Thursday, November 29, 2012

Campfire Morals - Bus Shenanigans

The Story
In the summer of 2004, I went on a week-long trip with several people in my youth group to Cummings, Georgia.  This was part of an on-shore mission trip to assist a church with their Vacation Bible School.  This still stands as one of the greatest trips that I have ever had the pleasure of going on, but of course any good story will have its humorous misfortunes.  If you know anything about me, my life is generally full of those sorts of circumstances and I am pleased to inform you that this trip doesn’t disappoint.

Normally on these types of trips with the youth group, we were told to leave our cell phones behind.  Being the reprobate I am, I promptly packed my phone and charger first thing.  In my defense I always like to be overly prepared when going on trips and I dislike having to rely on others to transport me or deal with things that I should easily be able to take care of myself.  So it was more the survivalist instinct in me that packed that cell phone.  So we all met at the church and continued down to Georgia where we split into our separate housing; girls in the pastor’s basement, and guys in the assistant pastor’s living room.  It was from there our adventure started.

The church had been preparing the community for this VBS (Vacation Bible School) but we were the final kicker.  Every day we went out canvassing the town to invite kids to join the church that night and that the bus would pick them up from their house and bring them back.  Now there were a few buses going in different directions all over the community.  In fact, the church had enough buses that one of them wasn’t even in use because it wasn't necessary.  After canvassing was over, we all got on various buses with the drivers to pick up the kids and take them home after VBS.  We did this every day then once VBS started, we either helped run the show or we did odd jobs around the church. One such odd job was cleaning up that bus they didn’t use.  In fact, it hadn’t been used in over a year!  It was in need of a good cleaning and to be run because it had sat on the concrete so long that there were indentations in the ground from the tires.

However it was the final Friday night that the humorous misfortunes began.  VBS was coming to a close and it was a very successful time with children accepting Jesus as their savior.  Apparently my youth pastor had instructed us that we were not supposed to get on the buses this night.  We were supposed to stay behind and clean up the church gathering all the things we had brought so that we could leave first thing in the morning.  I didn’t hear this as I stumbled out of the church and hopped on a bus with not only one of the teens from that church that I really enjoyed spending time with, but also one of the kids who had gotten saved early in the week who liked picking on me, so I knew it was gonna be a fun ride.

The bus had close to thirty some kids on it to begin with and one by one we dropped them off at their houses.  It was after dark and around the time that the bus driver was explaining that we were headed into the “bad neighborhood” that lo and behold the bus breaks down right beside a very sketchy area.  We tried several times to get the bus to start back up but with no luck.  The bus driver had no cell phone neither did anyone else on the entire bus with the exception of me.  I handed my phone to the bus driver who called the assistant pastor.  He got someone to hop in the bus that we had cleaned earlier that week and went to the rescue.  It was a great thing that we were able to get it cleaned up and ready to be driven.

Unfortunately leaving a bus sitting in one spot for a year does things to the tires.  As he pulled into the school parking lot across the street from where our bus was sitting, POW!  What sounded like a massive explosion rang through the community as the tires on that bus burst.  I literally couldn’t contain my laughter at this point.  Here we were in a bad neighborhood with close to 23 kids with two broken down buses.   At this point we were approaching 45 minutes of being past the time we told parents we would be there so one by one the kids called their homes using my cell phone to inform their parents of what was going on.   Eventually the assistant pastor showed up in their large passenger van to cart around all 23 of us to where we needed to go. 

The Moral
If there was ever a time that I felt God’s hand guiding my actions and putting me in the right place at the right time it was on that trip during that bus ride.  I mean let’s just look at all of the facts about this story.  What are the chances that I would not only pack my cell phone but have it with me at the time that I so randomly picked the one bus which so happened to break down and have no means of communication to the church or families if I hadn’t been on there.  That's too many things lining up to be an accident.  I believe that God placed me on that bus, and if he didn’t prompt me to pack my phone, He certainly used it to His glory!

So what can YOU get out of this story?  Well I’d like to bring up Romans 8:28 which says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  I’m sure there are situations whether they are big or seemingly insignificant where you are facing difficulty.  It may be something where you look up to heaven and ask “Why, God, Why?”  In our limited human minds we often times cannot see how good things can come from bad situations or we question how God could have allowed something to happen.

I fully believe in Romans 8:28.  All things, even terrible circumstances, eventually turn into something grand in the large scale of your life or even the world.  People have grown closer to their family or to God only because of illness.  People have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus only because of a death.  If a door of opportunity slams in your face it’s because there’s something else you’re supposed to do that will shape who you are even more so than what you had in mind.

I think of a friend of mine in Hawaii.  His life is riddled with hardships and disappointment, but because of that he is in the opportune place to be sympathetic to others and help them through their hard times because he knows their pain.  Similar with myself, I can use the gospel and my own experiences with divorce to talk to others about relationships with younger people.  Every hardship I have ever endured was bad in one way or another, but honestly I’m glad for them.  Each mistake, each malicious event helps mold me into who I am and allows me to help someone else and glorify Christ in the process. 

So if something is going on in your life that you don’t understand or you are having difficulty in, take comfort in knowing that not only is this temporary, but it’s there for a purpose even if we never know what that purpose is till we reach our Heavenly home.  God will put you right where you need to be and at the right time.

And to end this week's Campfire Moral, we have a message from my old youth pastor


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ghost's Angry Reviews - Top 10 Pokémon I Love That Everyone Hates

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

................… I like Pokémon.

Yeah I’m pretty sure if you’ve been reading my reviews or after seeing those pictures you’re saying “NO KIDDING.”  Yes I fully accept how nerdy it is to be 26 years old and still playing pokémon.  How can I help it though?  Pokémon Red was the very first game that I ever bought with my own money.  I remember trying to decide all day at school if I wanted red or blue and couldn’t wait till school was out so my grandmother could take me to K-Mart to get the game.  It didn’t disappoint and it has stayed so strong that I am always looking forward to the new main installments and I’m not ashamed of that fact in the least, but if you don’t like it...

There are three different kinds of pokémon fans in my mind.  There are the casual players who just muddle around with a game or two every now and then, there is the tourney enthusiast who only likes a few pokémon with pre-determined movesets that worship Smogon as the ultimate authority on all things pokémon, and the “true” fan that plays often and loves both the good and the bad about them.

I happen to believe myself in the last category and it is that time of the year that I expose myself as a very lame pokémon fan because of the pokémon I actually do like despite so many people agreeing that they are terrible.  This is…
10. Basculin
The last thing that pokémon fans around the world needed was another pure water type fish that appears all over the region with the frequency of a magikarp, but that’s exactly what we got.  You can pretty much fish or surf anywhere and you’ll run into one of these bad boys.  Basculin does have one thing other standard fish don’t… two forms!  It has a red form and a blue form that might have a slightly different ability that either prevents recoil damage or increases the damage those with recoil do.  So… pretty much useless forms

I had originally written this one as another worthless pokémon like Luvdisc, but I started really looking at what he can do.  This guy gets Adaptability which means that all water type moves do 2X more damage by default even if the opponent isn’t weak against water.  It also has 95 base attack which isn’t necessarily spectacular but with 90 base attack Aqua Tail using this attack power and having Adaptability he can really pack a punch.  I really do like this pokémon but then again maybe it’s just my redneck roots and the fact that it’s a bass.

9. Smoochum
Baby Pokémon suck!  The ones that require special ways to attain the baby form to fill up the pokédex or ones that need to have friendship to evolve are the most annoying because they are usually extremely weak and only there as an exploit of the mechanics for breeding.  For the simple fact of how annoyingly pointless baby pokémon are (except togepi) I can understand why people hate Smoochum.  Not only to mention it’s typing makes it weak to many things and it’s the baby form of Jynx, a pokémon that not many people liked to begin with be it for typing, stats, or the whole “stereotype” thing
Despite all that I just can’t bring up hatred for the little thing.  I personally love the unique typing even though it makes it susceptible to many types of attack it’s something different from the norm.  Smoochum is also one of those pokémon that I can look at and completely ignore its evolution (similar to Lickitung) and be perfectly happy.  You don’t have to have the bad memory of Jynx to ruin this little thing.  Plus it’s just cute and that’s enough for me to like it.  It also doesn’t hurt that a friend of mine absolutely loves this pokémon and has convinced me to downgrade my hate for it to the point that I actually like it. 

8. Raticate 
…the rat.  You cannot consider yourself any sort of pokémon fan if you don’t know this creature and especially it’s ever annoying previous form, Rattata.  This pokémon line holds a great amount of nostalgia for fans because for many of us this was the first wild pokémon we ever ran into and thought “aww yeah a rat this could be awesome!”  …but of course it was anything but.  Rattata were everywhere, the move pool wasn’t necessarily glorious, and it just became a vehicle for Team Rocket to abuse giving you ample Mankey training.  Not only to mention that it was far outclassed even in its own original generation by the likes of Lickitung, Kangaskhan, Tauros, and Snorlax.  It started the trend of truly worthless normal types on the first route you get to. I thought there was no redeeming quality in this creature till the Gen 4 remake of Gold and Silver and one gym leader in particular.
That’s right, Morty’s gym in Heart Gold/Soul Silver is what made me love this little rat.  Morty of course is the ghost type fourth gym leader of Johto.  He has a gastly, two haunters, and a gengar ranging from level 21 to 25.  This is important because at those levels the only non-ghost type move they would know that does actual damage is sucker punch which is effective but not a whole lot since it’s a physical attack and these ghosts are special attackers.  This sucker punch could obliterate a psychic type so what do you use?  Raticate of course!  Why raticate?  It learns bite at level 10 and it learns the very powerful Crunch at only level 24.  So if you slightly over train your raticate you can walk through his entire gym crunching and biting away and the only attack they can even try to hit you with is Sucker Punch which won’t do much damage at all.  Sure it’s only one real use for one gym but it’s enough to make me respect the mouse!

UPDATE: With pokemon Sun and Moon Raticate has been given a little more spotlight with him being the first Moon Totem and a dark type now.  However I still love the original for the reasons I mentioned above.

7. Elgyem
I’m not really sure if Elgyem is considered a hated pokémon so much as he is a completely overlooked pokémon.  It’s completely overshadowed in pretty much all aspects within the confines of the new Gen 5 pokemon alone much less any previous versions.  Victini, Musharna, and Reuniclus outshine it in statistics.  Swoobat and Gothitelle outshine it in levels of people despising them, and Sigilyph gives people far more of a “WTF” reaction when they see it.   It’s just so incredibly average that it kind of sinks into Hypno levels of forgettable just due to its very average stats, very average move pool, and very average look.

However the science fiction nerd in me is screaming of love for this pokémon.  This is something I think we really needed; a true alien pokémon to have around.  Sure Clefairy were supposed to come from the moon and Deoxys was from space but nothing looked like a real alien and this is a stereotypical gray alien in cuddly form.  Also of note while its stats aren’t the best, it has the same base special attack stat as Reuniclus at 125 (which is higher than Victini).  It is also the only pokémon that naturally knows the ability Telepathy, which prevents it from taking damage from its team mates in double or triple battles.  It’s a very useful and really neat little guy that needs more attention.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t have to cross dress to get that attention.

6. Delibird
Where to start on this guy… Delibird is one of the most notoriously hated pokémon in all of history.  His stats are atrociously low which is fine for a first stage pokémon but he does not evolve.  He is also an Ice/Flying type pokémon which admittedly we only have one other, but unfortunately that one other is the legendary Articuno.  When comparing to that awesome bird it makes Delibird look even worse!  What’s more is that he naturally only learns one move, Present.  This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that present sometimes hurts the enemy, sometimes heals the enemy and sometimes hurts you.  No way of knowing what it’s going to do.  Also in the original gold and silver, catching one to fill out the pokédex was terrible because it was the only wild pokémon outside of the safari zone which could run away in the middle of battle.  It’s abilities that it gained over the years of game development don’t help it a bit either other than making sure it doesn’t fall asleep or making sure it’s faster but less accurate.  There have been no real improvements to make this guy usable.

But yet I absolutely love this pokémon.  It’s really hard for me to justify loving this little guy.  There is SO MUCH against him that it really makes him pretty much unusable outside of in-game with technical machines added at level 100.  However there’s just something about his cheerful little penguin face that makes me love him.  
How can you say no to that face? 

I love the concept of this little guy.   The fact that naturally the only he does is give out presents that might hurt or might heal you have no way of knowing.  It’s a gambit as to what’s going on and you just have to hope luck is on your side.  He’s a nice little oddity and I love the fact that he’s around for us to enjoy.   Plus I like how he’s effectively the pokémon equivalent of Santa Claus.  HECK in the anime, Santa Claus actually owns one, and that’s pretty boss!

5. Stunfisk 
People hated him from the second they saw him.  They took one look at the design of this guy and just checked out.  Those that waited to see him in-game were turned off by the weird goofy grin he has in his animation.  It’s also really odd to have a fish pokémon that’s not water type at all.  In fact, it’s weak against water which is where you find him.  So logically that makes no sense because he would be hurting in his own environment.

I don’t have much bad to say about this guy because people judged the book by its cover way before they should have.  People harped on his design but have they ever actually seen a flounder?

A founder has both its eyes on one side of its body and it also has that really goofy mouth.  It’s a fairly good representative of what a flounder is.  The typing makes sense somewhat because we don’t need another water/ground type and the ground is fitting because flounder bury themselves in the dirt underwater.  The Ground/Electric type is very unique and I love things that are oddities.  His stats aren’t spectacular but they are good enough to actually be used.  He gets the Static ability which is helpful because he has worse defense than he does special defense so people are more likely to hit him with a physical attack and potentially get paralyzed from it.  His move pool is also very versatile including Ground, Electric, Flying, Water, Normal, and Fighting type moves naturally.   He really isn’t that bad of a pokémon and I enjoy having him even if his cry sounds like a juicy fart.

4. Sunflora 
Sunflora’s problems actually start at its previous stage, Sunkern.  It’s nothing more than a seed with a face.  It has the lowest stats of any single pokémon in the entire game; even Magikarp and Caterpie have higher stats than this thing.  It only evolves when exposed to a Sun Stone, and even when it does, evolve into Sunflora, its stats don’t improve too much.  Its speed stat stays the same as that of Sunkern.  It has a decent special attack but that’s about it.  Both of the abilities that it can learn enhance it when exposed to bright sunlight; namely its speed increases or its special attack increases at the risk of its health.  This wouldn’t be a problem except that it’s a mono-grass type which is weak to fire… which gets a boost in the sunlight.  Due to all this even in Gen 2 when this came out it was overshadowed by the likes of Meganium and Bellossom.  Now, it’s even worse with pokémon like Leafeon in the mix, there is no need to use Sunflora for a mono-grass type

It does have a lot wrong with it, but there’s just something charming about this pokémon.  The fact that there is a consistent sun theme, with it being a sunflower, evolving via the sun stone, abilities boost it in the sun, it learns Sunny Day.  It’s all very thematic and I can appreciate that.  There’s also something about its cry that makes it seem sad when people say how awful he is.  I honestly don’t know why I love this pokémon; it’s the one I understand the least, but it’s one of my little favorites that I always enjoy getting each generation.

3. Farfetch’d
Farfetch’d is one of those where you have to ask exactly why it existed to begin with.  In the original game there was only one that you could only obtain via trade and even in the first generation it wasn’t unique; we already had the Pidgey line, the spearow line, and the doduo line.  Normal/Flying type wasn’t unique then and it’s sure not unique now in 5th generation.   It has the most abysmal stats for its typing as it has the lowest overall stats of any final form or non-evolving Normal/Flying type.  It’s even overshadowed by Chatot.  It didn’t really need to be included to begin with, and it certainly shows its downfall now.

Despite its abysmal stats, I really do love the fact that this little guy was included.  For me the novelty of him in the original games was cause enough for his inclusion. 
He is also just a standard duck who honestly is designed a whole lot better than ducklett could ever think about being.  His move pool is also semi-diverse.  He can learn poison, bug, normal, flying, and dark moves naturally, not to mention fire, grass and fighting moves by egg and move tutor.  He’s something cool to have around especially once he knows false swipe, and he always brings a smile to my face.

2. Mawile
Update: This was written prior to Gen 6 and the Fairy typing.  Mawile is no longer an ignored or hated pokemon.... but I loved it before it became Fairy.
What the heck is this thing?  It looks like some sort of elf with parachute pants pretending to be a crocodile.  Looks like some sort of Dark type right? NOPE!  Pure steel type!  How can this be a steel type pokémon when there’s nothing even slightly metallic about him?  His stats are nothing to write home about in any fashion and he only learns one steel type attack (that’s used offensively).  What a waste!  His move pool is shabby and his starts are ridiculous; if you want a steel type go with Aggron or Metagross.  Heck if you want a mono-steel type pokémon go with Klinklang from Gen 5.  It’s a terrible pokémon too but it’s got better stats than Mawile and a better shot at doing you some good.

Having said that, I love the concept of Mawile having this massive façade surrounding him is very cool and reminds me a lot of Sudowoodo, a pokémon I also really enjoy.  If a pokémon knows the move Crunch, for some reason that’s an automatic win in my book.  I see Mawile as more of a pokémon that, if they were real, I would own for the novelty of owning something bizarre and not for fighting.  The concept is cool and what few good moves he learns are also cool making him one that I just can’t help but love.

1. Corsola
There has always been hatred for this one and I can’t say it’s not justified especially at the current status we are with pokémon.  This is yet another non-evolving water type pokémon which we have an overabundance of… actually we have an overabundance of water types period.  His stats are monstrously horrible putting him along the bottom run of all “final form” water types.  This means that so many outshine him by leagues it’s not even funny.  He wasn’t even an original typing at the time he came out because Omastar and Kabutops exist and they are overall better in pretty much every manner.    On top of that, people harp on the Gen 5 pokémon for being unoriginal, but this thing here is just a very slow piece of coral!

She does have her downfalls, but I still really enjoy this pokémon.  I’ve always been interested in coral reefs so the fact that a pokémon is made from coral is amazing.  The pink coloration just gives off a “cute” vibe to it and just like Delibird…
How can you say no to that smile?

It’s yet another pokémon that I wouldn’t ever actually use in battle, but it’s one that I would have around the house to just be a cheerful little buddy to have around.  Sure her stats aren’t the best but if you include TMs, Egg Moves, and Move Tutors she has a very diverse move pool that can be quite inventive.  She also gets Natural Cure normally which means all she has to do is switch out to be cured of a status, but her hidden ability is Regeneration so she gains health by going back into her pokéball.  Also one other bit of trivia that I know others have mentioned before but… Her Pokémon silver pokédex entry says “In a south sea nation, the people live in communities that are built on groups of these Pokémon.”

Sound familiar?

UPDATE: Corsola is STILL the punching bag of the pokemon universe.  In pokemon Sun and Moon they gave Corsola some extra use.  Finding them in the wild is the only way to eventually summon a Mareanie, one of the new pokemon for Generation 7.  However once a Mareanie appears on screen it actively attacks any Corsola who appear along with it... what the heck?!

And there you have it, my top 10 pokémon I love that most everyone hates.  Maybe you can find it in your heart to take a second look at something you had earlier dismissed to see if there is any redeeming quality within even if it’s just pure “cute” factor.

I know you’ve seen a lot of Pokémon related things on here, so I will attempt to keep that to a minimum going forward cause I’m sure you’re getting tired of it.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ghost's Angry Reviews - Pink Panther's Passport to Peril

I’m going to forgo the spoiler warning here because I doubt anyone really cares about spoilers for this game.

Ghost here, thanks for joining!

Technology changes culture and ideologies.  As an example, if you look to the older generation, many of them don’t understand the impact and benefits of video games.  They hear the word “game” and think that it’s generally a useless waste of our time, not taking into account the research showing that playing these games is helpful on many levels to the development of reactions, interactions, and being allowed to play out curiosity in a way that will never cause them physical harm.

That being said, there are some people who have taken notice and began shaping the love of video games into a learning experience and that’s where today’s game comes from that desolate wasteland known as the Educational Video Game!
 Now before you go to some other website and stop reading this, I promise not to turn this into a school lesson.  Educational Games are the way that many of the current generation were introduced to video games as a whole and some are good enough to stick with us for the rest of our lives.  The problem with Educational Games is not the fact that they are trying to teach something; it’s the fact that many companies take the stand that children are idiots and that they will gobble up any old garbage just because it’s a video game.  You and I both know that is incorrect but it doesn’t stop the onslaught of turds being shoved into the market.

This is where Pink Panther’s Passport to Peril steps in.  “Quad P” as I called it was released in 1996 by Wanderlust Interactive for Windows 3 or Higher and I was happy to see that it still played perfectly well on my Windows XP machine.  Obviously the graphics of the game are not up to current High Definition standard but for a game of this age I’m fairly impressed at how clear everything is and how smooth things move in the world.  Now to the big question you may be wondering… is this actually a good game or is it a terrible game?  I’ll let you be the judge.

Generally when it comes to Educational games, the plot of the game is either so simplistic that a 3 year old with a crayon could do better or it’s as useless as a condom machine at the Vatican.  However it’s not exactly the case with this one.  Sure it’s still simplistic enough for smaller children to understand but it’s not throwaway material either.
The Pink Panther is some sort of secret agent.  He is being sent to a summer camp, Camp Chilly Wa Wa, because there are several important children there.  All are very gifted and some are the sons of diplomats and other such important people.  The Detective informs Pink that it is vital to keep them safe and happy because there could be potential terrorist threats and extremist groups after them.  When we get to the camp we meet the head of the camp, the children, and a Doc Brown wannabe called Doctor Von Smarty.  It’s during this that we figure out how to play the game;  a simple point and click game where you investigate and speak to people, but you also have an inventory so you can use items and give items to others.

But the Inspector mentioned potential threats and it’s not long before we meet this game’s threat.  What sort of terrorist group do we find?  Three anthropomorphic dogs disguised as Camp Inspectors with obvious villain music.  
 Subtle!  What are these dogs’ plans?  We’ll get to that later

As Day 2 of the game arrives, Pink notices a robotic hand crawling around in the basement but is then called to check on Nigel, the boy from England.  The boy is very unhappy and is getting homesick so Pink decides to travel to England and retrieve something from his home.  After running around England Pink finds not only a keepsake, but a letter sent to his parents about how he hates it at camp with the timestamp before camp even started.  He then gets a call from Von Smarty and is informed that the girl from Egypt is missing.  So Pink gets on a Jet and searches Egypt to not find the girl but find a letter she had written in hieroglyphics to a friend saying how great camp was.  As soon as Pink finds this the Doc calls him back to say that the girl had returned but kept talking about how she hated camp.  So pink returns to the camp to investigate more.

As soon as Pink gets there, Lee, the boy from China starts shouting in Chinese constantly, so the Doc sends him to China to get lessons in Chinese because obviously there’s NOONE in the United States knows Chinese.  Eventually Pink finds the boy’s father who says that Lee usually only speaks English and that the Chinese he was speaking was gibberish.  It is at this point Pink is contacted by the girl from India and asks him to take flowers to her grandfather’s grave.  As he is flying to India, the dogs have taken over the jet, so Pink parachutes out and lands in Bhutan.

In Bhutan he finds the mother of the boy from Bhutan who mentions he has an allergy to dogs.  Pink calls the doctor to ask about the boy, and finds out that the boy has been walking around with the dogs and not sneezing.  Eventually Pink gets to India and finds out that there is no Hindu graveyard, they are all tossed in Shiva’s River.  So, Pink returns to the camp.

When Pink gets there, the doctor is acting very strange and there are weird footprints heading to the jets.  So Pink follows the footprints and gets on a jet to Austrailia.  Once again the dogs have hijacked the plane so Pink parachutes out and is picked up by an Aboriginal.  This man happens to be the boy from Austraia’s father and the weird foot prints are from the boy’s animal spirit signaling danger. 
REALLY?  You throw all this normal stuff at us then at the end… OH here’s an alligator spirit that can manifest itself physically???  Bullcrap!

So Pink heads back to the Camp to find all of the kids are actually robots and they are falling apart.  Pink also finds out the dog’s plan.  What is this plan?  International war?  Ransom?  Weapons of Mass Destruction?  Violence against the Children? Nope it’s something even more evil than that.  Something only the blackest of hearts could have ever imagined!  He wants to tear down the camp to make a burger restaurant.
Really?  All that talk about keeping the kids safe because of potential international threat and this turns out to be nothing more than business ethics?

So Pink confronts them and then they partake in a Scooby Doo style chase scene and ending with Pink using a Poltergust 3000 knockoff to suck up the bad guys and save the day

Over the course of this game you visit six different countries across the world.  It’s interesting how in the course of the game each country can easily be visited in full in less than a day.  Let’s look at what all you do in each of them.
It was a good idea I think to have England be first.  England’s culture is extremely similar to ours and basically all children know something about it even if it’s just the fact that it exists.  While in England you meet rugby players, meet a member of parliament, visit a standard pub, visit a countryside estate, and even visit Stonehenge.  The Pub is a fairly interesting place where you learn about all the different terminology they use “across the pond.”  The Countryside Estate portion is a little difficult because you have to keep checking pictures over and over till it eventually lets you pull it back to reveal the secret passage way.  Nothing is really out of the ordinary here except for the usual oddies like…
Cross dressing
Pink Panther without any pants on
And of course random aliens in limousines.

Egypt was also a good inclusion to have early on.  If the rest of society is anything like me (God help us if they are) then they also had a slight fascination with Ancient Egypt with their pyramids and mummies.  Most children will know of Egypt but not much about it.  In Egypt you have to haggle with a camel owner to take you to the mouth of the Nile River…over and over and over.  This guy is extremely annoying and has a very used car salesman type of personality.  You also get to go to Cairo but the novelty of Cairo wears out after having to travel back and forth from the sales doofus to the city.  Eventually you end up in a small farming village and trick the dogs into being buried alive only to spring up again as flowers and get carried away by a bird.
And here I thought the Mother Series was weird.


........I hate running gags

Now we start into the lesser known countries.  If you think back to 1996 when this came out, most children haven’t heard a whole lot about china that didn’t involve the words “made in”, “rice”, or “Great Wall of”.  So this was a good country to hit, though strangely enough the Great Wall isn’t even visited.  Instead we start out at a Chinese opera of all things where Pink gets mistaken as an opera singer and after stepping on a cat’s tail his screams of pain are confused for Opera singing which Pink then imitates for the rest of the performance.

 I know this is played for laughs but I’m sure someone out there is offended.

The rest of the time is spent at the home of a family, and at a rice farm out in the country.  Somehow I feel that this could have been done a little better with some ancient teachings or something rather than spending a large chunk of time on an opera gag but at least we got some interesting dialog with the family.

Now let’s all be honest with ourselves.  How many people actually know where Bhutan is or have ever heard of it?  I know I sure hadn’t and unless you are the type of individual who is greatly in tune with the world around them and knowing every portion of this planet we inhabit then I guarantee you have never heard of this place before either.  I’ve never even seen anything on the travel channel or any sort of specials about this place.  I honestly looked it up on Google to see if this place still even existed and it does! 

The only reason I can think that you would know it is if you happened to memorize Yakko’s Countries of the World song from the Animaniacs.
There isn’t really a whole lot that happens in Bhutan.  You compete in an archery contest to get an audience with the king and then you find the missing rotor to the helicopter so you can get to India and… that’s about it.  But honestly what can you expect from a country that’s smaller than the state of West Virginia.  But I really have to hand it to them to include something that most people will have never heard of otherwise!

Modern Children will be more familiar with India than back in the mid 90’s.  Seeing as what a large player in the world India has quickly become it was great insight to include it here.  Of all the countries you visit in this game this one seems like it had the most thought and care put into it.  It only has three sections to it but rather than being an annoying fetch quest like Egypt, you have a reason to go back and forth across places often.  The really weird thing is that this country is the only one that doesn’t show an overhead map, it instead has cutscenes of him riding a typical overly packed train to somewhat comedic effect.

In this country you run around a marketplace, recover a man’s cobra from a nearby village, fall off the train back in that village and have to get to Varanasi where you learn about the Shiva’s river (very interesting actually) and of course toss marigolds into the river for the girl in India. It’s also during this country that the humor takes a bizarre turn towards the adult as it includes a marijuana joke, a breast milk joke, and a “charming the snake” joke.

There’s also quite a bit of bizarre things in here as well such as

A fortune telling canary
Whatever the heck this is
And an impromptu rap by an old man with a pitchfork.
And while I’m on the topic of the worst rap ever created, this man raps about how in India, shaking your head up and down means no, and shaking your head side to side means yes.  That’s very interesting and all but the problem I have with this is that IT’S NOT TRUE!!!  Yup and Educational Video game presenting misinformation!  Now I see several articles out there on the web stating the same thing however in the comments there is always someone from India who reports this as false.  So good job on doing your due diligence guys!  I spent 16 years of my life believing a lie… of course that wouldn’t be the first time either
Don’t get me started!

When you get to Australia you get picked up by an aboriginal in a man-made boat and get dumped in the middle of the outback.  The only places you can go are the outback with all the animals and a very eccentric naturist, and the Aboriginal camp where the man who picked you up plays a didgeridoo. 

Honestly… it’s disappointing.  You do get to see a bunch of really cool animals from that region as well as listen to a didgeridoo being played but other than that there’s not much else going on.  At one point the  aboriginal man mentions that their people didn’t write down the history but I feel that’s just a bandaid excuse to not do much of anything.  It’s a yawn fest.

….*sigh*  I had been neglecting this so far.  I really didn’t want to talk about this but here it is.  There are songs in this game; educational songs to be exact.  Oh goodie of course there are.  I can barely contain my excitement.
 Songs for children are nothing new and it’s scientifically proven that if the song is catchy the kids will learn it much easier and will retain the information.  I can vouch for this entirely as my fourth grade teacher taught us a song naming all the presidents of the United States (up to Clinton) to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy, and it’s something I can still do today.

However, when corporate America hears this information they believe that ANY information when put to ANY song will stick with kids and teach them to learn.  This is not the case at all.  You have to have something catchy, something meaningful, and something that’s not washed out corporate bologna.  Songs for children can be three different varieties in all reality.

Excellent choices all around
 Bad choices in one area or two (or all around)

Let’s find out which these are shall we?

England – Guy Fawkes
This is a Blues Song about how Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament.  The story is far more interesting than the song and it’s entirely forgettable.

Egypt – Mummification
This is a kind of pop/disco song about why the Ancient Egyptians mummified the dead.  The visuals associated with it are far more interesting than the song but the song isn’t that bad.  I can actually remember part of the chorus to this one.

China – Over 1 Billion People
This is a lame piano pop song about population control in China.  The information is interesting within if you just listen to the words but the song is unbelievably lame and repetitive.  Also of all the great things you could talk about in Chinese culture you end up making a song about fining people for having more than one baby?

Bhutan – In Time
This is a Soft Rock song about how Bhutan wants to keep with their traditions and not modernize as much as the rest of the world; that their focus is on their traditions and that maybe one day they will open the doors fully to the rest of the world.  And judging by google images of the place they’ve done that a little so this one fits even though it’s effectively a musical version of  “You can’t make me”

India – Caste System
It’s a disco song about the caste system and how Ghandi took in an untouchable child.  Just wrap your mind around that and I’m sure you’ll come to the obvious conclusion

India – Taj Mahal
India is so kind to us that they give us TWO songs.  At least the first one comes up in the context of what’s going on… this one comes right out of nowhere.  This is a love ballad about why the Taj Mahal was built and the love story behind it.  The story once again is FAR more interesting that the ridiculous love ballad they put to it.  Even as a kid I watched this song once just to learn the history of the building but from that point on I skipped it cause it was just bad.

Australia – The Dreaming
This is a pop-ish song about how the aboriginals pass their stories down in tongue rather than on paper.  This could have been a good song because the song starts with Pink playing a didgeridoo.  But the payoff is abysmal.  They passed up the chance to have native drums and didgeridoos or a real native feel to it but instead give us this washed out trash.

Camp Chilly Wa Wa – We’re Free
…UGH this is by far the worst of the worst.  This isn’t even an educational song it’s just a song that the kids randomly shout into after they are freed from the bad guys.  This one is just awful.  Even as a kid I at least listened to all the others once.  I get one verse in and I’m DONE.  They have all the kid voice actors sing and not a single one of them actually can sing.  It’s what I imagine Simon Cowell hears when he listens to 90% of people singing.

It kind of seems silly for me to say whether I recommend this game or not because I doubt ANY of you will actually find this game to play it, especially with its 5-6 hour gameplay only.  However I shall do my civil duty.

Playing this game as a child, this was really enjoyable and I loved sitting with my dad as we solved the clues together for the first time.  The adult humor went over my head but was there to keep my dad chuckling if not bewildered by it, and the adventure was rather engaging for an educational game.  I was playing the likes of Star Wars Dark Forces around this time so for this to still keep my interest says a lot.

Playing this as an adult however I do see the flaws.  The weak payoff of the villains makes it seem like you’re doing a lot of this for no real purpose at times.  The songs are generally awful and even some of the educational information presented is incorrect.  However I still found myself having fun in the process strangely enough.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the nostalgia or because of true enjoyment.

This game hits that really bizarre sweet spot where it’s altogether slightly above mediocre.  Nothing is so bad, information heavy, or offensive that it takes away from the fun, but also nothing stands out as fantastic about it either that would make you really want to play it again for the fun I just mentioned.  It’s a solid game with a decent overall payoff, just don’t take every bit of information it provides as 100% fact.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness
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