but because of the fact that I think you can say the show is a steaming pile or a gutbuster and be absolutely and justifiably right either way. It all depends on what kind of humor you like.

Of course, I have the type of mind necessary to enjoy a show like this, but it still misses the mark quite often. One of the show's greatest jokes is right at the 2nd episode, where one character is turned to stone by a Medusa stare, Bobobo recieves the stare and a similar close-up screaming shot/dramatic music, then everything slows down and zooms out to show that he became a carrot instead for some reason. The execution of this joke is done well enough to get a snicker out of me every time I watch it.

And then we have jokes like Bobobo dressing up as a cat and fidgeting and muttering nervously for almost a full minute. This isn't funny. I don't know how it's supposed to be funny. It seems more like something to fill in time that is also trying to be pushed on the audience as a joke. While there are less dragging jokes in recent episodes, we still have ones that are either likely the victim of cultural differences (Jelly Jiggler briefly turning his head into a lighter) or unfunny ideas to start with (Oh, hey, this talking collar's attracted a dog! The dog thinks it's his! Humor!). In the end, however, the great jokes are worth enduring through the worse ones.

My primary exposure to the show has been through the English dub, and I am indifferent to the numerous puns and minor changes to the script- many of them make bizarre Japanese lines a bit more tolerable, but otherwise they do not amplify the show's quality level (and the same goes for the Samurai Pizza Cats and Duel Masters dubs, only those shows were shit to begin with). The voice acting is primarily the key factor, and Bobobo in English is a winner. Richard Epcar does a great Shaft-y macho voice for Bobobo, and Kirk Thornton, who is faced with the big responsibility of pulling off the many lines and moods of show-stealer Don Patch, succeeds with flying colors. The only real problem I have is Philece Sampler's Beauty- not just because the character is dull to begin with, but because Sampler's voice for anime is one of many screechy and annoying ones that plague dubbing.

Bobobo is not deep in any way. It should not be taken seriously in any way. It is a perfect show to turn your brain off and have play in the background, or sit down and watch on a lazy day. If you do not enjoy totally random humor, then you will absolutely hate it and have a perfectly good reason. It's just one of those love-hate things.

Games: Ratchet and Clank series
Ratchet and Clank gives me hope in today's video game industry. With all the worries and arguments over a lack of creativity and enthusiasm in major titles, this series shows both in a wonderful way.

One thing that Insomniac absolutely nailed in this series is the atmosphere. It may be because I enjoy seeing a sci-fi franchise with a more cartoony look to it, but it may also be because a lot of effort is put into it. There are so many wonderful things crammed into the entire presentation that many people would not appreciate. All of the weapons have their own little popping-up animation when activated, as if to suggest that they have actually been in compact form and are not popping up full-sized out of nowhere. Every bit of dialogue from every character is given full lip-sync and unique, charming animation, and not a looping, bobbing head and flapping mouth job. The characters are also given unique personalities, wonderful voice actors, and many laughworthy lines. As another nice little touch, the beginning of every level always begins with a custom camera angle to give a cinematic view of the wonderful landscapes and backgrounds for each world. The angle quickly switches to a normal view when you start, but you can take your time to stand still and look at what awaits you.

The gameplay is equally great. The enemies are not given health meters or incredibly advanced AI, but they make up for it with strength in numbers and clever spawning points. You never feel cheated, and when you eventually level up your weapons (A nice and addictive RPGish touch) and take them out, you are pumped and ready to keep going. The levels are very linear, but you are given extra incentive to revisit and unlock more areas and secrets upon obtaining other items. The addition of extra features in the Challenge Mode (think New Game+) adds a lot of replay value.

Deadlocked, the latest entry, falls far short of the other three due to the toning down of the adventure elements and the slimmer cast- and yet it is still a great game. That is a good example of just how well-done this series is- It deserves every bit of its success and the Insomniac team all its accolades, and I can't wait to see where it heads upon its return.

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