Monday, December 31, 2012

DiG Outreach Post Christmas WiiU Review/Buyer's Guide

Well Christmas has come and Santa didn't have the foresight to pre-order the WiiU and stick it under the tree for you.  Now you have to fork over the cash and GameStop gift cards all by yourself.  The question is, "Is it worth the money?"  The answer is an emphatic yes! A lot of people purchased the original Wii way back in 2006.  The system's niche gameplay style and ease of use that appealed large masses of unskilled gamers from grannies to toddlers, turned hardcore gamers away from Nintendo's little console.  The fact of the Wii not appealing to avid gamers combined with the fact that the Wii didn't offer HD graphics while  it was going directly up against the Xbox 360 and PS3 that did, pretty much relegated the system to a dust catcher of a tiny area of your entertainment unit. Will this be the case with the WiiU? Hardly. As you will see, Nintendo's latest offering handles all the things that it does well. From the new fandangled touch screen controller, to kid's games, to online capabilities, to graphics and even to the more mature titles, the WiiU completely shines in every area.

WiiU Gamepad:

The first thing you will notice when you get ready to play your new system (besides the lengthy system update) is that the new WiiU Gamepad is nearly as big as the system itself.  In spite of its great size, which is necessary for the generous touch screen area, the controller is very comfortable and is a blast to use.  The touch screen applications are instant and seamless when they affect something on your TV as well. For example, on Super Mario Brothers, when the player using the Gamepad touches his screen, a block instantly appears on the big screen for the other players to jump on. I'll speak more on that in a bit. It's all quite genius.  There are a couple things to note about this controller however.  I'm not sure you would want super young kids to be handling it. We have the Nerf Armor on ours($19.99) and I think that this armor will help a tumble off the couch on to carpet but a drop on a tile floor, with or without it, would most likely be disastrous. The Gamepads also aren't currently replaceable at retail locations so to have one break would be the end of your fun for who knows how long. The second downer is the battery life of the pad.  The owner's manual claims 3-5 hours of use from a 2-3 hour charge. Thankfully you can play with it plugged in but since some of the games, like Rabbid's Land, require the passing of the pad the cord can easily become a tripping hazard or just be quite a bother.  The other thing I saw in the guide was that the batteries are good for 500 charges and can be replaced by buying a new one at a retail store.  I know the bad sounds bad but after time with the system, I feel the good far outweighs any detriment the battery issues bring. You might be thinking, "this is all fine and good for Player 1, but what's everyone else gonna do?"

WiiU Pro Controller/Wii Remotes

Those of you who love the Xbox 360 controller are definitely going to want to pick up at least one WiiU Pro controller. These controllers offer, if you believe Nintendo on this one, 80 hours of play on a 4-5 hour charge.  Why they couldn't put some of that goodness into the WiiU Gamepad is beyond me but oh well. While these are great controllers and offer amazing battery life, the downside is that they are not usable on every game.  For whatever reason you can not use them on Super Mario or Nintendo Land but Assassin's Creed 3 and Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed use them flawlessly.  The other option you have is the backwards compatible Wii Remote.  That's right, the Wii Remotes are back along with, in some instances, the Nunchuck.  This is great news for original Wii owners who dumped money into making sure 4 people were able to play together back in the day. Controllers aren't the only thing from the Wii that work on Nintendo's latest.  Wii games are also compatible on the WiiU.

Backwards Compatibility/Data Transfer

That's right, a la the Wii playing Gamecube games, the WiiU plays the stellar titles from the previous generation as well. Be aware that the Wii games won't be upscaled on the WiiU.  However if you want to play Super Smash Bros., Super Mario Kart, Guilty Party, you can.  You name it and pretty much you can play it. There is a minor catch though.  On the WiiU, you have to choose the Wii Menu option.  This turns your WiiU into a mock Wii where you will be able to play the older games right from where you left off and including any that you have downloaded (plus any remaining Wii shop points) provided you do the system data transfer. The data transfer is a bit confusing.  Just know that you need to download the transfer tool from the Wii Shop on both the old Wii and from inside the Wii menu on the WiiU.  You will need an SD memory card and about an hour depending on how many games and game saves you have.  You will need to format the SD card in the WiiU first, then put it in the Wii, then finally back into the WiiU.  The way it transfers data is quite humorous.  I won't spoil it too much but if you are a fan of Pikmin, you will love it. For full details on how to transfer your data, click here.Now let's get to the meat of the system, actual WiiU games.


Nintendo E-Shop/Arcade Games

I want to first talk about the Nintendo E-shop.  From here you can purchase any "arcade" type game as well as full retail titles.  An important thing to note is that with the 8gb WiiU you will need an external storage device for downloading items.  This is not necessary on the 32gb system so that is the only system I would pick up.  I also strongly suggest that you don't download retail titles from the E-shop. It takes forever.  You could literally go get gas and an oil change and then pick up a copy at your local Gamestop or BestBuy and still be waiting.  I know because I bought Sonic All Stars this way.  The arcade titles that I've downloaded don't take nearly as long however so those are worth it.  You can purchase games by adding money to your account with a credit card or with redeemable codes purchased at retail stores.  Both ways work well so it's just a matter of how cautious you want to be with your personal information. As far as E-shop exclusives, I have downloaded Mighty Switch Force HD and Trine 2.  Mighty Switch Force is a highly rated game that debuted on the 3DS back in 2011.  It's an interesting puzzle/platformer where you try to capture escaped prisoners playing as Officer Patricia Wagon.  It keeps you coming back with Par times for each level and awesome art style.  Trine 2 has been out for a bit on the PS3 and Xbox 360.  I had it on the PS3 and it looks every bit as good on the WiiU.  So far I've only played online with Ben (HardcorIVChrist) but the online worked very well.  The only issue was that the game has no voice chat.  In a co-op puzzle game that is problematic.  Thankfully we have the same cel phone carrier so free talk time FTW!

Kids Games: 

Aside from the titles we've downloaded, we have somehow managed to obtain a fairly impressive launch title collection. The 32gb system, which is the only one I would recommend getting currently, comes with Nintendo Land ($59.99 value).  There are 12 mini games to choose from.  Some are solo efforts while some offer play for up to 5 people.  All the games are fun but Mario Chase is the standout offering.  4 players using Wii Remotes are trying to catch the Gamepad wielding Mario as he runs from them all.  It's a blast!  This isn't the only launch title Mario shines in, of course.

You honestly can't go wrong with Super Mario Brothers for the WiiU.  It is old school greatness at it's finest.  It also isn't nearly as frustrating playing with inexperienced players as the previous game was on the Wii. 5 players can participate.  4 play with Wii Remotes while one person, who we deem "The Maestro", makes blocks and stuns enemies for the others. A great use of the WiiU Gamepad.

Probably the best use of the Gamepad for our family so far has been on Sonic All Stars.  4 players race on the screen as in the Xbox version and on the WiiU we get a fifth racer using the Gamepad screen! This is one of the best cart racers I've ever played with tracks from the worlds of iconic Sega franchises as well as the beloved characters.  From Sonic, to Alex Kidd, to Beat they are all there.  There are even some cameos from Wreck it Ralph and a real life race driver.  The controls are great and the pacing of the single player is great.  Your whole family will love it.  The game is awesome and is probably our family's favorite launch title on the system.

Scribblenauts was purchased soley for my oldest daughter but the game is great.  The kids get 15 minute turns and I find myself wanting a turn every time the game is on.  It's not a difficult game by any means but it is super fun.  Whatever you type into the Gamepad shows up on the screen.  Want to use a dragon? Type dragon.  Want the dragon to be blue? Add the adjective "blue".  Scribblenauts offers local multiplayer but be warned, it is lame.  The other players don't really get to do anything.

The last "kid's" game we have is Rabbid's Land.  I bought this in spite of mediocre reviews based on Ben's recommendation of a demo he had played.  Turned out the reviews were wrong.  The game is a 4 player mini game fun fest in the style of Mario Party.  The funniest thing is that Ben recommended Rabbids based on playing the Rayman demo.  Thankfully it worked out and the whole family loves the game.

Mature Titles:

So by now you people without kids and families are probably wondering why you would even take a second look at the WiiU.  Let me assure you that game handles M rated games very, very well.

Ubisoft really went out of it's way to support the WiiU launch.  The aforementioned Rabbid's Land was an Ubisoft offering as well as Just Dance 4, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, ESPN Sports Connection, and even the upcoming Rayman Legends. Thankfully they also went after the more hardcore titles, Assassin's creed 3 and ZombiU.  Assassin's Creed 3 has been on my wish list for months.  I never played the others but the time period (American Revolution) intrigued me this time.  The game is awesome on the WiiU.  You don't lose anything graphics wise either.  It runs in HD graphics through the systems included HDMI cable and it looks fantastic.  You also have the option to play the game on the WiiU Gamepad so if you want to watch TV while you play, that option is yours.  Online play seems interesting to me with each player having a target but before Christmas there wasn't anyone online.  Hopefully that has changed now.  Will update when I find out.

ZombiU offers only local multiplayer for 2 people.  One survivor runs around while the other person uses the Gamepad to unleash the zombie horde.  The biggest problem for me and my friend who played was the Y axis inversion.  I play inverted, he doesn't.  Both people have to have the same option in multiplayer.  This mode is not the greatest but I can see how it could be fun for a bit. Online would have definitely been better. The single player is where it's at and it is tough. ZombiU employs the Gamepad as your backpack of sorts.  In there you can organize all of your precious items.  This brings an intensity in that while you are looking down at the pad, you can be getting surrounded on the screen.  It's nuts.  If you die, you die permanently and start over as a new survivor.  You then have to scramble to find your last character to get your backpack and all of your stuff back.  It's crazy.  It's scary.  It's intense.  If you like zombies, this is a no brainer, pun intended. Thankfully, if you get stuck the MiiVerse is there to help!


The last thing I want to talk about is the MiiVerse.  Here people from the WiiU community can post screenshots, drawings or just written posts about whatever.  Need help with a boss? Post a screenshot and write "HELP!" Someone will answer you.  It's pretty great.  People draw some really awesome pictures on the MiiVerse.  If you come up with something particularly great people will give your drawing or post a "Yeah!"  It's like, well "Like", on Facebook.  Each game has a community that you can post specific things relating to it.  You can set up a profile and you can send and receive friend requests as well.  It's all pretty slick.  For parents wondering about their kids seeing vulgar or abusive content in the MiiVerse, know that they are quick to get rid of and block things they don't see fit.  I got blocked temporarily for having the gospel message in my profile. There are always consequences for breaking rules.

The Gospel:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  So reads God's Word written through Paul in Romans 3:23.  What does that mean for us? Most think that they are generally good.  The Bible says we are sinners but what is sin according to the Good Book? 1 John 3:4 says that sin is transgression of the Law.  That means that whoever has broken God's Law (hint: it's all of us) has sinned, thereby making Romans 3:23 true.  All have either lied, stolen or wanted something someone else has had, committed adultery in our hearts by lusting after someone, or worst of all blasphemed God's holy name.  Those are only half of the 10 commandments, God's Law.  The Bible says that all liars will have their part in the Lake of Fire.  No thief, adulterer, or any covetous person will inherit the Kingdom of God(1 Cor 6:9-10).  God won't hold anyone blameless who misuses His name. The punishment for the breaking of God's Law is eternal conscious punishment in a place called Hell.  It is not God's will that we go there.  He shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And that is the good news.  That Christ, fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life then died for our sins on a  cross.  He got off the cross and 3 days later rose from the dead, defeating sin and death forever.  If we repent and trust in Him alone for salvation we will have eternal life in Heaven because of His imputed righteousness into our account.  For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).  We can not bribe our way into Heaven by trying to be good or do righteous things.  The Bible says our best offering are like filthy rags to God(Isaiah 64:6).  We must trust in Christ and His finished work on the cross for salvation.  The punishment for breaking the rules is not like the slap on the wrist I received in the MiiVerse.  Hell is serious business.  We will be dead longer than we will be alive.  That makes what happens in eternity all that matters.  Christmas is over.  Whether you buy the WiiU or not is really insignificant in the scheme of things though you will have a blast with it while you are here.  God's free gift of grace, however,  expires when you do.  Be on the right side of that grace today.  Repent and believe the Gospel.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Abdul Alim Hamid

 His name means Servant of the Omniscient, Praiseworthy.  Friends, of which he has not many here in the States, know him as Abdul Alim Hamid. A bead of sweat had formed at the end of one of Abdul Alim's jet black strands of hair.  Finally gravity did it's job.  The sweat dropped down onto the top of his cheek, ran down his face past the cold beige phone gripped by his burn scarred left hand, then got swallowed up by his greying beard. In his tightly clenched right hand he held a 9mm CZ-75 which was trained on the 10 people, including a newborn, that didn't manage to get out of the Bank of the Ozarks when Mr. Hamid came in an hour and 37 minutes ago.  He wasn't a terrorist and he wasn't in the bank for the money like the others were.  Revenge was on his mind.  One month prior, the Mosque he had gotten approval for and built in the normally peaceful Fort Smith, Arkansas was burnt to the ground. His dreams and all the difficulties in leaving Jordan burned down with it.  More importantly to Hamid, his brother who got trapped inside burned as well. "Probably a group of Southern Baptists", was the council that a partner had given.  And why wouldn't that be the case?  Hadn't they been responsible for burning down the Gentlemen's Club and throwing the homemade explosives into the murder mill known as Planned Parenthood?  Not that Abdul Alim was opposed to either of those actions but now it was his livelihood that has been attacked and someone, some infidels, must pay.  He didn't wait for a Sunday to walk into a nice Church service.  Unsuspecting families dressed up in their filthy rags labeled "Sunday best" could have been easy prey for Hamid.  Hamid, however, wanted to pay them back equally.  They attacked where he worshiped so he would too.  That's why the bank where they served their god all week long was the target and not, say, Grand Avenue Baptist Church. You cannot serve God and money.  Part of the New Testament that Abdul Alim wholeheartedly agreed with.

"Mr. Hamid!", The voice with the disastrous southern accent tainted with a hint of authority brought Abdul Alim back to the moment.  "Watch your tone officer Wigowski," Abdul Alim warned. "You have 45 minutes to give me what I want or these good people start dying" What he wanted the Ft. Smith PD really couldn't give him.  First and foremost he wanted his brother Samir back. He wanted payback for his Mosque and for Samir and it was going to come from one of these 10 people but who would it be? They, as infidels, all deserved to be the first one to die if he truly followed his faith. Hamid, however, was a Muslim of the apostate, "Peace Loving" sect and really did not want to kill any of them.  He had just been pushed to the edge with the death of his brother and was finally at the end of his proverbial rope.  So who would it be? How could Abdul Alim pick just one?Who would God pick if He were to judge?

15 minutes had passed since Ft. Smith native Paul Wigowski had gotten off the phone with the "perp", as they called Abdul Alim Hamid.  Sure they now knew his name but perp was so much easier to say and, seeing as how it was 5 less syllables than Hamid's full name, it would do until the paperwork started for this debacle. Only 30 minutes left to get the perp's unreasonable request that the Mosque be rebuilt by then accomplished.  Since that wasn't going to happen, Wigowski needed to find a way into the bank and quick like.  Officer Wiggy, as he was known throughout the force, didn't know that Hamid only had one gun in there with him.  He wasn't even entirely sure that he was alone, save the ten hostages.  Who knows what they would be up against when they stormed into the two-story, red roofed building on Rogers Ave.  All Wiggy knew was that peoples' lives were in danger and he was the only one who could help.  He had 23 minutes.

Abdul Alim Hamid checked his watch.  23 minutes to get the Mosque built.  He knew it was impossible and that the time limit imposed was all just posturing.  Today he was simply out for revenge.  One of these people would die in less than a half an hour. Just one, Hamid had finally decided, to pay them all back for his brother's death. Hamid would of course take himself out as well leaving the other 9 people to deal with the image. Tick Tock...17 minutes.  Hamid's indecision finally got the best of him.  He stormed over to the huddled group of victims.  Pointing the Czech Republic made weapon at the group he employed the group help him make the decision.  He was going to kill the worst of them and he would determine which that was by having them confess their sins to him one by one. "TELL ME!" was the demand to each person in the huddle.  It hit them with the full force of spittle and the scent of last night's hummus on his breath. One by one they confessed. The man in the suit had cheated on his taxes and lied to the IRS.  The teenage girl had on stolen earrings.  The lady, who's tear stained Woo Pig Sooie shirt was a sad reminder of her sin, had told a lie to her husband about going to a Razorbacks game with her girlfriend.  That would be true if the Razorback's game was the Hampton Inn on Rogers Avenue and her girlfriend was a man she had met online the week before.  The list went on and on.  The small boy was currently dishonoring his mother by not being quiet in spite of her many requests.  A man was wearing and kissing his Scapula, hoping in Mary to save him.  "Idolatry", Hamid snorted as the red haired infant who was in his mother's arms began to whimper.  Hamid looked that way then made his way to look out the front to check on things.  "Lies, cheating, stealing" he continued mumbling under his breath as he walked away disgusted.  It was no wonder he had never desired to be a Catholic priest.  He could hardly take hearing any more(hadn't he done all those things too?) This synapse hadn't made his choice any easier.  Maybe they all truly did deserve it.  Perhaps he deserved to die the most. He shook off the thought.  6 minutes to decide.

Time was now of the essence.  Hamid saw the commotion outside as he approached the window.  At last count there were 35 officers outside.  He now only saw 30.   Hamid's heart skipped a beat as he thought of the back door being breached.  He headed there now.  Halfway across the bank floor he was met by the mother of the crying infant, baby held out to Hamid.  "Take him", she said.  "He never should have been born.  I was outside the abortion clinic when someone told me that God gave His only son to save me from my sin.  It stopped me from butchering this child.  Now I give him up to you like Abraham went to give up Isaac in hopes that God will spare us all from this evil.  Hamid recalled the Old Testament account of that event. Muslims like Abdul Alim counted the first books of the Old Testament as true.  "God will provide the ram" Hamid remembered Genesis saying.  "Take your son, your only son", God told Abraham.  That part never sat well with Hamid considering Abraham had Ishmael as well. "Do not be so distressed about the boy(Ishmael) and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." This passage normally made Hamid's blood boil because he knew that Christ came through that family line and that prophecy was fulfilled in that sense.  "And just like how Abraham did not withhold his only son," the woman continued, "God did not withhold His only Son from us so that we can be saved.  Yes we all deserve you to kill us today.  We shouldn't get not one more breath on this earth. Some here have lied, some have committed adultery, some have stolen.  My sins are too many to count.  The point is all of us have sinned against God but He demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

Officer Wigowski and his makeshift swat team comprised of the first 4 of the bravest cops on the scene lined up at the back door of the bank.  He had his Remington 870 ready.  It was the most firepower he could come up with while they were waiting but at least it would get the hinges off the door.  The other officers readied their pistols as they waited to enter the bank.  Time was running out.  He reviewed the plan with them once more before taking a step back, saying a half hearted prayer, aiming his shotgun at the hinges of the door and pulling the trigger.  Time was up.  Wiggy and his guys needed a miracle!

The words of the woman's Gospel presentation boomed inside Hamid's brain. That explained the first boom.  The second and third booms would be explained by the top two hinges being blown off the door by Officer Wigowski's black tactical shotgun.  Hamid dropped his weapon and fell to his knees sobbing.  Partly because of his brother's passing but mostly he wept over his sin that the lady had revealed to him today.  His religion had offered no hope but left him to try to bribe his way into heaven by doing self righteous religious acts.  This woman told Hamid that God had done all the work that needed to be done for him to be saved and he had to repent and turn from his sin.  He was truly sorry for his actions.  Not just for today and not just because he had gotten caught.  As the 5 officers stormed in and secured the building, their guns were aimed at a changed man.  He would still have to live with the consequences of his actions but his life and most importantly, his eternal life, would be different from this day forward because God had provided the way. "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided", was the only sound as Hamid sobbed those treasured words.

As Officer Wiggy took the woman's account of what had happened inside, he was dumbfounded.  The lady did not really want her baby to die but she stepped out in faith and with love she shared the Good News that had changed her life.  She hoped it would change Hamid's as well and it did.  Paul Wigowski himself realized that he needed this love and forgiveness that the woman and Hamid had found too.  He had grown up in the Bible belt and spent most Sundays in church. Like so many Americans, even those outside the Bible belt, Wiggy identified himself with Christ though he had no true interest in repentance and faith.  He had not seen his sin as sinful but had treated Christ's death as a license to continue living in perpetual sin that the god he created in his own mind deemed "OK". Since this idol and Wiggy had the same ideals and were for all intents and purposes the same person, the officer never broke any of the rules that this fictional god had in place.  This would all change from now on.  "You never know what the one true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, will use to change people's lives. He truly does work in mysterious ways", Wiggy chuckled as he ducked into his Dodge Charger police cruiser.  He called his wife to tell her to cancel the kids' baseball game on Sunday.  They had new plans.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"God on the Streets of Gotham...

....What the Big Screen Batman can Teach us About God and Ourselves", finishes the title of one of the most fun and real books that I have read in 2012. Paul Asay, writer for Focus on the Family's and all around nice guy based on our twitter interactions, takes us on a journey through the crime ridden streets of Gotham and all the personalities that dwell within in this amazing book. Now, if you are looking for a theological masterpiece, you probably need to go pick up Slave or the Truth War by MacArthur. Don't get me wrong, God on the Streets of Gotham is solid in regards to the Bible.  This book, however, won't shore up your thoughts on soteriology (Calvanistic/Arminian) or reaffirm your beliefs on the rapture or the millennial Kingdom so if that's what your looking for try some Sproul or Begg.  What it will do however (and possible just as importantly), is to let you know that there are others out there that share the same struggles, life issues, and sins that we do. And that is what I loved about this book.  It's not some guy writing page after laborious page about how we ought to be, act, and live all the while most likely not even coming close to his own mark in his own life.  This book feels more real than that.  You can sense the author's passion, concerns, fears then ultimately and thankfully his faith coming through on the pages.  Best of all, it's set in Gotham with the amazing characters we all know and love because...well, Batman is the best superhero.  Right?

You could look at the title and, like my beautiful bride, be concerned that this is a book comparing Batman to Jesus.  That's not what this is all about.  Only in one sense towards the end is that that the case and it is only in regards to sacrifice and humility(Philippians 2), not in perfection.  Batman has his flaws and weaknesses and they are shown in this book.  The cast of villians' issues are laid bare and are a good reminder of where we could all be without God's grace as well.  From Carmine Falcone's corruption and compromise, to the fear instilled by the Scarecrow, to Ra's Al Ghul's zealous ambitions, to Two-Face's despair, Catwoman's amorality, Banes' addiction, and even Joker's annihilation mindset, Paul Asay runs the gambit of emotions and sins that these Gotham villains represent. Like I already alluded to, Batman isn't immune to the realities of a fallen world either.  He battles through the same issues and emotions that we do as well. Pain, suffering, doubt, and of course loss just to name a few.  Loss is how Batman started and so many of us can relate to that one.  It is a great reminder for us to look to Christ and not to get trapped in these same lifestyles and emotions. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Thank God for that promise. 

Now, the best part of all of this is that most of the references in the book are directly from the most recent Trilogy so it is all fresh in most of our minds. This book may not be for everyone(setting-wise, not content-wise).  If you aren't a fan or familiar with Bats and his cast of arch nemeses, it might not be something you would put your time into.  If you are like me, however, and Batman is your all-time favorite, you really can't go wrong with reading this book. It was an amazing page turning Batmobile ride and  I loved every page of it.  I'm sure any other fan of what takes place in Gotham will too. Pick up your copy today!

Follow Paul Asay on twitter: @asaypaul
Purchase God on the Streets of Gotham on Kindle: HERE