Monthly Archives: October 2013

Editorial | Review: Angry Birds Star Wars II

This past week I have discovered the new Angry Birds Star Wars II game, which is based on the prequel Star Wars movies.  There are a lot of cool, new features on this game that I have not seen on previous Angry Birds games.  Here is a quick review to get you started.


Mapping sequences are prettier AND collecting a map in certain levels gives the player bonus levels.

First of all, this game is visually far more appealing than any previous Angry Birds game (and I have played them all—I’m mildly obsessed).  This is saying quite a bit, because I found the Angry Birds Rio game to be bright and fun.  The mapping sequences in between levels are now actually shown through animation each time the player completes a level, which makes it easier to feel a sense of accomplishment.  In previous versions of the game, a player could work through an entire map of fifteen levels without realizing how far they had gotten.

The individual levels also feature stunning graphics.  The original Star Wars Angry Birds game took place primarily in space and was dark, and sometimes boring.  The levels released so far in this edition all take place on planets, and the scenery really is beautiful.

Angry Birds kept one of the innovations from the first Star Wars game, which I feel had been a big improvement:  visible paths for birds before they are actually fired.  Since firing birds from a slingshot in space can be tricky business—especially considering magnetic and gravitational fields—this is very helpful.

As the player earns points, they can purchase "replacement" birds to help with difficult levels.

As the player earns points, they can purchase “replacement” birds to help with difficult levels.

The talents of some of the various birds available have been reinvented, which is a lot of fun.  For instance, at a quick tap of the screen, the Jar-Jar Binks character shoots out a long sticky tongue to grab hold of either a fixed object in order to swing out and hit something, or a moveable object to drag it with the force of the bird’s inertia through the air.  I have to admit that it has taken me several tries to perfect using this character.

Also, the Yoda character now spins like a… well, like a tiny green Jedi.  At a tap, he will spin violently, and bounce off objects to quickly take out whole sections of evil, Sith-pigs.

Care to join the Pork Side, young Jedi?

Care to join the Pork Side, young Jedi?

Perhaps my favorite innovation, however, is the fact that a player can now choose whether to play as a Jedi bird, or as a Pork Side pig.  After playing through two or three levels as a Jedi, the game will prompt the player to decide if they would like to continue using the Force for good, or whether they would like to go to the Dark Side.  Fortunately, unlike Anakin’s choice, the player’s decision need not be permanent, as the player can choose either side of the Force at any time from the main menu.

Alternate levels to play, once the maps have been exhausted.

Alternate levels to play, once the maps have been exhausted.

Once the two maps that are currently available have been completed from both the Jedi and Pork Side perspectives, players can also go to another screen and choose individual levels with only one type of bird.  This is a really nice way for the Angry Birds team to ensure that players have plenty to work on while they wait for the next few maps to be released.

The game has me completely addicted at this point.  I definitely recommend it to any fan of Angry Birds OR Star Wars.  It’s a great time filler for just about anywhere—just avoid being obvious about playing it in Economics class… not that I know from personal experience!Screenshot_2013-10-17-16-29-35

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorial, Game Reviews, Gaming, Tracy Gronewold

Editorial | New York Comic Con: Day 4 and Weekend Recap

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Call me Ishmael.

Once upon a time…

It was a dark and stormy night…

It was my very first comic convention.  I was excited, but exhausted.  The train from Williamsburg arrived in Penn Station right on time at 1:50 a.m.  I caught my very first NY taxi (not as easy as it looks in the movies) and headed to the Jane Hotel.  When I arrived, the bar that was located in the bottom of the hotel was throwing people out, and the steps were full of drunken people in nice clothing complaining to everyone around.  The three impressive looking bouncers were inadequate to clear the steps, so I had to punch a hole through the crowd with one arm and haul my baggage up behind me with the other.

An Evil Dr. Horrible and me (I’m hunching because my backpack weighs about 200 lbs)

Finally I made it into the hotel and up to the room to pass out until eight o’clock a.m. when it was time to get ready.  I wore my shirt, emblazoned with the Therefore I Geek logo.  (This is called “foreshadowing,” which means that I am providing a seemingly trivial detail that will reappear later.)

About an hour later, it was time to head to the convention venue, the Javits Center.  I had some protein bars, a bottle of water, and some pretty high expectations stuffed into my backpack.  The line to get into the convention center was not particularly long, and the guys who were scanning our badges to let us in were working very quickly, so we moved right along.

Once inside the center, there was so much to see and do!  Too bad there were so many people blocking our way.  We started out meeting some of Andrew’s friends and picking up some free, signed books.  Cosplayers were everywhere!  I was impressed at the sheer number of people who were willing to dress up.  Perhaps more impressive than the really amazing costumes—of which there were many—were the number of not-quite-finished costumes that fans still wore with pride.

So many people!! (Photo credit to Chris Powers)

So many people!! (Photo credit to Chris Powers)

As we walked through the publisher’s booths, a woman noticed our shirts and commented on the reference to the therefore symbol.  I got very excited, since not everyone sees the symbol in our logo and explained that we were the staff of a geek blog.  She promptly showed us the book that the table was selling—a new translation of the story of the Book of Revelation presented in a graphic novel.  She also introduced us to Mark Arey, who was the primary translator for the project.  I had met my match in wordsmiths, clearly.  We had an impassioned conversation about languages and their nuances, and I ended up buying the book.

The translator on this project is former Greek Orthodox, and a truly passionate linguist.

After a few hours of checking out authors, books, and other booths, we decided to head to Artist Alley to see the creators of Atomic Robo.  This was pretty high on my list of things to do, so I was excited.  Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener were both friendly and willing to have a conversation with us.  We picked up a couple of books from their table and had the creators sign them.

Then we were off again, this time through the tables of Artist Alley.  The aisles were lined with artists, from the very famous such as Chris Claremont and Frank Cho, to those who had never actually worked on a book, but were trying to get their names noticed.

In one of the more disappointing moments of the weekend, we stood on line to get autographs from Neil Degrasse Tyson, only to be told that the line had been cut off.  After that, more running around was punctuated by a panel about “breaking into comics,” hosted by the editors from Dark Horse, Oni, Avatar, and Boom! comics.

Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the day.  The next morning came way too fast, and I definitely started out the day with a shortage of energy.  I picked up some new trades and a couple of graphic novels upstairs, and a really nice print of the cast of Firefly from Artist Alley.  I looked high and low for a Beast figurine, but without any luck.

My reading list of doom has grown exponentially!

My reading list of doom has grown exponentially!

We wrapped up the day with a panel about protecting intellectual property, which contained a lot of valuable information.  It was funny to see the height of the waiting queues shrink as the weekend progressed.  On Friday, people stood in line and chatted with each other.  By Saturday evening, about half of the line sat on the floor while they waited for the doors to open.  On Sunday afternoon, every single person on line was sitting on the floor.  Clearly there was not even enough energy in the collective to keep one human being upright.

While the competitor inside me cannot say that I “won” my first con, I did have a lot of fun and made a lot of great memories.  However, I really cannot wait to do the whole thing over again—perhaps even in a different city.

1 Comment

Filed under Andrew Hales, Comics, Editorial, Events, Geek Life

New York Comic Con: Day 3

Day 3 has come and gone and only the strong are left standing. Personally, I am laying down.

These people are not the strong...

These people are not the strong…

Today was Tracy’s first day of NYCC and Saturday is always a busy day–perhaps not the best day on which to start. We spent most of our time wandering around the convention floor looking at various different booths and taking pictures of all the different cosplayers. We also managed to score ourselves a couple of free autographed books from publisher booths (ask Tracy about the line Nazi). In general things went very well today

There was one thing that I must admit to being disappointed and frustrated about. We missed the chance for an autograph with Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson. His signing started at 4:00 pm, but his line was cut off at around 3 o’clock because of how massive it had gotten. I totally understand this, since Dr. Tyson is the current rock star scientist. The man is a great speaker and fantastic advocate for science.

What got to me was the complete failure of communications on the part of the NYCC staff and crew. When we first arrived we were told that the line was closed and we were disappointed, but stuck around because we were waiting for some friends to show up. Shortly after our friends arrived we were told by a NYCC Crew member (volunteer) that the line was reopened and we promptly jumped on the line. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t go for it?  After an HOUR of waiting on line we were rather rudely told by a NYCC staff member that we would not make it and that the line had been closed for two hours and that we needed to get off the line. She then bounced away to go yell at more people to get off line–frustrating my friends and me.  Needless to say, the crew member had been wrong to reopen the line and we were unable to get our autographs.

Autograph or not, this guy is still pretty awesome.

We of course had to make a stop by the Atomic Robo booth in Artist’s Alley and share with them our recently found love of their book.  At my first mention of the old Big Apple Con there was a visible, visceral reaction from both artist and writer. I had to laugh a little bit because, while it was nice to look back and remember those good old days when I didn’t know any better, I do know better now and those were rough conventions. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has that reaction.

After some more walking around we went off to a panel about breaking into comics with editors from BOOM! Studios, Avatar, Oni, and Dark Horse. The panel quickly turned into a Q&A session, which in most panels includes good and bad questions. While the good questions were few and far between here, I was very impressed with the stream of constantly good answers the panel of editors provided. Even for the bad questions, the panel had good advice and information.

And of course to top off the day, I got a picture taken with the wonderful Chase Masterson. I am a very happy man.


Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Events, Geek Life

New York Comic Con: Day 2

Day 2 has come and gone and the intensity has stepped up. The show floor was already much  more difficult to get around, but was also populated with some awesome cosplayers. Every year the various new and unique costumes never cease to amaze me.



Day started off pretty low key with some video game demos.

Don't they look intense.

Don’t they look intense?

The pre-alpha of Dungeon Defenders II looks pretty amusing. It’s a nice mix of tower defense, action adventure, and rpg. After that we got some time in with Total War: Rome II. If my computer can support it, this game will be dangerous. I don’t even know how many hours of my life I lost to playing the original Rome but it has to be a lot and this game takes everything that was great about the original and improves upon it. (For the record, I DO know I’ve spent 230 hours playing Total War: Empire) Finally, near the Rome demo was competitive StarCraft II. For those of you who don’t know, the original StarCraft was hugely popular in South Korea and they still have intense competitions. I’ll admit that I had no idea what I was watching. These guys were playing so far above my level that I just couldn’t keep up. Not surprising, the Korean player won the match.

So very British.

So very British.

After the video games, I was off to get autographs. First on the agenda was Mr. C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels. He is a very nice, and proper Englishman. While waiting on line I had a great conversation with a man from Colombia. Events like this are a fantastic way to meet new people from all over the world. After Mr. Daniels I was off to meet Chase Masterson of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Lately Chase has been running the Anti Bullying Coalition, which she founded. Earlier in the day I wandered past their booth with a couple of friends. While my friends stopped to do something at the booth, I was just standing around, minding my own business when I was approached by a familiar looking woman who immediately introduced herself and went to talk, very excitedly and passionately about the organization’s anti-bully campaign. It took me about thirty seconds to realize that the woman who had introduced herself was Chase Masterson. She if officially tied with Adam Baldwin for nicest person I’ve met at a con. I now have a lovely signed photo of her as well, which makes me a very happy man. Lastly was a surprise autograph from a guy named John Morton. For those of you Star Wars fans out there he played Dak, Luke’s gunner at the Battle of Hoth who gets killed in the first ten seconds or so. He also happened to be in the Boba Fett costume in some of the Cloud City scenes. We had a nice little conversation about working for our mutual employer, the Navy.

Having successfully completed my Friday autograph mission, I joined back up with some friends and wandered around the floor until the Venture Bros. panel. We were hoping for something a little more than last year but were unfortunately disappointed. This panel has become a staple of our comic con experience since year one when they were in one of the small rooms and there were chairs available when we walked in fifteen minutes late. Now the guys are in the IGN Theater and it’s a packed house. What disappointed us, however, was that they had no new material to show off, which, given how inconsistently the show comes out now, is not the first time. The panel rather quickly became an audience Q&A. Although those are fun, it has been six years of the same questions, sonwe decided we could do without and left.

Our last panel of the day was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s The Secret Origin of Comics Censorship which was a fascinating look into the history of how censorship in comics got started. Dr. Carol Tilley presented a history of the censorship of comics, including many letters written in response to Dr. Fredric Wertham’s testimony to Congress. It was very interesting to hear her read the letters, mostly written by teenagers who were comic fans and disagreed with Dr. Wertham. The two most stunning things to me were the fact that the Comic Code was still in effect (albeit to a limited purpose) until 2011 and that there was such a considerable network of people involved in trying to bring censorship into comics.

Almost forgot, we saw Whoppi Goldberg out on the con floor.

Never know who you will see at NYCC.

Never know who you will see at NYCC.

For Day 3, I will be joined by our Editor, Tracy, who is attending her first convention. Be brave. Please feel free to share you NYCC experiences with us and follow us on Twitter for more up to date information about the goings on at NYCC.

Leave a comment

Filed under Andrew Hales, Comics, Events, Geek Life