Thursday, June 23, 2011

Composed In The Baroque Mode

I’ve been sinking quite a few hours into Sting’s role-playing game, Baroque for the Nintendo Wii. One variant of the several, historically mutable, definitions of the word ‘baroque’ is: ‘adorned or decorated so heavily the original intent is unclear’.

That would definitely fit this video game and the choice for that title has to be intentional despite Japanese developers penchant for devising titles in English that are nonsensical or ill fitting. Baroque’s mechanics are so convoluted (though the controls are simple) and its narrative so obscure that, personally, I’m incredulous that somehow this thing actually got made at all, let alone was successful enough to warrant conversions to multiple platforms.

In the heyday of the Sega Saturn, the lion’s share of my purchases were Japanese import titles. Baroque first released in 1998 looked really interesting from the screenshots and descriptions. Very murky and mysterious and cool. But the Japanese-only language issue was a problem. I’d just gone through Samurai Spirits Bushidoretsuden, the Samurai Shodown RPG, with the help of a guide and that was pretty damn labor-intensive. Good game and fun, but a lot of work. I also had the Saturn’s Japanese-language Grandia in my to-play stack. I really didn’t want yet another guide-aided slog. So I didn’t buy it.

Flash forward nearly ten years, and I see copies of a game called Baroque at my local GameStop in both the PS2 and Wii sections. WTF? Cover art and screenshots looked sort of like the game I thought of as Baroque, but not as dark and evil. Yep, plot description seems to jibe with my memory. I looked up online to be sure. Sure enough Atlus USA published remakes of the RPG Baroque in the United States. Not only was the game now totally accessible to my English-speaking self, but a lot of additional information was also in the form of an online mini-community. And while trying to avoid outright spoilers, I was reading that Baroque’s graphics were brightened up, the mechanics for controlling and fighting modernized, but that it was still considered a grueling hardcore dungeon crawl (original Wizardry came to my mind reading that stuff).

I’m already on the fence about RPGs as it is. Given that I used to play pen & paper role-playing games, and used to work for Games Workshop (not an RPG company, but fantasy toy soldiers and a lot of its customers and staff are also role-players), you’d think the genre would form a regular part of my balanced breakfast, but not so.

My indulgence in RPGs has never been more than occasional. I’ve racked up far more minutes in action games with RPG elements; basic item management and leveling up as games such as Odin Sphere or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. But actual role-playing games I have played I can probably count without having to include my toes or other appendages. Two real reasons: one, I’m impatient with the learning curve and strategy aspects. While I like ‘exploring’ well-conceived game worlds, I want to just get to it. And I am (or believe I am) suck-ass at the more think-y aspects of many games including puzzles and tactics. Two, RPGs typically require A LOT of time put in. I play a lot of video games for a working parent, but sometimes it can be sporadic. I mostly go for short-burst pick up and play games that suit my lifestyle. So that’s why my ‘currently playing’ list is so dominated by arcade games like fighters and shooters. When I do have some kind of long-play title I’m working on, it’ll be an ‘action-RPG’ (SOTN mentioned above), or some first or third-person shooter, games that are not nearly as intricate and attention-demanding as RPGs are. I’m also pretty easily immersed. I don’t require dense, novel-trilogy levels of detail. I grew up as an arcade gamer and so it isn’t so easy for me to find the patience for games that really drag out at all, let alone to the levels many RPGs pad themselves out for maximum perceived value.

So weirdly, I am in some aesthetic ways someone who should like RPGs, but based on practical concerns I tend to shun them. Every now and then I'll get enough of a hankering. Most recently I played through Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast. I also bought the Virtual Console version of Chrono Trigger, like two weeks ago, but my kids have beaten me to that one for now. Baroque’s bizarre science and religion mash up story… revealed as your character continually cycles through death and rebirth…looked pretty intriguing. That the play style involved some ‘roguelike’ features; randomized dungeons, complete reset of characteristics and items upon death, just made it appealing to the so-called hardcore (okay, masochistic) side of my gamer self.

In any case, I chose to go with the Wii version. And the wiimote/nunchuk combination works fine with the game. The combat in Baroque is rather action game-y and the part of the game that resembles ‘standard RPG’ mechanics the least. You have to actually run around and fight in real-time. You can avoid enemies or circle around them to strike when they are vulnerable. My understanding is that this was tricky in the Saturn original. The dark graphics and the limitations of a first-person view made fighting difficult. Switching to third-person and clearing away the murk makes Wii Baroque much less frustrating, although it is still tough until you learn what you are doing. These fixes came at the expense of much of the game’s evil atmosphere. It may have made things difficult, but Saturn Baroque had a grim, grimy ambience that is lost to a shinier (but still fairly plain) new version. The soundtrack has been re-done too. The new one is fine to me, and quite fitting for the game, but players of the original frequently say it isn’t a patch on the Saturn’s moody industrial tunes. The story itself is largely unchanged.

Now having spent a considerable time with the game, I do find even the new version to be problematic. Most players used to other games would probably find the combat inflexible, the dungeons repetitive, and the dying/resetting aspect quite off-putting. None of that bothered me. The graphics, sound, music, and controls; none of these are cutting-edge, but they all came together for me personally.

Nope, my difficulty comes from the very heart of the game designers’ philosophy, and one of the things that made me want the game a decade ago. The way the mysterious plot and the in-game objectives are doled out.

As I said in the beginning, Baroque hides the particulars of its narrative points under layers and details. At first, you play and are trying to just figure out how to survive. Then you are trying to figure out how the items work or interact with each other. Then you are trying to figure out how to find or keep the best items. THEN you want to figure out what to do next. Apart from just going through the dungeons—what is the point? Well, NONE of this stuff is spelled out for the player. The manual has a lot of words in it but doesn’t really put the system together. The manner in which items are used for various effects (there’s no magic system) is discovered through trial, error, and numerous deaths. The non-player character dialogues are cryptic in the extreme, but critical to the game. All of this reflects the Japanese original quite accurately and effectively simulates your avatar who, in the story, has no memory and no idea what to do. Story and objectives are progressed by hearing dialogues, but it can frequently take many conversations with multiple characters just to dial in a single goal. And the whole time you are running around trying to find these conversations, you are highly vulnerable and still trying to work out other basic aspects of the game, like trying live long enough and not just die and repeat the upper few levels of the dungeon…again.

Most dialogues are triggered by items given to the speaker. There are hundreds of items in the game, with the player having a limited inventory. So again, a lot of running around and experimenting. This may be the first collect-a-thon type of game where collecting every goshdamn thing is integral to the story and not just a bonus for completists. You can complete a Mario game without finding all the stars, but in Baroque, you really have to pay attention to what you’ve acquired so you know what moves the game itself along. Add to THAT enemies and objects that can take your shit away from you… and yeah, a TON of work. And you MUST die multiple times. On paper that seems like a cool, hardcore concept, but in practice it isn’t so simple when the game severely limits what you will be able to keep with you the next time you resurrect. There IS a system for moving items around or hanging on them for your next incarnation, but the way its done is all part of the game’s strategic underpinnings… and while I wouldn’t say it is tedious exactly… it is a lot of work.

The game lets you save after each completed dungeon level. So I kind of found myself keeping a couple of save points running at all times, so that I could revert to a previous happier moment if something untoward happened, frequently the loss of a needed item rather than a death. I generally didn’t allow myself to ‘die’, as it were, until I’d gotten to the end of each dungeon run, where you have to either die or be absorbed by the game’s deity. Which usually furthers the narrative.

At this point, near the completion of the game, I’ve had numerous restarts from save points but my character himself is on his eleventh incarnation. From my understanding this is pretty fuckin’ speedy. A lot of players have logged many many more hours than I have. Here’s the thing, though. This is a game for completionists. For players who like to winkle out every detail and every nuance. It is for gamers who don’t mind plugging through the same hallways and rooms, because there’ll be some other weird item to find or slice of dialogue to hear. The game has extensive screens for tracking everything you find. I get the appeal of this, and I even find it compelling myself to a certain point… but it isn’t for me. I made time for an RPG, but I didn’t make time for the most demanding collect-a-thon I’ve ever heard of. So I did something I’m not proud of:

I used a guide.

Not just for one hint. Not just to find some devilishly well-hidden item. I mean I used it EXTENSIVELY.

It happens every now and then that I’ll hit up an online guide or walkthrough when I’ve reached my limit on trying to figure out an objective. That’s probably my most common reason. I can’t get my head around the various clues given in the game, if in fact there are any clues—some games as we know, don’t always work logically—so I hit up some online help to connect me to the next step. Less frequently I might look up tips or strategies to beating a troublesome level or boss. But in the main, I consider it pretty easy to get too much help and spoil the experience. So I try to be judicious. This is really the way most mature gamers use helps or walkthroughs, but it has been a bitch to explain to my son, who doesn’t understand how figuring shit out is ‘more fun’ than having your hand held through the whole thing. I’ve resorted to hazing and sarcasm to keep him away from guides.

If I’m going to use help in any significant way, I’ll buy the actual printed official book and use it AFTER I’ve completed whatever basic story mode or campaign is the backbone of the game. As I said, I’m not a collector-maniac in video games, but sometimes it is cool to continue to poke around for stuff. So for some games like Bayonetta, Vanquish, or Brutal Legend, I liked the game worlds so much that it was fun to buy a guide, and explore to get to previously unseen areas or find items or learn to play the game better or in unconventional ways. I don’t think looking under every rock and tree is loads of fun, but having the guides gives me a bit more incentive to spend some extra time in a game world without the tedium of endless clueless searching. I also frequently buy guides for fighting games. For some reason I just prefer my move lists in front of me in print, rather than pausing the game to look it up onscreen.

I avoided buying Saturn Baroque because I didn’t want to eke through it inch by inch using a guide to get around the Japanese…but that feels like what I did with the English version anyway! As I was playing, early on it became apparent I would not have the patience to work the details of this game out on my own. So I went to a walkthrough intending to just learn how the items, item combination, and inventory system worked.

But as I played and discovered that every single tidbit of information (necessary and otherwise) was going to be delivered in the same obtuse, miserly manner, I caved and started fishing out what my actual goals and objectives were. Who to talk to, where they were located, and what item to give them. I managed to avoid actual plot spoilers, so the central desire to find out what ‘the story’ was about remained for me, but that was about the only discovery aspect I got to experience. As much as I hate using a guide it is hard for me to say this actually ruined the game for me. I would like to stumble upon meaningful events on my own, but the amount of play time required for this was just more than I could possibly afford. So I sort of reduced the actual play mechanics to the same level of directness that almost every other RPG employs. ‘Take this magic book to the wizard who lives in the tower’ might be something an NPC would say to you in your traditional role-playing game, so I kinda forced that onto my game of Baroque. I’m not thrilled to admit it, but as compelling as the story is, I would NOT have stuck with the game if left entirely to my own devices. Life’s too fucking short.

In hindsight, I can now see a sort of ‘play formula’ that I could’ve used to get through the game without a guide to the objectives. It’d still require that the player know more about the basic mechanics than the manual or the game really tells you, but I could write up a breakdown that would leave all the surprises and discovery intact while giving the player a better shove out the gate. And in fact, some people have done this; they just aren’t quite ‘explanatory’ enough, I don’t think. Maybe I should start up a page on this blog for this purpose. ‘KOG’s Truly Useful Guide To Baroque’.

Here’s an odd final note: Like some RPGs (and a few other types of games), Baroque has a post-campaign scenario, an endgame. If a player completes these epilogues it’ll usually net you the complete, true, or additional ending. Chrono Trigger is pretty well known for this, allowing you to take your fabulously leveled-up protagonist back through the story, now able to take on the final boss at his earlier appearances in the game and so get a different ending, depending on where in the chronology you destroy him.

After Baroques’ credits roll, you strangely find yourself resurrected yet again. Ostensibly, this would help the collecto-freaks this game caters to continue to work at filling in all the item slots in the database, but supposedly if you accomplish such-and-such-and-such (yes, I used the guide to see if there were, in fact, any goals in this endgame) you actually bring some dead NPCs back to life and redirect the course of events again. The such-and-such-and such are actually pretty complicated, involving hunting down dozens of items and bringing them out of the dungeon over the course of multiple runs. So I figured that was pretty much all she wrote for my continued involvement. As I said, this game makes fanatic collecting a literal part of the game, and there’s this huge stretch ahead that I didn’t really want to indulge. But on a whim, I thought I’d just check out the dungeon one last time, seeing what was different now that I’d ‘saved the world’.

Not much was. BUT. At the bottom of the dungeon, I got the dialogue saying I’d triggered the final set of events. I didn’t DO the such-and-such-and-such that the guide says you need to do. I just played as well as I could and then went back in one more time for old times’ sake. So just to test if I really was in the final stretch, I entered the dungeon and headed right for the floor the guide indicated would house the first set of ‘final’ enemies. And there they were. I was loaded up on invincibility items (just in case) and it wound up that I needed them. Then I actually killed the creatures. So now I find myself somewhat jazzed at the idea of actually completing the full story arc, which seemed like a lark only a day ago. I don’t know how it happened, but I am only three or four dungeon runs from finishing the narrative aspects of the game. One run for each set of the final enemies. It seemed like I was going to have to resort to reading the dialogue online or watching Youtube clips of the final section, but I’m glad I held off on doing that.

In a day or two, the game should be done, and I’ll feel really fortunate that somehow, using a guide, I manage to play this intriguing, difficult game while divesting myself of all the bullshit in it that would’ve made me throw in the towel ages ago. Despite my guide-guilt I feel like it’s a really good game, but there’s so much about it that makes it difficult to just outright recommend.

(image kyped from Daily Record UK)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Musical Roundup

Bought a bunch of music over the last month, and I probably ought to at least say a few words about it, particularly since I don't keep a 'what I'm listening to' box in my sidebar. My 'current' music choices just change too rapidly. These'll just be quick, though some might merit a bit more detail in a later posting. Not all of these are NEW new. They are just new for me, but I've gone through a pretty serious drought in music buying for like a year now:

November's Doom- Into Night's Requiem Infernal. Doom/death metal. Circles around the same musical camp as Opeth, but less progressive and fewer clean vocals. They actually picked up the pace on more songs with Novella Reservoir and everything after and this is along the same lines. Just about any metal fan would like this musically, and the lyrics are more personal (typical of Doom Metal like My Dying Bride), but if you can't get around death vocals steer clear.

Children of Bodom- Relentless, Reckless Forever. Symphonic power thrash. A stunning return to form for Children of Bodom, who've played with simpler, more accessible songs over the previous two (non-cover) albums. But if you'd missed the old symphonically-inspired CoB, here's your tonic. I'd never have said Laiho and band had descended to Nu-Metal or anything, but some fans were just that put off. I was just kinda bored. I mean I own the last two, but I hardly ever listen to them. This one goes into rotation with Hatebreeder and Follow The Reaper! Fucking-A.

Evergrey- Glorious Collision. Progressive Metal. I love Evergrey. Especially Tom Englund's vocals. The guy has a somewhat smoky voice like Bob Seger or Joe Cocker but far more musical and soulful. Hell, when I met Tom, the conversation I had led me to start buying New Rock Boots! But. Evergrey is one of those bands whose style is so distinct and unvarying that they start to sound same-y. Which is weird to say about a so-called progressive band since the hallmark of the genre is variety. A lot of people dissed past a album Monday Morning Apocalypse because it had more power chord melodies and less Evergrey-style staccato galloping, but I found it really refreshing. Then when they followed that up with Torn, it was back to the rut. They're like Katatonia, whom I wrote about in a previous entry. I love 'em but I can't listen to a lot of the material in one stretch because it is just so similar. Thankfully Glorious Collision mixes in some shit similar to MMApocalypse with the typical Evergrey to vary things. The album isn't disjointed either. Whew. Thanks Tom.

Eisbrecher- Eiszeit. Industrial metal (or the German-identified genre, Dance metal). This is a weird one. Eisbrecher is firmly in the same genre as Rammstein. So much so that they are frequently called a clone of the more famous band. In this record, they branch out and have a lot of tracks that don't sound much like Rammstein... or at least 'typical' Rammstein since those guys can go pretty left field too. But Eisbrecher's choices are pretty odd. It makes for interesting listening, but it'd be really difficult for me to say I like it all. Might be a grower. I'm not going to bitch about it because trying to move out from under Rammstein's shadow is commendable. Maybe different choices are needed.

Rotersand- 10 23. Industrial/EBM. Rotersand may be my new favorite amongst the EBM and Futurepop style of outfits. More varied and unpredictable than The Covenant or VNV Nation. Heavily influenced by Pink Floyd if you can believe it. That makes it sound like they wouldn't work up any dance floor music, but Rotersand is incredibly good for that, though they have some slower stuff... and almost always open with a track that sounds literally like Floyd. I can't really say this album is 'more this' or 'more that' than any other because they are all over the tempo and mood maps on each record... except perhaps Truth Is Fanatic, an early album that is probably more 'typical EBM' than anything since. Highly recommended if you like Industrial club music but don't need to stay in that mode the whole listen.

Funker Vogt-Blutzoll. Industrial/EBM. If you've heard Funker Vogt you know what to expect. The album is typical of the group. It has a decent variety and is high quality but nothing grabs me by the boo-boo like the track Paralyzed from Aviator.

The Devin Townshend Project- Addicted. Heavy Metal. That tag doesn't really describe Devin's work all that well, but I'm loathe to try to circulate a new genre term that attempts to describe his wall-of-sound style. Devin, the mad scientist of metal, is currently working on a four-album series of which this is the second. I skipped the first, Ki, because I was a bit put off by it. Each of the four albums is to have a signature theme-style and I didn't dig what I sampled from Ki. Now I think I have to go back and get it. Addicted is amazing. This would be more like what I'd call typical of Devin's 'other' projects... the ones that aren't Strapping Young Lad. So if you like Ocean Machine or Synchestra, here you go. In addition, he drafted Anneke von Giersbergen (formerly of The Gathering) and she sounds fucking awesome. Her own current work is in a pop band, but she has not lost any of her ability to power right the hell over big instrumental sounds. Like organised crime families, once you're in metal I guess you can never really get out. Devin himself is no slouch. Capable of very melodic soft singing, reaching pretty high notes, or screaming fit to make your spine curl up into a coil. Everyone should want to have Devin's baby.

Okay. That's all for now.

The Dynamite Is Kind Of A Dud

Okay, I'm firmly in the half of Napoleon Dynamite's audience that thinks 'WTF?'.

On paper, I should like this movie, or at least see the merit in it. It is unconventional and weird. It has an outsider/marginalised hero. The humor is, um, unusual. Its chock-full of quotables and lexicon nominees.

But I feel like a total mainstream lamer fuck. I just don't get it. I mean I feel all the things that fans of the film feel apparently... but only for about ten minutes. After that, it just doesn't keep up even a minimum effort to entertain. Its almost bad-documentary dry (or as boosters like to say 'subtle'). After those ten minutes you've met almost all the characters. Seen them be incredibly awkward (frequently making you the viewer uncomfortable), and then you (at least I) am expecting these characters to be put through some ordeal, be it fish-out-of-water scenario or rise-past-limitations/expectations story. But that never happens. The whole film is just a slice of life for weird Idaho-ans. I guess the arrival of Uncle Rico is supposed to be the world-shift challenge that Napolean and company meet, but everything comes off like they'd just find something else to behave exactly the same way about whether Rico was there or not.

I thought the funniest character (in the conventional sense) in almost every way was Rex, the martial arts instructor, who coincidentally is played by the only veteran comic actor in the film, Diedrich Bader, the mulleted neighbor in Office Space. He isn't the ONLY funny thing about the movie, but he really had me fooled at the beginning that this film was going to be entertaining. That was a bad assumption on my part. Rex is NOT the only funny thing but the real laughs are so few and far between. The payoff in Napolean's dance scene is pretty awesome, but really doesn't make up for all the tedium in getting to it.

The film made the interesting and effective choice of looking like it is firmly set in the 70s, yet with the 80s cassette audio tapes and VHS video tapes being the common media in use... and that set alongside the concept of the internet and chat rooms. So if nothing else the look of the film is as odd as the characters. And I'll say this; wow, what a transformation for Napolean, Kip, and Deb. Holy shit, they look almost nothing like their real selves. Jon Heder (Napolean) in particular, just dis-afucking-pears.

Anyway. I feel so totally un-hip, but I just can't bring myself to like it. I still can't really figure out why it was made... what the point of it is. Maybe it's some delayed action thingie that'll strike me when I'm out riding a bike or taking a shower. You'd think with all the shirts, quotes, and paraphernalia that have been swirling about since its release, that even a dense old shit like myself would be in on the joke.

Maybe my kids should watch it then they can explain it to me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Le Cinema Du Beatles

I recently watched Julie Taymor's Across The Universe, a live action (with some animation) musical drama set in the 1960s and 70s to music from The Beatles. I'm a big fan of The Beatles (not as odd a fit for a metalhead as you might imagine) and was looking forward to the film. I'm not a follower of Taymor's work per se but I liked her Shakespeare adaptation, Titus.

Across The Universe was odd. On the one hand the perfomers made mostly credible performances (particularly Dana Fuchs) and it was well filmed. But the literalization of the songs... that is, setting the songs into contexts within a real-world story was really jarring. When I listen to The Beatles I don't necessarily have a specific set of mind-pics to go with the tone and lyrics. The closest thing might be the old-fashioned and cliche answer of 'psychelic imagery'.... more or less like the animated film Yellow Submarine. I just know concrete 'romantic drama' scenes, however appropriate they might be to the time The Beatles reigned, just doesn't work. So this film might be the worst case of 'doesn't go with how I imagined it' that I've ever seen... and as I said, I don't have specific imaginings for the songs. The trippy scenes (I Am The Walrus, Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite) were the most 'accurate' to me.

I'm not an acid-head or anything, but Yellow Submarine (and earlier live action Beatle films as well as the album covers) probably have limited my view. In addition I'd have to say that Yellow Submarine is an incredible film itself, almost criminally underappreciated today. I can't believe how much my kids like it too, considering the time it was made, the Peter Max art style, and how 'dinosaur days' The Beatles themselves are. But you can't kill great music it seems. The children wanted, and have had, The Beatles on their ipods for ages now.

I think Across The Universe was an okay film and I have to respect it for attempting the herculean task of trying to make a 'new' Beatles picture, as it were. Particularly trying to make it literal. But I just couldn't get hip.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Right On.


As a regular movie-goer I can only dream of a world where every theater was like this.

Monday, June 6, 2011

King er, Prin-- uh, DUKE for a day...

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is a fun, but grueling game from bizarro hardcore developer Treasure. I loved the Dreamcast Bangai-O, lo those many years ago, and this is a fine, though brutal sequel. It lacks much of the wackiness and character of that original game with its dearth of dialogue or cartoon cast, but it has its own advantages with the Xbox 360's graphical power allowing hitherto unseen levels of enemy and projectile mayhem. This game may have the highest levels of onscreen virtual death ever. And that's saying something considering what a Cave game looks like.

Some levels were giving me real trouble. If Bangai-O HD has one weakness (apart from no goofy characters) it is the wildly uneven difficulty level between stages. Unlike the Dreamcast version (or the concurrent N64 one) this Bangai-O is more strategy-oriented and less on-the-fly skill oriented. Each stage is like a puzzle, and usually has very few... maybe even only one... solution to get through. That solution frequently has to do with finding the quickest way to kill the most enemies and beat a timer. That has been my biggest foe throughout the game... the damn clock. Frequently I had the skills to get through a stage only to run up against a shortage in time. And that would almost be fine if it weren't for the fact that there is no real sense of difficulty progression. Some of the hardest, most frustrating levels actually occurred early in the game... again almost always based around the clock. The game doesn't 'teach' you a new technique or a new way to use an old technique with an stage. Nope, the game introduces each new concept with a level that expects you to do it with masterful timing.

You need very specific techniques or a very specific sequence in many of the stages, and it can be hair-pulling to find out what that is particulary considering how broad the number of abilities your mecha has. The Bangai-O robot is supremely powerful and you need it considering how much shit your flying through in the game, but so many of the stages are completely based around one single aspect of the robot so the flexibility doesn't come into play.

Stage 40, which has both a very specific difficult technique needed, AND a severe time limit, was giving me the most trouble. NO videos online at Youtube, and though Bangai-O lets top-ten leaderboard players post replays, other players like me can't look at 'em 'til we finish the level (to force you to figure it out yourself). And Gamefaqs-based player advice was not helpful. So I had to play it over and over and over and over again. My kids were absolutely sick of seeing that screen by the time I got through it. I had the correct strategy I just couldn't pull it off under the time limit. For an occasional break I'd complete a stage PAST stage 40 and then come back to try again. I left the final stage alone mostly.

So when I finally finish 40 and get onto 47, the final stage of the games main 'Fury Mode' I find the boss to be pretty tough. You have to go through a long series of rooms full of enemies before you get to him only to get your ass handed to you in two seconds. Then you have to do the level all over again... and again. It's a lot of work to go through to get to try something against him... and then have it fail. But the game has a room editor. So my kid (the tinkerer) built a stage roughly the size of the final battle room and plunked the boss, Crazy King, into it so I could practice fighting him.

When I'd played the practice room a dozen or more times and worked out how to kill him, I went back to stage 47 and defeated him on the second go. Afterwards I thought I'd look at the top leaderboard replays and see how the really skilled players did it.

Only there really aren't any players above me. Okay, there are TWO.

I'm NUMBER THREE on the leaderboards? Holy crap. I don't think THAT'S going to last long. Interestingly for me, the number one player uses almost the EXACT same technique for defeating Crazy King. He did the rooms before the boss 'better' than I did to get his higher score, but he didn't finish the level much sooner.

Basking in my short-lived moment of nerd glory. Man, I'm so hardcore! Now ALL the chicks'll dig me!