Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ghost's Arcade: Tomodachi Life

Today's "Ghost's Arcade" was supposed to be all about examining the Legend of Zelda series in an attempt to figure out which game is the best of the best thus far.  It was supposed to feature two other people presenting their arguments about how their chosen game is the best in the series.  I keep saying the words "supposed to" because as you can clearly tell from the title that's not what happened.  Lots of shame, shenanigans, and forgetfulness was had so we are going to be talking about Tomodachi Life today instead.  Don't expect the Legend of Zelda thing anytime soon... it'll probably be next year.
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Ghost here, thanks for joining!

Since I didn't have an actual review for this week planned thanks to the before mentioned tomfoolery, I had to dig around for an idea and one just so happened to fall in my lap.  Actually truth be told it was more slapped across my face with the force of a train.  My Facebook was spammed by my friend and co-contributor to this blog, KoD with thousands of pictures from a game called Tomodachi Life.  He eventually convinced me to purchase this game and I figured... eh what the heck.  I'll do the review about this!

Oh Tomodachi Life, what can I say about you?  Seriously... what CAN I say about you?  Generally when I review a video game I analyze the good and bad points of the story.  I then talk about the gameplay and level of difficulty.  Once that is complete I pick out one or two positive and negative things about the game and move on.  Tomodachi Life however has no story line; there is no plot to drive what's going on.  I could talk about gameplay but it all boils down to tapping the touch screen with the stylus, finding the right time to tap the touch screen with the stylus... or if things are getting intense you may even have to slide the stylus across the touch screen.  Finding something to really discuss is going to be harder than normal.
Tomodachi Life, for all intents and purposes, is a very casual game.  I realize that in the past I have made my viewpoint of casual games and the increased focus on casual gaming by the industry (especially Nintendo) abundantly clear.  Although I'm generally against "casual" games I do realize there is a point to their existence and do not begrudge any company who produces these games so long as they are not the main focus.  With my fairly strong feeling on the matter, I should be indifferent to (or with worst case scenario have absolute hatred for) this game.  For some strange reason that's just not the case here.  I realize it's casual bait, but I seem to not care about that.  I quite enjoy this game.  Generally I don't start my intro with my personal feeling on the game as a whole but this one's going to be a bit weirder anyway so might as well open up differently as well.

What is Tomodachi Life?

Tomodachi Life is a Nintendo 3DS title that is an"alternate universe" life simulator of sorts.  I say of sorts because it's not as if you are playing out your daily life in a town such as with the Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon series.  Rather, you are watching the lives of other people as a sort of benevolent ruler or deity who grants them existence and trinkets.  It's more along the lines of the Sims though nowhere near as complex (or confusing) as those games tend to be.  Since it is a Nintendo handheld product and it is the first game to be produced under this title, the game definitely has the feel of "Junior's First Life Sim"  but not in a bad way and certainly not in a way to imply it's childish to the point of being for toddlers.  Let me explain.

Katie and Wes hanging out.
You are in charge of an island that you get to name and populate with the Miis of your choice.  They can be original creations made within the game, faces imported from your Mii collection on the 3DS, or creations from others which were added by scanning their QR Code.  Once these Miis move in to their apartment you are able to assist and dote upon them by providing them with food, clothing, gifts, money, apartment layouts, etc.  These can be done as you will or when a Mii is specifically asking for one of them.  Also throughout their lifetime they will ask for your assistance by playing trivia and quick time games, helping them make friends, helping them get a significant other, helping sort out problems between Miis, helping them propose to their sweetheart, and giving your permission for them to have a baby.

Katie and Tharja having a conversation on their own.
There are a lot of things you can do in this game, but there are also a lot of things you can't do.  As I said earlier you don't actually control any of the Miis.  You just interact with them and help them out when they are calling for assistance.  The Miis have a mind of their own and will like, dislike, or do almost anything they wish regardless of what you may hope will happen.  It's an interesting choice to have a game where you are effectively the parent or deity of these characters who do their own thing and have their own time schedule apart from you.  This is also why it's been harder for me to figure out what to say about this game.

Now that you understand what this game is, let's look at what it does well and what could use some improvements if the franchise is to continue production.

What Tomodachi Life Does Well

Population of My Island as of 9/21/15
The most easily apparent thing that this game does well is that it allows you to use any Mii you wish and place them into the game.  You don't get stuck with a random spattering of individuals that you may or may not enjoy like in Animal Crossing.  If there's a character you don't like then simply don't add them to your game.  Do yourself a favor and only add characters that you truly care about.  That's exactly what I did so that when my Miis want to play a game or are having a rough time in a relationship, I honestly care and want to see them work things out. I added people such as family, close friends, celebrities I actually care about (such as Stan Lee), internet personalities, video game characters, and TV show characters.  With all of the options to determine their personality and voice you can truly make it seem like those individuals you have brought in are there for the most part.

Did I just say voice?  You bet I did!  This game has done something that I haven't really seen in another game before; it has incorporated voice recognition of the text presented in the game.  Now I don't mean that the game is fully voice acted, many games are fully voice acted.  I mean that every bit of text in the game is read and interpreted by the game to be spoken sort of like when a GPS reads you the name of a road.  Yes it does sound very robotic at times and yes making them pronounce certain names (like Katara from Avatar The Last Airbender) is a chore but it's really neat to hear the game actively mention what you put into it.  This goes beyond just the names of characters.  You can assign catchphrases or things for them to say when they are happy, worried etc.  No matter what words you put in there, the game will do it's best to pronounce what you have put in there.

Lynn performing a Rock & Roll song
While we're on the topic of voices and the customization thereof, Tomodachi Life has included a concert hall for your miis to sing songs.  Yes, karaoke has entered the realm of possibilities.  Your Miis can be gifted the ability to sing up to eight different songs in the concert hall, each of a completely different genre of music.  There is a metal, pop, rock & roll, rap, ballad, opera, techno, or musical option.  If multiple Miis know the same genre they can form a group and sing together.  That's not the best part about the songs.  While each genre song comes with its own title and lyrics you can actively modify your lyrics and title to be whatever you wish.  The Miis will sing YOUR song.  To showcase this, I present you with the following video from none other than KoD who convinced me to purchase this game to begin with.  He had decided to put an alien invasion in his Tomodachi Life game.  This race of aliens were known as Tods.  Once multiple Tods all knew the Techno song, he wrote a song about how they were going to take over and assimilate the island.  This experiment resulted in the following.
OK yeah he's no lyrical genius, but this feature is pretty awesome provided you have the lyrical skill!

Angel, Looney, KoD, and TL showing off various fashions.
I can honestly say that I was impressed by the sheer amount of items and gifts this game provides.  The clothing and hat options are enough to leave nobody wanting for much of anything.  It's not just normal clothes either; there are some very specific items such as a full leather suit, a hamster costume, a fez, and many other unique clothing options for your Miis.  The food you can give them is also quite varied beyond your normal cuisine to include items that I've never even heard of before.  There is a multitude of room themes for the Miis to decorate their apartment.  Some of these include a space galaxy, an arcade, a mansion, a cartoon room, a garden, and many more!  The gifts that you can provide to your Miis are a lot of fun as well.  Though there aren't as many of them when you peek in at your Miis from time to time you can see themselves enjoying their WiiU, reading a book, playing with their cat or dog, going skateboarding etc.  However in my opinion the greatest item they provided was the can of hair color.  The Mii Maker was always very limited when it comes to hair colors; leaving only natural colors to be selected and not all of them at that.  Well with the hair color spray now you can have practically any color hair you wish which makes things easier for fantasy characters etc.

Last but not least is the Quirky Questions.  When you unlock the use of the Tower you can find there is one event that happens 24/7; this event is Quirky Questions.  The game selects a random sampling of six Miis to stand together and answer questions provided by you.  The game gives you three options to choose from that all have a blank spot for you to fill in.  "Who's mother resembles ____" is just one such option.  At first this seems a bit silly in all honesty but if you have a creative (or disturbed) mind this can become quite hilarious in the process.  Below are just a few such examples of the weirdness that is in store.


What Tomodachi Life Needs To Consider

This section isn't necessarily things that the game does poorly.  It's only a few features that I think should be implemented though I'm not entirely sure how they could be used without fundamentally changing the game.  These are things that need to be considered at least.

Darion watches his real-life girlfriend dating another person.
The first change that should be considered is that of greater control of your Miis. You can give them a personality and teach them words to say but when it comes to their ultimate actions there are many things that you just simply can't control.  For example, I figured that I would have my wife and I be married in the game.  This was hindered by the fact that Katie's Mii rejected mine three times then decided to date and eventually marry someone else I know.  You can hope for real life couples to get together but there is little to no guarantee that will happen.  In fact, two friends of mine who would never be in a relationship ended up married while two friends of mine who love each other dated for one day then broke up with each other at the point of hatred.  I realize that this is part of the charm of the game.  There isn't any sort of predictability which adds to the playing and fun.  If you can control every single aspect of what's going on it becomes boring and planned out.  I'm not exactly sure how they could implement some sort of control or getting our wishes to come true in the game but it's something worth looking into.

This game may be able to benefit from some form of online interaction.  Now, you can make QR codes of your Miis and send them to people so that they can scan that person into their Mii Apartments but that's about the extent of it.  There's no online trading or acquiring of goods.  If you send over a Mii to someone else and they are wearing something you haven't seen yet in the shop you don't get that outfit unlocked or anything.  It's just a feature that so many games have that it feels weird to not have any online connectivity.  Though, since you are more observing and not really playing as your islanders I'm not 100% certain what online connectivity could actually do but it would be an interesting idea.

Now this next topic I really wasn't going to mention...however I'm guaranteed a flogging by a particular individual if I don't at least mention it.  The game actively discourages time travel.  If you go into the game and modify the time or date you are penalized for a single day.  If you change the 3DS' time or date rumor has it (I didn't bother looking up if it were true or not)  that you can be penalized up to five days!  What is this penalty?  Effectively time stops for the amount of days it has chosen in one form or another.  The shops, morning sale, and afternoon market do not change their items at all during this time.  What you had the day you changed it is what you are going to be stuck with till it's over.  If you have a couple who will be having a child, they will hold off having said child till time re-starts and then they will wait their couple of days.  I understand why this feature was put in there and for the normal person I don't really see why they would mess with time in the game but for those who do I can understand the frustration.  Animal Crossing doesn't really punish you for time traveling it just keeps going forward as if it hadn't happened.  I don't know... again I understand why this was put in place but at the same time I can't help but see that it's a bit of a harsh punishment for something so simple. 

Things That Need To Change

Traveler Campground Feature utilized only by Street Pass
STOP WITH THE STREET PASS NONSENSE!  This doesn't go for just Tomodachi Life, but Nintendo in general.  I understand and fully appreciate the theory behind street pass.  It's a neat little feature to include.  However when it comes down to a practical application, Street Pass falls flat on its rear end.  I'm not entirely sure if my experience is different from others in the United States but I simply can't find anyone to ever street pass with.  Now I realize I'm at a slight disadvantage being an adult but even when I was younger, the culture of my region shunned bringing your video games with you (and the culture is still that way at a majority.)  When I was a child there were only two kids who brought their gameboys to school; myself, and a kid 5 years younger than me who didn't even play the same games as me.  Now that I'm an adult I know several people with a 3DS.  This should give me several opportunities to street pass but... oh wait... of these people how many of them actually live within my immediate area?  Let's see... Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida.  All of those are a NOPE!  I did have four friends locally who had a 3DS but one of them got stolen, one moved 2 hours away, and the other two I don't see but once a month if I'm lucky.  Point is... street pass is not practical because you never have enough people to street pass for anything at least in my part of the country.   To have a game with entire features, items, and other things completely dependent upon street passing someone who also owns this game is ludicrous.  Again, I only have a small number of people who I can even street pass to begin with.  NONE of these individuals have Tomodachi Life, so I have no chance of seeing these Street Pass features.

A few of the quick time games are FAR too fast or arbitrary.  If you're looking for irritation look no further than the Quick Drop, Nose Tickle, or Marriage Proposal mini games.  Yeah some of the other games are really cheap like zooming in on the blank space in the curve of the banana for the Zoomed Items mini game so that you only see white background and pick the option for Milk instead of Banana, but those are kind of few and far between.   For the Quick Drop mini game, a Mii is standing on the top screen and drops an item for you to catch.  This should be simple enough but since it passes through the blank space between the screens and out of view for a few seconds it completely disorients you from when you should catch the item and you end up missing 99% of the time.  I just let the thing drop without trying anymore because it's that impossible.  Nose Tickling is arbitrary as can be.  A Mii will say that they need to sneeze and only if you tickle their nose with a feather will they sneeze.  You can perform the same exact action with every single Mii in your game and you will come about with a different result.  Sometimes you can barely tickle them and they sneeze, sometimes you keep the tickling sound going non-stop and nothing happens.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.  Lastly and the most frustrating of all is the Marriage Proposal mini game.  You have to tap the screen when the person's partner is thinking about them...however these Miis are the most scatterbrained idiots you can come across as many times the only time they are thinking about their sweetheart is a half second where it barely shows up for enough time for you to register that it has shown up.  By the time you can even react to that half second it's gone away when you tap it and you fail the mini game.  I've only been able to perform about 50% of the marriages I've been given the chance to help with because the thing just goes TOO fast. 

My Father-In-Law and his partner can't be in a
relationship in this game.
OK... now we've reached the big one.  If you had ever heard anything about Tomodachi Life before this review it was either because of the level in Super Smash Bros for 3DS, or because of this one issue right here.  This issue was so large that the internet collectively lost their minds and people such as Yahtzee and Jim Sterling have even covered the issue themselves.  Same Sex relationships cannot happen in Tomodachi Life.  That's right... If you happen to be homosexual you're in tough luck because you can't be in a relationship with the gender of your choice.  This is a baffling choice to be perfectly honest with you.  You would think that Nintendo who generally go out of their way to be as inclusive as humanly possible would have included this as an option to begin with, but apparently this wasn't even on the plate to begin with.  Now, obviously you can easily lie to the game because while you have to select a gender you can make them look and dress in whatever manner you wish so you can easily add, say, a gay man as a female while looking male and he could get into a relationship with another man.  I attempted this with my Father-In-Law and his partner.  However this is where the lack of control over the Miis comes into effect.  Just because I added my Father-in-Law and made his partner a Female while looking male there was absolutely no guarantee of the two of them getting together.  It could have been just as easy for the game to decide to pair any other male character with the "female" man.  I abandoned this idea as soon as I realized I had no control and couldn't really make the two be a couple.

It doesn't matter where you lie on the "gay debate" scale...

What you simply can't deny is the fact that gay and bisexual people do actually exist.  Friends of gay and bisexual people do actually exist.  These people play video games and would generally like to have the option to have themselves or their friends represented in a game which you personally choose who to add to your game.  Now in the spirit of all fairness, Nintendo has apologized directly for this oversight and has said they will look into the option of same sex relationships if any future Tomodachi Life titles are released.  The only question left would be why this wasn't automatically a feature to begin with.  It's as simple as an on/off switch on either individual Miis or the game as a whole.  They already have an on/off switch for baby functionality so this could be just as simple. 

Conclusion

There are hundreds of little things that happen in this game that I didn't cover for the simple fact that I didn't want to be here all day discussing every minute little detail.  It's the little things in this game that add together to make it such an interesting and wonderful experience.  The wacky news broadcasts, the dreams that the Miis have, finding out a Mii's Super All-Time Favorite Food which sends them blasting off into space, the photography studio, rap battles, world travels, weddings, raising babies, heated arguments etc; all of these can be witnessed if you play this game long enough.  Yeah it's basically on the same level of skill as many Flash Animation Games found for free online but all the personalization, customization, and weirdness that comes from this game make it worth while.  I never expected to enjoy this laid back experience as much as I have.  If the lack of same sex relationships isn't a problem for you then I'd suggest picking this title up for something low key to do in your spare time.  You won't regret it.

This is Ghost and I leave you with a montage of Tomodachi weirdness and awesomeness!
My Island's Address
Jeff being weird
Maybe this is why Katie rejected my Mii
Crosby VS Travis Rap Battle
Nick apparently spends a lot of time on the toilet.
Mary's Underwater Dream
The Doctor being a traditional superhero
Jasmine goes into orbit after eating Fish Sticks.
Wat?
Katie and TL on vacation in Africa
Bizarre
Mary's matchstick dream
The Doctor and Daman are concerned for Daman's weight.
Well here's an unlikely combo of people... The Joker, Shaggy, and The Doctor
My Parents had a baby.  Clearly I had to name it Mini Mii.
ummm...yeah
I go Super Saiyan with anger.
Stray WHAT?!
That's terrible.
Emma Watson and Crosby in space!
Miis celebrating Karina's birthday on her actual birthday.
KoD reacts to the evil just born in his game

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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Super Easy Turkey Chili

What's Cooking Today?
Super Easy Turkey Chili

Hello everyone and welcome to another segment of...

The Fall season is definitely among us.  It's honestly my favorite season because of the general climate, the colorful leaves, Halloween, and the food.  People start eating more hearty foods during the Fall and Winter months and I'm all about hearty meals!  They just seem so comforting and inviting that you can't help but love a good, rich soup, or thick chili.  That's exactly what I'm bringing you today.

When I started dating my wife, she decided to make chili for me.  Now, my wife is a lightweight when it comes to the scoville scale.  Actually lightweight would imply that she can handle any heat at all...she's more in the infant league when it comes to hotness.  So, if you are someone who prefers spicy chili then this exact recipe won't be your thing.  Though, you can simply get a hot chili packet or add some of your own hot peppers to the mix because this one is going to be very mild but still quite delicious

Gather Your Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can light red kidney beans
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 packet chili seasoning mix
  • 1 Bag Fritos (optional)
  • 1 Bag Shredded Cheddar (optional)
  • Frying Pan/Skillet
  • Cooking Spray
  • Spatula/Turner
  • Large Pot (with cover)
  • Ladle

1. Spray and start Turkey - Spray the pan with cooking spray and place the raw (thawed) turkey on the pan.  Turn on medium-high heat.

2. Start Chopping Turkey - Using your spatula just keep chopping up the raw meat as it cooks.  You don't want large chunks of turkey in your chilli

3. Cook till done - Once you have chopped the meat up enough keep turning it until there is no pink left.  This should only take about 6-10 minutes since you first placed the raw meat on the pan.

4. Add Meat to Pot

5. Add all four cans - DO NOT DRAIN ANY OF THE CANS!!! Add the chili beans, pinto beans, light red kidney beans, and petite diced tomatoes with all of their liquid into the pot.

6. Stir the pot - Make sure everything in the pot is mixed together thoroughly

7. Add Chili Seasoning Mix - Stir entire pot once more after this is completed.

8. Cover and Cook - Place cover and turn the stove eye to medium or medium high till the chili is bubbling.

9. Lower temp, let sit and stir  - Lower the temperature of the eye to Low and allow the chili to cook for around 30 minutes.  Stir the mixture every 7-10 minutes so that nothing sticks to the bottom.

10. Serve into bowl, add toppings and enjoy! - I always add some crushed Frito chips and shredded cheddar cheese to my chili.

This is something that my family enjoys throughout the cold months and I hope that you will enjoy it too!  It's the perfect hot meal to sit around the house and watch TV while eating.  It's also one of those meals that tastes better once you've put the leftovers in the fridge and re-heated a bowl the next day.  True it's not the most hot of chili recipes but that can easily be remedied if you want to add some pepper or a hotter seasoning packet.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ghost in the Case: Scooby Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery (with Dylan Looney)



This is a spoiler warning.  We will be discussing the plot of Scooby Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery in full so if you don't wish to have the details spoiled then either track the DVD down or skip the Story section of this post in its entirety.  Also, I'm going to go ahead and put a length warning on this because we have a lot to say about this film.

Ghost here!  Thanks for joining me today for yet another


Music.  Music is such an integral part of the human experience, yet when it comes to movies and television, your average viewer can often forget the impact that music has upon their experience.  Unless the film or series has a profound theme song, or features songs in which the characters sing and dance, many people won't notice the subtle background themes aiding you in the experience.  Music helps to increase tension, show sadness or worry, or give off a sensation of grandeur just from its very existence.  I fully admit to my own negligence when it comes to a full appreciation of music in film from time to time.   However, today I hope to change that somewhat and bring music to the forefront for today's blog post.  

There are many topics of which I could draw inspiration.  Should I find some of the best scores from films?  Should I do a top ten list of best children's cartoon theme songs?  Should I do a review of Rocky Horror Picture Show since this year is the 40th anniversary of that film's release?  What to choose, what to choose.  
HMMMM... music music music...

Don't you dare talk about music without me Mr. Ghost... if that's even your real name!

What the... You're the last person I ever thought would interrupt one of my blogs.  That's usually left to KoD in my video game posts.  Well since you're here I might as well humor you by asking what you would suggest we cover that involves music.


WHAT?!

It's Scooby Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery!

Woah Woah Woah! You mean there's actually a crossover movie with the Scooby Gang and KISS?

You "Beth" your bottom dollar there is!

Well that's just lovely, because if there's one thing everybody hates...

It's a crossover

Believe it or not there is actually an animated movie, released in June 2015, involving Scooby Doo and all the current members of KISS.  In the off-chance that you've been oblivious to either of these juggernauts of entertainment, let's take a moment to discuss their history briefly.


Scooby Doo is a cartoon franchise that first aired on CBS in 1969.  The show starred four teenagers and their talking great dane, Scooby Doo, as they traveled together in a van to solve mysteries by equal parts investigation, brains, mishaps, and general shenanigans.  The mysteries always involved some form of supernatural creature terrorizing various locations.  Although the mysteries were supernatural in nature, in the end, each creature was captured and unmasked to reveal a normal human using costumes, theatrics, and gadgets to their advantage.  This lead to the iconic phrase "I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for you meddling kids."


Although the original run of Scooby Doo Where Are You? was only 34 episodes long, the series was an extreme success which launched into numerous other adventures for the quintet of heroes over the last few decades.  The Scooby Gang have teamed up with Batman, met the Addams Family, were tasked with tracking down the thirteen most terrifying ghosts on Earth, fought off real zombies, made it to the big screen in two live action films, and have dealt with a certain small dog of which we do not speak!  The franchise has continued to thrive even into 2015 as this year has provided us with not only the movie we are about to cover but a brand new series on Boomerang called Be Cool, Scooby Doo.  Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby have gone through many dangers, adventures, and art styles but they just keep on thriving as they should!

KISS (typed in all caps because I'm a real fan) started out as a theatrical hard rock band from New York City.  Through the 70's, the band not only became a household name, but also began aggressively marketing themselves, putting their likeness on countless pieces of merchandise.  As the band fell into the popular eye at the dawn of the 80's, original members Peter Criss (The Catman) and Ace Frehley (The Spaceman) left the band, leaving Gene Simmons (The Demon) and Paul Stanley (The Starchild) to soldier on.  The pair replaced their band-mates, eventually taking off the makeup and somehow managing to look even more ridiculous.

However, the original members managed to patch things up enough to reunite in 1996 for another wave of KISSteria, and even more merchandise, including but not limited to a "KISS Kasket" for the ultimate fan to rest in peace. Eventually, old wounds began to resurface.  This caused Criss and Frehley to leave once again to be replaced by the new Catman and Spaceman, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer respectively.  The band continues to this day with these two new members.  Apparently one day they decided to get caught up in some wacky cartoon hijinks with the good ol' Mystery Inc. gang despite any previous opinions.


Now that our preliminary information is complete, let's take a look at Scooby Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery and see what, if anything, it has to offer your average Scooby Doo or KISS fan.

The Story

Two amusement park workers, oddly enough voiced by Jay and Silent Bob, are working on a roller coaster in the KISS themed amusement park, KISS World.  They encounter a semi-Scandinavian looking villain known as the Crimson Witch who chases them while shouting "Give me rock!"  After Manny Goldman, the park's director calms the pair down, he asks his secretary to get him the "hottest mystery solvers in the world."  Elsewhere, the Scooby Gang are heading towards KISS World as Shaggy, Scooby, and Daphne are KISS fans (Velma playing along to be more active in her friends interest, and Fred preferring the music of "The Ascot Five") and want to see their Halloween concert at the theme park. As they arrive, they find the park closed due to the witch's presence and the head of security, Delilah Domino, won't allow them in.  The gang sneaks into the park to investigate the mystery.  Fred, Daphne, and Velma head one direction and overhear KISS' manager, Chip Magoo, and Manny discuss that KISS may not be performing due to the Witch.  Meanwhile, Shaggy and Scooby begin to play with a KISS water gun game when suddenly

GENE SHOWS UP AND HE'S LIKE RAGHHHHHRRR AND HE'S GOT THE TONGUE AND THE BOOTS THAT LOOK LIKE DRAGONS AND HE FREAKS OUT SHAGGY AND SCOOBY WITH HIS AWESOMENESS AND THEN THE REST OF THE BAND SHOWS UP LIKE WHAM THEN THE MOST EPIC INTRO SEQUENCE OF ALL TIME STARTS ROLLING WHERE THERE IS ALBUM COVERS AND...

Am I going to have to tranquilize you or something?

*Ahem*  As I was saying, Gene Simm... I mean "The Demon" shows up and within his first minute of screen time, the God of Thunder (and rock 'n roll) gets blasted in the face from Scooby's squirt gun.  This enrages the Demon and he begins to chase Scooby and Shaggy around the park.  As this happens, the rest of the band members appear and the opening credits role to the classic "Rock and Roll All Nite."

As a side note, I need to point out that the members of KISS are never referred to by their actual names, but rather by the names of their KISS Personas.  Gene Simmons is always "Demon."  Paul Stanley is always "Starchild."  Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer are always "Catman" and "The Spaceman" as well.  This has actually been the case with much of KISS marketing of the past few years, particularly since the addition of Thayer and Singer.  A widely held belief is that Gene and Paul plan on replacing themselves with a new Demon and Starchild in a few years and relaunching a "KISS 2.0."  Personally I find it kind of silly, but it does make sense from a marketing standpoint.  Anyway, back to the plot!

KISS and the Scooby gang decide to team up for this mystery after Starchild convinces the band to do so with the help of his all seeing eye (which has absolutely nothing to do with Daphne's good looks or anything.)  After a quick tour of the security office and the park, the teams split up for some solo investigations.  While Fred, Daphne, and Velma are speak to Shandi Strutter, the head tech for KISS, Shaggy and Scooby wander off on their own.  It isn't long before they come face to face with the Crimson Witch who chases them through the Rockin Flume to KISS' track "Shout It Out Loud."  Just as Shaggy and Scooby are cornered by the Crimson Witch, KISS appears and begin fighting her with their super-radical KISS powers!  Despite their best efforts, the Crimson Witch escapes as Shaggy and Scooby feint.

Scooby and Shaggy wake up in a recovery room thanks to a churro that Fred had grabbed from the concession stand, and inform the group of the fight they witnessed between the Crimson Witch and KISS; the other three don't believe them.  Suddenly the fortune teller of the park, Chikara, bursts in to tell KISS that the Scooby Gang must go because she can foresee they will help the Witch.  Eager to investigate further, Velma goes with The Spaceman to speak with Chikara.  Daphne, The Starchild, and Fred go to investigate the ride where the Witch was last seen.  The Demon, however, leaves Scooby and Shaggy to hang out with The Catman.  

Velma and The Spaceman speak with Chikara who tells the legend behind the Crimson Witch.  The witch is in search of the Rock of Kissteria, which is some sort of key that holds an ancient evil at bay.  Apparently in another world known as Kissteria, the Crimson Witch created a being known as The Destroyer to spread havoc, but the warriors of Kissteria used the music which came from a set of crystals to seal The Destroyer away inside of a volcano and created a black diamond known as the Rock of Kissteria as the key to the volcano.  KISS is now the guardians of the rock, which turns out to be the Detroit rock which they received from Detroit as a cover story.  

After Fred discovers some residue left by the Crimson Witch, Daphne discovers a trap door which leads the three of them into the "catacombs" that run underneath the park for the workers.  Starchild, Fred, and Daphne run across Shandi Strutter and the special effects team trying out some new ideas for the concert.  Fred asks Shandi to analyze the residue they found earlier.  Eventually when the whole gang regroups they begin to theorize on the suspects and, as usual for the Scooby Gang, they set a trap for the witch with Scooby and Shaggy as the bait.  The pair takes the Detroit rock and starts to walk around the park hoping to lure the witch out.  The Crimson Witch chases the pair briefly but is snagged by a rope trap.  Velma unmasks the Witch to see a grotesque witch's face.  The gang obviously freak out a little bit as they expected a normal person.

The Crimson Witch grabs the Detroit Rock as KISS appears once more and attacks with their powers.  They subdue the witch momentarily but she escapes through a... Hole in the Sky (oh wait, that's Black Sabbath, Sorry!) and drags Scooby and Shaggy with her.  KISS opens up the Dynasty Star Portal by playing "I Was Made for Lovin' You" which assembles their guitar spaceship for them to follow the witch.  Let me repeat that: THEIR. GUITAR. SPACESHIP.  As they follow the Crimson Witch and rescue Shaggy and Scooby, the band's instruments serve as weapons against the witch by shooting lasers with their guitars and other such effects.  The witch escapes their grasp once more with the Detroit Rock into KISS' home dimension of Kissteria.  KISS and the Scooby Gang follow and regroup with their people and "The Elder."

The gang prepare to take on the witch once more as she sends some Valkyrie-type creatures to fight them.  Starchild attempts to take on the Crimson Witch solo but is defeated.  The Crimson Witch uses the Detroit Rock to unleash The Destroyer from his volcanic prison.  Since the story of the Detroit Rock was that musical stones created it, KISS returns to the theme park to play their concert leaving the Scooby Gang to delay the Destroyer.  The final battle commences as the Destroyer is chasing Mystery Inc while KISS performs "Detroit Rock City."  Again, through the power of rock, KISS are able to manifest their superpowers through their music ultimately defeating the Destroyer allowing the Scooby and the rest to get safely back through the portal.

The Scooby Gang wakes up once again in the recovery room.  It seems as though all five of them had passed out together.  While they were out, Shandi identified the Witch's residue as a chemical which messes with the mind and causes illusions; everything they had witnessed in Kissteria was a mass hallucination.  The gang figures out where the Witch had hidden the Detroit rock and locate it in a locker.  The Crimson Witch shows up to stop them but thanks to the combined efforts of the Scooby Gang and KISS they remove her gas canister and anti-gravity belt she used to fly.  Velma finally unmasks the Witch to find that it was Delilah Domino the whole time.  She intended to sell the rock to a competing defense company for the use of lasers.

KISS thanks the gang for helping to keep the park open.  Fred, Daphne, and Velma begin to leave with Velma feeling confident that her theory of rational explanations remained intact throughout this strange adventure.  Scooby and Shaggy say goodbye to KISS as the band flies into the sky to return the rock to Kissteria.  Shaggy asks Scooby if they should tell Velma what they just saw, but he simply responds "why rock her world?"

What's Good About It?

The animation is superb in this film.  Despite having two completely different groups to appease, it accurately portrays the classic look of the Scooby Gang while giving KISS their own look and feel within that universe which does justice to the band.  Even the portions of animation that are clearly pulling their influence from anime do not feel out of place here due to the framing or situation at hand when it is being utilized.  The artists obviously had clear direction and a deep love for Scooby Doo and KISS as it shows through their work.

I have to agree with you and would like to also point out something about KISS in the art style.  Their fight sequences are animated superbly.  While the resemblance to the actual band members is questionable at best, the overall look is terrific with each member having their own aura color-coded to match the look of the 1978 solo albums.  Paul gets a purple aura with an eye beam, Gene gets a red aura with flame powers, Tommy gets a blue aura with lighting abilities, and Eric gets a green aura with catlike claws and reflexes.  Each fight sequence with the band members had me freaking out like a nine year old watching Dragonball Z!

The Musical sequences in this film are amazing, particularly the opening credits.  The animation during that opening section is very stylized and interesting.  It was able to pay tribute to the band's career and to the classic Scooby Doo cartoons.   I especially enjoyed the little mock-ups of some of the album covers they were able to toss in there.  I can honestly say that opening credits sequence made me proud to be part of the KISS Army!  Each of the KISS songs were used to a great effect.  I also highly enjoyed the "I Was Made for Lovin' You" and "Detroit Rock City" sequences for their pacing and animation.  The sight of the Scooby Gang seeming to crash a spaceship to a song about a car crash was so unusually dark it was surreal and wonderful at the same time.

Ever since their original incarnation, Warner Brothers has done their best to add to the characters of Fred and Daphne.  If you happen to be a fan of Scooby Doo Where Are You? then you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Originally, Fred and Daphne did have a job or purpose to being in the group but their personalities were massively lacking behind that of Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby.  I'm not sure if that was just an oversight of the creators or if that was just how things were done back then with characters like these.  However, as time settled on this quintet of heroes, they have all been given equal amounts of attention towards their personalities.  This trend has carried out into this film as well where we see Daphne actively talking about her crush on Starchild, and actively using her previous experiences to help solve the mystery.  Fred is now more headstrong rather than just a generic leader guy; he also is acting upon the love interest with Daphne and is getting extremely jealous of how she reacts to Starchild.  There's a particularly hilarious scene between Fred, Daphne, and Starchild where Fred purposely sabotages the photos he was taking of Daphne and Starchild.  It's great to see these two characters reacting more fleshed out!

There are so many KISS references hidden throughout this movie that It's actually a hard task tracking them all down.  As a KISS fan, it was really fun to see or hear each and every one!  Character names such as Shandi Strutter and Delilah Domino are actually a combination of different songs by the band, specifically "Shandi", "Strutter", "Modern Day Delilah", and "Domino."  The fortune teller Chikara's name comes from a KISS album.  The Dynasty Star Portal which opens when the band plays "I Was Made for Lovin' You" is also a neat reference as that particular song was off their Dynasty album.  Also, the "Shout It Out Loud" chase sequence takes place in the Rockin Flume which is sort of like the Tunnel of Love.  This may or may not be a reference to Gene's solo album "Tunnel of Love."

However the mother of all KISS references came when Chikara was talking about the Destroyer's backstory.  As we see the various pages of her book, a particular set of pages contain nods to not only all of the past members, but a couple of studio musicians who worked with the band as well.
There's "Jandel" which is a nod to the original Spaceman, Ace Frehley and his supposed home planet.  Below that are the cats from Peter Criss' (the original Catman) drum riser.   On the other page, we have a fox and drumsticks representing former drummer, the late Eric Carr.  The Egyptian ankh represents former guitarist Vinnie Vincent's makeup design.  The "MSI" represents former guitarist Mark St. John, and the "BK" for not only ex-guitarist Bruce Kulick, but also his older brother Bob Kulick who played on a few KISS tracks uncredited.  Most interesting of all is the fig for Anton Fig, who played drums on the albums Dynasty and Unmasked, also uncredited. 

What's Bad/Weak About It?

Some of the jokes in this film are below sub-par.  Humor is always a key point with Scooby Doo and though I realize they have to have some jokes for the younger kid, I'm fairly certain even my 5 year old self would moan at a couple of these pitiful attempts.   Two specific examples spring to mind.   The first of which is between the workers at the very beginning of the film.


Worker 1: How long do we have to keep doing this?  My voice is getting hoarse.

Worker 2: Look, somebody's gotta fix this camera.  How else are those scaredy cat kids gonna get a picture of themselves screaming their heads off?

Worker 1: Ha-ha!  Scaredy cats. Funny.

 
No, it's not funny... at all.  Movie, you were able to get Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith for half a page of dialogue and you managed to make them entirely unfunny?  I'm calling a foul play here!   The second failed comedy attempt comes when the Scooby Gang first interacts with KISS


Velma: Actually we're here to help you.  We're mystery solvers.

Spaceman: That's funny.  So are we.

Velma: Wait. You're the ones they called for help?

Demon: Yeah.  They wanted the best, they got the best!

Shaggy: But, like, you're a rock band.

Catman: Every band needs a hobby.

Fred: The Ascot Five would welcome our help!

Demon: Well, I guess we're no Ascot Five, so scram!

(All of KISS start laughing)

The rest of the jokes are spot-on or adequate enough for me to pass by, but these two are just baffling at how they thought these lines were funny. Blah Blah nitpick I know. 

I want to start this off by saying that I love KISS.  I am a proud member of the KISS army, but nobody in the band is exactly Laurence Olivier when it comes to acting.  I appreciate that the band decided to voice their own characters but there is a reason these men are rock stars and not voice actors.  Sometimes their line delivery can be very cheesy or choppy.  It's better than their acting in KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (no seriously go look that up) but it's still not the greatest.  I also have to mention "The Elder."  I mean no disrespect to Penny Marshall but she is severely miscast in this role and it really sounds like she's just barely phoning it in.  I mean, you get to see this dimension of Kissteria and meet the Elder of their people and she sounds like a disinterested Jersey mother?  No thank you!

One other gripe I have with the movie is the choice of soundtrack in certain places.  While the non-KISS score was rather good, I personally would have preferred more KISS music.  It would have been a great improvement because if you're going to have KISS in your movie you need to go the whole way.  I realize that a good portion of KISS songs have lyrics that aren't exactly kid-friendly, but they could have done the same as they did with "Love Gun" and only use the instrumental portion.  It would have been amazing to hear songs like "The Oath" or "God of Thunder" in the movie during a fight sequence of something.  That being said, using "Modern Day Delilah" as the end credits music was a very nice touch.

Additional Spoiler warning - If you don't want the ending spoiled, skip the next two paragraphs

Finally, I have to say that the finale of the movie seemed very rushed.  It was clear that the writers were on-board with the Kissteria and Destroyer fight but it seems as though they realized later that they had to solve the mystery Scooby Doo style.  To bring a good mystery to a successful end you need to have the characters finding out multiple clues during the ordeal in order to lead them towards a logical conclusion.  Scooby Doo generally does an excellent job with this as they have been doing such for years, however this film didn't do so well.  We find out that Delilah Domino was the Crimson Witch but what clues were we given to actually lead us to that conclusion?  Well we know she is the security leader, we know she worked for a government contractor beforehand, and we learned that certain chemicals were being stolen from Shandi's locked chem lab which turned up in the chemical analysis of the residue left by the Witch...and that's it.  The team just "knows" where to find the rock and find it in Delilah's locker.  What clues lead them to that?  They give some vague reasoning that because Scooby and Shaggy could fit inside her locker she knew that the rock would as well but, anyone with a brain could have come to that particular conclusion just looking at the locker.  Delilah was security chief in a large theme park; there were millions of places to put the rock.  How did they know it was going to be there in her locker? 
 

Also Velma says they did some research on the government contractor she used to work on and it was discovered that they worked on lasers which used black diamonds.  Now that's all good and well but this was done ENTIRELY off screen and only mentioned after Delilah was unmasked.  Now this provides a double edged problem.  Without mentioning that fact you end up at the culprit's reveal without all of the information thus leaving the viewer confused as to how they knew anything.  However, revealing that information would have practically solved the mystery because that would have made Delilah suspect #1 from the very beginning.  I understand why they chose to do this film the way they did in order to keep the mystery but it just seems out of left field when you leave a vital clue out of the movie till after the culprit is caught.  Perhaps a re-write of her motives would have been more effective.

...Wait WHAT?!

There are a few scenes and scenarios in this movie that just left us scratching our heads.  With this movie being a crossover of Scooby Doo and KISS we should have expected weirdness; we just didn't expect this level of weirdness.

During the "Shout It Out Loud" chase sequence between Scooby, Shaggy, and the Crimson Witch, they leave the KISS ride and land in a container full of cute stuffed rabbits in KISS makeup.  The Witch then uses her powers to turn the rabbits alive and the following scenes happen.
That's friggin creepy!!

When this film was first announced, it was advertised as containing a brand new KISS song.  I was desperately wanting it to be a cover the classic "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" theme song so that I could just throw out all my other music and listen to that on repeat for the rest of my life.  However what we were treated to was the band portraying Fred's favorite group, the Ascot Five singing "Don't Touch My Ascot."  The track itself is pretty bizarre with each member of the band singing a verse in a pseudo-barbershop quartet style.  Just...just listen.
Simmons puts a strange operatic vibrato that makes his voice almost unrecognizable.  It's a very weird entry in the KISS recording catalog, and it one of the very few songs that all four members sing on.  It's nice to see the band not taking themselves too seriously though!


Once the gang gets to Kissteria, the Witch releases The Destroyer.  Now this creature has been talked up through a decent portion of the movie as being this terribly powerful being to strike fear into the hearts of all.  He's sealed in a volcano for goodness sake so this thing has to be pretty epic.  The witch releases him and we finally get our first proper look at him... and well...  It's MODOK in space.
seriously WTF

That's not even the strangest part about him.  The strangest part is that he's voiced by Darius Rucker.  That's right ladies and gentlemen, Hootie is playing a large evil head in a Scooby Doo movie.  He does a good job with the modifications they've done to his voice so please don't misunderstand as he's not bad.  It's just such a strange choice to begin with.  If I wanted to add a voice actor to my roster to voice a large world destroying creature, he's certainly not the one I would have thought of first.  In the words of my good friend  "I think I've been saying this a lot in the last few years, but why Darius Rucker?"  This of course leads to the obvious joke...

This is quite possibly the strangest part of the entire film.  There is a sequence where KISS transforms from their modern day costumes into the costumes they wore during the Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over Tours.  This shouldn't be that strange in and of itself, but it became strange by the manner of which they executed the costume change.  The whole movie stops as the band change into their costumes in a Sailor Moon inspired transformation scene complete with Japanese kanji, lasers, and an instrumental version of KISS' "Love Gun."  Starchild's segment is basically an exact replica of Sailor Moon's.  Take a look for yourself complete with Sailor Moon comparison
It's a bizarre moment, but it's actually pretty clever and obviously (oversized, blood-dripping) tongue-in-cheek.


Seriously though, why would four grown men want to do something that emulates Sailor Moon?
Hey Wes er sorry... Ghost, I've got a first draft of that other commission you asked for.  I just used a Cookout bag since it's only a preliminary attempt.  Wanna see it?

NO Jojo!  Not now!  Please for the love of all things don't show that now!

What sort of commission?

You wanna see?  Here you go!

NO!!!!

Isn't it beautiful?

HAH!  That's comedy gold, man! 

Someone please just shoot me now.

You were seriously questioning the Sailor Moon transformation when there's a drawing of you looking like that?

As if I'm the only one here who has photographic evidence of them looking ridiculous.

Oh-ho what's this?

I... I don't know what you're talking about man.

Well here, allow me to "Shout It Out Loud" for you then.


Well now that we've all thoroughly embarrassed ourselves.. Let's wrap this bad boy up.

Conclusion

This film is an exercise in weirdness and surrealism.  I came in to this movie with only the slightest understanding of KISS as a whole; I experienced this as a Scooby Doo fan.  If you are a fellow Scooby Doo fan then this will prove to be fairly entertaining.  It's always good to see the gang out solving mysteries and dealing with strange things.  It's nothing incredibly groundbreaking for Scooby Doo as they have covered so many types of mysteries and situations in the past, but at the end of the day it's still a Scooby movie and follows most of the norms for their format and personalities.  If you enjoy Scooby Doo then you will probably find this confusing but pleasant.  However, I have a feeling that KISS fans will get a LOT more out of this movie than your average Scooby Doo fan.  Am I correct in this assumption, Looney?

Yeah, I'd have to say that a good chunk of the audience for this will be KISS fans looking for every little reference to the band.  I've heard of people on the KISS forums (YES, those exist) that say their kids have gotten into the band through this movie.  I can imagine Paul and most certainly Gene had the goal of reaching a new generation with this movie.  I've seen some fans totally irate at the idea of KISS doing this, but it's not like they haven't been doing stuff like this since the mid-70's.  At the end of the day, the movie is really just a nice little piece of cheesy, campy fun.

Well that just about covers it.  Thanks for accompanying me down the rabbit hole with this excellent suggestion for a crossover, my friend.

Thanks, I really enjoyed this too!  Sorry if I got fanboy all over the place.

So from Wes (Ghost), Dylan, and JoJo.
ROCK ON!

Scooby Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery is Not Rated and is available on DVD from Warner Brothers.
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If you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

If you are a fan of music and want to read more from Dylan, you can check out his blogs at.. a website to be determined.  (Don't ask)

If you like Jojo's artwork you can... not check it out online cause she doesn't have anything like that.  Go bug her to upload her stuff to Deviantart or something!