The Zen of 360

Currently we are a quarter of the way through the 31st year of my being on this Earth. Since getting married and buying a house 4 years ago, I’ve noticed small indicators that I’m growing up. As Dipper pointed out, I’ve started really stretching my legs and moving into the house. The rooms are starting to take on personality and become indicative of Tkout and my styles. Three weeks ago I went on a spending spree, purchasing hostas, lilies, and canna plants for the house. This coming weekend, I hope to landscape the front bed and finally have a front yard worth looking at for more than two seconds. I’m hoping Phoebe will want to help with the window boxes. Two weekends ago I hosted Easter dinner for my family, and turned the house upside down for a whole three days beforehand, cleaning, hanging pictures on walls, organizing the kitchen counter, etc.

As good as I feel about all of the aforementioned changes, nothing will point out that you’re old faster than playing a video game with a 9 year old. Shit you not.

I’ve played board games with Phoebe. We have sat on couches, her building LEGOs or coloring, while I crochet. I’ve gone to one of the local art museums with Dipper and Phoebe. We’ve played with my pets and her kitty. We’ve curled up and watched horror movies, as well as shows she has wanted me to watch with her. I’ve watched her play video games before. None of this prepared me for the experience I had Friday night. (To be fair, we played Katamari on a previous Friday, but she was coming down with a really bad cold and was more than a little out of it.)

Per our usual ritual, Phoebe and Dipper came over Friday night. This time they brought LEGO Dimensions with them. Phoebe was very excited to introduce me to the newest digital crack.

We ordered dinner and got the game set up. Once dinner was over and we were sat down in front of the XBOX 360, Phoebe proceeded to give me an introduction and tutorial to the game that was not unlike being strapped to the top of the USS Enterprise just as it hits warp speed. Being older and more self-conscious, and also lacking a serious amount of time spent in front of a console in many years, I was wanting to go granny speed. Learn the controls. Check out the characters. Basically get my bearings. Phoe was not having any of that. Before I knew what was going on, I was sucked through a vortex and dumped out into the Wizard of Oz. While I was busy hitting things to get the little LEGO studs as possible, Phoebe was demolishing the sleeping flowers in the Batmobile. Before I knew what was happening, we were watching Batman accost the Scarecrow and accuse him of releasing a hallucinogen, thereby producing. The cutscene ended, I smashed a few things, and before I could collect the studs, I was in the middle of a boss battle with the Wicked Witch.

Wicked Witch? More like WTF! This change of activity was born of her intense boredom at my attempt to collect every single stud available. Over the course of the next 2 hours, I was convinced I was going to lose my shit and wind up in a straitjacket. Even though I was having a ton of fun, I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing to save my life. Phoebe had already played that level before, so she knew every trick and battle, and she was eager to show it all off. The need for a straitjacket went both ways – Phoebe was going nuts because I was constantly off doing something counter productive to her goal of getting to the next level. (This I admit fully, freely, and with total shame.)

This past weekend, I spent time by myself playing the same level. It took fucking forever. I was after every stud, every secret corner, and switched characters to see what they could do. I enjoyed my run through, but there was something missing.

Today while walking back from lunch, I was thinking about gaming with Phoebe Friday. I was looking ahead two weeks to our next Friday together, and thinking about playing the game together. About how ready I would be. How I wouldn’t force her to have to wait for my slow ass to catch up. I realized what was missing. You see, adulting means that your priorities change. I was focused on getting studs for upgrades later, and for completing as much of the level as I could. I wanted to be sure-footed with my characters and their vehicles. I was thinking ahead to the packs I needed to purchase in order to interact with some of the content, and wondering how the experience would change if I were to switch up the characters. I was overthinking how to reach the highest heights, and what would happen if I met an obstacle I couldn’t overcome.

Phoebe was burdened by none of those things. She approached the game with a balls-to-the-wall excitement. A need to explore and experience. An almost palpable urge to see and do as much as she could. To her, there were no obstacles. If she couldn’t break it, build it, climb it, or go around it, she switched characters and tactics until she figured it out. Each time, she went at the problem fearlessly and joyously. 

More than anything, I can’t wait to play LEGO Dimensions with Phoebe again. To willingly strap myself to the top of the USS Enterprise and wait for her to hit warp speed. Being a stodgy completist can wait for when I’m playing the game on my own. What I want is a slice of reckless abandon. To run balls-to-the-wall into the digitized sunset with no idea where I’m going, how I’m getting there, or even what I’m doing. Which, considering how slowly I play the game and the amount of bullshit adulting I need to do between then and now, won’t be that hard. All I lack is a small, bright-eyed, golden-haired pilot.

 

 

 

Hi. My name is Holly Ann, and I’m addicted…

…to LEGO Dimensions.

Addicted, as in, TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY. RIGHT. NOW.

I can’t begin to describe how intensely awesome this game is. Or how purchasing the parts for it feels like selling your soul. Phoebe and Dipper brought it to my house Friday for Family Friday, and I was hooked. Bad. Like a junkie looking for a fix.

First things first. Just what is LEGO Dimensions, and who cares? LEGO Dimensions is a video game originally released in 2015. The plot is super simple. Lord Vortech (voiced by Gary Oldman) and his robot henchman X-PO (voiced by Joel McHale) are searching for Foundation Elements. With these 12 Elements connected, they can basically take over the universe. The 12 Elements are artifacts from different universes (which are different fandoms), such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Frodo’s One Ring, etc. In a bid to keep the universes from falling under single rule, all of the Elements were scattered.

Everything would have gone according to Lord Vortech’s plan, except Robin, Frodo, and Metalbeard are sucked into a vortex with the Elements. Their friends Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle willingly jump into the vortex to save their friends. They fall out of the vortex on Vorton, where they need to rebuild the generator that allows them to travel to different universes, saving their friends, collecting keystones, and saving the Foundation Elements.

That’s only scratching the surface of the game. The worlds they travel in are varied and hilarious, as are the heroes they work with. There is a franchise for absolutely everyone. Gremlins. The A-Team. Retro Ghostbusters. Modern Ghostbusters. Knight Rider. Jurassic World. The Simpsons. Mission:Impossible. Doctor Who. Back to the Future. Midway Arcade. The Lord of the Rings. That’s listing about half of the franchises included. Other franchises are being added, The Goonies, Beetlejuice, and Teen Titans Go! being the ones I’m looking forward to purchasing. Meh on Power Puff Girls. Although the idea of seeing Stripe tear through their pastel world is very very enticing! Just look at the picture below. The Joker, Stripe, Gizmo, and Harley in Gotham. Don you just know that’s going to be a wild party?!

When I said that this game was ridiculously expensive, I wasn’t kidding! There are several levels of add-ons that can be purchased. I’m going to go into a little detail about each level, starting with the least expensive and ending with the grandaddy. The least expensive are the Fun Packs. They retail for around $11.99 and are usual one character and a vehicle of some sort. Excalibur Batman and the Bionic Steed from The Lego Batman Movie are just one example. As you purchase updates for the vehicle (Bionic Steed in this example), you can also rearrange the LEGO configuration to resemble the new form. My favorite is Crabmeat from Sonic, which turns his airplane into a giant rideable crab. It’s also worth noting that vehicles aren’t character-specific. I absolutely LOVE running Stripe around Middle Earth on Shelob.

Next up are Team Packs. These feature 2 characters and 2 vehicles from a
franchise and will run you about $24.00. I’ve alluded to it several times, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t feature it here. My favorite team pack is from Gremlins. Gizmo and his RC racer are cute, there’s no denying that. But I absolutely love Stripe!

As with any videogame, the characters have certain catchphrases that they use. I can’t get enough of Stripe’s incessant babble. Sometimes as he’s tearing around you hear “Gizmo caca!” straight from the movie. Other times he merely grumbles to himself and laughs. If you leave him standing too long, he pulls out a bucket of popcorn and starts eating. Start moving again, and he discards the empty bucket.

If you want more levels, you can purchase a Level Pack. For around $30 you get a character, two vehicles, and then more levels for the game. For the adults who are playing LEGO Dimensions, there is Mission:Impossible, The Simpsons, Midway Arcade, and Doctor Who. Those aren’t the only Level Packs by a long shot, but they seem to be aimed for the older set. Midway Arcade comes with a stereotypical 80s gamer LEGO piece, the Spy Hunter car, and an arcade machine. This Level Pack promises over 20 classic arcade games.

Currently there are three Story Packs that you can purchase. Story Packs allow you to play through an entire movie. The three current packs are Ghostbusters (2016), The LEGO Batman Movie, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. What you get in each pack varies a little. The LEGO Batman Movie gives you Batgirl and Robin as playable characters, as well as a vehicle and a new LEGO piece to add to the game pad, which looks like the inside of the Batcave. Fantastic Beasts… gives you Newt Scamander as a playable character, Niffler as a playable character, and the Magical Congress of the United States is the game pad add-on. Ghostbusters (2016) features the Chinese restaurant facade where the girls have their office, Abby Yates and the Ecto vehicle. I don’t know if this is true for the other story packs, but finishing the Ghostbusters (2016) story unlocks the other Ghostbusters. When selecting Abby, it’s possible to play as Holtzman, Erin, or Patty. For $40, I think this pack is a pretty good deal. Even if you don’t use the facades on the game pad, they’re still neat to have, and playing through a whole movie instead of a few levels is definitely a plus.

Before you can play though, you need the basics. That’s where the Starter Pack comes in handy. The game is available for XBOX 360, XBOX One, Wii U, PS3, and PS4. No matter what platform you choose, you are looking at around $65.00-$80.00 for the starter pack. Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty competitive price when you consider that most games debut in the $50-$60 range. With the Starter Pack you get the three main playable characters of the game, Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle. Also included is the Batmobile. You also get the game pad (where you place the LEGO pieces to introduce characters and vehicles), the game disc, and a LEGO build of the Vorton vortex, which matches what you see in the game. Basically, you get everything that you see to the left.  

the most expensive packs are almost laughable at this point. They’re called Polybags. As the name suggests, it’s literally a plastic bag. With one figure. But it’s exclusive and therefore expensive. The only place you can really get ahold of them is ebay or amazon.com, and you will pay out the ass. The two characters are Green Arrow and Supergirl. The prices are outrageous. I’ve seen $129.00 for both, $65.00 for Supergirl alone, $35.00 for Green Arrow. It’s literally all over the place based on who is selling and when you check. Green Arrow was apparently a GameStop exclusive when you purchased any pack on Black Friday of 2016.

When I first started purchasing additional content for this game, I nearly shit from the amount of money. Of course, I started purchasing after all the Easter sales had come and gone. The buy one get one free, the half off. Those types of sales. To the best of my ability, I’ve followed Dipper’s recommendations and purchased lots or discounted items off ebay. I also just snagged a plastic snapcase for the figures and their vehicles. In part so I can bring them over when I visit Phoebe and Dipper, and in part because my cat is an asshole. She recently figured out that there was interesting stuff to knock over on my desk and shelves. LEGO is known for small pieces, and quite frankly, I don’t want to lose any.

The main reason I’m not as upset about the prices is that most LEGO sets go for
about $15.00 as a base price anyway. I purchased the Ghost Rider and Hobgoblin set for myself, and it set me back $20.00, and it doesn’t do anything but get assembled and sit. Granted, it’s absolutely insanely cool, but that’s all it does. Because I intend to take it out of the box and build it, it won’t even maintain a collector’s value. Speaking frankly, I don’t give a damn. The set is great, reminds me of Dipper, is horror themed (c’mon, a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle from Hell?!) and makes me happy. The same is to be said of LEGO Dimensions. The pieces are a blast to put together, the game itself is a riot, and the content is varied enough that it appeals to a variety of audiences.

 

Writer’s Notes:

Please forgive my lack of links in this post. With so many buying options from stores like Target, GameStop, and Walmart to online retailers ebay and amazon, it didn’t seem worth it to tag the packs. Not to mention the many varieties available.

Information on the voice actors for the series can be found here. In some cases, recordings from the movie or TV series the lines came from was used. For others, other voice talent was hired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Friday

Dipper and Phoebe came to visit us last Friday. Due to a possible obligation, they weren’t able to stay over, but it was still an amazing evening. Phoebe got things going by showing me her new Superhero Girls toy. It’s Wonder Woman on a motorcycle, and it’s downright badass! She also brought Clue, but we didn’t get a chance to play. The week had been rough on everyone, and we were all dying and ready for the sleep of the dead by about 9:30.

Since it was the last Friday of winter break Phoebe and Dipper had gone out around the town together. Among their stops were Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us. Dipper snagged a few graphic novels and a Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic for Phoebe, which I called dibs on after she finishes. (Phoebe liked Gravity Falls before I came along, but I suspect that she finds it even funnier now, since her dad and I are so much like Dipper and Mabel.)

Phoebe was also excited to give me the fuzzies that she and Dipper had picked out during the day. I’ve been all about the Resident Evil Funko line, and they found me Nemesis. As well as the Alien Queen from the Alien series. Phoebe found a Resident Evil manga at Barnes and Noble, that I didn’t even know existed. It’s called Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, and it takes place prior to video game RE6. I snagged the Power Rangers t-shirt from Dipper’s Loot Crate, and Phoebe had some more Monster High minis for me. (Yesterday I snapped all the little lockers together. I just have to clean candle soot off the one wall and then hang them. I’m really at a loss as to what to do otherwise!) The little green Cthulhu is part of a series of vinyl toys called Dunnys. Dipper got it for me a little bit ago, but I was able to glue the wings on Friday (they snapped off in shipping).

Although I didn’t take pictures of the fuzzies I gave them, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fuzzies waiting. I got Dipper the Hulk Mr. Potato Head, which means he’s only missing one or two more from the series. I also got him a Deadpool mini figure from Walgreens. I couldn’t resist! Phoebe got an Easter egg which turns into a bunny nose, some pens, and I honestly forget what else. I was so happy to see them that the first hour or so is a blur.

I was worn out and didn’t feel like cooking, so Tkout ordered us pizza and wings. He got pineapple on the pizza which is basically my favorite thing. After dinner, I did dishes and we sat down to watch Just Add Magic. Tkout changed the filtering on our router, so I couldn’t use the Amazon streaming app until he did some legwork. While we waited Phoebe and I decided to do some reading. She’s working on the Gravity Falls comic, and I was telling her that not only would Dipper and I be able to read it sooner, but I was sure her dad would count it towards her 20 minutes of reading homework. I sat down with Dreaming in Darkness, which I’m working on so that I can post a review. I chose the couch, because I knew Zelda would come and sit with me and hopefully I could keep her calm. It’s difficult to read with a Boston terrier zooming around the living room! Phoebe was over the moon that Chloe decided to sit on the top of the chair Phoebe had chosen.

Chloe likes Phoebe very much, but she’s not always up for the kind of attention Phoebe wants to give her. Since Chloe is at least 7 years old (she’s a rescue cat so we don’t know for sure) she’s not as spry as Vampira. When Phoebe is home, Vampira basically lets her do whatever she wants, within reason. Chloe isn’t like that. She likes to occasionally play with a toy, but more often than not, she wants to just sit and be petted by whatever hooman she chooses. Treats don’t hurt either. Now that Phoebe has learned that trick, she’s definitely used it to her advantage, and Chloe’s delight. Chloe dozed off while Phoebe read, and on occasion Phoebe would reach up and pet Chloe. Zelda did what I hoped, and stayed with me on the couch. As you can tell from the picture, Phoebe is a truly intense reader and really gets into the story!

I had been dreading seeing it for some time because I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Since she’s 9, she’s at this weird age where her shows are either insipid and torture (Bunk’d, I’m looking at you! Bizaardvark gets honorable mention for really annoying supporting characters.) or they’re really fun (Justice League Unlimited for sure!) Just Add Magic was a pleasant surprise for sure. It follows a common recipe – sisters (in this case friends) realize they can do magic, and they use it to try and have a positive impact. In this case, it’s a magic cookbook that the girls find in the attic. I like the strong female leads.

It was a really amazing Friday night. As much as I was sad that Phoebe and Dipper didn’t stay, part of me was glad because I was absolutely dead to the world once I hit my bed. There would have been no late night comic book talk with Dipper or movie marathon with Phoebe. I would have dropped absolutely dead and stayed dead until late the next morning. There’s also zero chance I would have gotten up early to watch TV and build Legos with Phoebe the next morning.

I promised Phoebe the next Family Friday we would play Clue and watch more Just Add Magic. Although I think we will wait for Dipper to go to bed for that last part. I’m not too sure that’s his bag. With any luck I can talk her into more Justice League. Or the classic Batman movies. By classic, I mean my classic. It’s high time she learned that Batman is Michael Keaton, Joker is Jack Nicholson. And as much as nobody seemed to notice, Harley Quinn pre-transformation in Suicide Squad is a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale.

(Just to prove my point, to the right is a snapshot of Miss Vicki Vale, from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

In the shot below, we have Miss Harley Quinn, of the 2016 Suicide Squad. Game over. I win. Right down to the glasses and classy shirt! Oooh..does that make Harley a foil for Vicki? Maybe. That theory will have to be put to the test in another post, another day.)