Category Archives: Fun

The Sky’s the Limit: Game Review of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures

I like video games.  I’m not a huge nut nor am I super good, but I enjoy playing video games.  My twins have an XBOX360, my little ones have a Nintendo DS & Nintendo DSi, and we have a Nintendo Wii hooked up in our living room.  For Christmas Aunt Kathy & Uncle Bob gave us all Walmart gift certificates, so the little ones and I combined our cards and purchased a new game, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures.  But Skylanders isn’t just a new game, no, it is a new gaming experience where the sky’s the limit!

Most games merely come with the game itself, the disk or cartridge.  And yeah, that’s usually good enough.  Sometimes a game might come with a collector’s figurine or an action figure to place on a shelf to collect dust and serve as a symbol of geekiness.  Skylanders comes with the game, three action figures and the Portal of Power-all required to play the game.  The action figures are placed on the physical platform; place different action figures on the Portal of Power and they come alive in the game and the game changes as you place different action figures to play different characters.  Different characters unlock different areas of the game.  The game with the portal and 3 action figures cost $70 on all platforms.

Portal of Power

The Portal of Power, the wireless platform that comes with the game, is one of  the first new cool things I’ve seen in recent years-since the Wii Fit balance board.  The Portal of Power platform connects to the game console (XBOX360, PS3, Wii & 3DS, PC) much like a wireless mouse, with a little USB connector. Initial setup was plug and play and completely painless.

Action Figures

Skylanders is one of the first games to take the concept of action figures and collecting to the next level-and they’ve done it brilliantly.  Each game comes with three action figures that become characters in the game.  Up to two action figures can be placed on the portal simultaneously, for cooperative or versus play.  There are 37 action figures in all. Toys R Us even has a couple of different carrying cases!  Individually packaged action figures cost about $8.  3-packs of action figures cost about $20.

Each action figure has a memory chip in the base.   The memory chip  stores progress and since the action figures are not platform-specific, the action figures can be ported to a different system and all progress is portable as well.  For instance, I bought the Wii version of the game which comes with an action figure, Trigger Happy, but I can use Trigger Happy on an XBOX360 (or PS3 or 3DS or PC) and the progress and all the character’s status will follow.

Collect them All?

As stated before, there are 37 action figures in all.  This is where things can get a bit confusing (and expensive).  There are eight different groups or families of characters called Element Classes: Air, Earth, Fire, Life, Magic, Tech, Undead & Water.

Although the game can be beaten with the three characters that come with the game & portal, there are areas of the game that you cannot access unless you have a character from each class.  This is where the marketing guys start to earn their salary! 

So you really only need eight action figures right?  Well…

In other games, any Mario game for instance, you collect free lives as you play the game.  In Skylanders you collect free lives by collecting more action figures!  One character runs out of steam then take him off the portal and replace him with another. Well played Mr. Marketer dude.

There are eight classes with four action figures/characters per class, which is 32 action figures/characters.  There’s a pretty cool full-sized poster of all 32 action figures in between Justin Bieber and The Marvel Superheroes at the poster display.

Although listed as part of the “official” 32 action figures, the Drill Sergeant action figure is exclusively sold at Walmart.  Another point to the Marketing guys!

Ghost Roaster is included exclusively with the Darklight Crypt Adventure Pack (another point for the mad men).

Dark Spyro is not listed among the “official” 32.  The Nintendo 3DS version of the game, portal & figurines comes with Dark Spyro, to my knowledge this is the only way to purchase this action figure-to purchase the Nintendo 3DS version of the game which includes Dark Spyro.  This is where the marketing guys took collecting to the next level!  Dark Spyro is selling for a pretty penny on Ebay. Although Dark Spyro can be played on any of the Portals of Power (any of the game systems) it is only listed in the 3DS packaging.

Toys R Us has three exclusive “legendary” action figures that are also not listed among the “official” 32.  Legendary BashLegendary Chop Chop and Legendary Spyro can only be purchased at Toys R US. More points to the marketing geeks.  When in stock, the exclusive Toys R Us Legendary 3-pack can be purchased through TRU for about $25, or for around $40 on Ebay-again props to the marketing guys for creating a demand for toy collecting.

And last, but not least, according to the Skylander Wiki website there is also a Legendary Trigger Happy that may also be exclusive to TRU,

Legendary Trigger Happy is a rare counterpart of Trigger Happy. Little is currently known about him. He was first

Legendarytriggerhappysmile.png

seen in the 3DS version of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, in the list of all 37 Skylanders.

Here is a complete (as of this writing) list of all 37 action figures/characters:

Adventure Packs & Add-Ons

Adventure Packs come with an action figure and a few other object action figures-magic items.  Think of these as expansion packs.  Place a location figure on the Portal of Power and access a whole new chapter! Experience new challenges, menacing enemies and whimsical adventures.  An Action Pack with one action figure and a few object figures cost about $20.  There are four Adventure Packs:

Unreleased Adventure Packs (as of this post)

The Volcanic Vault is an exclusive portal, part of the Wii/360/PS3 Starter Pack when bought at Best Buy. When an action figure is placed on the Portal for the first time, it unlocks the multiplayer Volcanic Arena for play in Battle mode.

Game Play

The portal, action figures and collecting would be worthless if the game itself was boring and bland.  I’m happy to say that it is a fun game!  The game is geared to younger players, but has been getting very positive reviews from adult gamers (including the guy that works at my local Game Stop-he said he and his girlfriend are addicted!).  I’ve been playing it with my eight-year old and we’ve had a blast!  Like many video games there is a story line version that includes hunting and gathering, fighting, puzzles, collecting and powering up.  And like most video games there is a versus version where the characters fight each other in a battle royale, or street fighter  style.  I will say that the story line version of play, although very entertaining (the story was written by the writers of Toy Story), quick and fun is a little bit easy, but we are only about 15% through the game, so maybe I am speaking too soon.  And the key may be leveling up and buying powers.  UPDATE:  I am stuck at 33%…so it isn’t all THAT easy.

Obviously this game is the ultimate in hunting and gathering games!  There are lots of levels, lots of areas to unlock, lots of characters to collect, lots of things to find, lots of powers to buy, etc.

Playing Online

Each action figure comes with collectable cards and a code that can be entered to play the online version of Skylanders-much like Club Penguin (which means the online play is SAFE!). The Skylanders online game site is FREE and anyone can play without purchasing any pieces of the game.  The online version serves as an extension of the game and is completely safe for kids.  I’ve only played for an hour or so, but it seems pretty cool.  Especially designed for the young ones, if, as a parent, you find yourself addicted to the console game, give the keyboard and mouse to you child so you can play with the controller and nun chuck!

Its Not ALL About The Benjamins

One of the negatives of this game is the price.  The initial game, portal and three action figures, although not crazy expensive will cost you $70 on any console (including the 3DS).  Each additional action figure costs $7.00-$9.00 (dependeing on where you buy and if you buy in packs of three).  37 figurines x 8.00 = just under $300!  Plus the expansion packs and carrying cases…UGH!  Yeah, it can add up fast.  Here’s the good news, the game can be completed-without exploring ALL areas of the game-with the initial three action figures that come with the game.  And, if you aren’t into collecting, but want to complete all the areas of the the game, a minimum of eight action figures (about $75) are needed to unlock all of the areas of game play (maybe excluding the chapters introduced by the Adventure Packs).  However, if you really suck, keep purchasing more action figures to get more chances to pass that area you’re stuck on.

In all fairness it sounds like Activision’s marketing geniuses didn’t know that the game would take off.  Game Stop says that production should pick up and characters should flood the market at the end of February.

Overall Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures is an awesome game!

Skylanders Buyer’s Guide


Air
Lightening
Rod


Sonic Boom
Skylanders Spyro's Adventure: Sonic Boom

Warnado


Whirlwind

Earth
Bash

Dino-Rang

Legendary Bash

Prism Break
Skylanders Spyro's Adventure: Prism Break
Twrafin

Fire

Eruptor

Flameslinger

Ignitor

Sunburn

Life

Camo

Stealth Elf

Stump Smash

Zook


Magic


DARK Spyro


Double Trouble

Legendary
Spyro


Spyro

Voodood

Wrecking Ball

Tech
Boomer


Drill Sergeant


Drobot

Legendary Trigger Happy
Trigger Happy

Undead
Chop Chop

Cynder

Ghost Roaster

Hex

Legendary Chop Chop

Water
Gill Grunt

Slam Bam

Wham-Shell

Zap

3-PACKS Eruptor,
Chop Chop
Bash

Wrecking Ball,
Stealth Elf,
Sonic Boom


Whirlwind,
Double Trouble,
Drill Sergeant


Zap,
Hex,
Dino Rang


Drobot,
Flamslinger,
Stump Smash

Prism Break,
Boomer,
Voodood

Legendary Spyro
Legendary Chop
Chop Legendary Bash


ADVENTURE
PACKS(Expansion packs)
Darklight Crypt

Pirate Seas

 Empire of Ice

STARTER PACKGame,
Portal.
3 Skylanders
XBOX360

Wii

Nintendo 3DS

Playstatuin 3

PC

CASES(To store your Skylanders in!) Zip Case

Tower Case

Durk

Advertisements

TED Talk: Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world



I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)

I don’t remember many of my dreams.  Dreams as in the movies that play in your brain while you are asleep, not life ambitions.  I don’t know if dreams get weirder or more real as a result of what you eat before bed.  I think popcorn triggers odd dreams for me.  I’m not too sure what I ate last night…pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans…  I did not have Electric Prunes (wink).

Dreams are weird.  One frequently recurring dream I have is about my teeth falling out!  They get loose, I mess with them and OOPS, I pull one out!  Or I make it a little looser than it should and I try to kinda shove it back into place!  I always wake up and check my teeth!  There are lots of theories out there as to the possible meaning of such dreams.  Here are a few offerings from just one of many websites, Dream Moods had these offerings:

…dreams about your teeth reflect your anxieties about your appearance and how others perceive you…”

Another rationalization for these falling teeth dreams may be rooted in your fear of being embarrassed or making a fool of yourself in some situation.”

Teeth are used to bite, tear, chew and gnaw. In this regard, teeth represent power. And the loss of teeth in your dream may be from a sense of powerlessness.

“A scriptural interpretation for bad or falling teeth indicate that you are putting your faith, trust, and beliefs in what man thinks rather than in the word of God. The bible says that God speaks once, yea twice in a dream or a vision in order to hide pride from us, to keep us back from the pit, to open our ears (spiritually) and to instruct and correct us.

Another explanation though is that when I was a kid I lost my teeth pretty late (I was a preemie).  I remember going to an Iowa wresting match and pulling out 3 teeth!  I also have skinny teeth-fragile teeth.  So who knows.

I had a dream once and I remember thinking, “I could make a book or a movie out of this one!”  It had character development, a beginning an action-packed middle and even a great twisted ending!  And it was fairly original!  I woke up, told myself that this could be it!  Smiled, fell back to sleep…and you guessed it, I never could remember it.  They say you should keep a notebook by your bed to write dreams down.

My friend in college had such weird and horrific dreams that he learned how to take control and steer his dreams!  Yeah, pretty Nightmare-on-Elm Street-ish.  I had another friend who practiced Wicca and believed that he could enter into other people’s dreams and ultimately kill them.  He used to walk up to other people and tell them what they dreamed the day before.  Weird.  I have met people (usually guys) who say they have never had a dream that they can remember.  And people (usually gals) who say they have a dream every night that they vividly remember.

My wife has nightmares fairly regularly.  Quite a few years ago she woke up one morning angry as all get out at me!  I mean she was ticked!  When I asked her what was wrong she said, “You know what you did!”  She took a shower, after she was done I asked her again and she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about!  She totally forgot the dream!  One of my twins and also my youngest has nightmares.  Corbin climbed in be last night because he had a bad dream.  I remember talking to my younger twin Keegan about a bad dream many years ago.  He was pretty little and frustratingly described that a giant “square” was chasing him.  I asked him to describe the square…it looked kinda like a mouse and had a long bushy tail…OH, a Squirrel!  Poor guy!

Why all this blogging about dreams?

I had a dream about my dad last night.  It makes me think of the first time I had a dream about my dad after he died.  It was pretty much an ordinary dream, a family visit or whatever, but somewhere in the middle of it I was chatting with my dad, and suddenly I realized that I was having a chat with my dad!  My dad who had died.  He seemed kinda oblivious to it, I mean we were having a chat!  But I knew that I had my dad back for a moment.  I knew I had something special.  And it made me smile.  And so I tired my best to savor it.  That was about the time I woke up.

I miss him much.

What’s in your dreams?

-Derin-

For your Viewing & Listening Pleasure-Phil Keaggy & Stanley Jordan

I saw August Rush this weekend, it is a pretty cool movie about a kid musical prodigy. One of the styles the kid plays on guitar is tapping out sounds on the neck of the guitar. Very cool and it reminded me of a couple of musical geniuses!

As many of you know I am a HUGE Phil Keaggy fan. Phil Keaggy is one of the best guitarists in the world-it isn’t just my opinion, the rumor is that Hendrix and Clapton site him as one of the best too. It just so happens that he is also a follower of Christ. I own more than 30 of his CDs, 1 DVD, and have seen him in concert about a half a dozen times (with a band, with his band, Glass Harp and solo). He is INCREDIBLE! You can see some of his videos here, this one is my fav: Salvation Army Band:

One of the things that he does well is work with a digital loop machine and he just builds and builds and it is pretty cool.

While looking for more Keaggy stuff and people who Keaggy had had an influence on I stumbled across Stanley Jordan. When I first saw his stuff I was amazed. But then Chris B. sent me this super incredible clip of Stanley Jordan playing Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven:

That’s right, he plays 2 guitars at the same time! Wow, it doesn’t get much cooler than that-unless you can find some genius to play a patriotic song with his feet or something.

If You Never Had To Worry About Money EVER Again

It is really fun to dream about winning the lottery-to win 100s of millions of dollars.

My email and lunch buddy, Kevin, and I were talking on this subject. He asked me what the very first thing I’d do after I won that kind of money. OK, after you tell your wife and a few friends. We happened to be at lunch and so I told him that I’d go back to work to tell everyone and then politely get my stuff and quit-walk out to never work another day in my life. Kevin said he’d pack up his stuff and not tell anyone! In the past he’s said he’d just not go back, forget his stuff-hire someone else to collect it for him!

For some people it is hard to grasp what that much money can really do for them and others. Our other email buddy, Chris sent me this quote from a CNN article:

Daisy Buck of Bluff, Utah
I would quit my job and retire. Then, I would give some money to my children/grandchildren and to my family. Most of it would probably go to fixing my house, paying the bills, and just kicking back and enjoying life.

My friend then pointed out, “Just in case you didn’t get it, I’ll repeat it for you, ‘Most of it would probably go to fixing my house.'” Well Daisy Buck of Bluff, Utah, your house must be one heck of a fixer upper. I replied to his email and joked that I could pay up my rent for years. But folks don’t really understand how to think with that much money.

I was thinking along a different line…I’d build a house and furnish it with all new EVERYTHING. With the exception of some personal photos or some really meaningful personal stuff I would walk into my new house naked and empty handed ready to embrace the whole new life inside. I apologize for the mental picture.

Kevin and I continued talking about a woman that had won that had kept her job. I remarked that that was just plain irresponsible! I then went on to say that it would be cool to sit back and invest in people’s dreams, finance thier business endeavors or the like. But Kevin was quick with a chastise, you don’t need to invest with the purpose of making money…YOU HAVE MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER NEED! The question isn’t what would you do with all of that money, how would you spend it. No, the question is what would you do with your life! What would you do to impact the lives around you? What would you do for mankind? If you never had to worry about money EVER again what would you do? Where would you go?

It is kinda like an episode of the A-Team I saw on Tuesday January 14, 1986. Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock was the crazy character-the BEST character I might add. Well he was on Wheel of Fortune. Remember when you could go shopping as a winner on Wheel of Fortune? You’d buy 2-3 big things for thousands of dollars then go for the $150 lamp or $75 dog statue. But not Murdock! He bought 5-10 of the little things and then had enough to get one big thing! Pretty funny. I love the A-Team. (Sigh).

So for Kevin he’d just go fishin’! He’d go volunteer at a fly-fishing shop to learn the trade and go somewhere to be alone fishing! I am more extroverted so I would do things to include my friends. I said I’d buy a really nice suit to wear to some really nice restaurants. Kevin said he’d never wear a suit again! I said I’d hire a chef to make meals where I could lose weight.

And that is how it is for most of us. We’d pay off our bills. Or buy a house. Or buy a car. Or set up some trust funds. Or fix something up or restore something. But that is all piddly stuff! I mean a $1M dollar house plus extravagant $500,000 in bills plus a REALLY nice over-priced sports car…well that is still just under 1% of a $200M payout! PEANUTS! A drop in the bucket! I’ll be 35 this year. Let’s say I live to be 85, that’s 50 more years…200M divided by 50 years…that’s $4,000,000 a year…about $75,000 a week…that’s over $10,000 a day! And that is without any kind of investment whatsoever. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY!

Some folks would fly to different places. I’d buy a plane and learn how to fly it when my pilot wasn’t taking me to a show in New York or to a national park in California for a birthday bash with 1000 of my closest personal friends! Or for a snowball fight in Alaska! Some folks would buy a really nice house or fix up the one that they have, I’d build a housing complex where my family could live in an over-sized cul-de-sac of 4-5 houses that were connected by underground game rooms and pools and a really large banquet hall and maybe a theater or bowling alley…With a 5-story hotel off to the side where people could stay for free while visiting me! Yeah, now we’re talking. Some folks would buy a sports car; I’d go to a car dealership and get one of each with cash in hand, or cash in boxes.

I’d also do some cool stuff for my friends and family. I’d be creative in giving money away. I’d buy my kids a toy store. Maybe a video game store too. Heck maybe a train for the Thomas the Tank lover in my house complete with an engine, cars and a caboose on a 20-mile long track. I have a friend who really likes beer. I’d buy him a bar. Tell him that if he doesn’t want it he can sell it and do whatever with the money. My other co-worker is a pilot; I’d buy him a jet. I’d buy pocket PCs and laptops and maybe an Escalade for all of my friends!

I’d take Rush Limbaugh out for dinner. I’d play a video game against Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I’d hire author Orson Scott Card for a one-on-one lecture/Q & A about his books. I’d pay to eat at a fund-raiser to meet President Bush. I’d build a house with President Jimmy Carter. I’d donate money and time to that “Extreme Makover: Home Edition.” That darn show makes me cry every time!

I’d build a church for the church plant that I attend that currently meets in an elementary school’s cafeteria. I’d give $100 bills away for no reason at all. I’d spy on folks just to learn what extravagant gift they want for Christmas and leave it on their front porch.

I’d help the poor as much as I could. But that kinda goes back to the idea of financing dreams and investing in businesses. I’d do that, start new businesses or invest in companies. Not with the purpose of making more money, but to create jobs and to build a legacy for generations to come. Maybe create departments at those jobs to recruit the homeless, clean them up and give them a place to live to transition into the workplace. Give them hope.

What Sam Walton did for his family and for the rest of the world is pretty cool. He created jobs; his Wal-Mart brand is world-recognized. Look how Wal-Mart is driving down the prices of prescription drugs. Not to mention the community involvement and the money that they are able to give to charity. I know some folks hate Wal-Mart.

Then you read story after story of those that have spent all of their winnings and get sued or file for bankruptcy. How can that be? The first thing you should spend money on is a financial advisor!

Some folks go back to work to be around their friends and maybe work at what they love. Some people might go off and be alone never to be heard from again. Others would stay right where they are and fix things up. Others may invest to make more money. And still others will buy a whole lot of little things and maybe waste all of their money.

But a few will do something worth while. They’ll leave their mark on the world-and not merly for the sake of being remembered. They’ll be a good person. They’ll have enough money to be a human being and give back to mankind. Maybe that’d be me. Then again maybe I’d end up filing bankruptcy in a few years.

I’d learn how to ride a Harley. I’d buy minivans for all the moms at the local Mothers of Mulitples organization. I’d build a really freakin’ huge tree house that spanned a forrest! OK, maybe not.

What would you do? I’d love to hear from you.

-Durk-