Jul 9, 2017

09 & 10: A Double Pack of Wii Shooters!

I decided to not bother with the so far usual Photo to proof that I have beaten the games mainly because I´m too lazy to copy them from my Phone to my PC. Abd with that out of the way we jump straight into todays main meal: The Conduit and it´s sequel Conduit 2 for the Wii, a pair of First Person Shooters. You take control of Agent Michael Ford who works for an Agency called "Trust". Ford is send into Washington D.C. to recover stolen Trust technology from a terrorist organization led by Prometheus. However once Ford did everything Trust whanted they turn against him and Prometheus becomes his new best friend. At this point he has deal with his former employer while fighting off an Alien Invader called the Drudge. The Story is neither great nor memorable, heck, they even forgot to give it a proper ending or at least a true boss fight at the end, it kinda just ends after you fought off a few waves of Drudge at the end while trying to open a Conduit (that´s what they decided to call Portals) to escape from Trusts Headquarter / Drudge Factory (Oh, yeah, Drudge are manufactured or something) because that facility is about to self destruct. You never get a chance to to fight John Adams, the Boss of Trust and the very man that tried to ditch you a while earlier. Gameplay wise The Conduit is a solid FPS with nothing too special about it. Weapons are a mix of SMG´s, Shotguns, Pistols and Drudge weapons wich are mostly energy based and IMO more fun to use. Since it´s a Wii game you have to use Motion Controls, though they are fairly good and considering the game doesn´t support the Motion Plus feature it is actualy fairly precise. After the first few levels I didn´t mind pointing the Wiimote at my TV anymore and I began to really enjoy the game. Soundwise there is nothing to complain here, weapons sound like you would expect, voice acting is good, but nothing too special and the Soundtrack is at least not annoying. Back in the day The Conduit was praised a lot for it´s visuals and while it does indeed look rather good for a Wii game, however for the most part, even in outdoor areas, it´s just a bunch of corridors with a few larger rooms in between, but they are at least varied enough to keep it from getting boring.

Conduit 2 picks up right where the first one ended: On the other side of that Conduit-Portal that you used to espace from the Trust Headquarter. You are now on a Oil Platform and right away you start to hunt down John Adams. After defeating a giant sea monster Ford is taken to the Atlantis, the very ship that brought Adams, Prometheus and the Drudge to Earth. There you first get a fancy suit of armor and then awaken Andromeda from her Stasis. She then reveals that whoever is wearing that armor has to destroy The Pathfinder, who just happens to be John Adams. A wild hunt around the world and a few bossfights later you finally get your chance to kich Adams Drudge-Ass. While the story for Conduit 2 isn´t anything special either the game itself takes itself less serious than the previous game. The Weapon selection is similar, but you still get a few new toys to play with and control wise you can now use a Wii Classic Controller (Pro) instead of the Motion Controls, the latter now support the WiiMotion Plus feature. For some wierd reason you can´t use the Classic Controller when Motion Plus is activated in the Options Menu. For the sound departement I have the exact same thing to say as for the first game, the graphics however are greatly improved and I would go so far to say this is probably the best looking Wii game period. You get much more varied levels visualy wise with some of them even having a much more open feel to them than anything the first game had to offer. Sadly Conduit 2 ends on a Cliffhanger with former US Presidents from Outerspace, and I somehow doubt that we will ever see a Conduit 3, wich is a bummer considering the 2nd game made a lot of right design decisions and it had the potential in it to become a bigger franchise than it is. Since you can pick both games up for a fairly low price there is really no reason why you shouldn´t at least give them a chance.

Jun 15, 2017

Wild Animal Kingdom

Can a Wildlife Park with a selection of older Fairground rides be so good that it´s worth visiting despite your time required getting to the Park and back home equals or even surpasses the time you are able to stay at the Park itself? At least for the Serengeti Park here in germany I would say yes without even thinking too much about it. The Park is located in North Germany between the cities of Hannover and Bremen near the town of Hodenhagen. It opened in 1974 under the name of "Wild Animal Kingdom" as a series of Wildlife parks all around the world, all of wich shared the concept of presenting exotic Animals in a Safari-Style environment with a few Attractions added for good measure. In 1982 the american parent company filed for bankrupcy and Paolo Sepe, who ran the Park in germany, took the opportunity to buy the Park and since then it is owned and operated by the Sepe Family. In 1983 they began renovating and expanding the Park. In 2004 they recieved permanent recognition as a zoological garden in accordance to current EU-guidlines and north German nature preserve law. Today it is home for over 1.500 animals living on over 200ha of space. The animals live in large, open spaces and where possible multiple species share their space. Of cause predators like Lions and Tigers have areas for themselves. With a few expeptions, wich are for the most part the monkey´s, you can´t reach the animals by foot. Like mentioned above the Park whant´s to give it´s visitors a Safari-Style experience and because of this you need a vehile to see most of the wildlife. You can either do this with your own car at your own pace or you pay 5,50€ to take a guided 1-hour tour in one of the double decker busses, as a bonus the driver will explain a few things about the animals you see. They even have a area with smaller, harmless animals that acts as a petting zoo. During this Safari trip you get to see Giraffes, Rhinos, Lions and Tigers, both in regular and white flavours, Flamingos, Elephants, several variants of Antilopes and many others. Like already hinted at most of the monkeys are not part of this Safari since those are in a seperate part of the Park and you can get much closer to them than you would on the regular Tour. Some of them are on seperate, man made islands without any fence or cage around them what so ever since they wouldn´t cross the water anyway, some other species have a large fence-like structure around them, however you can enter those areas by foot and get very close to the animals.

The Theme Park portion is for the most part nothing too special and not really worth the visit just for the rides. You get common Fairground stuff like Bumper Cars, a Ferris Wheel, a Top Spin, a Break Dancer and a Log Flume. The Highlight of these was, at least for me, the nowadays very rare Condor from Huss named "Senga". Even their Roller Coaster "Chura Racer" is just a plain, old Zierer Tivoli-large model like many others around the world. In addition to these rides you get a few playground areas for the kids, rowing boats and even a ropeclimbing parcours. And while the later is already something special, the remaining attractions are indeed very unique. All of them are centered around somewhat unique motorized vehicles. The "Jungle Safari" seats guests in the back of an Off-Road capable Truck, the first part follows a different path through some of the Wildlife Areas than the regular tour and then enters a forest-area wich is home to some Animatronics and special effects. The Second is called "Quad Safari" and like the name suggest guests take a seat on a larger Quad, two of these seats are mounted in a backwards position, and the driver navigates you through a special Off-Road course filled with Animatronics.

For me the real stars of all of the Attractions are the two Water Based Vehicles. The first one is "Black Mamba" and it features Jet-Boats capable of spinning around in tight circles. Sadly I wasn´t able to ride this one myself. The other one is the "Aqua Safari" and I did ride this one, it would have been crazy to not do this one. The vehicles here are Air Boats used most famously in Floride. These things are essentialy large steel pans with a few benches screwed on top and 500 BHP V8 Engine in a cage on the back attached to a large propeller. The first part of the rides takes you slowly through a narrow canal featuring scenes of destruction caused by King Kong. Once you reach the more open lake the boat get´s accelerated to full throttle, wich is an insane experience. That V8 in your back is screaming so loud that no matter how hard you try, no one would be able hear you, not even yourself. After this incredible high speed part the experience ends with a large King Kong Animatronic and a few Light and Water Effects. To my knowledge Serengeti Park is the only place in Europe, if not the entire world, that features these boats as a Theme Park attraction.

And the best part is that all of these Rides are included in the very reasonable Ticket price of currently (2017 Season) 32,50€ for an Adult. The only thing you have to pay extra is the guided Bus Tour, doing the Safari with your own car is free, just like parking. I visited the Park in April with my niece and she enjoyed every minute of it at least as much as I did, if not even more. The fact that it was a weekday resulted in somewhat low visitor numbers resulting in short waiting times for the rides. The only things with wait times even worth mentioning where the four special rides mentioned above. If you like to visit Zoo´s and Wildlife Parks the Serengeti Park should be on your bucket list for sure! The entire staff was very friendly and highly motivated, the animals all looked healthy to me (I´m no expert though) and I really love that they try to keep the animals in a much more true to nature way than most Zoo´s do.

Please excuse the mostly poor quality of the photos I took in this park, but I forgot my camera at home that day and when I realized it we where already almost at the Park, but like someone probably more famous than myself once said, the best camera is the one that´s with you and in this case that was my entry level Smartphone.

Official Park Website: https://www.serengeti-park.de/en/
For more pictures of this and other Parks visit my Flickr Account: Flickr.com

Jun 14, 2017

08: So sweet that you get diabetes from it

As already mentioned in a previous post that I most likely won´t be able to beat the 52 game challenge and to be honest I don´t care too much about it. I play video games for the fun of it and I don´t whant to force myself into playing games only to beat a self-imposed challenge. However, and this is still something good, I get around to finally play some games I had lying around for a while and / or are on my bucket list anyway. It might come as a surprise that in my entire life I never really played any of the Kirby games and therefore Kirby´s Epic Yarn was my first real expirience with the pink fluffball outside of the Super Smash Bros. Franchise. And boy did I enjoy this one! The unique and colorful visuals with absolutely everything made out of yarn, cloth and everything that is diretly related to these two things gives the game a look like no other game. The entire thing just looks right and allows for some creative gameplay elements like the ability tu pull certain parts of the level to you or to change shapes depending of what you whant to do, i.e. instead of running Kirby transforms into a car to move faster. The fact that Epic Yarn is a 2D game helps the visuals a lot, I´d bet my ass that this artstyle would look terrible in 3D.

As with a certain other Nintendo Franchise centered around an Italian Plumber the Story can be written on a piece of toilet paper. Kirby eats a tomato that belongs to Yin Yarn, an evil wizard, and get´s sucked into Patch land where he is turned into yarn making most of his abilities useless while granting him new ones at the same time. In order to get back home Kirby needs to help Prince Fluff to find seven pieces of magical yarn that held Patch Land together. And that´s all we got for a Story and that´s all we really need and it is presented in well narrated Cutscenes, Besides the visuals the other stars of the show are the gameplay and music, the former features super precise controls and enough variation to keep it interesting, it even features a few Shmup-sections for good measure. The music is some of the best I heard in any video game ever. It varies from very catchy tunes to some epic scores that wouldn´t sound out of place in a Starfox game. Well done Nintendo! My only real gripe with this one is the low difficulty, heck, I would even say that it´s too easy for kids since it doesn´t even have a failure state what so ever, a optional, harder mode would have brought this one to absolute perfection.

Jun 1, 2017

Where Michael Bay learned to make Movies

Old Movies that where shot on location can become a great way to see how a place looked at a certain point in time. Just take the 1996 German Made for TV Action Flick Adrenalin as an example. About half of the Movie is filmed inside the Phantasialand Theme Park. This Park changed drasticly since the Movie was made and barely anything that is shown still exists. Or the 1977 Desaster-Suspense Rollercoaster as an example. A large portion of this movie was filmed in the Kings Dominion Theme Park wich opened just 2 year prior to the movies release and therefore some rides now considered classics, like the Racing-Coaster Rebell Yell, are shown in brand new condition. The opening scenes of Rollercoaster where shot at Norfolk´s Ocean View Amusement Park wich was demolished in 1979. And that demolition inspired the creation of The Death of Ocean View Park, a Made for TV that gained a cult status in the Theme Park enthusiast community for it´s footage of the still operating park and a finale that mixes footage of the real demolition with special effects. The Rocket, Ocean View´s Wooden Roller Coaster, is the main star in the explosion filled climax put up a real fight though. Much to the enjoyment of bystanders and fans of the park the ride survived 2 sets of explosive charges and had to be pulled down by a Bulldozer in order to have the ride finally collapse.

Sadly the Movie itself isn´t as good as it´s spectacular end. The main issue seems to be that they had to come up with a plot that ends with the destruction of Ocean View Park. The Setup is rather simple: Norfolk get´s hit by a Hurricane, that surprisingly enough doesn´t seem to have destroyed anything, afterwards some strange things start to happen. Bumper Cars Move on their own during the night, the entire Park looses Power and sandcastles disappear (I´m serious, that really is a plotpoint in the movie). Meanwhile the wife of a teacher that also happens to work at the park has visions of a terrible desaster happening on July 4th during an big event. During all this a socialy awkward boy tries to find a girlfriend. Succesfully. The Film is full of cringe worthy acting, badly written dialouge and luckily decent shots of Ocean View Park. To me The Death of Ocean View Park realy has only 2 redeeming qualities: It shows the Park before it´s final destruction and that ending is some Michael Bay worthy shit. Huge explosions everywhere, no matter if they make a whole lot of sense or not, they just look good. You can find the entire thing easily on YouTube and a few places even sell Bootleg DVD´s of it, just don´t expect a good movie. Or great acting. If you watch this you come for the Park and stay for the explosions.

May 30, 2017

A disapointment 21 years in the making

I know, I have been very silent the last weeks and it´s very likely that I end up failing the 52 game challenge, however I don´t care about that. The reason for all this is more or less my summer vacation, a crazy 2 week trip through Italy and Southern Germany with a Theme Park visit on (almost) every day. Yes, I know, this sounds bonkers, and it probably is, but I´m very excited about that. Plus it gives me a reson to finaly write a bit about Theme Parks. Because I like them and it´s my Blog and I can make up rules and content how I whant. And to kick things off I wanted to talk a bit about the lesser known Walygator Parc in France. Walygator isn´t the original name of this Park, since it´s opening in 1989 it had a total of 4 different names and at least as many owners, and to be honest it is a bit sad to see this because you can see and feel that at least some love and care went and still goes into it, however the current owner is optimistic to improve the Parks Image and Visitor Numbers. I first visited this place back in 1996 when it operated under the name "Walibi Schtroumpf", at this point in time it was owned by the Belgian Walibi Group and it had a Smurfs Theming through most of it (Schtroumpf is the French word for Smurfs). Back in 1998 almost everything related to the Smurfs was removed (you can still find a few hint´s in various places though) and in 2006 / 2007 the back then new owner renovated and re-themed a lot in the Park and gave it the current name Walygator and Wally as a mascot. Since 2016 it is owned by the Spanish Aspro Parks Group wich mostly operates Water Parks. Walygator is home to 4 Roller Coasters, 3 Water based Rides and a roughly 40 other Attractions and Shows and they have something for all ages and sizes. Walygator has various themed areas, however you can get the feeling that they don´t take that too serious, I.e. they have a very lovely Dino-Themed area, however one of the older Flatrides already had a Dino Theming and for whatever reason they never moved it to the Dino Area. At least for me that isn´t much of an issue though, but it would be nice to have already themed up rides in the proper sections of the Park.

Thrillseeker can take a ride on the Inverted Coaster "The Monster", a clone of Cedar Point´s Raptor minus the mid-course brake run, the wooden coaster "L´Anaconda" can be ridden by the entire family, "Comet", a Vekoma Looping / Corkscrew Coaster, is blast from the past, especially since it´s old trains became a very rare sight in the last couple of years and the small ones can get their first Roller Coaster experience on "Family Coaster", one of many Whacky Worms around the world, however this one got a lovely Crocodile Themed Train instead of the usual Worm. The Log Flume isn´t anything special, it has one drop, but it get´s you decently wet, however the "Dino Raft" is probably my favourite River Rapids Ride period. Not only is it well themed around the course, but it also get´s water on you no matter what and having the Jurassic Park Main Theme all around the Dino Area almost makes it feel as if it where a official Jurassic Park Ride, this is how you do a good Rafting! The last Water based ride is a Mack Tow-Boat ride similar in Concept to Disney´s "It´s a small World" or Efteling´s "Carnaval Festival", luckily with much less annoying music, however it end´s up being much less memorable too. Sadly this is currently the only thing that truly is a theme ride, there are no dark rides what so ever, the "Terror House" is a overall disapointing walkthrough that tries to shock you with a few loud-ish noises and shaking Animatronics. 

Other than those larger Attractions you can find a lot of smaller rides. Most of them are the usual suspects like a swinging ship or various carousels, the "Space Shooter" aka "Dark Tower" (I really don´t know what it´s current official name is) isn´t anything special either, but the sound of air getting compressed to shoot you into the air on these Space Shot Towers still manages to send a shiver down my spine. The Zamperla Air Race "G-Lock" is worth a mention though. It was my first Air Race and I love it, the amount of Hangtime you get on this thing is bonkers and the speed it can spin you around isn´t anything for the faint of heart either. Great ride, love it. Most of the Park is really clean and well maintained, however in some places you can see that a bit of work is required to bring everything back on the level of everything else, however you can see that there is some ongoing work and my guess is that they are trying to (re) open one thing or another for the 2018 season. Most of the staff is on the younger side, however everyone was very nice, motivated and despite that you often hear that the french won´t speak anything other than french almost all of them where able to speak at leas english, if not german as a 3rd language as well. Don´t expect them to speak a perfect or fluent english / german, but I appreciate the effort none the less.

Sadly, not everything at Walygator is as good as it should be or as you would expect. Some stuff is minor, I.e. it wouldn´t hurt if they upgraded their Vekoma Looper "Comet" with newer and more comfortable trains, however considering the age and the type of coaster we are talking about it is still one of the smoother and better maintained ones out there and I like the look of these old school trains anyway. So yeah, a train upgrade on this ride is more a nice-to-have thing than a much needed thing. Considering the overall good theming of the Park they really need to do something with their incredible Inverter "The Monster", as of now it just sits there on little more than an empty field, the station doesn´t even have a roof on it´s simple steel construction and even the white paintjob with a bit of a light pink on the tracks feels a bit out of place. Other than this "L´Anaconda" is in desperate need of some work, mainly a re-tracking. Considering it´s fairly slow speed through most of the track it is fairly shaky experience. It doesn´t beat you senseless like Bandit at Movie Park Germany, but it could be much smoother none the less. Operations and loading times on both "L´Anaconda" and "The Monster" where a desaster on the day of my visit, however this was most likely because there weren´t that many visitors in the Park (I´m not joking here when I say that there where 2.500 Visitors there tops) and on those 2 rides they tried to send out only trains that where (almost) full and I would bet that on days with more guests these Operations would be much faster. Other than this more or less needed work on the Roller Coasters they really should try to get a decent Dark Ride and maybe another Coaster aimed at the entire Family, something like a Vekoma Junior Coaster would do it and similar to "The Monster" I wouldn´t mind if it where a used ride from a different Park.

You might think now: "Well, this doesn´t sound too bad to me, why was it a Disapointment 21 years in the making then?". Good Question. You see, back in 1996 I didn´t whant to ride "L´Anaconda" because as a kid I didn´t trust the wooden construction and it ended up being the only Roller Coaster in my life that I didn´t ride the first time I had the chance. Over the years it became this one ride I that seemed too scary for me and for some crazy reason I expected it to be good. Now imagine coming back to it 21 years later, now as an adult, standing in front of the 36m high wooden structure realising that the trains are actually a lot slower than you remembered. In front of the qeue line is a giant, artificial tree with a larger than life Anaconda in, the qeue itself goes through a small forest-ish area (wich actualy is a really nice touch for a wooden coaster and is very great on hotter days) eventually leading to the wooden station building. The Trains are comfortable enough, a little bit more legroom in the rear of a car than in the front, however the moment you get a punch from the ride while moving over the transfer track for the service area on your way to the lifthill you get the slight suspicioun that something might be wrong here. The first drop is smooth enough and in the back of the train even fairly decent, however at the bottom of the drop the entire thing starts shaking and bouncing to a level that it stops being fun. The slow speed doesn´t help much either and Air Time is nothing more than a rumor on this thing. So yeah, I was disapointed by a coeaster that probably would have been much more memorable for me 21 years ago, but most likely wasn´t much better back then anyway.

If you happen to be in the Area of Trier / Luxemburg / Metz I can really recommend visiting the Walygator Parc, it isn´t nearly as bad as it´s Image and it really deserves more visitors. Check the Parks Website though because for most of the season it is currently only open at weekends.

Official Park Website: https://www.walygatorparc.com/
For more pictures of this and other Parks visit my Flickr Account: Flickr.com