Costume Quest 2 – a charming, albeit short-lived adventure (Xbox One)

If you’re a fan of Saturday morning cartoons and video games with charming ideas and imagination, Costume Quest 2 is your kind of game. Originally published by the now defunct THQ, the 2010 original finally has a sequel in Costume Quest 2. It returns to remind folks why they loved the first one and to also introduce newcomers to its unique style. It’s lighthearted and basic RPG gameplay isn’t your 60 hour story with 3 hours of cutscenes – Instead, this is game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and if you come into it knowing so, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Tim Schafer is no slouch when it comes to artistic and creative direction and Costume Quest 2 is no exception.

Costume Quest 2 doesn’t stray too far from the original in terms of ideas and gameplay. Children are dressed in costumes for Halloween and collecting candy yet again. Twin duo Reynold and Wren are back to save the day and this time it’s a fight against a sugar-hating dentist. Basic stuff here, but it totally works for what this is. Unfortunately, voice over isn’t a thing here and it’s a shame, because I’m a huge fan of the voice work from other Double Fine games like The Cave and Psychonauts. The characters all have great personality and some of the dialogue is hilarious, so it feels like a huge missed opportunity.

The battles are more refined this time around as players are more engaged in the turn-based system with well-timed countering and present is a smarter element-based balancing system seen in most other RPG games. Inexplicably absent is a full HP heal after a battle and it’s replaced by the necessity to run back to designated water fountains in order to regain health. This wasn’t much of a problem, but did feel a bit like a chore or synthetic elongating of the actual game, which runs roughly 5-6 hours. I like walking back and forth as much as the next guy, but this was simply too much.

Visually, Costume Quest 2 brings back all the warm and fuzzy feelings of being plopped in front of the television as you sat, ate cereal and watched your favorite weekend morning cartoons. That’s because the game is full of colorful and expressive characters and, well, costumes. Hilarity ensues when you see kids who are dressed as something like candy corn imagining themselves as an actual piece of candy, while other kids take on their more epic costume counterparts like a superhero or wizard. There’s time traveling here too and it brings the team of characters into far out scenarios that are interesting and mix things up. Looking at how some NPCs and characters turn out in an alternate timeline is not unlike Marty’s experience in Back to the Future.

Costume Quest 2 is a short-lived adventure that you wish lasted a bit longer and fleshed out a bit more — There’s definitely room for growth. It’d be cool to see the series branch out to other seasons or holidays to introduce fresh and new ideas. This game will get lost in the shuffle of big name games you already have your eyes on this fall season, but if you happen to have a few bucks lying around and a lazy afternoon to spare, Costume Quest 2 is a solid pick.

Costume Quest 2
Genre: RPG
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox One (Also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, PC)
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Midnight City
Release Date: October 29, 2014

Rating: 8 / 10

‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ Break down vid


We’re less than a week away from the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity. This latest 101 video breaks down all the major improvements to the franchise to bring the game into the “next-gen” world. Expect more cinematic lighting and reflections, massive crowds, four player co-op, larger cities and more dynamic enemy AI.

Assassin’s Creed Unity will be released on the PS4 and Xbox One on Nov 11.

Marvel’s Unveils Secret Wars: Battleworld as part of the ‘Everything Ends’ Event


What chaos has Marvel’s great leaders, commonly referred to as the Illuminati, wrought on the Marvel Universe. After revealing several one-shot covers, highlighting some of Marvel’s greatest comics’ events over the past three decades, Marvel announced that its 2015 comic event will have tag line “Everything Ends.”

What does that mean? Well, it means a new generation of Secret Wars will begin on Battleworld. It was only a matter of time until the Secret Wars title got used, especially since we’ve had a Secret Warriors, Secret Invasion and a Secret Avengers. Check out the video. It looks like each “old” comics event will take place on a different part of this “world.” So, it doesn’t appear to be a 52 multiverse setup.

Mojo, eat your heart out.

Blast Off #30: Black Panther & Captain Marvel lead Marvel’s Movie Rampage on DC

The Team Focus Blast Off is back, with Ernie Estrella making his triumphant return. From The Flash. Arrow, Gotham and Agents of SHIELD to the Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Avengers: Infinity War movies, we’re talking about the comics storm taking place on TV and in Film. How do you think the Film/TV war is stacking up between the two comics publishing behemoths?

Listen to the Team Focus Blast Off #30 with Bags Hooper and Ernie Estrella below:
[podcast]http://www.buzzfocus.com/blastoff/Blast-off-30.mp3[/podcast]

Tune in regularly for more discussion by Subscribing to the Team Focus Blast Off on iTunes.

Follow @bagshooper and @ernieestrella on Twitter.

What it means for the WWE to be Champion-less until 2015

WWE being champion-less for a period of time was expected once Brock won the title, but the way they booked the whole thing is baffling to say the least. Brock Lesnar came in and destroyed John Cena at SummerSlam in a way I’ve never seen any champion get handled before. This left intrigue and fascination, because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Suddenly, the next episodes of Raw and pay-per-view, Night of Champions became must see events, because there was no telling what would happen next – It was, dare I say, unpredictable.

Then Night of Champions happened, which featured Cena and Lesnar in a rematch for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Cena came close to winning, but only wins via disqualification and no one ends up getting the pay off. Brock now looks weak and Cena gets screwed over. It’s been over a month now with WWE having no world champion and our lasting memory of Brock Lesnar is the guy who almost lost to John Cena. What was the point of doing that if there was going to be such a stretch between Brock’s appearances? Brock Lesnar’s next rumored appearance is set for the Royal Rumble at the end of January and it’s against John Cena again. The way WWE has booked this makes me feel no excitement for Brock’s next match whatsoever.

Brock Lesnar broke The Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania, runs a train through John Cena at SummerSlam and then completely flatlines at Night of Champions after suffering four Attitude Adjustments and being on the verge of defeat. The guy who beat Undertaker AND Cena in commanding fashion had to get bailed out at the last minute via DQ by a scrawny heel named Seth Rollins. WWE, what were you thinking?

WWE currently has a handful of top-tier superstars injured, including Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns and does not have a TV world champion for the next couple of months. The idea that WWE would not be suffering viewership loss or lose fans in droves is hard to believe. I’ve mentioned before that WWE has booked themselves into a corner, but it could not have been booked any worse. One thing is for certain – I will not be the least bit interested in John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble 2015. Why should I?

Help Brad Meltzer Find Our ‘Lost History’

Ever hear a story that seems so implausible but is true? Imagine these stories reveal items from some of our culture and history that have gone missing. Perhaps you could help find them. If every picture is worth a thousand words, then according to Brad Meltzer’s Lost History, which makes its debut tonight on the H2 channel, every item contains a story of a million words.

losthistory

If you’re not familiar with Meltzer, he is a bestselling novelist, comic book writer (JLA, Green Arrow, Identity Crisis) and author of kids books. He also hosted a series on the History Channel called Decoded, which spent two seasons verifying or debunking real American mysteries and conspiracies. Now he is launching a new series through History’s sister channel, H2 called Lost History, which looks at solved and unsolved cases of a variety of missing items tied to our history. Think of it like Unsolved Mysteries of the lost and found, but with artifacts instead of people.

Each episode runs an hour long and is divided into three segments, two featuring an item that is currently missing, and another that was lost and eventually found. In other words, Lost History isn’t just a series where all of these lost pieces of history are rattled off, because the recovery of such items have stories of their own. The segments featuring missing items have a call to action at the end, with a hotline for viewers to call if they have the item or information leading to the recovery of these items with a $10,000 reward.

“If you’re going to try to convince people that they can find it, you have to prove to them that’s true,” Meltzer said about telling stories of found objects. “Inevitably, it’s always found by regular people. Of course, the FBI gets called in but it’s someone keeping their eye open. For someone watching the show, they get to see their power.”

The first episode explores the missing case of the American flag that was flown at Ground Zero, raised by New York City’s finest firemen. The scene was photographed and made into the iconic image we’ve all come to use to help many heal from the 9/11 attacks. Other items featured stolen swords from one of our dead presidents and a tommy gun stolen and used by the notorious bank robber and gangster, John Dillinger. The show tells the significance of the said items, then tries to track down reliable sources closest to the disappearance.

Should someone actually call in with a real vital piece to the recovery of a missing item, Meltzer said that they will do all that they can to bring the news in a future segment of the show, but he is extremely realistic about that process. The first season of Lost History has almost finished filming and Meltzer wants to make sure that information coming in is properly verified and it will take a lengthy time.

“We’ll want to do it right and do it properly, and authenticate it (to make sure we’re) not fooled by anything, it’s going to take time, and it should take proper time. The goal here is not to find any old thing. It’s to find real pieces of history that are missing. Inevitably in all these cases, people who find it, they don’t share it with anyone and eventually they die, and their families find it.”

“My personal opinion is from experience when we did Decoded, it’s just an onslaught of information at the beginning. Every person who has an old document in their attic suddenly calls in.”

The tone of the show came from Meltzer’s own outrage. When he started pitching this to History, two to three years ago, the network decided it wasn’t just going to be a TV show, it would be a mission to try and retrieve these items. Meltzer explains that at first people are surprised these items are missing, but as the stories unfold as to how they became lost and the quantity rises, shock turns to outrage.

“I was nervous that they would tell me how to tone it down,” Meltzer shared. “But to H2’s credit, they said, ‘We think this is how we can get it back. There needs to be a call to action. Otherwise no one’s going to do anything. We’re not just here to entertain, we’re here to get these items returned.’

Meltzer remarked how his book signings draws fans from all the corners of his projects, people drawn separately to either Decoded, his novels, his kids books or his comics, at some point all of those areas are discussed. “Whether they like it or not they’re going to get my take on history.”

That plays well into Lost History because it’s not just old artifacts. There are pieces of popular culture that would interest the history buff, the movie buff and the comic collectors alike. Current pieces like the Ground Zero Flag, James Bond’s Aston Martin, James Dean’s wrecked car, Jack Kirby’s lost art, Adolf Hitler’s albums, one of Marlon Brando’s Academy Awards and one thing Meltzer is hoping for that he wants to keep wraps on is a Superman-related item.

“James Dean’s car is hanging on someone’s wall apparently,” Meltzer told us. “First of all, if you have Dean’s wrecked car on your wall, you need a new decorator. Beyond that, it’s just disgusting. History doesn’t belong to just rich people who can afford to take it for themselves. History belongs to all of us.”

Some of the items are borderline bizarre. In one of the early episodes, Meltzer shared that one item that is missing turns the show into what seems like a 1950’s science fiction movie.

“We go searching for JFK’s brain.”

You read that right. “Let me say that again, slowly. JFK’s brain is missing.” Meltzer stressed.

“At one point in time after the assassination of JFK, there was someone walking around Washington DC with a metal can that had the President’s actual brain in it. You would think that with autopsies and forensic study and all the things you would want to know about someone who was hit in the head with a bullet, that we would’ve done studies on the brain itself and the government never did.”

“I was thinking that no way this was true. When you see what gets pulled out, you’re not going to believe it. You’re going to think that there’s no way this can be true. Not that we’re looking for someone to turn in a brain, right? That’s not what we want at the lost and found, but man, the call to action there is, someone at some point (and we think we’ve pinpointed the time it was taken) knows who did take it. When you see who the suspect is, it’s pretty fascinating.”

Meltzer has always dug into history in creative ways, using our nation’s history as the foundation to many of his thrillers. His “I am…” children books where he tells fresh stories of icons like Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln with whimsical illustrations. Each is a little twist on presenting history in a way that’s palatable and more effective than the dry, incomplete textbooks of yesteryear.

“I think what we do as a culture, history is a bunch of dates and facts you memorize,” says Meltzer. “History is actually nothing like that. History is a selection process and it chooses every single one of us every single day, and the only question is, do you hear the call?”

“To me, whatever it is I’m working on, that’s a call. It’s my chance to share with people the greatest stories of all. That’s why we keep telling them over and over, and it’s not because they’re famous people. It shows what we’re all capable of in our very best days. My novels, kids books, TV shows, and the comic books all have that same theme, it’s that power of that ordinary person to really affect us.”

One could criticize that the show is not revealing anything new if you dig hard enough, but what’s the fun in that? Plus to many out there, this show will enlighten to many out there who don’t know these items are missing at all.

“In comic books,” Meltzer added, “We all know that Jack Kirby has missing artwork. Anyone outside the comic book world is asking, ‘Who is Jack Kirby and what does it mean?’ Another example is the violin from the Titanic, which wasn’t something that James Cameron made up. They found the body of the guy who played it but never found his violin. If you’re a Titanic obsessive fan in the very best way, you know that was one of the important items (from the wreckage).”

It’s all about the fascinating stories that comes out of each segment and with more eyes becoming aware, the hope that in time, some of this lost history is found. The first episode of Brad Meltzer’s Lost HIstory premieres Friday, October 31 at 10PM EST/11PM PST on H2.

ThunderCats: The Complete Series coming to Blu-ray – Show still missed by fans

For every cult-favorite – and cancelled – TV series, there will always be a few fans who wish the show never caught the dreaded axe. For instance, Firefly’s cancellation only made the show more popular. For cartoon lovers, we have sorely missed shows like Young Justice, Sym-Bionic Titan and, who could forget, the 2011 ThunderCats reboot.

After a phenomenal showing in its would-be final thirteen episodes, the ThunderCats reboot went off the air in 2012. At the time, there was no official cancellation announcement. Fans lobbied for its return – as did the voice cast. However, sadly, the ThunderCats were never to yell “Ho!” again on Cartoon Network.

Well, for nostalgic fans, here’s a bit of good news. If you didn’t pick up any of the ThunderCats mini releases (Warner used to pump out quarter season DVD releases for some of its shows, like Young Justice and ThunderCats, to the chagrin of fans), you can get the entire 26-episode series on Blu-ray this November. The full series costs only a fraction of what you would have spent had you bought each mini DVD release separately.

I’ll be checking it out, while complaining once again that this is one show that should have seen, at the least, one more season to close off the story.

Pre-orders for the Blu-ray are open now. Check it out:

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call Review

Rhythm-based gaming hit a fever pitch about 5 years ago, which eventually collapsed on itself with the over-saturation of Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands. To me, the appeal of rhythm and music games died when the amount of plastic peripherals overflowed my gaming area; did I really need DJ Hero turntables? – Probably not. That said, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is the kind of game I’ve been avoiding for some time now. Although I hadn’t played the previous installment, I did have certain expectations for this sequel to 2012’s hit having played Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero on Nintendo’s handhelds before. I’m glad to say Curtain Call squashed those expectations.

In its most basic form, a rhythm-based game plays a track and you have to act according to the music all while being judged on accuracy. Curtain Call has that and builds on it to offer a richer and deeper experience. Your performance after a track isn’t just scored and forgotten about – your characters are leveling up and building up experience points just like the RPG-style gameplay Curtain Call‘s source material. There are three different types of gameplay and they include Battle, Field and Event. Field and Event styles of play are largely similar in that they play the same with slight tweaks in the visuals. Personally, I like playing in the Field just to see Chocobos.

When playing a Battle, what’s happening on-screen is reacting to how well you’re hitting notes and inputting the right commands. When a boss enemy appears, the game does a great job at getting you pumped up to hit all your notes. Leveling up will help build up abilities, including Thundara to deal magic damage after chaining a certain amount of notes or Counter to dish out physical damage after missing a few notes. Multiplayer modes are available too and offers fun for those looking for bragging rights. Can you hit notes better than your friend? You can find out both off and online.

There are multiple control methods to play Curtain Call and they can be changed on the fly during any given song. The ways you can play is through touch-screen, buttons only or one-handed. My preferred way to play was with the touch-screen via stylus, but there were times when I felt that the feedback of pressing buttons felt more comfortable – what can I say? I’m fickle. The one-handed controls I never got into, but I can definitely see the practicality of it during a train ride home during rush hour where I had to use one hand to hold on to something. There were moments where the circle pad didn’t recognize my directional input as much as I would have liked and that can be annoying for a accuracy based game no matter how few times it happened.

Curtain Call is a fan service game more than anything. All the main and side characters represented here are easily recognizable by even the most casual Final Fantasy fan. Curtain Call‘s style is cutesy and miniaturized versions of lots of characters from Final Fantasy lore. Think of all the characters you love, such as Cloud, Titus and Lightning in Funko Pop! Vinyl form. The music chosen is not just from the main Final Fantasy series as Tactics, Dissidia and even the movie, Advent Children finds a place in this game. The tracks are as they were in their original form and discovering new tracks I’ve never heard before was delightful as well. This is truly a treat to your ears, so make sure you invest in some high quality earphones, because the 3DS audio output is unfortunately not the best or the loudest.

Whether you’re here to hear Final Fantasy II music or Final Fantasy XII music, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is an amazing retrospective for any kind of fan. Even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy before or don’t particularly like it to begin with, it’s still a great rhythm-based game with great music in its own right. The possibility of having your Final Fantasy dream team is completely realized here and it’s cool to see Square Enix celebrate its history of lovable and iconic characters into one title. The next and most logical step for the series’ future would be the inclusion of other beloved Square Enix characters like Sora and Chrono.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Genre: Rhythm
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Rating: 8 / 10

Mewtwo DLC for Smash Bros. opens up possibilities for much more

During the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U specific Nintendo Direct, Mewtwo was announced as a returning new character to the series. His return will come in the form of free DLC for players who own both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game. Also announced was that his availability will be made sometime Spring 2015.

The significance of this announcement says a lot of the future of the games. First, it tells us that DLC is entirely possible for both versions. Next, saying it’s free should definitely imply that there is some paid content coming and should be available for both versions, too. Some Smash fans have been distraught that Mewtwo hasn’t been included in the games since Melee, but it looks like their prayers have been answered. Maybe now fans can continue hoping for an Ice Climbers appearance sometime in the near future.

What characters would you like to see return or make a debut? Snake? Lucas? Pokemon Trainer? The gates are wide open now that this announcement has been made. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U arrives November 21.