Massively Multiplayer: Gaming In The New Millennium

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Idk if this has been asked already, but what happened to Minecraft? If that has already been addressed, can someone link the relevant post in?
Sports In 2012
The Eastern Conference was still red hot in the 2011-12 NBA season, featuring what many believed to be three of the top four teams in the league: the Carmelo Anthony-led Pistons, the star-studded Knicks, and the rough and tumble 76ers led by Dwight Howard. The Charlotte Hornets were also a strong team, while the surging Chicago Bulls, led by emerging superstar Stephen Curry, were also quite formidable. The Pistons, hungry to finally get a title for Anthony, led the league at 61-21, while the Knicks were just behind them at 59-23, and the 76ers lost only one step from last year, finishing at 58-24. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat had been struggling despite the excellent play of Kevin Durant. It was a similar situation to what the Cleveland Cavaliers had been facing the previous year: Durant was disgruntled and wanted out, but still led the Heat to a respectable #7 seed, while the sharpshooting Pacers squeaked in at #8.

In the West, the Lakers were back after missing the playoffs completely the previous year, with Anthony Davis having one of the best rookie years ever, alongside Dwyane Wade who had just been acquired from Cleveland. They formed a potent scoring tandem and led the Lakers to a 25 game improvement over the previous year, topping the conference yet again. Meanwhile, LeBron struggled with injuries to himself and to his teammates, and the Nuggets dropped to third, behind the bright young stars of the Dallas Mavericks. The Nuggets began surging toward the end of the season, and going into the playoffs, were among the favorites to take the title yet again.


First Round:

Eastern Conference:

(1) Detroit Pistons over (8) Indiana Pacers, 4 to 0

The Pacers were an exciting team thanks to the tandem of Gordon Heyward and Klay Thompson, who helped make them the best three point shooting team in the NBA. However, their defense left something to be desired, and the Pistons took full advantage as Carmelo went off with a 63 point performance in Game 1, setting the tone for the series.

(5) Chicago Bulls over (4) Charlotte Hornets, 4 to 3

Despite the teams' close proximity in records, the Hornets were the heavy favorites to take this series, thanks to Russell Westbrook's continued excellent play alongside a fierce young nucleus of scorers and defenders. However, this series was in many ways a coming out party for Stephen Curry, who picked up where he left off the previous year against the Pistons, making some clutch buckets and earning a rematch against Detroit in the second round.

(2) New York Knicks over (7) Miami Heat, 4 to 1

The Knicks dominated this series that saw Kevin Durant accumulate several technicals and Heat fans boo their team off the court. The Knicks, led by their tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Deron Williams, with Dirk Nowitzki (who had been the league's Sixth Man of the Year) logging some key minutes off the bench. The Heat made it close in game 5 thanks to Durant's play, but it wasn't enough, and the Knicks advanced.

(3) Philadelphia 76ers over (6) Washington Wizards, 4 to 1

The Wizards got some quality play from their sophomore stud Kyrie Irving, but it wasn't enough to overcome the might of the Sixers' big men, especially Dwight Howard, who dominated the boards and showed why he was the league's rebounding leader. Even fouling him couldn't stop his dominance, as he was shooting better from the free throw line than usual as well.

Western Conference:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers over (8) San Antonio Spurs, 4 to 2

The Lake Show had their work cut out against a resurgent Spurs team packed with veterans, with Anthony Davis making a few crucial rookie mistakes and Wade getting frustrated at times. The Spurs took Games 3 and 4, but the Lakers surged back to win games 5 and 6 fairly easily. They had shown some vulnerabilities, and whoever faced them next would need to take full advantage.

(4) Seattle Supersonics over (5) Minnesota Timberwolves, 4 to 0

Lob City was in full effect as the tandem of Griffin and Paul teamed up to knock out the Timberwolves in an easy sweep. The Timberwolves had taken some strides this year thanks to Rookie Of The Year runner-up Derrick Williams, but they didn't have much of a chance, and the Sonics would go on to a showdown with the Lakers.

(2) Dallas Mavericks over (7) Portland Trailblazers, 4 to 2

The Trailblazers and their promising young stars put up a decent fight, coming back to force a Game 6 after going down 3 games to 0, but the Mavericks, led by Brandon Jennings and DeMar DeRozan, were much too strong, and blew out the Blazers in game six to advance to the second round.

(3) Denver Nuggets over (6) Sacramento Kings, 4 to 0

The Sacramento Kings, who'd been scrappy contenders just a few years back, still had much of their old core, and were looking to return to contendership yet again... but Lebron was on a mission after a frustrating regular season, and the Nuggets wouldn't be denied, easily sweeping the Kings. They would go into their second round matchup with the Mavericks as major favorites.

Second Round:

Eastern Conference:

(5) Chicago Bulls over (1) Detroit Pistons, 4 to 3

In a hard fought revenge series, the Chicago Bulls shocked the world to defeat the heavily favored Pistons in a seven game slugfest that saw Stephen Curry play absolutely out of his mind, with five 50-point games during the course of the series, including one where he set an NBA record for threes in a playoff game with twelve. The Bulls' defense was just stout enough to keep Carmelo Anthony under control, and the Pistons end up with an early exit and one of their most disappointing playoff defeats in recent memory.

(3) Philadelphia 76ers over (2) New York Knicks, 4 to 0

The Knicks were no match for the 76ers, led by Dwight Howard who kept DeMarcus Cousins completely contained, while Dirk Nowitzki showed his age and played fairly lackluster in the four games. The two defeats at Madison Square Garden were close, but after the series returned to Philly, the 76ers won a pair of routs and knocked off the Knicks quite easily.

Western Conference:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers over (4) Seattle Supersonics, 4 to 3

This flashy, back and forth series was exciting almost all the way through, with Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul exchanging lots of highlights as these two teams both had moments where it looked like the other was in control. The Lakers took Game 1, only for the Sonics to steal games 2 and 3. The Lakers barely won game 4, then scraped by in Game 5 in overtime. Game 6 wasn't all that close but was still a nine point game, while the Lakers ended up winning game 7 by four points thanks to some late heroics from Wade. The Lakers would advance to the Conference Finals to set up what many thought would be a showdown between Wade and Lebron.

(2) Dallas Mavericks over (3) Denver Nuggets, 4 to 3

The Mavericks might not have had the superstar power of Lebron James behind them, but they were the more complete team, and that made all the difference in this close series. Role players like Danny Granger had some seriously heroic moments, while Lebron was held in check by the Mavericks' tough defense, as well as injuries to some of his most important teammates.

Conference Finals:

(3) Philadelphia 76ers over (5) Chicago Bulls, 4 to 1

The Bulls' miracle playoff run ended up being somewhat anticlimactic, as they would run into a buzzsaw in the form of the surging 76ers. Curry found himself bricking shots that he had made in the previous series, proving the old adage “live by the 3, die by the 3”. Meanwhile, Dwight Howard was dunking and blocking shots all over the place, establishing himself as the NBA's most dominant center since Shaq. He'd be heading to the Finals and taking his 76ers with him.

(2) Dallas Mavericks over (1) Los Angeles Lakers, 4 to 2

The feel-good playoff run continued for the Mavericks, as they knocked off the Lakers by winning all three of their home games in this series. The Lakers played quite well, with Wade and Davis both scoring when they needed to, but their young team was outmatched by the Mavericks' mix of young stars and veterans, with Kevin Love winning the battle on the boards as the Mavs' scorers poured in lots of points. The Mavericks were headed to the NBA Finals for the very first time, and hoping they could win it all.

2012 NBA Finals:

Philadelphia 76ers over Dallas Mavericks, 4 to 0

The second straight Finals sweep in a row turned out to be the cap on a dominating postseason by the Philadelphia 76ers, who only lost two games against some of the NBA's best. It was once again the story of Dwight Howard, who couldn't be stopped and cruised to an easy MVP, drawing comparisons to Moses Malone, the last great center to take the 76ers to an NBA Championship back in 1983. That year had seen the 76ers dominate in the playoffs as well (almost making Moses Malone's prediction of “fo', fo', fo'” a reality), and the 2011-12 76ers now add their name to the list of great Philly playoff teams.


2012's NBA draft wasn't nearly as stacked as 2011's, with less high school stars jumping to the NBA, and many college players choosing to stay in school. Still, there were some strong players to be had, with Bradley Beal being the consensus #1 pick after forgoing the chance to enter the draft in 2011. He'd taken Duke to the national championship game, and he looked like the best player in the draft by a wide margin. He was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets with the top pick, hoping to build a strong team around him. High school phenom Ben McLemore was taken next with pick #2, sending him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were hoping they could do better for him than they'd done with Dwyane Wade. Kawhi Leonard, who took his San Diego State team to the Sweet Sixteen as a double digit seeded Cinderella, was taken fifth by the Houston Rockets, who would pair him up with Damien Lillard as they continued their rebuild. Free agency would once again be the most entertaining part of the offseason, with Miami no longer to keep the services of the disgruntled Kevin Durant. Durant would consider teaming up with the Lakers, but would end up being convinced to join Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Seattle, forming one of the most potent trios in the league and creating an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Miami wouldn't come away completely empty handed, as they did manage to acquire DeMar Derozan from the Dallas Mavericks, who couldn't keep him even by dipping into the luxury tax. Miami also made a few savvy trades to acquire some draft picks that would come in handy down the road.


But while Danica Patrick has struggled to replicate the same success in NASCAR that she's had in the IndyCar series, iPhone Series driver Mihoshi Koizumi has taken the entire racing world by storm, forcing everyone to notice after she shocked the world and won the Daytona 500 in her very first Sprint Cup race. Though Koizumi won't be a full-time Sprint Cup driver until next season, she's currently ranked eighth in points in the iPhone Series, and has won two races there as well. She's proven to be one of the most popular NASCAR drivers on the circuit in her first year, and Koizumi's merchandise sales have overtaken those of Patrick. Koizumi's surge in popularity has caused some controversy among longtime NASCAR fans, with the young racer stating that she received death threats after winning the Daytona 500. This has led to no less than legendary eight-time champion Dale Earnhardt, who retired from NASCAR after the 2006 season, to chime in.

'All she wants to do is race,' said Earnhardt, who was one of the first to publicly congratulate Koizumi after her Daytona win. 'If she can race, she can race and people need to accept that. I think she's one hell of a driver, so is Danica.'

Koizumi has begun appearing in numerous advertisement campaigns for companies such as Mountain Dew and Old Spice, and will also be the face of Apple's upcoming racing title NASCAR 2K13, coming early next year to the Apple iTwin and the Apple Virtua.”
-from the June 11, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated


As Bronx Bombers Continue Historic Pace, Fans Cry “Damn Yankees!”

The New York Yankees are headed into the 2012 All-Star break on pace for the most wins in a single season in MLB history. Their current record of 64-21 puts them on pace to win more than 120 games this year, and would put the current team in the same conversation as historic squads like the classic 1927 World Series champions, a team featuring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as part of its historic “Murderers' Row” squad. Not all baseball fans are happy to see the Yankees playing so well. The current line-up, which has been called the most “expensive” in modern MLB history, with numerous All Stars such as Curtis Granderson, Melky Cabrera, and young phenom Mike Trout, has been dominating the competition all season, drawing loud boos whenever they step onto opposing fields. The Yankees have been crushing opponents, with box scores frequently showing results such as 16-3, 19-7, and 25-2, and are on a historic pace in numerous statistical categories, making their case as one of the best teams of all time. The Yankees are the defending World Series champions, and are the odds on favorites to repeat this year, already 13 games ahead of the second place Boston Red Sox in their division.

-from a July 9, 2012 article on Yahoo! News


The 2012 Summer Olympics took place in Toronto, Canada, and like the London Olympics before it, was a chance for the host city to revitalize its infrastructure and continue to assert its importance on the world stage. The Olympics was somewhat more sprawling than the Tokyo and London games, with more events and landmarks spread out, making travel a bit more difficult for athletes, reporters, and attendees. However, Toronto itself was quite beautiful in the summer, and like the London Olympics, there were no major security or terrorist incidents to speak of, or even any major protests. The games were quite pleasant overall, allowing the focus to be on the athletes themselves.

-The big event that many people were looking forward to was the debut of skateboarding. Skateboarders from all over the world came to compete, legends and rookies alike. In the men's competition, Tony Hawk, though quite a bit older than in his heyday, was still extremely impressive, pulling off several of his old tricks and managing to take a bronze medal in one of the events. However, it was Bucky Lasek who dominated, winning a pair of gold medals and beating out numerous rivals, including Paul Rodriguez and Pierre-Luc Gagnon. Despite being 39 years old, the legendary skateboarder had some of his best runs ever, and was a frequent sight in that year's Olympic highlights. On the women's side of things, Avril Lavigne was representing her home country of Canada and was coming in as the sentimental favorite. She'd trained quite heavily coming into the Games, putting a lot on the backburner in order to focus her attention on bringing glory to Canada. It was thus one of the biggest disappointments of the Games when she failed to win a single medal, with her best finish being fourth place. Ironically, nearly all of the skaters who won gold that year cited her as their inspiration, including 17-year old Maria Tangella, who won a gold medal in the halfpipe event in an upset over numerous top contenders including Lavigne herself. No one skater was truly dominant in the women's skateboarding events, showing that there was a lot of competition at the top and room for anyone to excel, and though Lavigne was heartbroken, she promised to come back in 2016 and try for gold again.

-Kris Humphries and Michael Phelps returned for their final time swimming at the Olympics, and things were different than in 2008. The two men had had somewhat of a falling out in 2010, and tensions were high between them, though they both managed to win gold at the Games, with Humphries winning four and Phelps winning two. The Canadian swimming team also performed excellently, upsetting the Americans in two different events much to the approval of the home crowd.

-The United States won in the men's basketball competition, getting revenge against 2008's gold medalists Spain in the semifinals and fending off a scrappy Croatia team in a gold medal game that went to overtime. Carmelo Anthony was the hero for the Americans in the final two games, getting some measure of redemption after his painful NBA playoff exit.

-Usain Bolt returned to the track and field events after being forced to sit out due to injury in 2008. He won one gold medal by achieving a 9.74 in the 100 meter dash, but was beaten out in the 200 meter dash by a Canadian runner.

-Women's gymnastics was mostly contested between a strong United States women's team and the Russian team. US women's gymnastics was still somewhat roiling from a scandal that saw its team doctor, Larry Nassar, arrested for sexual misconduct after a 2010 incident in which then 14-year-old gymnast Nora Sendicott was initially arrested for stabbing Nassar multiple times with a penknife during a routine examination, only for it to be later found out that she had stabbed him after being abused by Nassar for nearly three years, along with dozens of other young gymnasts. Sendicott herself won a gold medal in the Olympics, being reinstated to the team in 2011 after a long investigation. However, the Russian team won overall in one of the closest decisions ever, while the Canadian team won the bronze.

-A new boxing star emerged in the middleweight division, as 20-year-old American boxer Sage Perez knocked out Japanese boxer Ryota Murata in the gold medal match in one of the quickest knockouts in Olympic history, another dramatic moment that was played numerous times in highlight reels of the games. Perez is said to be considering a career in either boxing or MMA, and the UFC is expected to bid heavily for his services.

-Overall, Canada won a total of ten gold medals and 36 medals overall, an extremely impressive performance even for a host country. Russia won one more gold medal than the United States, while tying for overall medals, making the final medal count one of the closest in Summer Olympics history.

-The games ended with the ceremonial “handing off” at the closing ceremony. Johannesburg, South Africa will be hosting the games in 2016, marking the first time that an African nation has played host to the Olympic Games.
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My feelings about vigilante justice (e.g. the stabbing of Nassar) are best exemplified by these quote from the Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force (and said by the main character himself--Dirty Harry, for all of his Cowboy Cop tendencies, never went as far as the villains in Magnum Force did):
"That's just fine. But how does murder fit in? When police start becoming their own executioners...where's it gonna end, Briggs? Pretty soon, you'll start executing people for jaywalking. And executing people for traffic violations. Then you end up executing your neighbor 'cause his dog pisses on your lawn."

That being said, though, Nassar really deserved his fate ITTL, and glad the person who stabbed him was freed...

Good update, BTW...
The New York Yankees are headed into the 2012 All-Star break on pace for the most wins in a single season in MLB history. Their current record of 64-21 puts them on pace to win more than 120 games this year, and would put the current team in the same conversation as historic squads like the classic 1927 World Series champions, a team featuring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as part of its historic “Murderers' Row” squad. Not all baseball fans are happy to see the Yankees playing so well. The current line-up, which has been called the most “expensive” in modern MLB history, with numerous All Stars such as Curtis Granderson, Melky Cabrera, and young phenom Mike Trout, has been dominating the competition all season, drawing loud boos whenever they step onto opposing fields. The Yankees have been crushing opponents, with box scores frequently showing results such as 16-3, 19-7, and 25-2, and are on a historic pace in numerous statistical categories, making their case as one of the best teams of all time. The Yankees are the defending World Series champions, and are the odds on favorites to repeat this year, already 13 games behind the second place Boston Red Sox in their division.

Don't you mean ahead of the Red Sox?

Good update, BTW...
With the new sports update I'd like to ask: how's Jon Bois doing? It's about a year away before he got recongition with Breaking Madden OTL, but it's close enough I might as well ask.
My feelings about vigilante justice (e.g. the stabbing of Nassar) are best exemplified by these quote from the Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force (and said by the main character himself--Dirty Harry, for all of his Cowboy Cop tendencies, never went as far as the villains in Magnum Force did):
"That's just fine. But how does murder fit in? When police start becoming their own executioners...where's it gonna end, Briggs? Pretty soon, you'll start executing people for jaywalking. And executing people for traffic violations. Then you end up executing your neighbor 'cause his dog pisses on your lawn."

That being said, though, Nassar really deserved his fate ITTL, and glad the person who stabbed him was freed...

Good update, BTW...

Nassar wasn't killed or even that badly hurt in the stabbing, it was a very small blade on the knife so the wounds were mostly superficial, she stabbed him three times. Nora, like a lot of the other girls, had been victimized for quite a while, but was having a particularly bad week and decided she wasn't going to take any shit on that particular day, so she hid a penknife in her pocket in case he started touching her again. He started, and she started stabbing him. At first (when she was arrested), it seemed like she'd had a psychotic break, it took a few days for her to tell investigators about Nassar's crimes, that's when the investigation started, which pretty much went like OTL's after that. Nora herself (which is an original person, born in 1996 due to butterflies five years after the POD) is actually a bit troubled and things don't go great for her after her gold medal win. Spoiler alert, they don't go AWFUL for her, but she does deal with some things post-2012 (comparable to someone like Demi Lovato's OTL problems)

No Olympics or World Cups held in brutal, repressive regimes, then? :p

At this point, no.

With the new sports update I'd like to ask: how's Jon Bois doing? It's about a year away before he got recongition with Breaking Madden OTL, but it's close enough I might as well ask.

Mmm, I might come back to him later on, right now he's doing nothing interesting.
Here's a trailer for the next Crime Stories game:
Throughout an instrumental version of Someone to Watch Over Me plays.

Thomas Wood: Lancaster, 1927. Things moved fast.

A preacher (played by Jaleel White) speaks to the crowd Jack Wood and Svetlana Petrova and their kids are in the back.

T. Wood: But there is always something in the darkness…

A shadowy figure waits until someone walks by.

T. Wood: To attack the light.

The figure pulls out a knife and attacks.

Jennifer Fraser: That is always the case though.

T. Wood: Yes. But sometimes you can prepare for the results.

Crime Stories: The Written Tragedy

April 11, 2013.
Not all baseball fans are happy to see the Yankees playing so well.

The entire City of Boston goes without mentioning... except I did already mention it. But for those familiar with baseball in the U.S. Red Sox fans aren't particularly big on the New York Yankees or their fans. I have some family up in Maine who wouldn't be caught dead rooting for the Yankees.

-The games ended with the ceremonial “handing off” at the closing ceremony. Johannesburg, South Africa will be hosting the games in 2016, marking the first time that an African nation has played host to the Olympic Games.

Johannesburg in 2016? A good way to show that South Africa has come a long way since tossing out apartheid back in '94. At least it's not the waters in Rio.
Spring 2012 (Part 6) - Activision's Acquisitions
Diablo III

Diablo III is a hack and slash action RPG developed by Blizzard and published by Activision for PC, Mac, and console. Unlike IOTL's game, TTL's Diablo III was designed from the start with both PC and console hardware in mind, and was released on both simultaneously. The game plays much like its predecessors and its OTL incarnate, with either a single player or multiple players attempting to quest through a large series of dungeons and overworlds, killing monsters and obtaining loot to make themselves more powerful. Players are able to map several different commands to their various inputs, allowing for a wide variety of strategies across six different character classes (with two more available through DLC after launch). The character classes include the OTL Barbarian, Monk, Demon Hunter, and Wizard classes, along with a Samurai class and a Werewolf class. The two DLC classes include the OTL Necromancer and the TTL original Painmaster classes. Level progression, stat enhancement, and equipment management are nearly identical to OTL's game, with players having the ability to find equipment, buy it, or craft it, depending on their preference. Enemies come in a variety of different types, ranging from common fodder to elite mobs all the way up to massive bosses. In addition to the game's main storyline mode, there's also Adventure mode, in which players can complete a variety of random objectives daily, or Challenge mode, which allows players to take on difficult tasks for loot and bragging rights. The game's plotline also sticks fairly close to OTL's, with Diablo returning as the game's main villain, with Belial and Azmodan working under him to conquer humanity. Leah, the niece of Deckard Cain and daughter of the witch Adria, is also present in the game, playing a fairly similar role to her OTL incarnation, and she experiences a similar fate in TTL's game as the vessel for Diablo's return. However, there are some key differences in the game's plot, including a more fleshed out Act III and a somewhat lesser Act I, while Act II's plot features a more sprawling Caldeum and more palace intrigue, with Asheara playing a somewhat larger role. King Leoric serves as the final boss of Act I, rather than the Butcher, who instead is the game's first major boss (so Leoric and the Butcher are essentially switched from their OTL positions). Act IV is mostly unchanged, with Diablo leading a siege against the High Heavens, and serves as the game's final boss. Of course, there's also an Act V, released via DLC in 2013. It differs significantly from OTL's Act V, and rather than battling the rogue angel Malthael, the player must instead defeat a coven devoted to resurrecting Lilith. Adria is a member of this coven, and Lilith is indeed the final boss of TTL's Act V, though she's not quite as bloody or as glamorous as the version from OTL's Diablo IV.

Diablo III is released in June 2012 to a major wave of hype, not just for the PC version but for the console versions as well. Its console version would come to the Sapphire and iTwin initially, with a Nexus release in 2013 alongside the game's release on the other next-gen consoles. The game receives excellent reviews, but just as IOTL, its launch isn't without problems. The game launches with a real-world auction house much like the OTL game, in which players can auction off loot acquired to other players, and Blizzard gets a small cut. While the auction house isn't QUITE as egregious as OTL's (the imbalanced loot from the OTL launch is mostly absent), there's still some problems associated with it, including some poor legendary drop rates and the cut that Blizzard takes, which is larger than OTL. Like IOTL, there would be significant backlash, which would lead to the end of the auction house and the drop rates being mostly fixed. Diablo III does release a single DLC expansion in 2013, which hits PC and also the next-gen versions of the console game, which introduces Act V and the new character classes. For the most part, Diablo's TTL performance is fairly similar to its OTL performance, with the simultaneous console launch helping it to sell more copies initially on console than it did at the time of its OTL launch.


Quixsters: Enter The Maze

Developed by Silver Sail (the first game published by the company as a fully absorbed part of Activision) and published by Activision, Quixsters: Enter The Maze is the sequel to 2009's Quixsters Evolution. Like its predecessor, it's a 3-D action platformer starring a wide variety of energetic youths, who must both cooperate and compete as they have adventures and complete challenges. Unlike the previous game, which had a huge variety of challenges broken up into smaller challenges, Enter The Maze focuses more on a single unifying storyline, and thus has less overall challenge and gameplay variety, though it keeps the familiar "gameplay in short bursts" formula that the series is known for. The primary story of the game has each of the Quixsters getting lost and losing their most valuable possession, which has been taken into an enormous maze by a gang of troublemakers known as the Speedblitzers. The Quixsters must not only find their treasures, they have to find each other as well, while catching and defeating the maniacal Speedblitzers in a variety of challenges and races. The maze itself is a massive, self-contained world broken up into a variety of segments, with the player given a choice of how they want to go about exploring. The outside of the maze features relatively easy challenges, but as players work their way inward, the challenges will get tougher and tougher. The game adds more Quixsters to the familiar mix, keeping all 56 of the characters + DLC from the original game and adding in eight more initially, for a total of 64 Quixsters, including the main four and then sixty more which are unlocked as the player progresses through the game, many of whom must be helped or rescued before they can be recruited. Like in Evolution, each of the Quixsters has their own moves and personality, and Enter The Maze continues the trend of giving each character more development and expanding on the already extensive plotline, continuing the relationships established between the characters. Players are given the choice of starting with Dash, Leep, Spin, or Dive, each of whom has a different section of the maze to explore, focusing on a different type of gameplay. Players will eventually have to give all four of them a spin (unlike in Evolution, there's more of a set path to the game, with a lot more of the challenges needing to be completed by players). As the Quixsters work their way inward, finding treasures and rescuing friends as they go along, more pathways between sections of the maze open up, and the game acquires a bit of a Metroidvania-esque feel to it, something that hasn't been seen in the Quixsters series thus far. Eventually, the Quixsters rescue all their friends and find and defeat the leader of the Speedblitzers, before it's revealed that the Speedblitzers were trapped in the maze and needed to trap the Quixsters in order to make their own escape. The final boss is a character known as the Master of the Maze, a devilish being who traps people and drains their energy. The Quixsters team up to defeat him with a little help from the Speedblitzers, saving the day and the world and making some new friends in the process.

Quixsters: Enter The Maze is released in June 2012, and reviews, while mostly positive, aren't quite up to the level of Evolution, with some fans and critics disappointed that the game is structured more like a standard 3-D platformer than the fun collection of mini-challenges that Evolution was. It's still a high quality game, with great graphics, game play, and voice acting, but not as instantly fun as its predecessor. It's released on the Sapphire, iTwin, Connect, and Gemini (and would get a version for the Nexus later on), and sales are fairly strong early and remain strong for the remainder of the year. It's the last Silver Sail game that would be worked on by longtime producer Carlos Delgado, who would move on to more of a consultant role as a result of Silver Sail's sale to Activision. Thus, the series would carry on with a new generation of developers on the next-gen consoles, and fans hoped it would keep most of what had made it so successful and fun.


"Activision is said to be 'streamlining' Silver Sail for future projects, which include Quixsters games and spin-offs as well as a brand new IP likely to be announced at a future date. While maintaining certain key members of the company's development team, most of the studio will be staffed with newer Activision employees, in a move intended to 'shake up' the studio, generating new ideas and reducing costs. At the same time, many of Silver Sail's former staff are being reassigned to other projects with the company, some in major roles. John Ballasteros has been promoted from his role as a Silver Sail programmer to being one of the lead developers at Treyarch, where he'll work on a future Call Of Duty game. Sandy Kretchler, who had been working as a writer on both Honest Jack and Quixsters Evolution, is now on the writing team for a pair of upcoming Thrillseekers projects, including the game rumored to be Thrillseekers 3. However, other Silver Sail staffers have been let go, and because they were released months after the initial acquisition deal went through, they may not be eligible to receive the generous severance package given to the workers who were laid off during the merger itself. The shakeups at Silver Sail are the latest example of what happens when a large gaming company acquires a smaller studio, in a tale playing out across the industry with increasing frequency. These mergers have had mixed results, in some cases producing some genuinely incredible games, while others have left shattered studios, dead IPs, and broken dreams behind. It's still too early to tell what will happen with Silver Sail, but in the meantime, its parent company Activision continues to be one of the biggest companies in the entire industry, alongside juggernauts such as Ubisoft and Acclaim."
-from an article on Kotaku, posted on July 1, 2012


July 1, 2012

Inez Delgado was in a recording studio in Los Angeles, behind a microphone as she performed a few more vocal exercises. At 12, the girl was already a voiceover pro, and in addition to recording a new demo reel that she hoped would get her some more roles, she was also taking some quick lessons from someone who'd been using their own voice quite a bit longer.

"Be careful, you don't want to belt too much... that's pretty much the quickest way to get vocal nodes and then you'll have to stop singing for weeks at a time. I know you're proud of your voice, but it's not about how loud you sing, it's about how clear you sing."

Inez stopped and listened. Whenever Selena spoke, Inez listened.

"Take it from me, I've been doing this for thirty years and I've never had to go to the doctor for vocal nodes, not even once," said Selena, smiling encouragingly at her young pupil. "Just be confident and believe in what you're singing, and you'll sound plenty powerful without needing to scream."

"Okay," said Inez, adjusting the mic. "Should I start again?"

Selena nodded. Inez began to sing.

"Cause I'm dreaming of you tonight," Inez began, a quiet but strong cover of one of Selena's #1 classics. "When tomorrow breaks..."

Selena signaled quietly to Inez, reminding her not to sing out too much on the next few words.

"I'll be holding you tight..." Inez continued, restraining herself from oversinging and instead using her emotions to give strength to the words. Selena smiled and nodded, and Inez continued the rest of the chorus, finishing with a confident smile.

"Beautiful, beautiful!" Selena said, clapping excitedly. "Ahijada, that was so lovely!"

Inez smiled happily, blushing as she stepped out of the recording booth and walked over to her godmother. Though recording music as well as running her own studio and doing lots of other projects kept the megastar quite busy, Selena still made as much time as she could to be a mentor to Inez, who was growing up as fast as her own daughter Crystal was. Though Inez wasn't quite at the level where Selena thought she might be ready to record an album (and Inez herself had expressed no desire to do so, wanting instead to focus on her studies and her voiceover career), she could certainly see the girl doing so in a couple of years if she wanted.

"You remind me so much of me when I was your age," said Selena. "If you put your mind to it, you could absolutely be a singer."

"I do love singing," Inez replied, smiling warmly and leaning back in her chair. "It's fun and it helps me keep my voice in shape, I just don't think I could be a popstar... I mean, I've seen all the stuff you go through, it doesn't seem like it'd be for me. But thanks for giving me lessons anyway... I hope I'm not taking up too much of your time are anything."

"No, no, never!" Selena told her. "I don't mind teaching you even if you don't plan to be a singer... and besides, even if it's just making sure you don't blow your voice out, every little bit helps, doesn't it?"

The two shared a laugh, and continued their conversation, discussing Inez's schoolwork and her latest voice auditions. However, even as the two seemed to be having a good time talking to each other, Selena could tell that something was bothering Inez. She didn't want to pry directly, and didn't want to force the girl to talk about something uncomfortable. However, Inez soon began talking about it unprompted, after the conversation naturally drifted to her father and his work.

"So... mom and dad keep drifting further apart," said Inez, sighing. "Even after he sold off his company, he still spends like 60 hours a week working on stuff. Mom and me barely see him, and even though they don't fight or anything, I can tell they're angry with each other, or at least mom's angry with him."

Selena had noticed her own husband Chris talking about the situation as well... how he barely ever talked to Carlos anymore, and when they did talk, it was almost always about one of Carlos' projects, while Selena herself had noticed Sonora being much less happy and energetic than she usually was.

"Oh, Inez, I'm sure your parents still love each other-"

"You are? Because I'm not," said the girl, looking rather annoyed that her godmother was trying to sugarcoat the situation. "Tell me, have you noticed anything? Like... are they really mad at each other?"

"They're not mad, but... your mother does wish your father would spend more time with her," said Selena, trying to be as honest as she could while also trying her best not to alarm Inez. "But it's not really any of my business."

"I know..." Inez sighed, putting her head in her hands. "I just... I don't want it to be where I'm just spending time with my mom and never with my dad. It's not his fault that he works so much, and..."

Inez took a deep breath, trying not to cry. Selena placed a comforting hand on Inez's back, and Inez took another breath, sighing again and looking up at Selena.

"You probably don't want to hear about any of this, do you?"

"Inez, you can talk about anything you want with me."

" do you guys do it? You and Chris, I mean? How long have you been married for?"

Selena smiled warmly.

"Twenty years," she said with a wistful sigh, remembering the day she and Chris eloped like it was yesterday.

"And you're this superstar and he's... I mean he's an awesome musician, but he's not really famous for being anything but your husband, you know?"

Selena giggled, knowing what Inez meant.

"We just... have our love, you know? He goes with me when he can, and when he can't, we just remember each other and the love we have, and we hold onto it, and... well, it's not like we don't have our disagreements. It's not like we don't sometimes feel like we're drifting apart. But we always come back to each other. Some couples do, and some couples don't. It doesn't mean they're bad people, it doesn't mean they don't love each other, it just means...."

Selena sighed.

"Inez, I'm 41 and I still don't know a lot about how the world works. Your parents... they might.... they might not be together forever. But that doesn't change who you are and it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Your father loves you and no matter what happens, he'll still be there for you even if he might not always be physically there. I'm not saying it won't be hard, but you'll get through it, no matter what. In the meantime, you just do what you can do to take care of yourself and make both of them feel loved, and whatever they decide to do, it has nothing to do with you."

"Well I know it wouldn't be my fault, I just... I just don't want to be apart from one of them."

"Life is... difficult sometimes," said Selena. "But you have lots of people to talk to if you need to."

Inez sniffled, wiped her nose, and smiled. She knew what Selena was trying to say. If her parents did split up, there was nothing she could do about it, and as hard as it would be, she'd have to learn to live with it. She was pretty lucky, all things considered. She'd make it work, no matter what happened.

"Okay, I have another question," said Inez. "My dad's friend Bobby is a really cool guy, and he's always been super nice to me and to my family, but I've been reading up on his company and he's kind of a jerk. Should I feel bad about thinking he's cool even if I disagree with what he does with his company?"

"Business is weird," said Selena. "It's like some of the producers I work with, they're super nice at parties but you get them into the studio and they turn into real..."


"Language, ahijada!"

"Sorry," said Inez, sheepishly smiling and biting her lip. "They kinda are though."

"The music business, and... I imagine the video game business as well, are really competitive and nasty."

"I wouldn't be nasty if I ran a business," said Inez.

"I don't know about that," replied Selena. "I've been producing records for a few years and sometimes it brings out the worst in me. I try not to be a diva, but sometimes I have to think less like a singer and more like a businesswoman. It's hard."

"Do you try to be as nice as you can?"

Selena nodded.

"I guess that's all that matters," said Inez, standing up from her chair. "Anyway, think we have time to do more recording?"

"We've got the studio for..." Selena looked at her watch. "...another 71 minutes, why not?"

"Yay!" Inez cheered, before going back into the booth. "Think I could do an original song this time? I wrote some things down in my notes, I think we've got enough time to record it."

"Sure, do you need an accompaniment?"

"I brought my guitar," said Inez, picking up an acoustic guitar she'd brought with her. "I need some ideas for the melody though."

"Okay, let's see what we can come up with together."

As the two worked together on the song that Inez would perform, Selena thought about how lucky she was to be in the position to make a positive impact in the world of music, even if she, like a lot of her contemporaries, sometimes had to think more about the business of music than the artistry. She also thought about how lucky she was that her husband was so supportive of her and her career, even with all the time she had to spend away. She imagined that the two of them had a love connection that Inez's parents unfortunately didn't have, and hoped that she and Chris could keep their love connection strong, not just for themselves, but for Crystal as well.

She and Inez had just enough time to record a short acoustic song before their time at the studio was up. If this was back at Selena's studio in Corpus Christi, she'd have had all the time she needed to make a full song, complete with a band accompaniment, but this was just a quick vocal practice session in a studio she had only limited use of. The song itself wasn't one for the pop charts, but it was short, sweet, poetic, and a good display of Inez's budding vocal talent, and would make a fine addition to the singing segment of her demo reel. It had also been fun to record, and Selena valued those fun times with her loved ones, whether it was with her friends or her family, her goddaughter or her actual daughter. She would be recording a new album of her own quite soon, and once she'd started that, would be going on yet another tour. Times like this would be few and far-between for her for the next year or so, and she hoped that all the connections she'd made would stay strong.

After Inez's mom came to pick her up, Selena decided to place a quick call before heading back home.


"Hey, baby, how'd it go today with the vocal lessons?"

"It was a lot of fun, Inez is really good, we even recorded a song together."

"Pretty soon we'll be recording whole albums for Crystal, you know how much she wants to sing just like her mom does."

"Yeah... just hope she realizes what all of that entails. Guess we'll have plenty of time to teach her."

"I'm not sure we will, you know singers are starting younger and younger these days."

"Well, we won't start Crystal until she's ready."

The two continued to talk for a short time, and the subject drifted to that of Selena's upcoming album and tour. Chris was already getting prepared to spend most of his time with Crystal by himself while his wife toured the world, though the two of them would join her when they could. He'd be spending the whole tour with her, but the two didn't want to drag Crystal around for a year, even with the services of a private tutor. She needed to spend time at home, not touring the world and not out in front of crowds where the paparazzi would be eagerly snapping photos. Chris would miss his wife and Crystal would miss her mom, but they all agreed it was for the best.

"I just hope it won't be too rough on you... being gone so much."

"Hey, doesn't matter where you are in the world, I got you right here," said Chris, holding his hand over his heart while using his other to hold the phone. "I knew when I married you that you were gonna be the biggest music star in the world, and whatever came with it, I was ready. I love you."

"I love you too. I'll see you soon. Mind letting me talk to Crystal for a minute?"

"Yeah, she's in the other room."

Selena spent a few minutes talking to her daughter, then talked to Chris again for a minute or two more before putting the phone away. She felt more loved than ever, and felt a warmth in her heart as she got ready to leave the studio. It seemed like every day she was hearing about another high profile celebrity breakup, and she hoped that she and her husband would never join those headlines. 20 years they'd been married, and she hoped they'd be together always.

She knew they would be.
Spring 2012 (Part 7) - The Rest Of The Games
(Here are the rest of the notable games from April 2012 to June 2012!)


Nintendo Sapphire-


Bombastic is a first-party Nintendo game exclusive to the Sapphire. A brand new IP and their first since 2011's Hoseki: Gamestones Of Lostland, Bombastic was developed by a small North American studio and intended to be a midrange first-party title to shore up software sales for Nintendo in 2012. It's a party/action game, combining elements of titles such as Bomberman and Mario Party, and allows up to sixteen players at once (via online gameplay) to battle each other in a large arena, laying down traps and attempting to use them to blow up the other players. The game's graphics have a fun, cartoony look to them, similar to OTL's Splatoon, and the animation is fairly wacky, with blown up characters immediately returning to the field of play (unless they're eliminated from the game). The action is fast paced, with games rarely lasting more than a few minutes, and the gameplay itself is fairly easy to learn, with a small but diverse selection of traps and weapons to use, and 14 different battlefields, each with their own quirks and features. There's also a single player campaign, which is a few hours in length and involves similar gameplay to the multiplayer battles, with the player character taking on the role of a spy who must defeat an evil villain who plans to take over the world, with the player and the villain attempting to set traps for one another. Bombastic features both local and online play, making it an ideal party game, and two players can even team up in the story campaign. While Bombastic isn't hyped like the biggest Nintendo franchises, it is marketed quite extensively in the spring of 2012, helping it to achieve a lot of awareness and sales. The game is released in May 2012, scoring reviews in the mid to high 8s, and becomes one of the best selling Sapphire originals of the year.

Tale Paradisia

Developed and produced by Game Arts, Tale Paradisia is the latest title in the Tale series of action RPGs, and the second and last to be released on the Nintendo Sapphire. It's a more straightforward adventure than the rather dark Vengeance games, with a more lighthearted tone, though it still has plenty of dark moments. Its protagonist is a 13 year old girl named Celia who stows away aboard a ship in search of her long lost parents, and soon becomes the ship's captain, turning it into a pirate ship and forming a crew. The gameplay is fairly similar to that of Tale Vengeance 2, expanding upon that game's counter system to create a new combat mechanic called “Duals”, in which swashbuckler-style sword fights can break out in the middle of combat. In addition to regular combos, there are also Dual Combos, which can only be used during Duals, and some special fights are entirely dual based. Magic makes a major comeback to the series as well, and the game has much more of a high fantasy feel than previous titles in the series, probably the most high fantasy Tale games since Tale Valiant. The setting of the game is a tropical island archipelago called Seascant, with a few areas of mainland bordering the islands that are visited occasionally, but most of the action taking place on the islands themselves. Celia is joined by a crew of outcasts and rebels, including a couple of mermaid-like characters and the reincarnation of an ancient volcano goddess named Ela, while the game's primary antagonist is a young admiral who initially just starts out wanting to catch Celia, but who eventually becomes consumed with the idea of gaining power and ends up absorbing dark magic to achieve his goals. Like previous Tale games, Tale Paradisia features a mix of 3-D and cel shaded visuals, with anime cutscenes that punctuate the action. There's a good deal of voice acting, with most of the cast consisting of Los Angeles area anime regulars. Cristina Vee has one of her first major roles in the game, voicing Ela, while Celia is voiced by Marieve Herington. Tale Paradisia is released in Japan in late 2011 and in North America in June 2012. It's successful in Japan, and in North America sales are decent, surpassing those of Tale Vengeance 2 and confirming that there's still an audience for these types of games in the West.

Apple iTwin-

Genji: An Old Man's Story

An open world action beat 'em up title and the spiritual successor to Dasho: A Young Man's Story, Genji: An Old Man's Story once again puts a beleaguered protagonist into a world of crime and intrigue, forcing him to fight to protect what he cares about as evil bears down on him. Genji's fighting style is slower and more deliberate, but he has even more combos than Dasho did in the first game, allowing players to use more strategy and skill to battle the enemies they face. The “social life” aspect from the original game also returns, but again, is a bit different from what it was in Dasho. Genji can do jobs and help people, but he can also serve as a mentor, teaching people to fight or giving them advice to get them out of bad situations. Genji himself is a former Yakuza assassin who has retired, but is pulled back into his old life after an old killing comes back to haunt him, forcing him to work for the Yakuza in order to protect his neighborhood, which is being terrorized by thugs. Unlike Dasho, who was mostly trying to protect one particular person, Genji has numerous people he's trying to protect. He never married and never had kids, but he does come to protect numerous young people over the course of the game. He must be careful about who he forms friendships with, as some characters may betray him later on. The game's storylike, much like that of Dasho, is quite tragic, with Genji being wounded numerous times throughout the game, and the game makes it clear that he is not likely to make it out alive. Indeed, Genji ultimately dies striking the fatal blow on an old associate who he once trusted but who has been leading the attacks on his neighborhood and the ones he cares about. Genji's sacrifice saves many innocent people, and he dies ultimately satisfied that he redeemed himself and can go on to heaven. Genji: An Old Man's story is one of the more cinematic games on the iTwin, and it features numerous excellent voice actors, including Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the voice of Genji himself. Reviews are excellent, comparable to those for Dasho, and the game's sales are quite strong thanks to the reputation of its predecessor and good word of mouth.

The Conduit 3: United Systems

The Conduit 3 is the third and final game of the Conduit trilogy on the iTwin, and essentially wraps up all the plot threads from the previous two games. It features similar gameplay to its predecessors, while also incorporating some gameplay elements from the Gemini title Infinite Access. Rick and Elayna return as the game's primary protagonists, and are joined by two new playable characters: a journalist turned special agent named Darren and an alien soldier who helps humanity named Talera. Darren controls fairly similarly to Rick, while Talera uses both alien weaponry and a sort of “sixth sense” to help her discern enemy positions and to dodge enemy fire before it arrives. The game's plot involves the alien confederacy which Earth joined at the end of The Conduit 2. Sure enough, the confederacy is crooked, and is attempting to exploit its member worlds, which ultimately leads to a full on interstellar war that our four heroes are thrust right into the middle of. The game takes place about half on Earth and half on various space stations/moons, making alien technology a bigger part of the gameplay than ever. Ultimately, the mechanics remain quite familiar to those who played the last two games, with not much changed other than the setting. The game ends with Earth and its allies liberated from the corrupt confederation, with Earth ultimately choosing to go it alone, using their new technology to settle new worlds among the stars. Rick and Elayna become a couple, Darren is killed sacrificing himself in one of the final cutscenes, and Talera becomes a cosmic warrior aiding other afflicted planets across the stars. While not quite as high scoring amongst critics as the previous game, The Conduit 3 is considered a strong conclusion to the iTwin trilogy, selling more than enough to be considered a success.

Nintendo Connect-


A brand new game featuring the popular webslinger, Spider-Man for the Connect is an open world action title with similar gameplay to the two hit Xbox 2 games, involving a lot of beat 'em up elements and allowing the player to explore a vast New York City, though one that's slightly smaller in scale than previous games in the series. The plot sees Spider-Man battling the vicious Hobgoblin, while romancing both Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy (the game doesn't take place in the same continuity as the Xbox titles, Peter Parker is still in high school and isn't yet formally dating either girl). He must also battle villains like Rhino and Doc Ock who play major roles in certain arcs of the story. For a handheld title, the Connect Spider-Man looks quite excellent, and plays like a full console game, really showing off the power of Nintendo's latest handheld. There's plenty of voice acting, with the actors from the Evolved cartoon voicing their in-game counterparts even though the characters are somewhat different than they appear in that series. Spider-Man achieves both strong reviews and strong sales to become one of the top Connect exclusives of the year, and Nintendo expresses a desire to keep the series going with more handheld Spider-Man games, while the main series remains multiplatform.

Burst Bang Boom

Rogen returns in the sequel to 2010's Metroidvania meets Metal Slug-style sleeper hit. The game features even more weapons, even bigger bosses, and a more complex world to navigate than its predecessor, but doesn't change up the gameplay too much from the original (though the graphics are MUCH better due to the game being on a brand new system). In the two years since its original release, it's started to inspire similar types of games, most of them digital indies that hit the online stores, but there's nothing quite like the original. The sequel sees Rogen battling an endless army of heavily armed terrorists led by a Cobra Commander-like general named Boss Gorgon, and while the action and story are both fairly over the top, it works for this game. Burst Bang Boom sells fairly well, with similar review scores to the original, and it's clear that this series will be a popular one going forward, with more Connect titles planned.


Deus Ex: Oblivion

Published by Ubisoft, Deus Ex: Oblivion is the latest game in the Deus Ex series and plays quite similarly to OTL's Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Its protagonist is an office worker named Julia, who is nearly assassinated after discovering a conspiracy involving her employer and who is given cybernetic enhancements after surviving in order to take them down. The gameplay is a hybrid of the RPG/shooter style, with heavy emphasis on flexible, RPG style gameplay that the series is known for. Julia is able to form relationships with people, enhance her stats and her weaponry, explore several large cities, and complete dozens of side quests to gain information and items. The gameplay is highly flexible, with players given a huge variety of options to achieve their missions. It's possible to use stealth, to talk one's way through missions, to go in guns blazing, or to use a mix of the three approaches, with the game offering an unprecedented amount of freedom. The player can develop Julia's enhancements in a variety of ways, from a more combat-oriented build to a build focusing on deception and stealth, and skills develop naturally as the player utilizes them. Julia's actions have real consequences that permeate the rest of the game, with characters' fates able to change depending on what the player does. Nearly every major character in the game can have their fate altered by what happens during the story, with only one character guaranteed to die throughout the course of the game, and a total of eighteen major characters either living or dying based on the player's actions. The game's graphics are some of the best yet seen in a console game, with the Sapphire version pushing the console to its limits, making an iTwin port nearly impossible. The PC version looks even better, especially on high-end rigs. The game also boasts a strong cast of voice actors, with Laura Fraser as the voice of Julia (using a very slight version of her native Scottish accent for the character), and other actors like Laurence Fishburne, Michael Madsen, and Stephanie March playing major roles as well. Daniel Dae Kim plays the voice of the game's primary antagonist, a corrupt executive named Henry Chang who leads the world's most powerful internet conglomerate, and who seeks to collect incomprehensible amounts of data on every single person in the world via social manipulation and technological hijacking. Chang is able to use his company's technology to hack into nearly every device on the planet, and as the game progresses, he becomes more and more omnipresent via his control over technology. The game has numerous endings, which range from more straightforward (Julia takes down Chang, saving the world from his control) to somewhat more esoteric (Julia downloads her memories into the world's intranet, serving as a technological guardian as Chang's technology takes an unbreakable hold over the planet), with six major endings in all, and literally millions of possible ending variants. It's released initially on the Sapphire and PC in April 2012, with a Mac version coming later in the year and also appearing on the Google Nexus at launch. With its excellent storyline and gameplay, Deus Ex: Oblivion becomes another major Game of the Year contender, with excellent reviews and sales, and is arguably the biggest hit game of the first half of the year.

Sine Mora

A sidescrolling bullet hell shooter fairly similar to OTL's game, Sine Mora is initially released for the iTwin, but would later make its way to the Google Nexus and also to portable and mobile platforms. In it, the player controls an airplane with a variety of weapons, battling a ferocious, constant stream of enemies and bosses while attempting to keep an everpresent timer from ticking down. Like the OTL game, Sine Mora has a wide range of difficulty levels, which range from merely tough to nearly impossible. Apple proudly pushes Sine Mora as one of its biggest digital exclusives of the year, though it's merely a timed exclusive until the launch of the Nexus. It achieves similar reviews to OTL while achieving far stronger sales.

The Addams Family

An adventure/platformer game published by Ubisoft, The Addams Family hearkens back somewhat to classic 3-D platformers, while also offering its own kooky twist on the genre. The player can choose to play as either Wednesday or Pugsley, with each character having their own unique style of play. Wednesday controls almost like a PG-rated Sadira Blackheart, manipulating small creatures into doing her bidding and using weird weapons to inflict pain on enemies, while Pugsley uses traps and more comical weapons such as giant axes (which don't actually kill foes so much as bonk them cartoonishly). There's an almost MediEvil-esque vibe to the game, which is full of dark and scary imagery and almost eccentric in its tone, while keeping itself fairly grounded and dishing out a lot of laughs for players. The game's plot focuses on a strange, dark presence in the characters' town, which seems to have even taken a hold of Gomez and Morticia. Wednesday and Pugsley, along with a few of their friends (including a preppy girl who takes a surprising liking to Wednesday, and a mysterious large dog who follows Pugsley around) must chase the dark presence out of the town, because, in Wednesday's words, “no one brings pain and misery to this town but me”, while Pugsley mostly just likes messing with stuff. The game is fully voice acted as well, with Tara Strong as Wednesday and Alex Cazares as Pugsley. The game achieves good reviews, averaging an 8/10, while sales are also fairly strong, especially on the iTwin. It's considered to be probably the best family platformer of the year behind Super Mario Laboratory, and would get at least one sequel.

Black Wednesday

Black Wednesday is an FPS title about a soldier who has to track a gang of terrorists across the world after they perpetrate the deadliest attack in history. His motivation is part duty and part revenge, and the game has a very 24-esque feel to it as the protagonist uses whatever means necessary to achieve his goal of taking the terrorists down. This game gets some criticism for being fairly exploitative and politically controversial (and fairly derivative from a gameplay standpoint), but it is a highly polished title with a fun multiplayer mode and is one of the most popular shooters of the year, seeing release on both the Sapphire and the iTwin.

International Rally

The uber-popular Rally series goes worldwide for the first time ever, with hundreds of cars racing on tracks across the world. Popular tracks from American Rally, European Rally, and Arabian Rally return, alongside tracks in Japan, South America, Africa, and even a track in Antarctica. The game comes out on pretty much every system currently available, including handhelds and the new Nexus at launch, and gets both solid reviews and good sales, though not QUITE on par with previous games in the series, leading some to believe that there might be a little bit of fatigue setting in.

Star Wars: A New Order

An action-adventure game taking place before the new Episode VII movie, Star Wars: A New Order is the first game based on the sequel trilogy, and casts the player as both Luke Skywalker and a brand new Jedi Knight named Clad Mythrun. Clad is a pupil of Luke's and accompanies him on a series of missions to defeat an ancient Sith lord awakened by Lady Lumiya to threaten peace in the Galaxy. Meanwhile, other characters from Episode VII, including Thrawn and Galen, also play major roles in the game, and the game goes into great detail about their stories and motivations, making the game serve as sort of an expansion of Episode VII in a way. The New Order features a revamped system of combat, with a major emphasis on hack and slash and learning various Jedi techniques and building one's character up. Clad has entire skill trees to learn, while Luke comes pretty much fully powered up but has less versatile skills than Clad, limiting his potential somewhat. The ancient Sith Lord is named Darth Radicus, and was seemingly killed thousands of years before, but was instead merely put into a deep sleep by an ancient Jedi who had secretly taken an oath to stop killing after accidentally taking an innocent life. As Radicus and Lumiya sow chaos throughout the galaxy, Luke and Clad discover the story of Radicus and this ancient Jedi, all the while battling Lumiya's forces and Radicus' awakened cult members. The game's voice cast features Mark Hamill reprising his role as Luke, James Arnold Taylor as the voice of Clad, and Rutger Hauer as the voice of Radicus. Lumiya, Thrawn, and Garen aren't voiced by their movie counterparts, and are instead voiced by soundalikes. The game ends with Clad sacrificing his life to keep Radicus from escaping a desolate moon, while Luke returns to Coruscant, heartbroken at his pupil's death but vowing to defeat Lumiya to honor his memory. A New Order is hyped quite a bit prior to its release in May 2012, and debuts on both the Sapphire and the iTwin, with a Nexus port released at the system's launch. It sees good reviews and sales, keeping the record of strong Star Wars games intact.


Top Selling New Console Games In North America (in terms of sales over the first four weeks of release):

April 2012:

1. Deus Ex: Oblivion (Nintendo Sapphire)
2. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua (Nintendo Sapphire)
3. Genji: An Old Man's Story (Apple iTwin)
4. Spider-Man (Nintendo Connect)
5. The Addams Family (Apple iTwin)

May 2012:

1. Star Wars: A New Order (Nintendo Sapphire)
2. Star Wars: A New Order (Apple iTwin)
3. Bombastic (Nintendo Sapphire)
4. Black Wednesday (Nintendo Sapphire)
5. International Rally (Apple iTwin)

June 2012:

1. Sonic The Hedgehog 6 (Apple Gemini)
2. Diablo III (Nintendo Sapphire)
3. Quixsters: Enter The Maze (Apple iTwin)
4. Diablo III (Apple iTwin)
5. The Conduit 3: United Systems (Apple iTwin)
Deus Ex: Oblivion *snip* the world's most powerful internet conglomerate, and who seeks to collect incomprehensible amounts of data on every single person in the world via social manipulation *snip* appearing on the Google Nexus at launch.
Ominous foreshadowing, or allohistorical irony?
Summer 2012 (Part 1) - Game Arts Comes To America
Lunar 4: The Sword Of Lore

Lunar 4: The Sword Of Lore is a JRPG developed and published by Game Arts for the Nintendo Sapphire and Apple iTwin. Like its predecessors, the game features a vast, anime-inspired adventure featuring a legendary hero, and turn-based combat with a traditional style. It's the fifth Lunar game overall, the first since Dragonrise, and not much has changed about the overall formula, making it somewhat of a throwback RPG despite featuring modern 3D graphics. Like Dragonrise, the game doesn't feature an overworld map per se. Instead, it features an interconnected world with enemy-laden areas between towns and landmarks, with the interconnecting areas being sort of dungeons in their own right (in a somewhat similar style to Final Fantasy X IOTL). The combat system also has some similarities to Dragonrise, though the interrupt system from that game is gone, in favor of the player being able to alter/enhance their character's regular or special attacks on the fly, with the use of button combos or items, depending on the attack and the character's proximity to an enemy on the battlefield. These can be used to enhance base level attacks or even to change the element or type of an attack in mid-swing, depending on what the enemy is doing. For example, if the enemy puts up a shield during an attack, the player can switch from a normal attack to a shieldbreaker attack in order to do more damage. For the first time ever, Lunar 4 features a party of characters that can be swapped between active and reserve, with eight playable characters in total and the ability to have up to four in the party at the same time (reduced from five, which was the party size in previous games). The game takes place in a separate timeline/world than the other four games in the series, but maintains the familiar themes of the classic Lunar games, including the four dragons and the concept of a Dragonmaster. This game's protagonist and Dragonmaster is a young man named Keith, who's somewhat more dashing and daring than the Dragonmasters featured in other games, with more of a humorous edge to him. He's more of the Kyle/Ronfar type of character than the Alex/Hiro type, and draws a lot of similarities to Eugene/Flynn Rider from OTL's Tangled movie, a sort of rogue with a heart of gold. The secondary protagonist and Keith's love interest is Zera, a sorceress who travels in a dark cloak and is connected to a Vile Tribe-esque coven of sorceresses who are seeking to reunite with her. Zera has a dark past, and her personality is a mix of sweetness and darkness. She wields powerful magic, but also wields a black sword that ends up being the "dark counterpart" of sorts to Keith's Dragon Sword, and the magical tension between the two swords forms one of the game's primary conflicts. Other playable characters include a sneaky half-mouse/half-human girl named Squeex, a mage apprentice boy named Fuller, a machinist inventor named Doc, a bow-wielding hunter named Robin, his companion/love interest Nora, and a circus performer/body builder named Jengo. Each character has their own story arc and also their own conflict with one of the game's numerous villainous factions, including the Dark Coven (Zera's group), a demi-human hating kingdom/theocracy called the Purity Church, and a militaristic empire called Nematosk. There are some minor good and evil factions in the game as well, but the main conflict sees Keith and his friends going on a quest to make Keith a Dragonmaster so that he's strong enough to battle the Dark Coven, while also seeking to learn the truth about Zera and her sword. The main story takes the heroes all over the world, with Nematosk's conquests serving as a main driving factor of the game. The Dark Coven and the Purity Church come into conflict from time to time as well, and their clash takes place mostly in the background, but comes to the forefront as the game progresses. Eventually, a main villain emerges: Zera's mother and the leader of the dark coven, Melfidria, who once held the power of the Black Dragon and used its power to create the Obsidian Blade that Zera holds. The Obsidian Blade prevents Dragonmaster Keith from reaching his full potential, but if it is destroyed, Zera will die. The Dark Coven eventually smashes both Nematosk and the Purity Church, forcing Keith and his friends to rise against them before they corrupt the dragons and conquer the world. Keith and Zera eventually realize they have no choice but to destroy the Obsidian Blade, but before they can do so, Melfidria binds Zera to it completely and takes the sword for herself, forcing Zera to serve as her thrall. Keith and the other heroes make their way to the Covenate Church to do battle with the remaining members of the Dark Coven and stop Melfidria, and eventually they are forced to battle Zera. They defeat her, and Keith prepares to smash the sword, but instead he uses his Dragonmaster power to bind the Obsidian Blade to the Dragon Sword, while also freeing Zera from its control. This creates a new blade, one of darkness and light with enough power to defeat Melfidria, who uses her own power to bend the four dragons to her will, fusing them to the remaining four members of her coven and creating a tower of darkness. The heroes must climb this tower, defeat the remaining coven members, free the dragons, and finally stop Melfidria. It's Zera who lands the finishing blow, taking the sword from a fallen Keith and reluctantly striking her mother down. The world is saved and the sword is returned to its protected place, waiting for a new pair of heroes to wield it once more. Lunar 4 features graphics exceeding those of Dragonrise, though not quite up to the quality of the best RPGs of the day. The game's English dub is performed by San Francisco area actors hired by Working Designs, which has now become fully absorbed within Game Arts. There are a few familiar names amongst them, though most of the actors would be unknown to people used to the Los Angeles pros who normally voice these types of games. The game is released in Japan in 2011 and in North America in July 2012, where it receives strong critical reviews, averaging in the 8/10 range. Critics praise the excellent animation in the anime cutscenes, which are some of the best in console gaming history up to this point. They also praise the strong soundtrack and the game's setting and world, though the traditional-style gameplay is a bit of a turnoff for critics used to action-RPGs or more fast paced games. It's the most hyped up Lunar game arguably ever, and sales reflect this, with the game performing well on both the Sapphire and the iTwin in North America, probably the best selling Lunar game in the West since Silver Star Story Complete was released for the Ultra Nintendo. Lunar 4 is a shot in the arm for the series, and couldn't have come at a better time for Game Arts, which was also looking to announce its formal presence in the West in a major way.


Ithiel: Fighting Fate
(Author's Note: Ithiel: Fighting Fate is based on a game idea given to us by the reader HonestAbe1809!)

Ithiel: Fighting Fate is an action RPG developed by Game Arts for the Nintendo Sapphire and Apple iTwin (and is later ported to the Google Nexus). It's the company's first true full fledged action RPG, and its gameplay is somewhat of a hybrid between the Mana games and the Elder Scrolls games, with a blend of JRPG and WRPG tropes and conventions. It's the first Game Arts title developed with Western audiences in mind, though it's also intended to be played and enjoyed by Japanese gamers as well. The game's protagonist is a woman named Ithiel who began life much differently: as a male sorcerer who was an evil sorcerer in her old life, but who, upon being defeated by the Destined Hero, was reincarnated as a woman after vowing to turn over a new leaf to spite the hero. Indeed, Ithiel's entire goal now is to become a hero herself, but she's blocked from doing so at every turn by the world itself which seems determined to fight her, believing her to be an irredeemable monster as the Destined Hero (who is referred to by this title for almost the entire game) claimed her to be. Ithiel, now stripped of most of her powers and abilities, must roam the world, seeking to forge a new identity even as fate itself seems twisted against her. The game itself has an anime-based art style despite being a fully 3-D action RPG, and though it's open world for the most part, the main storyline still plays heavily into things, with areas and quests locked behind story progress (though not all of them, giving the player freedom to roam and explore). Though the player only controls one person, Ithiel, they can recruit up to ten different companions over the course of the game. A few of them were Ithiel's allies back when she was evil, but others are heroes that Ithiel must painstakingly recruit to her side (a few of which must be defeated in combat first). Ithiel can have up to three companions fighting alongside her at once, and while these companions are controlled by the game's AI, it's possible to customize their equipment, build up their skills, and determine their strategies in combat. Ithiel can also form allegiances amongst factions, which give her more freedom to roam the game's world, opening up quests and pacifying areas so she doesn't get killed roaming in certain places. Ithiel uses mostly magic, wielding a staff by default, though it is possible to equip her with other weapons including swords, knives, and bows. It's easier to give Ithiel a magic-based build and use other companion characters as close range fighters, but players who wish to make their Ithiel melee-based are able to do so. The game's tone is fairly serious, but with a decent amount of humor, as the developers took some inspiration from games like Kingdom Quest when crafting their story and their world. There are some jokes and running gags, especially in certain characters' reactions to seeing Ithiel in her new form, but the main plot is fairly serious, especially as the story progresses. The game itself has better production values than any Game Arts title thus far. Despite the company being on stable financial footing at this point, Ithiel went somewhat overbudget, and the company has tied up a lot of its fortunes in the game, much like it did with Shima several years back. The game's voice acting is an example of this: despite Game Arts using Working Designs and its San Francisco studio for localizing most of its games, the English voice acting for Ithiel was not dubbed, but in fact the original recording, with the Japanese version itself being a dub, and the company used Los Angeles-based actors, with Cindy Robinson as the voice of Ithiel, and Nolan North as the voice of the Destined Hero. The game also uses a fully symphonic musical score, something that no previous Game Arts title had done.

The game starts with a playable intro where Ithiel is the evil mastermind but he’s clearly not got his heart in it anymore and is just going through the motions. He’s ultimately slain by the Destined Hero (with the player playing as the Destined Hero himself, setting him up as a Decoy Protagonist so to speak). Then, while in the process of reincarnating, he decides to change his role in the story, and awakens as a female in a new area, told by the Powers That Be that by attempting to change, Ithiel has altered the entire world, but that her fate will be the same regardless. This kicks off Ithiel's adventure, roaming the world and attempting to become a hero, only to run afoul of the local populace at almost every turn. At the same time, the Destined Hero, who was always an asshole but who saved the world for the glory of it, starts out as a bully, but begins steadily growing in menace as Ithiel's villainous reputation slowly becomes heroic as she performs more and more good deeds for people and gets more and more people on her side. As the player explores the world and progresses through the game, they'll discover all sorts of lore about Ithiel's deeds before deciding to turn over a new leaf and why the people still hate her despite her efforts to make amends. The Destined Hero, while the main villain of the game, is somewhat in the background during the early part, occasionally causing trouble for Ithiel but not yet believing that she can truly change her ways. The Destined Hero is slowly gathering up an army to conquer the world, while people still believe that Ithiel is the main threat. The problem for Ithiel is also that the cycle of previous defeats is still playing out, so even though Ithiel knows what everyone is going to do, it's very difficult for her to change the world, even if a lot of the people she encounters don't know who she is. The Powers That Be are subtly manipulating the people's minds so that they still see Ithiel as the villain while seeing the Destined Hero as the hero, even as the Destined Hero gains more and more power and becomes more and more evil. Eventually, everyone learns Ithiel's secret, including some of the factions she's recruited to her side (with one of them being a clan of heroes who joined Ithiel because they didn't initially recognize her, but because Ithiel completed their questline, a rite of passage ritual that made her "family" with them in a way, they don't turn their back on her even after the Destined Hero reveals to everyone who she truly is). Eventually, the reversal of fate is complete: the Destined Hero has become a world conquering villain, while Ithiel has become a hero herself. She's even defeated her own Dark Lord persona in a major climactic story battle in which she fully renounces who she used to be. She then battles the Destined Hero, whose real name is Janus (symbolizing his "two faced" nature), but after he is defeated, the Powers That Be begin twisting the world in an attempt to force everyone back onto the cycle of destiny. Ithiel herself isn't powerful enough to defeat them, but with the help of the friends she's gained along the way, is able to break through the barrier blocking the physical world from the World of Fate, and is able to challenge them in a series of epic boss fights. After the gods are defeated, Ithiel returns to the physical world with her friends. The cycle is broken and now everyone is truly able to live their own lives. The main story (there's postgame content as well) ends with one of Ithiel's companions asking what they will do without destiny to guide them and she replies "whatever we want".

Ithiel: Fighting Fate is released in August 2012. It's the first worldwide release by Game Arts, and reviews are quite good, averaging in the high 8s (better than The Elder Scrolls V), and making it one of the year's top RPGs and a sleeper pick for Game of the Year. Game Arts' investment in both production and marketing is repaid and then some, with outstanding first week sales of over half a million worldwide (including 200,000 in North America). It's considered the company's best launch ever, and even tops that of Lunar 4 in Japan. The game's worldwide reception and sales are compared to that of Full Metal Alchemist for Enix back in 2005, a majorly successful game that does well amongst both Western and Japanese audiences, and makes enough money for the company to further expand its production goals. Its release would see the company's Working Designs studio in San Francisco evolve into the Game Arts North America studio, a studio that would see full production of games entirely in the United States. It's the company's first true foray into Western-style game design, and the Ithiel IP, along with several other new games, would be produced in North America, while properties such as Lunar, Lufia, the Traveler series, Tale, and a few other titles would remain in Japan. Lunar 4 and Ithiel would stand in stark contrast to one another and would be symbolic of the company's transformation in 2012 into a fully international one, standing alongside its rivals on nearly equal footing, and completing the process begun by all of those mergers in the mid 2000s.
The Amazing Race, Season 21
The Amazing Race: Season 21: Double or something.

This season of the race needed something to bring fans back after the previous one. It may not have been much, but the producers decided to go big. If the team that won the first leg of the race also won the last leg of the race they would get $2 million instead of $1 million. Of course, that didn't end up happening. And, after this season, it was never brought up as a possibility again. This season was filmed from May to June 2012.

The Cast

Trey and Lexi: Dating couple. They are a nice down-home couple. Even if they can be a little stupid at times.

Natalie and Nadiya: Twins. These two can be annoying, especially with their shouts of "Twinnie!". If I never have to hear that again, it will be too soon.

James and Jaymes: Friends and Chippendales. I thought I wouldn't like these two at first but they grew on me.

Caitlin and Brittany: Best friends. They were fun, for a while anyway.

Amy and Daniel: Dating on and off. Amy got one of those flesh eating diseases and she lost both of her legs below the knee and a kidney. She got better.

James and Abba: Rock star and lawyer and friends. And they both look like they belong in a metal band.

Josh and Brent: Married goat farmers. The Fabulous Beekman Boys are on the race. I've never seen their show but they seem nice.

Abbie and Ryan: Dating divorcees. They are intense, not as intense as Colin, but intense.

Rob and Kelley: Married monster truck drivers. They have their moments.

Gary and Will: Substitute teachers and friends. They claim to be representing fans of the show, but they represent fans of the show about as well as trolls represent YouTube users.

Rob and Sheila: Married Couple. They are competitive I give them that.

The Race

Leg #1: "Double your money."

Original Air Date: September 30, 2012

Starting at the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California, teams have to rappel down the side of the bridge to get $230, their backpacks and instructions to fly to Shanghai, China. On arrival, teams have to make their way to Yuanshen Sports Center where they have to face a Roadblock. In this Roadblock, teams have to score one point against a 10 year old junior champion. If they don't do it on the first try, the champion will handicap himself by playing with something like a frying pan, a clipboard or a tambourine instead of a paddle.

Teams then have to go to Cui Ping Jiu Jia Restaurant and face another Roadblock. In this Roadblock, the team member who didn't do the first Roadblock has to eat a Chinese dessert known as Hasma, which is the fatty connective tissue that from the fallopian tubes of frogs served in mangos. After using chop sticks to eat it, and not picking up the mango, they get the next clue. Teams now have to go to the Bund, where they have to find a young man and woman with a Suanpan abacus. Teams then walk to the Pit Stop: The Bund Signal Tower.

1. Amy and Daniel 10:14 A.M. Won a chance to get $2 million dollars if they win the last leg

2. Abbie and Ryan 10:16 A.M.

3. Trey and Lexi 10:34 A.M.

4. James and Jaymes 11:02 A.M.

5. James and Abba 11:26 A.M.

6. Natalie and Nadiya 11:44 A.M.

7. Caitlin and Brittany 12:20 P.M.

8. Josh and Brent 12:22 P.M.

9. Rob and Kelley 12:38 P.M.

10. Rob and Sheila 12:50 P.M.

11. Gary and Will 1:05 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #2: "Long Hair don't care."

Original Air Date: October 7, 2012.

Getting $300, teams are told to get to Surabaya, Indonesia. On arrival, teams have to make their way to an alun-alun stadium where they picked up a bullwhip with a number on it. This reflects their order for a karapan sapi bull race, where teams race bulls on motorcycles, getting the clue if they won. Teams then go to Genteng Kali Bridge, then Taman Ekspresi where they get the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to select four children and, while operating a pedal powered ride known as an odong-odong, make four balloon hats and four balloon animals, one for each child.

Teams then go to Wijaya motor shop where they find the Detour: Ice by the Pound or Fish by the Barrel. In Ice by the Pound, teams have to go to Tirta Maya Ice Factory, get 10 65 lbs. blocks of ice into a truck, then deliver them to the Pabean Fish Market. In Fish by the Barrel, teams have to go to the Pabean Fish Market and get two barrels of fish to a vacant stall and set it up like a nearby example. Teams then walk to the nearby Pit Stop.

1. Natalie and Nadiya 2:10 P.M. Won the Express Pass.

2. Amy and Daniel 2:34 P.M.

3. James and Jaymes 3:01 P.M.

4. Trey and Lexi 3:19 P.M.

5. Caitlin and Brittany 3:49 P.M.

6. James and Abba 4:00 P.M.

7. Josh and Brent 4:15 P.M.

8. Rob and Kelley 4:29 P.M.

9. Abbie and Ryan 4:44 P.M.

10. Rob and Sheila 4:58 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #3: "Now we really are egg heads."

Original Air Date October 14, 2012.

After getting $210, teams have to go to Antika Jaya Padang Restaurant, where the Roadblock is. In this Roadblock, one team member has to carry 20 dishes, at the same time, and serve diners. If they drop even one, they have to start all over again. Then teams have to take a train to Bangil and what for their next clue on the train. Getting the clue from a food vendor on the train, teams have to go to another alun-alun once in Bangil.

There they find the Detour: Lion's Head or Egg Head. In Lion's Head, teams have to participate in a reog dance, following instructions and wearing a 40 lbs lion's head mask over their head and shoulders. In Egg Head, teams have to purchase four eggs from a local market, then participate in a local custom called a debus, where a magician lights a coconut half on fire on each team members heads then fries the eggs in the coconut halves. The teams then have to eat the eggs with hot sauce. Teams then head to the Perliman Pos I where they run into a Blind Double U-Turn (two teams get U-Turned though they don't know who did it). No one gets U-Turned. Teams then head to the Pit Stop: The Green House of SMA Negeri 1 Bangil High School.

1. Trey and Lexi 10:59 A.M. Won a trip for two to Fiji

2. Abbie and Ryan 11:15 A.M.

3. Amy and Daniel 11:23 A.M.

4. James and Jaymes 11:46 A.M.

5. Caitlin and Brittany 12:06 P.M.

6. Josh and Brent 12:15 P.M.

7. James and Abba 12:22 P.M.

8. Natalie and Nadiya 12:35 P.M.

9. Rob and Kelley 12:46 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #4: "Why'd it have to be rats?"

Original Air Date: October 21, 2012.

Getting $312, teams are told to go to Dhaka, Bangladesh. On arrival, teams are told to head to Rubel Model Auto Mobiles. There they take the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to repair a city public transportation bus. First by puttying the cracks, sanding the putty then putting in three pairs of seats. There is a Fast Forward here, involving going into people's homes, after getting pest control gear, and collecting a bag full of dead rats. James and Abba get this.

Teams then go to Kawran Bazaar Shootkir Market and search through dried fish for one with the race colors tied to it. Then they get the Detour: Pound the Metal or Pound the Cotton. In Pound the Metal, teams have to work with a local blacksmith, with hand pumped bellows and a 10 pound sledgehammer, beat an iron rod into a sharpened point. In Pound the Cotton, teams have to make a cotton mattress the Bengali way, by beating clumps of cotton into a feather like consistency with bamboo rods, then stuffing and sewing them. Then teams have to go by ferry and search the streets of Old Dhaka for the nest Pit Stop: Shyambazar Chan Mia Ghat.

1. Natalie and Nadiya 10:01 A.M. Won a trip for two to Antigua

2. James and Abba 12:17 P.M.

3. Trey and Lexi 12:40 P.M.

4. Amy and Daniel 1:05 P.M.

5. Abbie and Ryan 1:16 P.M.

6. Josh and Brent 1:44 P.M.

7.James and Jaymes 1:54 P.M.

8. Caitlin and Brittany 2:31 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #5: "Chill out!"

Original Air Date: October 21, 2012.

Receiving $250, teams have to get to Jatrabari Bazaar and find the beguna vendor (beguna being the Bengali word for eggplant). During this, several teams, including James and Abba and Natalia and Nadiya, end up in the same place. Somehow, James and Abba lose their money Natalie and Nadiya find it, but don't give it back to them and James and Abba have to beg for funds the rest of the leg. Teams then have to get to Ferry Ghat Road in Demra, where they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to construct a scale using bamboo, rope and other materials and, once that is done correctly, use logs to balance out four heavy stones. Teams then get the Detour: Straw Dogs or Bamboo Jungle.

In Straw Dogs, teams have to go to Latif Bawani Jute Mills and prepare 20 bundles of jute straw by heckling, throwing them against a nailed board then deliver them to the looms and at the end of the line receive a jute mat with their on it. In Bamboo Jungle, teams have to pick up a bundle of bamboo of varying lengths, then, by freight bicycle, deliver it to a construction site. At the end of each option teams get a picture of the next Pit Stop: Lok Shilpa Jaduphur in Sonargaon.

1. Natalie and Nadiya 12:08 P.M. Won a trip for two to Malaysia

2. Abbie and Ryan 12:16 P.M.

3. James and Abba 12:34 P.M.

4. Trey and Lexi 1:02 P.M.

5. James and Jaymes 1:12 P.M.

6. Josh and Brent 1:54 P.M.


Leg #6: "Get it, girl."

Original Air Date: November 4, 2012.

Getting $120, teams have to fly to Istanbul, Turkey. Once there, teams have to make their way to the Kabatas Ferry Terminal, where they get a clue telling them to make their way back to Asia. Teams have to figure out that is just a ferry ride away. Teams then make their way to the area around the New Mosque, where Amy and Daniel face their Speedbump. In this Speedbump, Amy and Daniel have to eat an ice cream cone, from a nearby marked stall, which includes a rather teasing performance from the vendor. Then they can join the other teams at the Detour: Simit or Scrub It.

In Simit, teams have to pick up three orders of Simit Bagels from a local bakery and deliver them, with one team member balancing them on their head, returning with pay stubs to the baker. If any of them fall, they have to start over. In Scrub It, teams have to go to a bathhouse and take a traditional Turkish Bath. Teams then go to Kapalicarsi for the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to dress in a costume and sell 40 cups of sherbet for one Turkish Lira each. After make 40 Lira (about $20 US at the time) they get the clue to the Pit Stop: MV Savarona in Kurucesme Cemil Topuzlu Parki.

1. James and Abba 11:22 A.M. Won a trip for two to Australia

2. Trey and Lexi 11:43 A.M.

3. James and Jaymes 12:02 P.M.

4. Natalie and Nadiya 12:13 P.M.

5. Amy and Daniel 12:45 P.M.

6. Abbie and Ryan 1:04 P.M.

7. Josh and Brent 1:23 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #7: "Not our best moment."

Original Air Date: November 11, 2012.

Receiving $200, teams are told to fly to Moscow, Russia. On arrival, teams have to go to Zurab Tsereteli Sculpture Park and find two of Ivan the Terrible's guards at the Moskvoretsky Bridge. There they get the Detour: Alphabetized or Synchronized. In Alphabetized, teams have to go to the Russian State Library and, using a paper card catalogue, in Russian, locate four books. Once they have the correct location, and get the books, they will get the next clue. In Synchronized, teams have to go to the Trud Sports Complex and join a synchronized swimming team. After completing the routine correctly, teams get the next clue.

Both Detour options have to be completed before the facilities close. If they don't teams incur a four hour penalty. Teams then go to Luzhkov Bridge where they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to select one of the Trees of Love, trees covered in padlocks, and using a set of 10 keys unlock ten lock to free a banner. After that teams are given a 100 Ruble note that has a picture of the Pit Stop on it: The Bolshoi Theatre.

1. Trey and Lexi 10:02 A.M. Won a trip for two to Maui Hawaii

2. James and Jaymes 10:15 A.M.

3. James and Abba 10:22 A.M.

4. Natalie and Nadiya 11:01 A.M.

5. Amy and Daniel 11:12 A.M.


Leg #8: "Better than we hoped."

Original Air Date: November 18, 2012.

Getting $150, teams are told to head to Timiryazev Agricultural Academy where Abbie and Ryan hit their Speedbump. In this Speedbump, Abbie and Ryan have to drive a Russian Orthodox priest to his church in a limo. Then they can join the other teams at the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to watch a slideshow about all the time zones of Russia and then say what time it is, relative to Moscow, five different Russian cities are. Teams then head to the Grand Hotel.

Here teams find the Detour: Movers or Shakers. In Movers, teams have to dress up as Russian soldiers and learn the Trepak, AKA the Russian squat dance. Then they have to perform it, correctly, in front of a judge. In Shakers, teams have to go to a party where several impersonators of Russian celebrities are. Teams have to pick out seven: Catherine the Great, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Leonid Brezhnev, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Peter the Great, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Nicholas II, and Vladimir Lenin. Then they have to count how many of each of these celebrities there are in the room. If their right an impersonator of Alexander Pushkin will give them their next clue. Teams then go to the Pit Stop: Sokolniki Park, Veranda Tanstev.

1. James and Jaymes 2:20 P.M. Won a trip for two to Costa Rica

2. Trey and Lexi 2:44 P.M.

3. James and Abba 3:02 P.M.

4. Natalie and Nadiya 3:12 P.M.

5. Amy and Daniel 3:40 P.M.

6. Abbie and Ryan 4:50 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #9: "Fishy kiss!"

Original Air Date: November 25, 2012.

Getting $200, teams have to go to Amsterdam, The Netherlands (with their only clue the flag of The Netherlands and instructions to go to the capital of the country it represents). On arrival, teams have to make their way, by train to the central station where the next clue and the Fast Forward is. In this Fast Forward, teams have to get to the Van Gogh cafe and ride an amphibious bus called The Floating Dutchman. Once in the water, teams find out that each team member has to eat five soused herring in seven minutes (the length of the trip on the bus). Natalie and Nadiya take this Fast Forward.

The other teams take a boat into the Amstel River and find a floating stand near the Magere Burg which has the Detour: Back in Time or Organ to Grind. In Back in Time, teams have to recreate the Rembrandt painting the Night Watch, with costumed actors and props, including themselves. In Organ to Grind, teams have to find one of three Dutch street organs. Then one team member has to run it and the other has to beg for tips. Teams have to get 30 Euros. Teams then head to Museum Geelvinck for the U-Turn, which no one uses. Then teams head to a rural field outside Ransdorp for the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member, in a Switchback to season twelve, has to go ditch vaulting. After this, teams head to the Pit Stop: The House of Rembrandt's Mistress.

1. Natalie and Nadiya 12:33 P.M. Won $5,000 each.

2. Trey and Lexi 4:50 P.M.

3. Amy and Daniel 5:00 P.M.

4. James and Jaymes 5:22 P.M.

5. James and Abba 6:59 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #10: "Not an athlete."

Original Air Date: December 2, 2012.

Receiving $250, teams have to fly to Barcelona, Spain. Once there, they have to book an overnight ferry to Palma on the island of Mallorca. Teams then have to go to Palma Cathedral, where have to look out for a theatre troupe of little devils and demons in a production of La Nit del Foc, a traditional Mallorcan festival, for their next clue. Teams then have to get to Centro de Alto Rendimiento for the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, to honor tennis star Rafael Nadal, teams have to hit 20 balls from an automatic server within the bounds of a clay court. If the server runs out of balls before they can finish, they have to refill the server and reset the score.

Teams then head to the Coves de Campenet where they have to search for two guitarists in the cave. They hand the teams the Detour: Spin It or Bull It. In Spin It, teams have to go to a 400 year of Mallorcan windmill, put on safety gear and repair two blades of the windmill. In Bull It, teams have to go to a bull fighting arena, put on a two person bull costume and then the person in back has to guide the person in front around eight matadors before striking a ninth, in two minutes. Teams then go to the Pit Stop: Bellver Castle.

1. Trey and Lexi 2:15 P.M. Won a trip for two to the Riviera Maya.

2. Amy and Daniel 2:54 P.M.

3. James and Jaymes 3:24 PM.

4. Natalie and Nadiya 4:13 P.M. NOT ELIMINATED/SPEEDBUMPED.

Leg #11: "Take down that million." Part I

Original Air Date: December 9, 2012.

Getting $150, teams have to fly to Barcelona, Spain then take a train to Saint-Pierre-Des-Corps, France. On arrival, teams have to pick up and load eight baskets from a local restaurant into their cars using the hands-free opening/closing feature. Teams then have to get to the Chateau de Villandry where Natalie and Nadiya face their Speedbump. In this Speedbump, Natalie and Nadiya have to go to a specific room in the Chateau and properly tie a woman's corset. Then they can join the other teams in going to Leonardo da Vinci's tomb in the Chateau d'Amboise. There teams find the Detour: Chow or Plow, both inside the Chateau de Cheverny.

In Chow, teams have to properly prepare a feast for the Chateau's hunting dogs. In Plow, teams have to hook up a plow to a horse and plow four mill lines. Both Detour tasks are First Come, First Serve and only two can go at a time. Teams then head to go to a store in Bourre for the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to find La Cave de Roches and, using one of the baskets they picked up at the train station, fill it with 10 each of grey oysters, wood blewits and Shiitake mushrooms. Teams then go to the Pit Stop: The Chateau des Chenonceau.

1. Amy and Daniel 2:10 P.M. Won a 2013 Ford Escape for each racer.

2. Trey and Lexi 2:34 P.M.

3. James and Jaymes 3:00 P.M.

4. Natalie and Nadiya 3:14 P.M. ELIMINATED.

Leg #12: "Take down that million." Part II

Original Air Date: December 9, 2012.

Getting $240, teams are given a postcard depicting their final destination city: New York City. In particular a specific spot in Coney Island (which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy a few months after this was filmed). Here teams have to search the boardwalk for a poster advertising their next destination: The Brooklyn Navy Yard where they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to put on a straight jacket and escape it like Harry Houdini did. Though, unlike Houdini, this task comes with a surprise bungee drop at the end.

Teams then head to Lombardi's Pizza in Manhattan, where they have to deliver 10 pizzas with various toppings to three different addresses, without taking notes. After that, they are told to go to the United Nations headquarters. There they find another Roadblock. In this Roadblock, the team member who didn't do the first Roadblock has to attach the words for hello and goodbye, as said by the Pit Stop greeters in each leg, to a flagpole with that country's flag on it. In order: Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Bengali, Turkish, Russian, Dutch, Spanish and French. Then teams head to the finish line: Gotham Hall.

1. Trey and Lexi WIN

2. James and Jaymes PLACE

3. Amy and Daniel SHOW

The Review

This season, while a bit of an improvement over the last couple, didn't bring in any new fans, as was hoped at the time. However, ratings were steady. There may have been a small uptick, but they were steady. It's my number 20 season.

-Globetrotting: An Amazing Race Blog by R.C. Anderson for the website Reality Rewind, January 23, 2017.
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