Mario Strikers: Battle League Overanalysis

Mario Strikers™: Battle League for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game Details

On February 9th, Nintendo put out a trailer for the upcoming Mario Strikers: Battle League, coming out June 10th, 2022. It is the third Mario Strikers game in the series, and first one since Mario Strikers Charged in 2007. If you know me, you know Super Mario Strikers is my favorite game of all time. Naturally, I am very excited to get another game in this series, and I have a lot of opinions on the three minutes of footage we got about the game.

First, I want to be very clear. I am excited. Super excited. I said that in paragraph one, but it bears repeating because most of the rest of this will be me pointing out differences between the original games and this one, and difference = bad. So let’s start with what hasn’t changed because no change = good.

The attitude, art style, and feel of Strikers has been retained, which is awesome. Strikers came out in 2005 but feels like a 90s game with extreme baditude, yet it never felt forced because you didn’t have a cartoon hedgehog swearing at you while shooting guns. Just like the other games, Battle League is 5 on 5 (4 in the field and one goalie, which is Boom Boom instead of Kritter, which is a CHANGE and is BAD (but consistent with Mario Sports Superstars’ goalie also being Boom Boom so eh)) soccer/football that plays a lot more like hockey with short possessions, short fields, lots of scoring, and even more hitting. It also has a stupid European name. “Mario Strikers: Battle League Football”. C’mon.

Beyond these base commonalities, there are quite a few things in Battle League that are similar to what previous Striker entries have. BUT STILL DIFFERENT! I’ll get to the stuff that the trailer pointed out as being explicit differences, but I want to talk about the “intangible” commonalities that I think add up to making Strikers extremely fun to play. Below are screenshots from gameplay of all three. The original Gamecube Strikers is on top, the middle is Wii’s Charged, and the bottom is the newest, Battle League.

Super Mario Strikers | GCN Gameplay | 1080p HD - YouTube
The Dark, Anarchic Mushroom Kingdom of Mario Strikers Charged | by Chris  Compendio | ZEAL | Medium
2022 - Mario gets back to soccer in Mario Strikers Battle League

The original Strikers has the camera zoomed-in on the action compared to Charged and Battle League, but the field size and relative size of characters are all pretty much the same in the three games. This small field allows for lots of shots and goals because teams can get the ball up the floor and immediately take a shot instead of having to do some sort of buildup like in FIFA. There’s a good reason why all three of these are screenshots of characters in the act of shooting. Also noticeable is the electric fence surrounding the fields came back, acting as a fun thing to hit opponents into and a way to keep the ball in play at all times. You can also see that item storage is the same between all three games–each team gets a maximum of two to hold onto. One thing that is conspicuously absent in Battle League in the trailer is that the characters do not have a number over their head indicating what player is controlling them. Perhaps this means there’s no switching what character you control, perhaps it’s a setting they chose to keep off for the trailer, but there needs to be some way to easily find your character mid-game, and the number system worked well for that. I think that’s enough dissecting stillness, these games are about action. What’s it like in motion?

In motion, there are a ton of differences. For one, the movement of Battle League has to be given a disclaimer. This is a gameplay trailer for people who have never played the originals. As such, the speed and chaos had to be turned way, way down compared to what I expect high-level gameplay will look like. It is very hard to concretely say that Battle League is infinitely slower than Charged and a quarter of the speed of the original, but that is my first impression. There’s a few actual mechanical changes that I can point to for backing this up rather than asserting this fear-based statement.

For one, the way a character passes the ball in Battle League seems inherently different to either the original or Charged. In those games, you pressed the pass button while holding a direction, and your character passed the ball to the nearest teammate in that direction. In Battle League, check out how the game opens in the trailer.

Mario wins the ball from Bowser and passes back to Peach in a way that looks like the original or Charged. Then, watch Peach. As soon as she gets the ball and dribbles upfield, she starts winding up a pass to Toad near the bottom of the screen. Unlike that pass from Mario, she’s able to use a small circle to aim where the ball will go, and the ball jumps off her foot with a bit of a charge. Both Mario and Peach passed the ball, but both did it very differently. I think it’s fair to say that both direct passing and freeform passing will be doable, giving Battle League players a lot of freedom in how they direct play similar to Mario Strikers Charged’s lob dribble mechanic (more on that later). One last thing about this five seconds of footage. Check out Toad. He doesn’t receive Peach’s freeform pass like how Peach received Mario’s direct pass. Peach immediately had full control of the ball after receiving it. The ball bounces off Toad’s side, and he never gets full control of the ball. Instead, he does the classic Strikers’ technique of pressing the shoot button while the ball is near him and takes a long-distance, easily-saved shot for the rebound.

That was a lot to get out of literally 5 seconds of footage, but it’s very telling stuff. I already mentioned earlier that items are back in this game, but they’re already shown to work a little differently from previous games. At 58 seconds in, Peach uses a large Green Shell to clear space for her in the offensive zone, and hits two opponents. Unlike previous games, the shell does not bury Bowser or Yoshi, which was always a cute touch, it just runs them out of the way. There’s also a large banana used that does much the same and a red shell was shown in the background that presumably hones in on enemies like prior games. The Bob-Omb is pretty different as well. At 2:28 in the trailer, Mario uses it, and the Bob-Omb walks through an opponent before blowing up. In past games, the Bob-Ombs arced in the air before falling and exploding. The main thing about items that didn’t get answered was how you earned them. If Battle League is like Charged or the original, a team will earn an item for either taking a charged shot or for having one of their players hit by a bodycheck or slide tackle while not possessing the ball. We’ll find out eventually, but there needs to be some kind of mechanic to dissuade teams from simply hitting opponents into the electric fence at all times.

Next Level Games has brought back the original version of the Super Strike with slightly more balance. Now called Hyper Strikes, a proper execution of charging a shot and then pressing the shot button with the correct timing will earn a team 2 goals instead of 1, just like in Super Mario Strikers. Charged had the ability to earn a team up to 6 goals, but felt like a roulette wheel against the CPU and absolutely pointless in high-level play because players were expected to be good at the minigame stopping them. There is a slight change, though. In the original and Charged, only your captain could launch a Super Strike and simply hitting them out of the play repeatedly prevented them (unless they’re playing the Super Team but no one likes the Super Team). Here, it seems anyone can do it, but they can only do it when your team collects an orb that randomly appears at random times. Who knows if this will end up being better or worse balance than the original–I never have liked them and keep them permanently turned off in the original.

That comment about only captains being able to use Super Strikes is a great segue to the next noticeable change. Battle League has no “captain system”. Team selection in the original had you pick one of 8 captains (or 9 if you want to play the Super Team but seriously go away) and then the other three teammates were one of 4 sidekicks. The original is weird in that character selection really doesn’t matter much, but it mattered a ton more in Charged. In Charged, you picked one of 12 captains, then filled out the other three teammates by selecting from 8 that you could mix or match (or really just taking 3 Boos). Your captains in Charged had special items associated with them which mostly drove why you’d pick, say, Waluigi and his wall over Daisy and her Crystal Smash even though they have the same stats. Here? Mario and Peach are on the same team. Yoshi and Bowser are on the same team. This was never possible before now. And it is currently very unclear if this means that there are intrinsic differences in stats between characters like Charged or if there are no intrinsic differences like in the original. Instead, we do know that there is a new mechanic that will affect your stats, and it’s…

The equipment system. Highlighted from 1:20-1:40 is the big, new, and original gameplay mechanic of Battle League compared to all these prior slight tweaks. You can outfit your playable character with four different pieces of gear, and each piece of gear will change your characters stats in slightly different ways. FOR INSTANCE, a no-gear Mario has 11/25 strength, 12/25 speed, 14/25 shooting, 10/25 passing, and 16/25 technique. One of the helmets bumps his strength up 2 points at the cost of losing 2 points in technique. Small stuff, but added across 4 pieces allows for some interesting min-maxing. More on my thoughts about it later. I do think that no-gear screenshot does suggest all characters will have intrinsically different stats, but the disparity between each character won’t be as insane as it was in Charged. Charged had players with 10 speed versus players with 3 speed and, uh, that difference in speed made power/offensive types unplayable save for the captains.

The other big new original feature of Battle League is, well, the Battle League. Charged was I believe the first Wii game with online play, and it was an instant hit despite being very simple. I’m trying to remember how exactly it worked, but there was a ranking system. Every week, that ranking would reset. Every day, you could play up to 10 ranked best two-out-of-three series to earn a number of ladder points based on if you won and how many goals you scored. You lost points in the ladder for losing and for disconnecting before the end of matches, which I did a lot (I am a very sore Strikers loser).

In Battle League, players can join an online or local club. We don’t know exactly what sorts of prizes these clubs will compete for (presumably for fun and official/unofficial tournaments), if there’ll be a ranking system, if there will be a MOBA draft system in picking characters (which sounds like a joke but is a real thing I was thinking about late at night while pondering the game!!), etc. Lots of questions. But it’s a neat idea that I hope is fun and that there will be chill enough people to play with because I really, really, really do not want to play ultracompetitive Strikers ever again. I think that’s everything in the trailer that I care to comment on, other than saying that Boom Boom as the goalie instead of Kritter is a little sad but has precedent from Mario Sports Superstars, so it’s onto random speculation about the game.

The game’s presentation has a fun understated element in field design. Each half of the field appears to be affected by the characters and color scheme chosen by the defending team. However, it does not appear that any half shown off in the gameplay affects the way the game is played. Mario sports games have recently gone far away from the gimmick fests of Charged or Baseball or even Sports Mix, so we’ll see if they continue that trend or if there will be some halves of fields that will affect the game as badly as The Wastelands. I personally want some freaking gimmicks.

Another area that was never the focus of prior Strikers games but was always there and yet not mentioned in the trailer is the single-player. People remember Charged’s single-player as an extremely brutal and difficult campaign that was super hard to unlock everything in, and the presentation was quite focused on the multiplayer (and the title is Battle League) so there just… might not be single-player. Which would suck! I love beating up CPUs, and Charged’s insane difficulty is pretty fun to battle against. Ever since Sports Mix, even the most difficult CPUs in Mario Sports games have been real easy to beat. Disclaimer: haven’t tried too much against the highest difficulty in Super Rush, so if they’re strong there, that’s my bad.

Finally, I’ll close with four pieces of mechanical speculation that I really hope got addressed. The first is one I’ve mentioned earlier. What will stop people from hitting opponents into electric fences over and over again? The second is tied neatly with that. What will stop players from taking a one-goal lead and then turtling? Turtling in Strikers is the strategy of possessing the ball near your goal box in a way that makes your goalie pick up the ball if it ever is jarred loose, and you can simply wait out the rest of the game this way. It’s really unfun to play with or against this strategy, and has always been a problem in Strikers.

The third and fourth are things that ended up happening in Mario Strikers Charged, and things I worry may happen again in Battle League. In Charged, the lob mechanic allows for insanely broken and unintended goals to be easily scored. Just watch this fun highlight reel of lobs and know that this is not at all how you’re supposed to score.

Super fun looking, right? Well, unfortunately, the lob mechanic was so refined that high-level game was all about executing it and stopping it. Check out a clip below of one of the best players in the world executing a lob glitch to score.

This meant that you had to play with speed characters in order to set up a lob goal or to stop them. The high-level stuff was all about this. Plus, Boo itself was so extremely broken that you almost never saw anyone use anything other than 3 Boos because he was fast enough to execute the lob goals AND passed the quickest AND had a special deke to dodge any oncomers or charge the ball quickly.

All of this is to say that I hope Next Level Games learned their lesson and make Battle League actually viable for more than just speed characters. Because it is super fun to use a slow power character and hit someone into a fence and then score with a strong shot. I have to think they have, and I am looking extremely forward to this game. June 10th can’t come soon enough.

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Local Man Has Started Calling Life a “Metroidvania”

Local man Jayden Schwartz has been on a binge of Metroidvanias lately. For those not in the know, a “Metroidvania” is a portmanteau of the names of two video game series: “Metroid”, and “Castlevania”. Generally, these games have you explore a desolate, hostile world by yourself as you attempt to escape it. Along the way, you’ll acquire new powers and go back to old areas to find more abilities in order to progress further, and so on. “And that’s why I think life is a freaking Metroidvania, baby,” said Schwartz. “Think about it. You’re born into the world with no innate skills. You can’t escape the hospital with your starting equipment. You’ve gotta scrap your way out by any means necessary–using your parents as a vehicle to get to safety like how Samus uses the SHAKTOOL in Super Metroid to get through a room filled with spikes.”

Schwartz had played Metroid Dread and Hollow Knight in quick succession, and was reflecting on the dreary, hostile journeys the heroes had to face when it struck him. “The nameless character in Hollow Knight is faced with many duplicitous characters that seem nice at first glance, but will happily take off their mask and stab you in the back when you least expect it. Nosk reminds me a lot of Stacy from 8th grade. Right down to spitting orange acid–though, in her case, it was Orange Crush that came out of her mouth when I told her I loved her.”

Schwartz also noted that you are required to learn and master new skills in real life and in Metroid Dread in order to progress. “Just think about it. When you graduate from high school, that diploma has the exact same function the Storm Missiles do. You need to present that diploma in order to get a decent-paying job but you’ll never use it as a way of defeating your boss because it’s not very powerful. I’m still mad that my manager Anthony made 3 times as much money I did (AKA, had three times the hit points) despite never graduating high school, but that’s why my diploma was super effective when I presented it to him. So effective that I got fired and had to respawn from my last checkpoint of my mom’s basement.”

“In short, life is like a freaking Metroidvania, not a roguelike. It has roguelike elements with the randomized character creation stuff, but you are expected to die a whole bunch of times before you figure out the mechanics you need to win. Here, there’s only one life, and you gotta make sure you’re going down the right alleyways at night in order to get the next upgrade before you head down them. Which is why I’m now down 100k in student debt and need to go down more dark alleyways in order to find a Geo stash,” said Jayden Schwartz.

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Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl Adds New “Grand Underground Railroad” Feature

Nintendo’s V1.13 patch of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, adds a whole host of minor fixes and a few new things to the games, including the previously unknown “Grand Underground Railroad” feature, an expansion to the previous Grand Underground.

Originally, the Grand Underground only allowed players to dig up walls for fossils, shards, and other items, or catch a wide variety of Pokémon in Hideaways. The new Grand Underground Railroad addition now puts players smack in the middle of an intense war of ideology where they can choose to either assist the freeing of Pokémon from their status as slaves by joining the northern Unovan cause, or stay a member of the Pokémon-catching Sinnoh south and crack down on the fugitive Pokémon and trainers.

“Pokémon has always been a morally-grey series. There’s this tension between the very positive portrayal of capturing Pokémon as a friend for life that the games tend to reinforce, and the very negative treatment of competitive Pokémon trainers who abandon any Pokémon that aren’t perfect and push them to extremes for strength rather than for friendship. We wanted to play with this tension while drawing on the very real history of America on which the Unova region is based,” said director Yuichi Ueda.

The first time a player enters the Grand Underground after the patch is downloaded, they must choose whether to fight for Pokémon freedom with N or help Cyrus keep Pokémon in Sinnoh. If you choose to side with N, you can set up your Secret Base as a safe stop on the Grand Underground Railroad for huddled Pokémon on their way north. Players on the Unovan side can use all sorts of ball capsule stickers to act as a sign that their Secret Base is safe, and can leave healing items like Sitrus Berries for Pokémon heading north. They may also take a more active role in getting Pokémon north by personally escorting them through the maze-like Grand Underground past all the traps set by Sinnoh supporters.

For those who view Pokémon as tools for battle, they can join the Sinnoh faction and redesign their Secret Base to try and entrap the fleeing Pokémon. Imitating the sticker designs for safe spots on the Grand Underground Railroad and then putting Alert Traps, Reverse Traps, Flame Orbs, or the dreaded Warp Trap can do a lot to slow down and prevent the resistance from having their way. If being more active in crackdown is what you’re into, you can roam the Grand Underground in the hope of intercepting would-be fleers and sending them back via force using your own Pokémon.

“In order to up the tension of this new mechanic, we’ve put a hard cap on the number of Pokémon available across all copies of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. When all of a species of Pokémon are smuggled to Unova via the Grand Underground Railroad, that’s it–that type of Pokémon is effectively extinct in Sinnoh. We hope you enjoy the excitement of being the last line of defense keeping Empoleons in Sinnoh or being the miracle worker that frees them all,” said the other director of Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl, Junichi Masuda. “And just so you know, this cap will prevent importing Pokémon from Pokémon Home into BDSP, so think quite hard before choosing a side. Have fun!”

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Music of the Spheres

I don’t know why I ever doubt Coldplay. Well, alright, I know specifically why I was doubting Music of the Spheres, the band’s ninth studio album. It was extremely easy to find reasons to think Music of the Spheres would suck before it released. Max Martin was the producer, Coldplay decided to team up with BTS for an easy hit with little effort, and Parlaphone was actually trying to advertise the album instead of burying it like Everyday Life. There were many reasons to be a cynic and see this album as one last attempt by Coldplay to reclaim relevancy, and I fell into the trap myself! I ordered the limited edition Infinity Station CD and it was stuck in order fulfillment for a week before I asked customer support to send it over. And, as always, the band didn’t let me down.

Music of the Spheres is Coldplay going back to the pop heights and fantastical, alien concepts of Mylo Xyloto and A Head Full of Dreams. They’ve been in a pattern of “extreme airy pop” and “relatively grounded music” since Viva La Vida. After Everyday Life comes a concept album about three bands in space, Coldplay, BTS, and “Electric Six” fighting against a soulless evil empire that’s trying to drain the galaxy of music in order to make them all work. Or something like that. If you think Coldplay’s done this before, you’re absolutely correct–Mylo Xyloto was a concept album about the exact same thing. It doesn’t really matter though, since the album mostly focuses on tuning each individual song into an earworm, and it does a great job at that.

Just like Mylo Xyloto, the album begins with an instrumental prior to the first real track. Okay, there is a robotic voice that says “Music of the Spheres” but that’s it. Then comes Higher Power, which was the first single off the album. I liked it on first listen, then didn’t really like it for a couple of months, but started liking it more the more I heard it. It’s just fun. Also, just like how Moses Martin did the backing beat on Orphans, Apple Martin provides the vocals that kick off the song when she counts down “Three Two One”. It also has this extremely awesome video of the hired aliens dancing through South Korea that I’ve embedded below.

Still waiting to see an unofficial dance video. Ambiguous Dance Company was hired by Coldplay to do it. They’re a South Korean dance troupe which should’ve tipped off to the world what Coldplay had in store with My Universe, but we’ll get there when we get there. Safe to say that Everyday Life was Coldplay’s Middle Eastern album, and Music of the Spheres is Coldplay’s South Korean album.

Right after Higher Power is Humankind, probably my favorite track off the album. It has a classic Wild Cub intro that builds synths, guitars, and drums before transitioning into Charlie Brown off of Mylo Xyloto. It also ends with the couplet “We’re only human/but we’re capable of kindness/so they call us humankind”–this is the cleverest lyric in the album, which tells you all you need to know about how dire the lyrics are. Regardless, the sound of Coldplay is always what matters more to me than their lyrics, and Humankind, just like Higher Power, is a joy to listen to.

As if to give the listener a break from the back to back adrenaline rush of Higher Power and Humankind is another instrumental titled Alien Choir. Not much to say. It transitions into Let Somebody Go featuring, of all people, Selena Gomez. It’s this album’s version of Fun from A Head Full of Dreams, a ballad about a bittersweet breakup featuring a random pop star you haven’t thought about for a couple of years (it was Tove Lo on Fun). Let Somebody Go takes a bit to get going, and features perhaps the stupidest lyrics in the album with “when I called the mathematicians/and asked them to explain/they said love is only equal to the pain”. Still, it has a nice ending where you can hear Chris and Selena “ooh”ing and musically sighing as piano swells, and you can just picture them doing their respective parts alone in front of a window as rain is falling outside.

Human Heart returns to the Gospel sound of When I Need A Friend from Everyday Life. This time, Jacob Collier and We Are King feature as they all croon and harmonize about how we all just try to hide our emotions but gosh darn it we’re human and still feel things. I… think it’s pretty boring, though We Are King’s vocals are quite beautiful. It’s not bad, but not interesting.

Thankfully, People of the Pride completely washes out what you’ve just heard. Based off an old Viva La Vida demo of a song called The Man Who Swears, the track has turned from an angry piano-based caricature to an angry guitar-based caricature with lyrics and sound that would fit right into a Muse album. It is the only song on the album that has not previously been done by Coldplay before. If it was just an angry guitar, it’d have fit in with A Rush of Blood to the Head, but the filter on Martin’s voice gives it an extra edge that nothing prior has had from the gents. And that energy and rawness (well, as raw as an extremely overproduced song by Max Martin can be) breaks through the absolutely hilarious lyrics about the evil overlord that is terrorizing these spheres by being “a man who walks around” and “takes his time from his homemade cuckoo clock”. It is closest to Major Minus in lyrical content and overall sound, I guess, but separates itself regardless of this comparison.

Up next is Biutyful, once again featuring Coldplay’s favorite hyperactive 27 year old Jacob Collier. I like this song’s lyrics the most for its constant homages to past Coldplay songs. “I hope they name you a rocket and take you for a ride for free” is a reference to X Marks the Spot from A Head Full of Dreams, “Summer sun after the rain… something for the pain” is very close to Up & Up’s couplet, “And I feel like a river, finally arrived at sea” is a deliberate happy ending for the speaker from Lost who left what happened at every river they tried to cross ambiguous. If you haven’t noticed, I have not at all talked about the song itself because it is also quite a unique sound. Not just the simple instrumentation, but Jacob Collier’s extreme high-pitched autotune voice make Biutyful sound a bit like from another planet… until the final line of the chorus being “on top of the world” lets that premise down. C’mon, Coldplay! Are you human, or are you dancer alien? I also get the way they sing “When you love me/love me/love me” stuck in my head easily. Pretty great!

Music of the Spheres II is the last short intro track on the album. It has some alien saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Music of the Spheres. Remember, everyone is an alien somewhere” backwards. Ever since A L I E N S off the Kaleidoscope in 2017, that final line has been Coldplay’s message to the world. Everyday Life tried to say it very directly. Here, the band uses a bit of trickery to get the message across again. I think it’s a great message. We are all human, after all.

My Universe is where the album climaxes in story, sound, and popularity. It hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 96 countries and achieved a “Billboard All-Kill” which means it defeated all five members of the Billboard squad within 30 seconds. Just like Something Just Like This with the Chainsmokers, all those cynical “Coldplay only did it for the money” takes were completely vindicated with this track.

However… Coldplay, and specifically Chris Martin, genuinely wanted to make this track. Not to be blasted back into relevancy, but because they wanted to make this song. Go back to Sky Full of Stars, co-produced with Avicii, and see all the quotes about how much Martin loved working with Avicii. Or with the Chainsmokers. Or especially with Jacob Collier recently. Coldplay is big enough to be able to do these collaborations and Martin is sincere enough to want to do them for musical reasons.

As for the track itself, it’s a very fun pop song that barrages the listener with constant stop-starts, changes in language, and a surprising instrumental burst at the end that you’d expect from some mid-2000s Eurotrash rather than from two of the biggest bands ever that are famous for their vocals. I think it’s a great track. My only complaint is that SUGA’s bridge should’ve been the final verse and Jung Kook’s pre-chorus with Martin and Jimin should’ve switched with it. SUGA just gets me so hyped for the explosion of the chorus that it’s a tiny let-down to hear another verse before it. But, overall, great track.

Infinity Sign made me very mad at Pitchfork. The reviewer there called it an insipid techno song that was only made to be FIFA menu music. I’ll admit that’s a great joke, but it’s also completely missing the point. The vocals to the first half of the song are provided by the South American crowds at Coldplay concerts who Chris always gets chanting “Olé”. It’s the concept behind Music from the Spheres–creatures across languages connecting via song–in practice. The second half of lyrics is Spiritus Sanctum repeated over and over, meaning the “Holy Ghost” of God which is commonly depicted as a dove. And, of course, doves are yet another old Coldplay symbol, most likely referring to the ones in Ghost Stories’ Fly On. In short, the reviewer was wrong about Infinity Sign being a shallow, vapid techno track. It holds tons of meaning to Coldplay.

Finally, the album closes with Coloratura, a ten-minute, self-described “slow burning tune” that sounds like Moving to Mars from Mylo Xyloto’s B-sides got stretched out. It’s got some very pretty instrumentation once Martin stops listing off things he saw on astronomy headlines, but is also my pick for weakest long Coldplay song. It doesn’t have the universal (heh) pathos and catchy hook of Up & Up, or the emotional core of Everything’s Not Lost from Parachutes. It’s down there with Hypnotised off the Kaleidoscope EP for overstaying its welcome. It isn’t unenjoyable to listen to, but not something I’ll come back to like Up & Up or Everything’s Not Lost.

And, just like that, the album is over. 42 minutes, with 10 of them spent on Coloratura, another 2 spent on intros, and one 4 minute song that is a meaningful but not that exciting instrumental. You’ll see that throughout this album is a lot of references to prior Coldplay songs, and I think that’s ultimately what makes Music of the Spheres the band’s worst album since Parachutes. Every song is good to great, don’t get me wrong, but very little of it is unique. Again, want to be very clear, this album is one of the nine best albums ever released. It just happens to be closer to ninth than first. The half hour of pop energy that is at the core of Music of the Spheres is awesome. There’s some real standout tracks like My Universe, Humankind, and People of the Pride, but it didn’t hook me as quickly as Mylo Xyloto nor A Head Full of Dreams. As I continue to listen to it while playing Super Mario Strikers, it’ll sound better and better, and I recommend you all do the same.

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Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread is the type of game you wish you could forget everything about and play again with no knowledge. It is also the type of game that is perfect for replaying over and over again. How is this possible? Check the name of the game again: Dread.

Metroid Dread - 100% Walkthrough Part 1 (Intro, White EMMI, Boss: Corpius,  Charge Beam) - YouTube

That picture above sums up the atmosphere of the first playthrough of Metroid Dread. You are helpless, alone, and running for your life from something you don’t understand with your only goal being survival. It is oppressive. There are terrifying enemies that will instantly kill you if they detect you, and they were built to detect things. There are numerous signs of previous civilizations in ruins. There is the best sound design I’ve ever seen in a game purposely mixed to instill fear. All you have on your side is an AI that can do nothing to support you except to order you to go from one hostile part of the environment to the next.

My first playthrough of Dread was genuinely the most tense and scared of a game I’ve ever been. Well, except for when I was trying to beat my friends in Mario Party. Every time I entered an EMMI zone, I felt my heart rate shoot up. Every time I put the game down, my heart rate stayed boosted like Samus after using the Speed Booster for at least a couple of minutes. I didn’t notice how hard I was gripping the Joy Cons while playing, but I saw my knuckles were getting white once stopping. The game perfectly builds the atmosphere of dread.

However, 90% of the way through the game, I found myself feeling… very undreadful. I found myself carving through the planet ZDR and not worrying about the enemies as anything but a roadblock. I found myself fighting a miniboss and feeling extremely confident since I had fought him before and had learned the pattern. I found myself feeling unstoppable as I navigated through terrain and locations that once pushed me through cumbersome detours and endless obstacles. I felt strong. And that is the biggest tragedy, and biggest genius, of Dread.

Now that I know that I become strong, the atmosphere of the earlygame is no longer as oppressive. I will no longer grip onto my Joy Con while trying to dash past EMMIs, nor get nervous about fighting a boss I didn’t expect because I have this foreknowledge. And that makes me sad! It is very rare for me to play any sort of scary game. I often play tense games that I want to win, like Super Mario Strikers, but I’m not actively afraid of anything in those games (except for the Super Team; oh god, are they EMMIs?). It is a little sad for me to realize that I will never be quite as tense ever again playing Metroid Dread.

But, if you remember, that is part of what makes Metroid Dread an incredibly good game. Not only does building up to that moment where you feel invincible in your first playthrough feel extremely earned because you’ve run the gauntlet and the game has story moments that reinforce that feeling of strength, but replays of the game will reveal that you were always this capable. This is due to the absolutely perfect controls in Metroid Dread. Samus is fast. She can aim wherever you want. She can destroy a boss in two hits instead of 30 missiles. But you don’t know that on your first playthrough. It takes multiple playthroughs to learn all the hidden tricks and skips that are possible to master Dread completely.

I cannot think of a game released by a AAA gaming studio these past ten years that manages to nail this evolution of game experience. Some games can create a terrifying atmosphere that makes you feel helpless as a character. Some games can create an experience that makes you feel like an unstoppable monster carving your way through things. Few are able to do both in the same game. Metroid Dread is an insanely good game and is able to do both. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone either looking for a very tense time, or for a game with an insanely high skill ceiling that has lots of replayability.

There are a few things I’d like to mention before ending my review. First up, the graphics are beautiful. Some people initially complained that the game being 2D gameplay with 3D graphics instead of 3D gameplay and graphics would immensely limit how it looks. I’m happy to say that the game is breathtaking. Every single room has some detail to it that makes it feel part of the planet, whether it’s a dismantled scientific lab, a breeding nest in the background, or some kind of crashed ship, there’s always something, and it’s great. I’m not a graphics kind of guy, but this game makes graphics worth commenting on. That said, the EMMI labs are very gray, monotone, and boring… when you revisit them looking for items–during the chase sequences, it was very smart thinking of the developers to keep them as uncluttered as possible to let the player focus on escape.

I briefly mentioned the sound design, which is perfect. The EMMI chirps combined with their foreboding and oppressive patrol theme stayed in my brain after I turned the game off. The music is sparse and not very memorable, but it does its job to add to the tense atmosphere. Just don’t expect it to fit when you’re going on item cleanup.

There are a ton of bosses. Most of them are very good and fun to fight. The game has a perfect checkpoint system that will let you retry extremely quickly should you die. And, in your first playthrough, expect to die a ton. Even as you find energy tanks to increase your health, you’ll find yourself dying in a few hits. My only real complaint is that you fight the miniboss a few more times than what feels necessary. Otherwise, all of them are really neat fights that will test your skills. Especially that second boss. They’re also extremely satisfying when you beat them. The final boss took me three tries, and I thought I’d never beat it after my first attempt. Just awesome stuff.

Finally, just my brief thoughts on the game’s length. It can easily be beaten under 8 hours on your first playthrough if you aren’t going for 100%. And if you’re the type of gamer who only views video games as only being worth the amount of hours per dollar you spend on them, that can feel like a ripoff for $60. I can somewhat understand, but you are not really the audience for the game. It is meant to be a short game. It is not possible to keep the intensity for longer than it does. And the game itself knows that based on how it handles the 7th and final EMMI you meet. As all rulers know, there’s only so long that fear can work on someone.

Bottom line, Metroid Dread is a beautiful game in many ways that ends up just being fun. It’s really strange that a game in which I died over 50 times managed to make me feel as strong as it does, or make dying itself fun. But thanks to the extremely generous checkpoints and progression from weakling to strongest thing in the galaxy, it does exactly that. I apologize for the dry video game review, but sometimes you just gotta tell the world that there’s a really good video game out there that you don’t want to miss.

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What Can Spyro 4 Learn From Crash 4?

Longtime readers of Pungry, as in, me, will remember me as someone who is a big fan of the Spyro the Dragon franchise. With Crash Bandicoot making its grand revival with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time last year, the first new mainline game in the series since 1998 if you believe Toys For Bob or the first new game since 2008 if you believe Mind Over Mutant counts, fans of Crash’s PS1 stepbrother have been wondering when the purple dragon will get his next true game. I say “when” and not “if” because the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy was made by the makers of Crash 4, Toys For Bob, and Crash 4 had at least two Spyro references I can think of off the top of my head. That said, Toys For Bob is under the Activision-Blizzard banner which, if you’ve been following their scandals and lawsuits, makes it a lot harder to see a Spyro 4 coming out anytime soon.

But I’m not here to talk about the very serious problems of sexual assault and overwork that video game studios seem to have prevalent troubles with, I’m here to talk about video games as if acknowledging the very real problems with the artists behind this art will let you forget the artists are handsy. Just like how people can still read good ol’ HP Lovecraft despite his cat’s name belying everything that underpins his horror.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time can teach the makers of Spyro 4, who are probably Toys For Bob or some other development studio in that circle like Beenox Entertainment or Vicarious Visions (the teams responsible for the Crash Team Racing remake and Crash N. Sane Trilogy remakes), some pretty important lessons about game design, and I’d like to be the one to point out those lessons. Nearly a year after Crash 4 came out. And well after Spyro 4 had presumably started development. So, you’re welcome, game developers that read this ten years after Spyro 7: Shiela Kicks Sgt. Byrd comes out.

#1: It Can Be Done

I wanted to start this off with a positive since a lot of lessons slant towards the negative. Especially if they’re algebra lessons. Crash 4 is at its core a Crash Bandicoot game like Crash 1-3, and it’s a very good version of them. The controls are more precise than ever. There’s a slight modern update to the core moveset with the double jump being in from the start, but–very smartly–the game is built around the single jump. The level designs are really imaginative and call back old ideas and bring forth new concepts, proving that not every idea was explored in the original Crashes. And the presentation is all-around gorgeous. I played this thing on the Nintendo Switch which is known for terrible performance and worse graphics, but the game looked beautiful, ran at a consistent framerate no matter what, and the loadtimes were bearable. This game has a great visual design that looks like old Crash but prettier, the soundtrack is adequate, and the sound effects are great. I cannot stress this enough: the game is really good. Spyro 4 developers can rest easy knowing that it is possible to revive old video game franchises better than Bomberman: Act Zero.

#2 Know When To Stop

Crash 4’s level design is a great modern update to the original Crash formula… for the most part. See, the thing about the original Crash games was that, in order to fit the 30 levels that Crash 2 and 3 have on the tiny PS1 discs, the levels had to be relatively short. Crash 4 has far too much spare memory per level to allow it to do whatever it wants for however long it wants. And the lack of limits is a big problem with Crash 4 and a very big potential problem for Spyro 4. Crash 4’s levels last forever. Rush Hour is the worst offender, being a ten-minute, super hard marathon where you play as two people that aren’t Crash Bandicoot so you’re not used to their controls, and it just. Doesn’t. End.

But even from the first world, the levels in Crash 4 are already longer than any level in the original Crash trilogy, and that’s a bad thing. The original Crash levels had a smart rhythm to them. They were short enough that any gimmick a level might have would only be there for a couple of minutes or so, and then you moved on once you got used to it. Crash 4’s levels could’ve been split up into multiple smaller levels, and have been far more palatable. The game already kind of does that. See the aforementioned Rush Hour, which could’ve easily been two separate stages that each character does their half of. This might not sound like a bad thing since Crash 4 includes a mode that gives you infinite lives, and all that matters is getting to the end of the stage as far as beating the game goes, but hoo boy, 100%ing Crash 4’s levels is an absolute nightmare. More on that later.

The point is that Spyro 4 needs to make sure it understands what it wants to do with its level design, and to know when to stop with a level’s size. I talked about this a lot in my analysis of A Hero’s Tail. That game had fewer but much larger levels, like an extended cut of Avicii’s single rather than the radio edit played thrice in a row. And that worked as a detriment to the level design. It is far too easy to get lost in A Hero’s Tail’s levels due to their size. I think of the level in the skies and, as much as I love it, the Ice Citadel level as being the worst offenders. Crash 4’s levels are nowhere near as open as Spyro’s levels, but Crash 4 instead demands your concentration to actually execute what the game is asking of you. And keeping up that concentration for those 10+ minutes of a stage (which is only 10 minutes if you don’t die) is extremely demanding. In my opinion, Spyro 4 needs to make a decision right away if it wants large, sprawling levels like A Hero’s Tail, or if it wants a bunch of smaller levels like the old Spyros. But it can’t pick the medium that Crash 4 picked and have too many levels that it thinks are small that are actually way too freaking large.

#3 Don’t Pad The Game

This is very much linked to #2 since larger levels with less in them is a sure sign of padding. But it’s more about Crash 4’s… self-embarrassment at the fact that it’s a $60 game that it tries to do everything it can to give you $60 worth of time spent playing the game. To do this, there’s a lot of unnecessary padding to the game. One of the big draws of the original Crash games was that 100%ing them required a huge amount of skill and replaying the level to find every hidden box, giving the game some nice replayability. Crash 4 already has insanely large levels, so asking the player to find all 440 boxes in Rush Hour is an extremely mean thing to do when the most boxes in the original trilogy you have to break in one level is less than 200. Adding to this, to see the secret ending of Crash 4, you have to break every box and make it to the end of the level without dying. Which is just absolutely terrible because the game is ludicrously hard to get through without dying, and just as hard to find every box (especially the hidden ones), so combining the two as a mandatory thing is a godawful thing.

Another terrible type of padding the game has is NVerted mode, where every level has a mirror mode version of it with some headache-inducing visual filter placed on top as well. It’s really bad, and simply should’ve been cut. No one would’ve missed it. But, again, the game felt like it had to justify being $60, so it decided to add pads as large as the shoulder pads people wore in the 80s. It’s not fun, it’s just tedious. Some people would also argue that the Relic time trials where you go through the stages as fast as possible while breaking boxes that stop the timer is another form of padding, but those were in Crash 3 and make you play the stages in a new way compared to how you methodically and meticulously have to go through them to find every box, so I think they’re fine. I don’t like them, though, and refused to do them.

A disappointing bit of padding comes in the form of the levels with the new characters. Not the new characters themselves, they’re alright (except for Cortex whose moveset I hate). But the fact that they only have half a stage to themselves before you switch to Crash for the second half of the stage which is the second half of a stage you already played before. That’s stupid. Just end the level after the other character is done. Really simple solution. As it stands, the decision just makes you replay segments of the same level over again, and makes you appreciate them less. Like when you replay a chase sequence in the third world where you are in a hamster ball being chased by a terrifying robot car out of Mad Max which is extremely cool the first time, way less impressive the second time.

The actual last piece of replaying padding are Flashback Tapes. In order to collect a tape that unlocks a really cool and difficult 2D platforming level, you have to get through the entire level to the tape without dying. Which is so ridiculously hard to do, especially the last levels where the tape is literally at the end of the level. I spent a good hour+ on each individual level of the final world getting those tapes, and it was not fun. I decided early on that I would only unlock every costume and not go for 100% otherwise. It was mostly the smart move, except for the last few costumes where you had to get all 12 gems (6 from the normal stage, 6 from the NVerted version) on the very hardest levels of the game… I do not ever want to play Toxic Tunnels or the level just before it ever again.

Spyro 4 can really easily avoid making these errors by knowing to rein itself in. If the game is extremely polished and fun for 10 hours and stops there instead of being extremely polished and fun for 10 hours before making you redo those 10 hours again and again until all the fun is sucked away after 80 hours… that’s totally fine! It will have been worth $60 for those 10 fun hours! Not every game needs to be a 100 hour JRPG in length. Just accept that a few people might not buy your game if you market it at $60 and move on. Or market it at $40 like the Spyro Trilogy and move on. It’s totally fine! There’s nothing to be ashamed of!

#4 Know Your Audience

Crash 4 is, obviously, the sequel to Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. However, it is also the “first” Crash game in 20 years. As such, it has two large audiences it is trying to appeal to: the old fanbase of Crash fans who played and beat the original games a bunch of times when they were kids, and a new set of children who will fall in love with the Crash games via Crash 4 and play it to 100% over and over again. I, uh, hate to say this, but Crash 4 completely forgets that it has this younger audience to target, and instead focuses completely on the nostalgic Crash fanboys. This game’s story is filled with nods to old Crash games, which is cute, but lost completely on an old Crash fan. And when the game introduces a new villain, like female NTRopy, it feels extremely weird because the rest of the game is bringing the old back.

I know I just sounded like someone complaining about the food’s quality at a restaurant while having such small portions, but this is important to realize. Crash 4’s story feels weird and disjointed in general with how the cutscenes seem to come at random and are only viewed before and after completing a level, making them impossible to watch on their own. Also, I cannot emphasize this enough, the difficulty of the game is not for children. It’s for people with a lot of platforming experience. This should be no one’s first platformer despite the very appealing cartoony graphics that make Crash 4 seem suitable for anyone. It is difficult simply beating a level. I cannot imagine anyone that hasn’t played a platformer ever making it through Cortex Castle’s final gauntlet, or even getting there, really. Forget 100%ing the game.

Spyro 4 has it easier compared to Crash 4 in this one. The Spyro games have never been difficult to beat. Oh, sure, they have some tough challenges to get to 100%, but nothing in there is that difficult and the game’s atmosphere has been more focused on relaxation than urgency. If Spyro 4 is made with the same level of difficulty as the original trilogy, it’ll please both old and new audiences, whereas Crash 4 felt like it had to be harder than the original trilogy to please the original audiences that are too good at the games.

#5 You Can Acknowledge The Bad (And Should)

As I said earlier, Crash 4 is a bit ashamed of itself in its repetition. But from the title on, the game is ashamed of what it is tied to. It’s like a college student that doesn’t talk about its family nor want to go home for Christmas, only tolerating their grandparents (when they aren’t being racist). Crash 4 goes out of its way to both acknowledge the past and then try to bury it further. There’s minor Easter egg appearances of bosses from the GBA games on posters in the background that don’t get further acknowledgment. When a mask you rescue asks you how many times you’ve beaten Cortex, Coco is very quick to say just four, even though the mask itself knows that it’s happened more times. There’s a literal time-traveling mask, the gameplay hook is that you’re going through time and space to stop Cortex, and it ends with you going back to Cortex’s Castle in 1996 when and where the first game ended… and you never go to any times or locations from anything that isn’t the original trilogy or CTR-inspired.

Gamers are passionate, but easy to win support from. If they hate what has happened to a franchise they once loved, it’s pretty easy to get them to love it again with a game like this. Crash 4’s announcement is the equivalent of a politician saying they’ll bring the country back to its good ol’ days, and gamers eat that stuff up. But I’d be remiss if I said I wasn’t slightly disappointed that Crash Tag Team Racing got no acknowledgment in this game. Yes, yes, the CTR Remake does acknowledge it, but still.

Spyro 4 should acknowledge the absolute insanity that happened to the series after A Hero’s Tail. Give me some random shoutout to Shadow Legacy’s bizarre dungeon-crawling. Give me a cameo of Cynder or Dark Spyro from The Legend of Spyro. Give me a Skylander, whatever the heck that is. I am absolutely encouraging the gamemakers to very openly talk about these times instead of burying them further. They’re not great games, but some people liked them, and they deserve slightly better than a punchline like in Crash 4. It doesn’t have to be much–maybe just pictures of stuff from the games like in Crash 4–as long as it doesn’t come with a pithy one-liner about how much they sucked.

There’s other stuff that Crash 4 might be able to teach Spyro 4, but I can’t think of it. The main points are thus: a new game based on an old franchise that went bad can still be made good, and the resulting game should be unashamed of its past/present status and instead paint a clear future. Thanks 4 (Crash 4 joke) watching.

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Sub-Par League XIX, Week 2, The Chancers Won Four Straight? That Can’t Be Right

Games of the Week

Dr. Doolittle is a cautionary tale (or tail if you’re a groan-inducing comedy writer) about an unmarried man who learns to speak to animals via his parrot, opens a vet clinic, nearly goes bankrupt, steals a ship to travel to Africa to solve a monkey epidemic, gets robbed by pirates on the way back, and is forced to perform in the circus until he’s able to retire some many years later because he was still so poor after the trip. Centralia Corgis’ relief pitcher Sean Doolittle could’ve avoided performing in the circus, but, after blowing a two run lead in the top of the eighth, he might as well be DFC’d now (designated for circus).

Not that it was all Sean’s fault. Sure, he gave up an RBI single to Willie Keeler to make it a 6-5 ballgame, but Craig Kimbrel shares some of the blame for giving up the crushing 2 RBI single to Joe Torre that gave the Spiders a 7-6 lead. A sacrifice fly from Gabby Hartnett that scored Mazus the Merciless gave the Spiders an important insurance run that prevented Stan Musial’s leadoff homerun in the bottom of the ninth from doing more damage than it did. Trevor Hoffman closed the door on the Corgis, and they fell to 2-4 in one-run ballgames. A poor statistic that belies the team’s early bullpen issues.

Former Super League ombudsman and Glass Spiders’ owner FairGame had mixed feelings at his press conference. “It is a tragedy of justice that I should even be down here in the mire of sub-par misery. The ombudsman of the Super League cannot bloom in the dark swamp. A pox on those who have cursed me upon a black star. Mazus the Merciless shall live up to his name and I shall be back above in due time. Mark my words.”

Jampact, the owner of the Centralia Corgis, threatened to withhold future pictures of Hype should her team continue to struggle in one-run games. “Now, I’m not saying that Pungry explicitly has an anti-Cubs bias, but it seems awfully suspicious that my bullpen full of former Cubs is doing so poorly. I’m sure Smasher would love to hear about any possible anti-Cubs commissionering, if such a thing was happening. But I’m sure it isn’t, and these sort of one-run losses will sort themselves out eventually. Or I’ll sort him out,” Jampact said at her press conference, before siccing Hype on the reporters and ending the press conference.

The Oklahoma City Bombers have been in the Super League long enough to know that you cannot trust Rollie Fingers at any time. Going into the ninth, the Bombers had built a 6-2 lead thanks to Joe Williams’ solid 7.0 innings, 1 run start, but Fingers nearly burned it all down. A one-out RBI single from Paul Waner cut the lead to 6-3, then Ted, not Thed, Williams launched a two run homerun with two outs to make it a 6-5 ballgame, and bring up The Final Donslaught with the tying run at the plate. Donslaught worked the count full before striking out to a Fingers’ Frisbee, ending the Horny Goats’ comeback, and giving the Bombers the win.

Mentholmoose, the Bombers’ owner, defended his closer in his post-game interview. “Listen, Rollie has always had everything under his control. Everything he does is carefully calculated. Think back to the Marauder days. The Merry Marauder’s Fingers would purposely blow saves to his alt’s teams so that they could all eventually meet up in the World Series. It’s no different here. No, I’m not saying I’m the alt of Marauder as well. Probably. At least I’m not Mooseontheloose’s alt, as was demonstrably proven when I defeated him in Moose-tal Combat all those years ago. What was I saying? Oh yeah, Bombers 4 life.”

Forzelt’s Horny Goats appeared to have been shaken by the loss, as the team went on to lose every game in a brutal 0-6 week after it started off with this near-comeback. “I’ve never been one for optimism, being born in South Dakota and a part of a triad of ‘friends’ that refuse to pick each other up from the bar. Heck, I fled for Hawaii the first chance I got. The Final Donslaught was the Final Donsl-out today, but he’ll get chances to make up for it,” said Forzelt. “I just hope he does better with these chances than a certain someone out there who I’d like to send through a thresher.”

According to Wikipedia, the only place to learn about what happens in novels on high school required reading lists, Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle ends with the leader of a religion saying that, if he was a younger man, he’d place a book about human stupidity at the top of a nearby mountain and commit suicide while thumbing his nose at God. Well, Monicro is young enough to be able to do that, as their team, the San Lorenzo Bokonists, seemed to purposefully fall one run short of tying the San Juan Senadores in a 12-11 loss. Cal Ripken struck out looking to end the game right after Joe Dimaggio hit a solo homerun to make it a one run ballgame, and oystertoadfish’s Senadores hung on.

“See, you just don’t get it, man,” said Monicro in their postgame interview. “Just think about the themes our team touched on in our performance. Futility in the face of death, self-awareness as to the humor in it all, losing to the impoverished and uncultured island nation of San Juan, and nine players in the lineup a la the ice-nine in Bokono’s mouth. I’m going to get an A this quarter in AP English from Miss Sparks this year simply by showing her the results of this fantasy fantasy baseball simulation. It is truly the most post-modern and intellectual work anyone at Anime High School has ever seen.”

oystertoadfish seemed to have his mind on things other than the game. “I just really hope we can parlay our hot start to a playoff spot in the Sub-Par and earn a rightful promotion to the Super League. In the Australian Football League, you can finish first in your division, and still lose your chance to make the playoffs by finishing third in your quadrant, or twelfth in your circumference,” said the Senadores’ owner. “It’s really quite simple. You need only earn at a tuppence pace every fourthnight in order to take home a playoff spot in the matrix, then continue that pace while beating off other-dimensional foes to win the parallel world ballasts, and once that’s clinched you’ve basically won your kumquat and a championship is soon to follow. Just take a look at this simple flowchart I’ve made highlighting how it all works.”
oystertoadfish then held up said flowchart, which drove most of the reporters in the room to madness, and I dare not attempt to recreate it lest I succumb as well.

Try scoring 19 runs every game instead of just one game.

Babe Ruth refuses to bunt. I think it’s time to get this loser off the bastards of Buntsville.

Some guy named Ken Hill has a 0.00 ERA through 6 innings on a team with a collective ERA of 5.07. That’s wild.

Finally a day off for the overtaxed Corgis. Hype brings some energy, but not sure this team could last much longer without one.

Walter Johnson is killing Pedro Martinez out of spite for not being in the rotation.

That Mazus guy sure knows how to hit homeruns and nothing else.

I may have to adjust the Final Donslaught’s numbers. Rough week.

What a fascinating Jekyll and Hyde team. Everyone else in the sub-par loves some one-run games, but these guys just play blowouts!

If you go 4-2 for the entire season, you’ll probably win the league.

I know the pain of having 3 players hitting under .170 in the starting lineup, as a Mariners fan.

Beet takes round one of the veteran super league owner grudge match.

6-0 in one-run games and a 5-7 pythag probably means regression eventually but ride the wave while you’re on it. Team of destiny?

The cat’s in the cradle with a silver spoon / Monicro ought to call up Bobby Abreu

That Speaker injury is unfortunate considering he’s hitting at an MVP level, and Cy Young candidate Jim McCormick can only pitch every five days.

Jesus Christ, Mickey Cochrane. Single-handedly carrying this team.

Four game win streak! Heck yeah.

You’ve tried outscoring your pitching, but have you tried outscoring them more? Going to be hard with Cochrane out.

Stan Musial freaking sucks compared to Cochrane! Get your act together! You think a .453 OBP is going to save the stick club?

This team does not fear the reaper of never scoring runs, that’s for sure.

When every player on your lineup has an OBP over .320, you’re doing something right.

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Subpar Season XIX, Week 1, Pungry’s Small Adventure

Editor’s Note: After some ten-odd years of hanging out as part of a fantasy fantasy baseball league, I have taken on a pretty major role as the commissioner of the league below it. This duty takes a lot of energy if you want to do everything the main commissioner does. It requires tons of mindless busywork setting up the save file on Baseball Mogul, plenty of patience to read every post from every owner who wants to change who their #9 hitter is, and an incredible amount of creative energy to write about what happened in a baseball simulator that has very little to show instead of tell. It will be taking all my focus for the next month and a half to put together, with updates every other day.

As such, I’ll be cross-posting my updates over here, since all of my writing will be going into that. Feel free to ignore it like everything else. In the interest of space, I’ve omitted most screenshots, and have only posted how the ones showing how the teams did.



The Seventh Sea Chancers were… how you say… “bad” in the Expansion Cup. Beating a division contender after losing 128 games in the expansion cup would’ve been a huge victory for Ablative’s new-look Chancers. So, going into the ninth, up 2 to 1 with the bottom of Winnipeg’s lineup due up, Ablative turned to solid-but-forgotten Ray Herbert to shut the door. Herbert rolled a 1.

Roberto Clemente hit a one-out single to start the rally off, and scored on a Robinson Cano triple, which you know is a bad sign. Wade Boggs hit a ground ball to shortstop Lou Boudreau, who decided that Cano’s speed was too much, and Boudreau threw to first instead of home, letting Cano score the winning run. Tom Daly hit a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Chancers some life, but Pete Rose immediately grounded out to end the game.

“Yeehaw! It’s time for y’all to fly that Canadian W, pardners!” said Winnipeg Baseball Team’s owner, Edward Mass. “Now, I know what most folks are thinkin’. What’s this Texan doing with a Canadian team? Well, I’ll tell ya one thing, cowboy: we ain’t movin’. This ain’t the Expos, son! All the cattle I need are already here in Winnipeg giving the finest Canadian bacon in the Americas! Just don’t you pay no mind to the low-effort redesign of the team’s logo and name—the Nordiques made a big show of a new logo and proved to be all hat. Not like us Winnipeg Baseball Teamers… we’re sticking in the True North just like the stars.”

Chancer owner Ablative was nonplussed by the loss. “What is but one more loss on this journey we call life other than another stepping stone to its conclusion? As we roll through our lives, one D20 roll after the other, there will be times we roll twenties, and there will be times we roll ones, but is it not the best course of action to roll with the punches instead? I expect my team’s luck to turn around sometime. Ideally before it loses another 128 games.”


American hero CBX’s new team exploded for ten runs on nine hits in the third, and sent fifteen men to the plate in the process. But Sneki Sneks’ starter Pedro Martinez almost single-handedly gave the game back to the South Dakota Marmosets over the course of the next three innings, exiting the game with a 12-10 lead. Willie Hernandez gave up another run, but John Wetteland shut the door with a four-out save, giving the Sneki Sneks a big win over a Twin Cities Triad titan.

“What a heckin chonker of a won!” said CBX. “Pedro was doin me a frighten as he borked the Marmos right into mlem range of my Sneki Sneks, but Wetty booped the Marmo’s snoot for teh win!” When asked why he kept Martinez in the game through six innings despite giving up ten runs (six earned) in that timeframe, CBX responded “Martinez is a longboi. How could you look into that floofer’s face and tell him ‘no’? He just wants to be fren.”

Marmosets’ owner Zodiac5000 expressed sadness in his post-game interview. “It’s times like these that prove that we’re all just going to die alone in the end. Nothing really matters. Pash will never pick me up from the bar that is life. I am doomed to die alone, and I don’t even have Chelsea Baker to kill me anymore.” A reporter pointed out that Zodiac could always ask for The Final Donslaught to do the honors. “Donslaught? Pah. Do you know why he’s The Final Donslaught? It’s not because he’s strong. It’s because he’s too weak to survive. He is the last man in the noble Donslaught lineage. He should have oodles of women throwing themselves at him. Instead, Kelsie Whitmore is throwing softballs at him. Pathetic man.”


Albert Pujols made up for ending the Stick Club’s eighth-inning rally by driving home Dan Brouthers in the bottom of the tenth to beat the Milan Mosquitoes 4-3. Mosquito reliever Stan Covelski took the loss after throwing 44 pitches in 2 innings of work while real baseballer that everyone loves, Tom Burgmeier, got the win for his scoreless inning of work in the tenth.

Mosquitoes’ owner GVOLTT was not amused by the loss. “How can this team be allowed to play without a name? Winnipeg Baseball Team is already stretching the idea of a team name, and you expect me to believe something called ‘Stick Club Appellation Hither’ can fly? That name can’t even fit inside of Mogul’s character limits! They’re ‘Stick Club Appellation Hith’! I’ll refer to this band of losers as the ‘Hiths’ from now on.” said GVOLTT. “And for those of you doubting whether there are mosquitoes in Milan or not, I’ll have you know there’s over 500,000 results for ‘milan mosquitoes’ on Google. Not that I’d ever go to godless Italy to check.”

Hiths owner TheoSqua reportedly showed up for his post-game interview, but all that was in the press conference chair was a baseball bat with a face drawn on it. Press were instructed that all questions be directed to “El Shaddai” who kept the same look of slight self-satisfaction in silence as reporters asked question after question about Stick Club’s logo, origins, lineups, and connection to God. The press conference ended as reporters walked out in frustration while Shaddai kept his all-knowing look.

Small sample size theatre, but perhaps try getting more Bs in the bullpen instead of Cs as they lead to Ls.

Splitting a series with the Bombers has to feel good, even if it may not feel great that Rheal Deal Cornier couldn’t close one of those one-run losses out.

Unsurprisingly, this team’s offense does not appear to be what’ll hold them back. Stolen base leader Babe Ruth might.

The Hype Machine off to a strong start.

Pegasus Knight Eddie Plank keeps getting sniped by arrows because you refuse to move him out of range of the ballista. Why? Why do you do this to one-thirds the
Golden Deer triangle attack?

Trashcan functionality has finally been added to mogul, it appears.

Grantham sacrificed himself to counteract the usual blood magik from the Dragons. It led to a 4 game sweep, so it wasn’t in vain.

Small sample size but it feels comforting to see anyone with a worse slashline than Jarred Kelenic, 2021 Mariner.

Mickey Mantle and Rod Carew sure have some wacky slashlines this early for completely opposite reasons.

George Sisler’s plague has found its way onto half your starting lineup. Unfortunate, but what else do you expect to happen to a team called the Mosquitoes?

Four out of seven games decided by one run. This team will give its fans heart attacks.

Everyone in the Super League agrees: it’s time to put Ichiro in at 2B for Lou Whitaker.

No, seriously, what is a bokonononononist? Is there a Gwen Stefani song that’ll help me learn how to spell it?

At least Gehringer is killing the heck out of the baseball?

Solid start. Gonna be fun to see how the Adelie division separates itself out.

It will be very hard to win games scoring 1.5 runs per game. But, hey, pitching and defense looks good!

I’m very glad it’s Kelsie Whitmore and not Chelsea Baker on this team these days. She would absolutely kill everyone with this level of pitching.

Hither and thither this team comes and goes. Stan Musial off to a great start.

This team got a little unlucky this week. Low-event baseball can be effective if your events are stronger than your opponents, so I recommend hitting more homeruns.

Raise the W!

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Coldplay’s Coloratura Annotated

Coldplay’s latest single from their upcoming album, Music of the Spheres, is a ten minute and forty-seven second epic space rock opera piece titled Coloratura. It is by far the longest song ever released by the band, and features as many literary references as fellow Brit T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. However, unlike that pompous nonsense, the literary references in Coldplay’s opus are quite distinguished and, dare I say it, luminary in comparison to that gutter trash. But, enough about The Stupid Eliot, I’ll go through every line in the song that contains an allusion (usually a name) and explain just what exactly they’re alluding to!

Coloratura, the title of the song and very first lyric, is a classical music term that refers to elaborate melodies that feature virtuoso movements like trills and runs. It also refers to an opera singing style that mirrors that type of instrumentation. That said, Coldplay has used the word in a completely different way–Coloratura is a “place” rather than a music in this soundscape. The place we’ve dreamed about in Coldplay’s The Escapist, for instance. Oh, but if I talk about all the allusions to past Coldplay songs that Coloratura has, we’d be here forever. Let’s skip to the first batch of namedrops in the chorus!

Galileo and those pining for the moon

Galileo is the name of a character from Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color. In that game, you play as a nameless character that befriends a set of orphan twins, Taro and Zoe. From them, you learn that their father, Galileo, was one of the best Doodlers in the world and left the society your character’s from in order to escape the corrupt king that’s been enforcing Doodlers to work for him. Through your long quest in this bright and cheery world, you eventually come to find out that Galileo passed away. You never quite learn how he died, but it’s safe to assume that this Galileo pined for a better world–one where the colors of the moon could shine through. Coldplay too joins in wishing for that moon as well with Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color, and continues to name drop others that wish for that moon.

Through Pioneer

Star Citizen is a game that may never, ever, ever come out. It is the most ambitious space exploration simulator ever devised, and all of the budget is spent on creating things to supplement the game, rather than the game itself. Once such example of this is the Pioneer capital ship. It is designed to be an effective “pioneer” spaceship in the same way carriages were pioneer wagons of the Oregon Trail. The literal design of it has been sold for $850 according to the Star Citizen Wiki. For a fake spaceship in a video game that will never be made. Pioneer is pining for the moon, a home to exist. But Star Citizen refuses to come out.

and Hеlix

Helix is a playable boxer in ARMS. Helix was created by scientists as an experiment to prove the merit of the scientists’ research, which is always a great sign. “How do we know their science is good?” “Because they did science to prove they were good!” Dr. Coyle, the lead on the project, felt that Helix was a failure for breaking out of the test tube too early, and Helix (which is a self-conscious bipedal pile of green goo with a mouth that has lips and teeth) wants to prove Coyle wrong, and that it is a success. Perhaps trying to show that Galileo might have already made it to the moon all along.


I’m not sure if the lyrics site, or Coldplay got this wrong, but it’s spelled ‘Oumuamua, and begins with the symbol ‘okina from the Hawaiian language. ‘Oumuamua is the first interstellar object ever to make it into our solar system. No one really knows its origin. Whether it’s an alien probe, or just a random piece of rock (far more likely), the solitary comet is also pining for its moon. Pretty cool reference of Coldplay to drop. I know I didn’t of it when the discovery of the object happened on 10/19/2017.


Heliopause isn’t a thing in the same way the other things Coldplay have referenced are things. The heliopause is the theoretical boundary where the sun’s solar wind is stopped by interstellar medium. It’s just a theory… a game theory. That said, one of NASA’s Voyager’s probes did appear to cross through the heliosphere somewhere around 2012-3, but it couldn’t stop. The heliosphere would never pine for a moon because it is just a space. Specifically, a space revolving around the sun. Far away from moons. Come on, Coldplay. You just said that to sound smart.


Neptune is the main character of Hyperdimension Neptunia, a game series in which you play as anime human versions of morally good video game consoles that attempt to save their various worlds and dimensions from morally evil video game consoles by flying around and shooting them. It is as weird and creepy as it sounds, and I do not appreciate Coldplay giving the series such a major shoutout. Even if it is on brand for Neptune to pine for a moon without evil video game consoles like the SNES.

Through Voyager,

We mentioned a Voyager on this list already, but Coldplay’s talking about the cancelled video game titled Voyager. Based on the TV show, Star Trek: Voyager, the game was to be a classic 90’s PC FMV adventure game featuring the main cast from the TV show. But Viacom decided to leave the games industry so that they could get bought by Comcast or whatever, and the game makers founded the company that eventually developed Bioshock Infinite and prove that video games were art once and for all. Coldplay wanted to give a shoutout to those disgruntled layoffs for finding their moon, and exposing gamers’ ignorance when they thought that a reference in Bioshock Infinite to the Battle of Wounded Knee was an epic reference to Skyrim. You guys did god’s work.


The Callisto Protocol is the name of an upcoming survival horror video game. Coldplay feels like the band whose music would least resonate with the survival horror but this seems like an obvious hint that Chris Martin and company will be producing the score for the game. The Police’s drummer, Stewart Copeland, proved that great musicians are great musicians, no matter if they’re making music in a band or for a video game, so I’m excited.


Calliope Games is a traditional board game maker that’s most well-known for the board game Tsuro. Coldplay are well-known as avid gamers, so it’s no surprise they’d shout out one of their favorite game makers in the middle of a song. The goal of Tsuro is to extend your set of tiles further than anyone else, and the tiles can easily be revised from a dragon’s body to an astronaut’s rope as said astronaut pines for that moon.


Betelgeuse is, surprise, surprise, an indie game on Steam that was released last year. This simple block-rolling puzzler must’ve struck a chord for the band as they struggled through COVID. One set of puzzles in the game involves pushing four square rocks at the same time with all of them moving through the grid the same way. That symbolizes what Coldplay felt as a band of four, pushing through COVID together while apart–in lockstep and choreograph, if not together. Anyway, all the small rocks you push are actually part of a moon and who cares who’s reading this

the Neon Moons

Neon Moon is the name of a single by country band Brooks & Dunn. It’s a classic country song about the singer’s loved one leaving them, and how everything reminds them of their ex, and that they spend every night unable to do anything but wait for them to come back. You know the type. Yes, it’s weird of Coldplay to say that the neon moons are pining for their own moons, but: 1. moons can have moons of their own 2. mayhaps it is one neon moon pining for another neon moon and their online dating app preferences have them looking too closely for them to find each other… what a tragedy.

Pluribus unum

Pluribus Unum is a Latin phrase you might’ve heard before as “E pluribus unum”, the United States’ motto. Pluribus unum can be translated as either “number one” or the far more common “out of many, one”. Coldplay is obviously referring to themselves as “number one” with this lyric, and if it was any band other than Coldplay, I’d give them a hard time for it. But Coldplay is truly “pluribus unum”. Which might be lonely for them, and why they too pine for a moon to be their number two.

unus mundus

And lastly, another Latin phrase. Unus mundus is Latin for “one world”. Coldplay has long been dogged by comparisons to U2. It is here that they cheekily reference their major influence by quoting U2’s “One” in Latin. Perchance Coldplay considers themselves the moon that circles U2? But to me, the world is coldplayocentric rather than u2ocentric. And that’s why they call me Galileo.

Thanks for reading. Look forward to Coldplay’s new album, Music of the Spheres, releasing in October this year. I hope you learned something, and that you’re as excited about it as I am. If you are, you may be the moon I’ve been pining for all along.

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Life is like a Freaking Videogame… But Without Any Save Points!

Pungry Industries has been fortunate to receive a small part of the script to an upcoming Netflix special by internet celebrity “Johnny Junkland”. Junkland credits this blog with his sense of humor that led him to 10 million Youtube subscribers. Below is the excerpt from the special titled “Life Is Like A Freaking Videogame”, published in full with his blessing.

Folks, I noticed that I accidentally shrunk my nicest pants in the dryer the other day, so I had to go and get some new pants because I’m going to a wedding in August. Now, to get pants, where does one go? Well, if life was anything like a videogame, you’d go to the armor store to get some new dang pants! Am I right? *Pause for laughter* But seriously folks, I was thinking this to myself as I walked over to the Pants Store, your one-stop-shop-for-slacks, that life is like a freaking videogame.

Now, now, now, hear me out. I know there are some slight differences between life and videogames. For one, if life was a videogame, you better believe I’d spent more time on my created character! I mean, have you seen my zits? Take a look at this epic fail over here, yiiiiikes! *Point to zits, wait for laughter*

The biggest difference between life and videogames, though? It ain’t the lack of armor stores. Nor is it your inability to choose your looks at birth. It’s the lack of freaking save points! You like that? You! Like! That! For those, erm, “normies” in the chat (*aside, whispered* that’s what we call newbs who don’t play videogames), a save point is a point that lets you save your progress you’ve made in your game. If real life had save points, you better believe that I’d have saved before drying my nicest jeans and shrinking them skinnier than Aaron Carter’s skinny jeans. What year is it? *buzzer, wait for laughter*

The real problem with real life having save points that would allow people to rewind time would be how everyone simultaneously would be trying to turn back time to the good ol’ days when momma sang us to sleep. Human society would never move forward a single second because someone would want to do over the previous second in which they either got stuffed in a locker, got rejected in their marriage proposal, or had a heated gamer moment while playing League and called someone a racial slur. Who can relate? *Wait for “woo” response from crowd, pause for laughter*

I really want to reiterate just how crazy an idea the save point is when applied to real life. Philosophers have spoken for eons about time travel and time traveler’s wives, but the save point is a slight wrinkle on the concept that doesn’t have a close analogue to any of the classic allegories. Like, think if the people in Plato’s cave had made a save point before walking out of there. Or think whether the Ship of Theseus is still the Ship of Theseus after you go back to a save point before all the parts were replaced. Or think about that time you said “Kefkaesque” instead of “Kafkaesque” in your English lit class, and the cute girl you liked in that class and was trying to impress hated Final Fantasy VI and never spoke to you again and you’d like nothing more than to quick load. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt! *Pause for laughter*

Point is, life may not have any save points, but maybe it’s better this way. Like I said, human society would not advance a single second into the future once the save point is invented. Because unlike a lot of fictional time travel plot devices, the save point can only take you back. You can’t pull a Chrono Trigger and go to the End of Time with a frog, a robot, and a mute swordsman to stop climate change when you use a save point. You can only go back. I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that life may be a freaking video game, but every decision you make is a point of no return, because there are no save points. And I’d really like it if you all stopped taking that for granted instead of thinking “I should conserve this Megalixer in case I need it later”. Because that’s just a theory. A game theory. And life… is the ultimate video game.

With the most realistic physics like pants that shrink in the dryer. Take a look at this epic fail over here, yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes! *Point at shrunk pants that you’ve been wearing all along*

This is where Johnny’s excerpt ends. Look forward to his special “Life is a Freaking Videogame” when it releases July 4th on the international gamer holiday. Pungry Industries accepts no credit for the terrible humor Junkland developed after reading our publications.

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