Archive for December, 2007

Killing Time: Scrooge’s Temper Tantrum + Webby Starves

No, it isn’t a new Ducktales cartoon, and I’m not working on one either. But this definitely deserves a spot on my site somewhere.

December 30 2007 | Killing Time, Videos | 1 Comment »

Old School Gaming: Torin’s Passage

Published/Developed by: Sierra On-Line, Inc.
Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

From Boobies to Boogle:
Today, I find myself revisiting “Torin’s Passage,” a 1995 brainchild from Sierra legend, Al Lowe, creator of the infamously raunchy “Leisure Suit Larry” series. This is one of the very few “family” games created by Mr. Lowe, but there’s no shortage of his twisted sense of humor or imagination. You play the role of Torin, a poor farm-boy who finds his parents kidnapped by the evil sorceress Lycentia, and must journey to the center of the planet to rescue them. Accompanying you is your shape-shifting sidekick Boogle, who transforms into useful objects along the way.

A Twisted World from a Twisted Mind:
The planet you travel through is made up of five worlds – one inside the other, and the game is broken up into five chapters respectively. Each world has it’s own culture and/or theme, such as a jungle world or a lava world. Others have strange oddities, like finding yourself walking onto the set of a 1950’s sitcom, complete with canned laughter. The worlds are practically painted with imagination, sometimes to the point where it’s all over the place, but it’s a very engaging experience nonetheless.

Puts the “Assage” in “Passage”:
“Torin’s Passage” is definitely aimed at the younger demographic – mainly because listening to Al Lowe write comedy for a family game is like listening to Bob Saget perform stand-up on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Between the bad puns and potty humor (i.e. having Boogle turn into a shovel so you can pick up some manure,) the game isn’t without it’s laughs, but it’s the kind of humor you’d sooner expect from a Shrek sequel. On top of that, the game is incredibly easy and can be finished in a night without having to click the ‘hint’ button once. I’d sooner chalk this up to them running out of budget at some point.

The Final Word:
In spite of it’s setbacks, “Torin’s Passage” is a perfect family game that can appeal to both the young and the old. The animation, music and graphics are great, the characters are appealing, and the whole game in general is pretty entertaining. If you’re an adventure fan, it’s definitely worth the illegal torrent download.

December 28 2007 | Video Games | 1 Comment »

Photoshop Fun: Claus Corner

December 27 2007 | Photoshops | No Comments »

Vohaul Strikes Back: The Internets Trailer!

Hey, all! Howdy ho ho ho, and a Merryific Christmas to all!

Here’s the new teaser trailer I made for the other game I’m working on, “Vohaul Strikes Back.” This one’s showing some real progress, and with any luck, I’ll be finished with it come next year.

After that one, I still have quite a bit left to work on with The Silver Lining, but with any luck, I’ll be back in full force on “Incinerations.” And I get my new computer today! Go me!

December 24 2007 | Video Games, Videos | No Comments »

A Day in the Life: Lappy’s Gone Again

Today was off to a fine start. Cleaned the house, got the dishes and laundry going, put up the Christmas decorations, wrapped some presents, baked some cookies, and even finished downloading a couple old torrents.

Then I turned on my laptop and fried my motherboard.

Long story short, I paid a visit to Memory Express and got myself an early Christmas present. With any luck, I’ll be up and running again in a few days with a monster graphics engine and a shiny new high-def monitor. Until then, I’ll be living off this good old Win98 ‘puter, playing Minesweeper and watching porn. Downtime rules!

December 16 2007 | Daily Life | 2 Comments »

2008 Movie Trailer Round-Up #1


December 14 2007 | Movies | No Comments »

Old School Gaming: Ween (The Prophecy)

Published by: Sierra On-Line, Inc.
Developed by: Coktel Vision, 1993
Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Rating: B-

Every now and then, I like to dig through the Abandonware archives and dig up old games to play during my lunch hours. One of my latest finds was a game I hadn’t heard of since I first played the demo over a decade ago.

A Quick Summary:
“Ween: The Prophecy” is a first-person adventure from Coktel (who was bought out by Sierra before Sierra got bought out by CUC, and CUC got bought out by Vivendi, etc, etc, you get the point.) You play as Ween, the famous “Chosen Wizard” who must collect three magic grains of sand and use them to seal away the dark lord, Kraal (standard fantasy plot.) Joining you is a vampire bat who provides different kinds of magical services based on what fruit you feed him. You’ll also take on two sidekicks, Uki and Orbi, who will carry all your items (and lose them as the game progresses.)

One of the more random character introductions.How it Works:
The game is similar to Myst in some aspects, except that instead of exploring massive landscapes, you’re dropped into a room and must solve all the puzzles in the area before you can move on. Unfortunately, most of the puzzle-solving involves pixel-hunting for illogical items. Instead of simply killing a dragon with your sword, the game will have you dig around under every rock and leaf until you find a magic stick that can defeat it for you. The game becomes unimaginably hard later on when you’re forced to perform repetitive tasks without knowing why. The game has a hint system, but you can only use it three times (which doesn’t matter since you can Google a walkthrough anyway)

Not Without It’s Charms:
Uki and Orbi, annoying as they are, still offer some welcome comic relief, and even break into song-and-dance from time to time. The music is a nice break from Coktel’s usual crappy soundtracks (the SFX in this game will make your ears bleed,) and the game has some very unique graphics, placing strange-looking live-action characters against hand-painted backgrounds. Not to mention that the puzzle variety can often lead you down alternate paths, giving the game some replayability value.

Final Word:
Not a must-play, yet a solid adventure game nonetheless. It loses points on the sound effects, pixel-hunting, and incredibly lame ending, but the puzzle variety, alternate paths, and characters keep it fun and interesting. It’s more of a footnote than a rare gem, but still probably better than a sledgehammer to the balls.

December 13 2007 | Video Games | No Comments »

The Hat Returns!

The Hat Returns! Odds are likely I’ll regret posting any hype about this come May 23rd, but what the hell.

Indy Poster

2008, don’t let me down.

December 10 2007 | Movies | 2 Comments »

Baked Lemonade Chicken Breasts – Take 1

In my search to figure out how the Chinese make their delicious patented lemon chicken, I came across this intriguing recipe which – unlike any recipe I’d ever read before – actually uses ingredients I have.

The Recipe:
1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 cup water
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix lemonade concentrate and water together. Pour over chicken in large bowl, being sure the chicken is well coated with lemonade mixture. Refrigerate 2-4 hours, turning chicken occasionally.

Drain chicken and reserve liquid. Mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a small paper bag. Add well-drained chicken, one piece at a time, and shake to coat evenly. Heat oil in large skillet over moderate heat. Add floured chicken; cook only until evenly browned, turning pieces over carefully with tongs. Remove chicken and arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Brush chicken with melted butter. Add reserved lemonade mixture. Bake uncovered about 1 hour, basting chicken with lemonade from pan every 15 or 20 minutes.

About 15 minutes before chicken is done, drain off excess liquid from pan and continue baking. When ready to serve, remove chicken from pan and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

The Result:

Actual chicken breasts are close to $20 a pack, so I opted to use the chicken strips already stored in my freezer and cut the entire recipe in half. Whether or not this attributed to the smoke alarm going off later is uncertain.

Something unusual I noticed about the recipe at first was that it asked for as much pepper as it did flour. I followed the recipe anyway, and wound up with some slimy blackened meat – like something that had just crawled out of the swamp.

I cooked it up anyway.

The skillet part went all right, but when it came to the oven, that’s when things got a little out of hand. It said to leave it in for an hour at 350 heat and check it every 15-20 minutes. The smoke alarm went off at the 15-minute mark. The chicken was cooking surprisingly well – it was the sauce causing all the problems. So I flipped on the stove fan and had to maintain a careful vigil over it for the duration of the cooking.

(UPDATE: I just found out my stove actually cooks fifty degrees higher than what I set it on, explaining all these recurring incidents with the smoke alarm. As for the fan… it’s just a crappy stove.)

At the 30 minute mark, I put the chicken into a different pan because the current one was REALLY starting to smoke. No matter how much sauce I drained, something still found a way to burn. As I made the switch, the stove fan started making this grinding noise. Next thing I know, the grill on the stove fan falls off and the fan goes spinning across the room. The grill lands in my pan, catapulting chicken and grease all over the kitchen. It was not a good day to be without a shirt. Somewhere in the middle of me wiping hot chicken grease off my bare flesh, the smoke alarm went off again.

I’ll spare you the details of me cleaning up the kitchen, but eventually, I did recover some of the chicken. Not enough for a picture’s worth, but enough to decide that maybe I’d put in a little too much pepper. Imagine something like this:

Only covered in burnt pepper and stuff from the kitchen floor.

And that’s why I had perogies for supper last night.

-Chris Ushko

December 09 2007 | Food | No Comments »

Let’s go get some gellato!

Ok, I’m back. Saw another country. Experienced a new culture. Ate many interesting foods. Got bitten several times by a cat. Came home, and now dealing with a very heavy case of jet lag while trying not to fall asleep at the computer again (like I did when I tried to write this last night.)

For those of you unfamiliar with Italy, it’s that country in Europe shaped like a disembodied Tyrannosaurus limb where everybody speaks Italian and listens to English radio.


It was home to many Vespas, pigeons, churches covered in century-old statues, and many interesting varieties of hot chocolate. I stayed with my long time friend, Valentina (the one who got me started on all those music videos) where I was mauled to death on a daily basis by her cat. Due to some complications, as well as a bloody transportation strike, I was only able to visit three major cities – Mestre, Venice, and Padova. And because some of you just want to see pictures, here you go:

Because clearly you haven’t seen enough pictures of this place in movies and on TV. Got to see a nice religious festival here (complete with Goku and Spongebob balloons,) saw the library where Indiana Jones uncovered the Holy Grail catacombs (which is actually a church in real life – Hollywood LIED to us,) and took a nice stroll through the darkened alleys of night-life Venizia.

I spent most of my time here because this is where I stayed. When in Mestre, and probably everywhere else in Italy, remember that snack bars are your friends. I could spend all day snacking on those sandwiches.

About 20 minutes by train from Mestre, we have the beautiful city of Padova, which is a lot like a dilapidated medieval version of Edmonton, only with more battlements and city walls. It also has the amazing St. Anthony’s chapel there which is probably one of the most amazing pieces of architecture I’ve seen throughout the entire trip.

All that other stuff:
From plane shots to my going-away birthday party to Italian curiosities (such as Harry Potter wearing a rat helmet,) here’s where I store all those extra pictures I took.

Some odds and ends about Italy:

  • Forget pasta and pizza – you’re there for the ice cream and the sandwiches.
  • Speaking of food, pumpkin-filled ravioli is AWESOME.
  • Pastry shops – also awesome.
  • Raw meat and oranges for lunch? Strange… yet… awesome.
  • “Mamma Mia” is actually more of a women and children’s phrase.
  • Contrary to what “Italian Phrases for Dummies” teaches us, Italians apparently DO NOT love to talk, or at least DO NOT want it implied that they love to talk.
  • “Italian Phrases for Dummies” is probably not the best book you should read before going there. You can apparently get lynched for using any of those phrases.
  • In Italy, Arnold Schwarzenegger voices Optimus Prime. How cool is that?
  • I just found out “Schwarzenegger” is included in the WordPress spell check.
  • Ironically, the word “WordPress” isn’t.
  • “Ciao,” “Arrivederci,” “Per Favor,” “Grazie,” and “Preggo” are the essential words, but you darn well better know how to ask for directions to a bathroom, get a table, or ask the waitress why your water tastes like disgusting watered-down wine.
  • Incidentally, the disgusting watered-down wine is carbonated mineral water. Restaurants reserve the right NOT to serve you free tap water.
  • Many Italian drivers will not slow down for a baby carriage. Cross the street quickly and carefully.
  • As a side-note, Italy is definitely more of a ladies’ country. Reasoning being, I could barely find any souvenirs to buy that weren’t ornamental glassware, leather boots, hats, or expensive jewelry. It a great place to shop for women, but if you’re a guy, you’re better off picking up souvenirs while connecting to flights in Amsterdam (where you can’t buy a t-shirt that doesn’t have pot all over it.)
  • You don’t know funny until you see an 18th-century Frenchman kick Darth Vader in the balls.
  • Jada is in charge of sombreros.

    -Chris Ushko

    December 05 2007 | Travel | 6 Comments »