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Aguagon "aguagon" RSS Feed (Tucson, Arizona)

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StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Offered by Tripod Tech Inc
Price: $15.95
181 used & new from $3.95

1,092 of 1,138 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starcraft 2: A Fan's Lament, August 1, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
I've watched the Starcraft 2 Amazon reviews come in with great sadness. Sadness because this game deserves so much more than 3 stars, but also sadness because most of the points the negative reviews make are completely legitimate.

Starcraft 2 is a great game. I got it the day it came out and haven't touched another game since. Like the original Starcraft, it's an almost perfectly balanced RTS with three unique races. The Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss each have many new units and tricks up their sleeves, and as with the original, the game takes mere hours to learn but a lifetime to master. Each and every last unit has its perfect situation where it can be used to turn the tide of a game. The production values are phenomenal all around. The sounds and voice acting are fantastic, the attention to detail is amazing, and if you've got a computer that can handle them, the visuals on max settings are absolutely gorgeous. And it doesn't just look and sound good; it plays good, too. A bunch of little technical issues from the original have been fixed: you can issue commands to multiple hotkeyed groups at light speed without some commands being lost, your own units will actually move out of the way when you're trying to construct a building, rally points are more efficient and separate ones can be set for worker units, etc. It's all the fun of the original, but it's now sleeker, sexier and handles better. It is faster paced than the original, and the multi-player automatic match-making system is Blizzard's best yet. As a bonus, it (like Starcraft and Warcraft III before it) ships with a map editor that lets you customize nearly any aspect of the game; skilled map-makers will be making new maps, missions and mini-games for years to come.

So when does a game like this get a 3-star rating? When its own creators unwittingly do almost everything in their power to sabotage it, that's when. Thanks to some miscalculations by Blizzard, there will be entire sections of the fan base that will find this game either unplayable or unappealing. Though the gripes have been listed many times on here, I'll summarize them once more and give my take on just how much they're really likely to annoy you:

1. You need an Internet connection to play, even in single-player mode. Obviously, if you have no or sporadic Internet, this will be a deal-breaker. You can technically play a single player version offline, but it comes with limited features and privileges.
2. You need to make a Battle.net account to be able to play at all. For some, the very idea of having to go online and sign up to use a product you just shelled out $[...] for is a slap in the face. Also, this Battle.net account will be your one and only Starcraft II account; no more starting over with a new name or record.
3. No LAN. I guess maybe Blizzard thought nobody actually LANs anymore? Clearly, the people have spoken, and Blizzard thought wrong. If your fondest Starcraft memories are of playing the game on a LAN with friends, this might be a deal-breaker for you.
4. The region lock. In Blizzard's previous games, you could freely switch between regions. Now, if you're an American and you want to play with your European friends, you need a European copy of the game. It's hard to see what good this does besides making Blizzard more money.
5. No chat rooms. The game's automatic matchmaking system is beautiful, but let's say you want to chat with other players in a chat room for a while before migrating over to a game. No longer possible. Just about the only way to make new Starcraft 2 friends and partners online is to privately message people you were randomly paired with after a game, or to privately message random players in your (or a friend's) league division (hint: if you do this, people will think you're weird). Blizzard has promised to add chat rooms in a patch, but for now, this is the issue annoying me the most.
6. Your Battle.net and RealID friends are practically invited to stalk you. I don't think I've seen a game where adding someone you're "iffy" about to your friends list could end up more detrimental. Not only are you always online while playing this game, you always show as online to everyone on your friend's list. You can choose to show as "busy," but there's no option to hide.
7. The campaign is Terran only, and a multi-player RTS plus one race's campaign might not be worth $[...]. In Blizzard's defense, there are 29 missions, strung together to form an amazing story with cut-scenes and cinematics between each. Each mission can be completed on 4 difficulty levels, all featuring optional objectives and achievements. But for all that, an RTS veteran could blitz through the entire campaign in a matter of hours (on normal mode, at least). If you're one of the players for whom the campaign is the main draw, paying $[...] for a game it only takes hours to beat would be a bad deal.
8. There's no global ladder. If you play league games online competitively, you get ranked in a league, but aside from the top league (so I'm told; I'm not in it), you have no way to tell where you stand relative to everyone else in your league. You can only tell where you stand relative to the others in your 100 person division, and the divisions themselves are not ranked. I much preferred Warcraft III's system, where you could see where you stood relative to everyone.

The funny thing is, some of these new features people are griping about aren't inherently bad ideas. For instance, it's actually very cool to be able to chat and share your achievements with friends while playing the campaign...unless, of course, you just want to strategize and be left alone. Which brings me to what I think is the heart of Blizzard's mistake: they should have made a whole lot more settings OPTIONAL. You should have the OPTION to play single player online or offline, the OPTION to show as visible or invisible to your friends, the OPTION to play LAN, the OPTION to switch regions. But instead, Blizzard's "my way or the highway" approach will leave all of those who can't get past any of the above eight things out in the cold. So please, Blizzard, save your fans, yourselves, and your game a lot of trouble, and make more features optional in future patches.

I'll close by addressing what I think are the three groups of people holding off on buying the game: if you're dismayed by all the negative publicity, but none of the above problems are deal-breakers for you (and there's no reason why any of them have to be), go ahead and buy it. It really is a great game, and you'll have a lot of fun. If you absolutely can't get past one or more of the problems and know they would make the game cease to be a fun experience, then you have my sympathy and you get to keep your [...] bucks. And finally, to those for whom the issues really aren't deal-breakers but who are refusing to buy the game on matters of principle: you have my respect, and even my admiration. But man, you're missing out on a good one.

Update (4/19/11): Since I wrote this review, chat rooms have been patched into the game, though they aren't used nearly as much as the chat rooms in Blizzard's previous games. On other positive notes, the game is frequently patched, balance issues are addressed and taken seriously, the game has very active forums where players talk strategy in detail, and Blizzard is continuing to make new maps and scenarios and integrate them into online play. On the negative side, it's becoming more and more apparent that most of the bigger complaints against the game (like the lack of LAN, online requirement, and region lock) aren't going to be patched away. Overall, I'm still playing the game pretty regularly and having fun, but there's still plenty I'm gritting my teeth about.
Comment Comments (87) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2015 10:32 AM PDT


Manitou Blood
Manitou Blood
by Graham Masterton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
67 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Start, Kinda Disappointing Finish, July 23, 2006
First of all, I need to note that this was my first Graham Masterton novel (and, of course, my first Harry Erksine novel). I realize I sort of jumped in in the middle, but the story was clearly designed to stand on its own, so that's the ground I'll be reviewing it on.

The beginning of the story is a captivating look at what a vampire epidemic would look like from a medical perspective in 21st century America. As Dr. Frank Winter desperately tries to figure out what strange new disease could be making people vomit up gallons of blood that happens to be a mix of many blood types, vampires overrun New York City and, in true apocalyptic horror story fashion, kill off everyone but a select few charismatic protagonists. So far, so good.

Then comes the part where one of those protagonists, Harry Erksine, get help from his otherwordly Native American spirit guide, Singing Rock. I was a little put off at first, but I figured I'd roll with it.

And therein lies my biggest complaint with this otherwise riveting story: you have to roll with a lot. By the end of the story, Erksine is contacting mystical otherwordly forces to help him fight the vampires through rituals that are only vaguely and mystically explained. I understand that this is a story about the supernatural (heck, I'd want a refund if there wasn't at least a little otherworldly stuff going on), but even supernatural stories need boundaries and a sense of what's fair play and what isn't. So far as I could tell, at any point in the story Harry could have summoned meteorites from the sky to pummel his enemies with. I mean, why not?

Masterton also doesn't quite seem able to understand what style of writing he wants to do this thing in. In the beginning of the story, it's frightening realism, a fresh look at what might happen if vampires invaded your neighborhood tomorrow. By the end, it's almost pure fantasy, and a good deal harder to relate to.

For all that, the story was fast-paced and exciting, the characters were quirky and interesting, and the plot was involving all the way through. I was very entertained while I was reading it, and it was only after I took a two-day breather near the end of the book that I realized the book could easily end with Zeus making an appearance and smiting the vampires the way things were going. Basically, as long as you don't think too much, you'll have a good time with "Manitou Blood."


The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door
by Jack Ketchum
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
37 used & new from $0.33

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Appalling, Remarkable Story, July 23, 2006
"Not for the faint of heart." Those are the words that appear on one of the review excerpts on the back cover of the Mass Market Paperback edition of "The Girl Next Door". How many times has the average horror reader seen these words written about a book? Probably more than he can count. If the reader is anything like me, he ignores the warning and plunges in without a second thought, and usually rightfully so. The phrase is thrown around a lot these days.

This time, the reader should listen. "The Girl Next Door" is the story of a woman who is given custody of her two distant nieces after the tragic death of their parents. Soon after they enter her life, she becomes increasingly agitated and abusive towards them, eventually slipping into full-blown insanity.

The tale is told from the perspective of the boy next door, a 12-year-old who spends a lot of time at his neighbors' house and is both appalled and strangely excited by the abuse and humiliations his new next door neighbors -- the beautiful 14-year-old redhead in particular -- must endure.

The depth and detailed description of the torture the girls have to go through is more than I ever imagined the author would dare put into words. Ketchum goes as far as you can imagine he possibly will, and them some.

The worst part is how real everything is. The characters leap off the page, and the writing is so masterful that it quickly gets you VERY emotionally involved. I hated the antagonist in this story more than I have ever hated any fictional character. Throughout the second half of the book, I desperately wanted to leap into the story and rip her head off. I pitied and genuinely cared for the abused nieces, rooted for them with all my heart every step of the way. And I empathized with the narrator's position, the care and respect he felt for his abused neighbors offset by his fear of telling and the (often sexual) excitement he derived from seeing them tortured.

The book gives the reader a lot to think about when he/she is finished. It raises questions about how far privacy should go, what the difference is between doing the right thing and the "correct" thing, and how mentally disturbed behavior should be interpreted (actually, the basic message is that you can't afford to be playing interpretive guessing games when other people are involved).

Others have said that they're unsure whether they recommend the book or not, and I understand completely. On the one hand, I feel that anyone who passed this book up would be missing out on one of the most remarkable, emotionally intense stories he/she ever read. On the other hand, if I ever caught my mother so much as leafing through my copy, I would die. The book is definitely intended for a certain type of person. Or, to put it another way, it's not for the faint of heart.


Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001
Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001
Offered by Great Price Media
Price: $9.01
208 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Funny, Sometimes Serious, Always Enjoyable, June 12, 2005
I wasn't too familiar with BNL's music when I bought this CD, and it's changed me from someone with a passing familiarity with their music to a diehard fan. They're best known for their zany, humorous pop hits (to this day, class clowns around the globe are breaking out into renditions of "One Week"). There is plenty more of their unique brand of humor to be heard here in songs like "If I Had $1,000,000" and "Be My Yoko Ono."

I was also surprised and impressed with BNL's ability to construct layered, serious, emotional music. Songs like "Call and Answer", "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" and "What A Good Boy" showed me a side of BNL I had never heard before. I can now respect BNL not only as the class clowns of pop music, but as serious musicians with real musical prowess.

The two new songs on the album--"It's Only Me" and "Thanks, That Was Fun"--are enjoyable, but far from the album's standouts. If you've got a substantial BNL collection already, I wouldn't recommend buying the album just for them (if you want them bad enough, there's always ITunes). If, on the other hand, you've heard a few BNL songs on the radio, enjoyed them, and are wondering if there's more where that came from--buy this album. You won't be disappointed.


18
18
Offered by cdgiveaways
Price: $10.29
175 used & new from $0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moby Does It Again, July 1, 2004
This review is from: 18 (Audio CD)
The follow-up CD to the 1999 smash-hit Play well lived up to its expectations. While not quite as good as its predecessor, I don't think anybody will be disappointed.
Moby continues to re-define techo in this new album, reminding us all of how far he's come since his raw, electronic beat days. Like Play before it, 18 is full of spiritual, emotional songs--although often he uses this emotional power to create somewhat depressing (but still very beautiful) music, as can be seen is such tracks as "Sleep Alone", "18" and "At Least We Tried".
In contrast to Play, there are more slow and melodic songs and less hip-hip and R&B songs. Strangely, although I ordinarily don't care for hip-hop or R&B, I was sad to see both go.
Overall, though, this album is a must-buy, and I stand fully behind my 5-star rating. As with Play, all of the songs are unique and special on their own, but come together to create a spiritual journey into a wide spectrum of emotions when the album is played in its entirety.


Play
Play
Offered by cdgiveaways
Price: $11.36
500 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hands Down Must Buy, July 1, 2004
This review is from: Play (Audio CD)
When you say the word "techno", people tend to imagine loud, obnoxious electronic dance songs with loads of annoying sound-effects. Rest assured that if that's your defintion of techno, this ain't techno.
Moby takes 18 tracks and tackles multiple genres: rock, hip hop, blues, gospel, accoustic, and many more. Many tracks contain samplings of other songs (ranging from Love Rap by Spoony G and The Trecherous 3 to Run On For A Long Time, a 1937 gospel piece), while others are true original compositions with Moby doing the vocals himself. It creates for a rather confusing effect: you won't know exactly who you're listening to--but believe me, you'll be enjoying yourself too much to care.
Moby is a devout Christian, and his spirituality shines in every one of these 18 tracks. It would be wrong, though, to call this religious music--it's not looking to convert anyone, if that's a worry of yours. I'm an Agnostic myself, and I loved the spiritual, empowering feelings of these songs.
I've noticed other reviews say that some songs are great while others fail, but I honestly believe each and every one of these songs has something to offer. Some, like "7", "Down Slow", and "Inside" don't have any lyrics and do resort to a more traditional techno sound, but are enthralling nevertheless.
So go on and add it to your shopping cart. If you don't absolutely love it, then--well--feel free to write me an angry e-mail.


Pet Sematary (Signet)
Pet Sematary (Signet)
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
113 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King At His Best, July 1, 2004
If you look at the critical acclaim pages of nearly any Stephen King book, you will find that a vast number of sources probably proclaimed the work "Sheer Genius!" "Gripping and Terrifying" and, more often than not, "One of the Scariest Books I'd Ever Read". Ordinarily, I think it fair to say these claims are exaggerations--but not in the case of Pet Sematary.
I've read a good deal of Stephen King's novels (more than half of them), and this one is by far my favorite. It has parts that you wouldn't want to read home alone late at night, but it is far more interesting than just monsters jumping out of shadows...
What made this book so terrifying for me was that it was about human nature, and human reaction to death. The main character in the novel, Louis Creed, unleashes horrors into the world trying to ressurect his dead loved ones...and after the horrors are dealt with, he does it again. Pet Sematary is a deeply emotional book that explores just how far we would be willing to go to cheat death.
If you read just one Stephen King novel, make it this one.


The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)
The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
152 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Read, Disappointing Ending, July 1, 2004
The Stand is the story of a killer plague that wipes out 99.5% of America, and about the apocolyptic battle between good and evil that follows, but to me, all of that came secondary to the most fascinating thing of all: the characters.
The characters in this story are fascinating, multi-dimensional, and deep. They each start out in their own respective locations in the U.S., and come together near the middle of the book. Before the characters even meet one another and the real story begins, you are already intimate (and most likely fond) of each one. Stu Redman, Fran Goldsmith, and Larry Underwood will stay with you long after you put the book down.
The fascinating characters and interesting plot make for a fun reading experience, but in my opinion, the conclusion of the story isn't worth the 1100 pages building up to it. It makes for an effect in which you've grown attached to all the characters, are thoroughly enjoying the book, and suddenly the ending comes, and you can't help but think to yourself, "What, that's IT?"
Nevertheless, this is a novel I would definitely recommend. It would be especially handy to have on a good, month-long vacation.


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