And Then, After We Leave Bali...

I admit, my first thought upon seeing the headline "Komodo Dragons Kill Indonesian Fisherman" wasn't that I wanted to go and see these things in person. No, that thought came immediately after looking at the map of "Komodo National Park" and seeing that it's just a couple islands over from Bali, where we will definitely be spending time on our RTW trip after working our way down from Vietnam by train (and boat).

Man, I like the sounds of that: Komodo National Park. I've always been fascinated by these large predatory lizards and, well, the idea of visiting a park named after them and going on a hike with rangers to see them (preferably from a safe distance) is just surreal.

Can't wait.

Too bad about the fisherman though, that must have been awful way to go.

Details about the park and how to get there.

Guidebook Giveaway: MadWorld

Alas, it's time to finally unveil the fruits of my January trip to Japan, the official strategy guide for MadWorld, the incredibly entertaining hyper-violent action game from Platinum Games. Yes, the black & white one for the Wii.

MadWorld pits you in the role of Jack, a stone-faced chainsmoker with an iron jaw and a chainsaw for a prosthesis. Without giving the surprisingly deep story away, Jack finds himself entered in a contest known as the Death Watch Games, a kill-or-be-killed battle for ten million dollars. The city is cordoned off, various weapons of mass dismemberment have been strategically placed throughout the location, and the cameras are rolling. So many ways to kill, so little time. And no kiddies, this game isn't for you. Make no mistake about it, despite the black & white graphic novel appearance, this is the most violent game I've ever played. it's also the funniest. The violence reaches absurd proportions from the start and stays there and the endless play-by-play and event introductions are laugh out loud funny. Oh, you'll cringe the first couple times you jam a street sign through some guy's head, then chop him in half inside a guillotine-like dumpster, but you'll come to laugh. Oh, yes you will.

As for the book, I'm really proud of how it came out. The strategy is solid and I know you'll have no trouble man-handling the game's nasty boss creatures if you follow the tactics I included in the guide. Maps show you where all of the power-ups, weapons, and bait-items are located for every level and an expanded Death Watch Challenge section gives you tips for each and every Bloodbath Challenge and shows you how to complete even the most difficult challenge.

Then there are the interviews. One of the reasons for the trip was to interview Atsushi Inaba and Shigenori Nishikawa, the game's Producer and Director, respectively. Many of the people at PG were from Clover Studios, makers of two of my favorite games (Viewtiful Joe and Okami) and it was a real treat to visit their studio and sit down for two hours worth of interviews with these industry luminaries. I also got to interview the famed script writer Yasumi Matsuno via email. All of these interviews are included in the guidebook in their entirety and they're not a bad read, if I do say so myself.

Reviews for the game are coming in and so far they're all very positive. One thing I haven't seen mention however is that each non-boss stage has multiple Death Watch Challenges built into it that encourage replaying the stage. Some have time limits, others challenge players to use no continues or to score a set amount of points. These additional DWC really do add to the replay value and definitely offset what many might consider a rather short play-time.

No hoop-jumping this time around. If you want a signed copy of the guidebook, be one of the first three people to email me your name and address and I'll get a copy out to you as soon as they arrive.

And if you don't own a Wii, now may be the perfect time to finally get one.

Snow Day!

We received a few inches of snow this afternoon and with Kristin tied up on a 2-hour conference call with her study group, it was up to me to walk the dogs after their dinner. I always enjoy walking them in the snow and today didn't disappoint. They were a bundle of energy after spending a long weekend cooped-up at the kennel while we were in Whistler and they wanted to run.

Though most of the sidewalks were either shoveled or partially melted, Annana wanted no part of the sidewalk. She blasted her own path through the snow on the grass, despite it almost coming up to her stomach. She sought the snow so much that she even long-jumped over patches of sidewalk so as to not step foot on clear ground. Those of you who don't own a dog might be thinking I'm personifying her actions a little too much, but she was every bit the schoolkid playing games in the snow. Watching her, I was certain she was making a conscious effort to keep all four feet in the snow at all times. And the deeper, the better.

We rounded a corner two blocks away and I heard the voice of a young boy. I couldn't see him at first due to the tall hedges that formed the perimeter of their yard. Instead, all I heard was, "Ohhh, yeahhh. Awww, yeah!"

Then, just as I catch a glimpse of this little five year-old being towed around the yard in a sled by his father, he lets out an emphatic, drawn-out, "Awww, yeah! That's what I'm talking about!"

Now, where did he pick that up, I wonder?

I soon realized that I had forgotten any baggies to clean up after the dogs so I attempted to distract the dogs with a speedy gallop through the snow before one of them got the itch to take a squat. They were all for running in the snow and though I slipped and slid a bit, it's always a great joy to watch these two dogs run through the snow. They seem to always want to go a bit farther and a bit faster when there's snow on the ground. Kimo and Annana will be turning 11 and 10 years old this spring, respectively. I'm really glad to still see them moving about like they do.

Maybe I Didn't Need That Gamefly Subscription After All

There are numerous juicy bits of gaming goodness coming out on XBLA in the coming weeks, not the least of which are Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, Peggle, and Pearl Jam's debut album "Ten" for Rock Band 2.

I recently renewed my subscription to Gamefly so that I could enjoy the wonders of SFIV, H.A.W.X., and F.E.A.R. 2 without having to do my best A.I.G. and ask Obama for a hand-out (yes, acronyms are definitely "in" this season). But now that I have, I realize it was unnecessary. Instead of having no time to play retail games I buy, now I just don't have time to play the ones I rent. Sure, I'm saving money by paying just $15/month to Gamefly instead of $60 for a retail copy, but with Gears of War 2 still occupying my time along with Scene-It:BOS and the aforementioned XBLA titles coming soon, I'm not sure I really need to play many retail games.

It's rather odd, actually. I actually enjoy playing many of the XBLA titles more than I do the "blockbuster" retail ones. I suppose my job has something to do with this. Something to ponder while I sit on the chairlift at Whistler this weekend. RG will be on hiatus until Monday, when I hope to regale you with my first-hand impression of the 2010 Olympic Men's Downhill run and other niceties of North America's best ski resort.

I'll try not to cause an international incident, but I can't promise anything. Have a good weekend.