Pixel Junk Eden Demo Review

By Mike on 7:35 pm

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I have to admit I didn't like Pixel Junk Monsters. The PSN hit I thought was a little cheesy. Despite my thoughts going into it, I was pleasantly surprised with the Pixel Junk Eden demo. It's the latest in Q-Games series of Pixel Junk downloadable games. Eden is a puzzle-platformer. In the game, you control a Grimp, a little silkworm-like creature. Your goal is to journey to various gardens and find the Spectra there, which are used to improve your own home garden. Sounds dull but the game is actually an involving platformer with realistic physics.

The artistic style of the game reminds me a little of LocoRoco. The graphics are 2D and use a modernist art design rather than realism. Finding the Spectra require you to jump and swing your Grimp up plant stocks. New stocks can be grown from seeds. The seeds require you to collect pollen that floats around. After gaining so much pollen, the seed is activated and grows, creating a new plant platform to use. Your Grimp can jump, double jump, and spin. When you jump, a silk line leads out from you to the plant you were just on. You can use the silk line to swing yourself around the screen or as a tether to make small jumps. Hitting X twice releases the line. The R2 and L2 buttons can retract the line making for a shorter swing radius. The game also has limited Sixaxis control. Moving the controller down hard will cause your Grimp to do the same. You have a bar at the bottom of your screen that is the game's timer. It drops gradually and the game is over when it reaches zero. It can be recovered by collecting crystals found within the level. Small crystals recover the timer by a little, larger ones recover more time. The physics engine in the game makes jumps and falls realistic. The game is surprisingly simple yet difficult to master. That's something that gives a lot of replayability to a game like this.

As I mentioned, the game uses 2D graphics like all Pixel Junk games. It uses an artistic style to some of Sony's JapanStudio games like LocoRoco and Patapon. Eden runs at a native 1080p resolution. The audio is good. The soundtrack is a mix of techno with an ecclectic feel. The game recommends you use good quality speakers or headphones to truly enjoy it to it's fullest.
Eden also supports PSP Remote Play. This feature is supported in the demo as well. I tried it but I found the graphics weren't as sharp as they could be. I figure this is an issue with how Remote Play itself works. It's trying to take an HD image and downscale it rather than run it natively at the PSP's native resolution. Therefore, it looks blurry on the PSP's screen.
The final game will also support co-op play with up to three players. Trophy support is another feature that will be present in the final game. The trophies are pretty brutal to obtain and according to reports, only bronze and silver ones are available. Lastly, there will be a feature in the final version for making in game videos. Apparently, you'll be able to upload them to Youtube right from your PS3.

Eden is one of the best PSN downloadable titles I've seen so far. The full version will definitely be worth the mere $9.99. I'm not sure how long the final game will be. You can buy the full version on July 31st, 2008.

What Works
-Innovative graphic design
-Engaging gameplay, strong replayability
-Co-op mode
-Remote Play
-Ecclectic audio
-Video mode

What Doesn't Work
-No issues with Eden at this time

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Get HDTV for Free, Legally

By Mike on 9:27 pm

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My parents get their HD service through Cogeco. Unfortunately, the cable company provides surprisingly few high def stations. Most of them are network TV stations with their time shifting counterparts. Overall though, Cogeco's HD service is pretty awful. For one, Global is not available in the Milton area for some unknown reason. There are some Global programs I'd love to see in HD. Rather than paying $10 to rent another box, I decided to go a different route. I just bought an HDTV when my old CRT set crapped out on me. It has an ATSC tuner built in. ATSC stands for "Advanced Television Standards Committee". The system is due to replace the current NTSC analogue colour TV standard that has been in place since the 1960s. ATSC is an all-digital format that uses MPEG-2 video streaming. It supports all resolutions from 480i SD broadcasts right up to full HD 1080p at 30 frames per second. In 2009, all American analogue over-the-air (OTA) TV stations will shut down. Canadian analogue stations except in the far north will shut down in 2011. This doesn't mean that OTA TV is going to go away, far from it.
Many people are now choosing to ditch expensive satellite and cable services and are bringing back the good ol' arial. The mast at the side of houses, once a staple in the 1950s and 60s, is making a come back of sorts. While analogue TV is going down in 2009/2011, TV stations will begin broadcasting it the digital ATSC standard in its place. Right now, there are plenty of ATSC stations already on the air, meaning you can legally watch HD shows without paying a cent for the service. I hardly expect it to ever replace satellite and cable but it's a great introduction to HD without requiring a huge investment or high monthly bills. Canadians are currently paying too much for HD.

For starters, you need either a HDTV with an ATSC tuner built in or a decoder box. Most newer HDTV models come with a digital tuner built in. Some don't but these are getting less common. By law, all new HDTVs sold in the United States must include an ATSC tuner. I'm unsure what Canada's policy is on this. When buying an HDTV, make sure it has a digital HD tuner built in. If you do have an older HDTV without an ATSC tuner, you can buy a digital converter box. These boxes can also be used with standard definition TVs to get digital SD programming. However, these boxes are nearly impossible to find in Canada right now, so you'll have to buy it in the US. Next you need an antenna. There are lots of options available. Indoor and outdoor. Outdoor gives the best reception while indoor can be hit and miss. A good indoor one is sold for $60 at The Source under it's Nextech brand. It includes a built in amplifier. They also sell one under the RCA brand which I'm told is also very good. For outdoor, you can use pretty much any standard UHF outdoor antenna. Antenna's Direct, a US company, sells in Canada through Tiger Direct and e-Outlet Canada. They're generally the recommended model for receiving HD over the air. Outdoor antennas can be mounted on a traditional mast or on a roof using a "J" type mount, the same used to mount satellite dishes. More height gives better reception regardless of whether the antenna is indoor or out. Another thing worth noting is that many UHF antennas are directional, meaning they have to be pointed at the TV transmitter. For Canadians living in the Greater Toronto Area, pointing it towards Toronto will get good reception from both Buffalo and Hamilton too. Indoor ones can be easily adjusted. If using an indoor antenna, get as much height as possible. Put it on the top floor of your house near an outside wall or window. Antennas can also be mounted in an attic but reception is lost compared to an outdoor one. Regardless of what antenna you use, weather can affect it. With Digital OTA, you'll either get a signal or you won't. There's no fuzz like with analogue. You may have to rescan the channels each time you adjust the antenna.
If you rent your home, check with your landlord to make sure you are allowed to set up an outdoor antenna. If you live in the United States, it is your legal right to mount a TV antenna on your roof, as stated by the FCC. This is because television is considered critical for delivering important information (ie weather warnings, informing the electorate) to citizens. I am unsure what the law is in Canada though.

So what kinds of stations can you get? Using my Nextech indoor antenna, I can pull in 14 digital TV stations. Reception with some is hit and miss. You'll generally get better UHF reception at night when it's clear or there are high level clouds. Here's a list of stations I get in Milton, ON.

4-1 WIBV: A CBS affiliate out of Buffalo NY. 1080i resolution. Reliable signal
5-1 CBLT: A CBC affiliate out of Toronto ON. 1080i, CBC surprisingly has tons of HD content. Very reliable signal. Airs blockbuster movies in HD on Sundays at 9pm. The network is now almost entirely in HD, older programming notwithstanding.
9-1: CFTO: A CTV affiliate out of Toronto ON. 1080i. Good signal.
7-1: WKBW: An ABC affiliate out of Buffalo NY. Reception is hit and miss. 720p resolution.
7-2: WNGS: Airs retro TV. A substation of WKBW. Standard def.
7-3: WCSN: Sports substation affiliated with WKBW. Standard def.
17-1: WNED: A PBS affiliate out of Buffalo NY. 720p HD resolution. Really difficult to receive.
17-2: WNED-SD: Airs PBS programming in standard definition
17-2: WNED-Th: Airs children's educational programming. Standard def
18-1: CHCH: Now known as E! Entertainment Television. Out of Hamilton ON. 1080i. Very reliable signal.
23-1: WNLO: A "The CW" affiliate out of Buffalo. Formally The Warner Brothers Network. Not much HD content. 1080i. Good signal.
25-1: CBLFT: Toronto ON based French language CBC station. 1080i. Signal weaker than it's English counterpart. Plenty of HD content.
36-1: CTS: Crossroads Television airs religious programming and is located in Burlington ON. 1080i. Good signal. Be awed by high def Jesus.
44-1: OMNI2: Airs multicultural programming, American sitcoms, and daytime talk. 1080i. Good signal. Not a lot of HD content at this time.

Remote Central offers a full list of digital TV stations you can get OTA in Toronto. You'll notice major stations like Global, CityTV, SunTV and OMNI1 missing from my list. Global, Sun, and City have surprisingly weak transmitters for their digital service. Surprisingly, all their analogue counterparts come in strong. Global has the weakest transmitter power of all Toronto OTA digital stations, which is odd considering it's a major network. You should be able to get these stations with a very powerful outdoor antenna or if you live near the CN Tower. The entire west GTA has the advantage of being almost equidistant between the three major TV transmitters in the area. In general, Canadian OTA HDTV is pretty poor at the moment though it will get better as 2011 approaches. The big problem is that Canadian OTA digital stations tend to have vary weak transmitter power compared to their American counterparts. This is why I can receive several American stations but not some closer Toronto based ones.

A couple final notes. You'll notice I mentioned ATSC supports up to 1080p but the majority of the channels only go up to 1080i. I don't know much about broadcasting but presumably this is because most HDTVs out there support 1080i out of the box. Secondly, you'll also notice sub-stations on some channels. Digital TV uses less bandwidth and therefore more than one station can be broadcast on the same frequency (channel) block. The problem with this is that it takes away bandwidth from the primary station. That's why you'll notice that the two channels I listed with sub-stations are only at 720p versus 1080i. 720p requires less bandwidth. One issue with sub-stations though is a TV station might have to further compress its HD station to accommodate the other SD ones. PBS is notably bad for this. I noticed compression artefacts with some of their HD shows on the main station. It can ruin the HD experience.

One PS3 to Rule Them All?

By Mike on 10:29 pm

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First Sony had two PS3 models, then that increased to three, then two again. That obviously created a lot of confusion. One of the big problems was that each SKU had different features than the others, which is believed to have caused confusion among less tech savy consumers. Back in Novermber 2007, Sony released the 40gb model to much acclaim. The newer model cut costs by removing the memory card reader, two USB ports, and total PS2 backwards compatability. Sony is now releasing a new SKU, sort of. The 40gb will receive a hard drive upgrade doubling it's storage capacity to 80gb. This will repalce the current 80gb Metal Gear Solid bundle, which has all features the original 40gb was missing. Given that more and more PS3 games are requiring hard drive installs, doubling storage space was a logical route. The new model will sell at the $399 price point, same as the old 40gb.

Some gamers are expressing concern about what will happen to the current 80gb bundle. It retained the memory card reader, four USB ports, and SACD support from the previous models as well as software driven PS2 backwards compatability. A lot of PS3 owners, including myself, like to play PS2 games. The advantage of course is having the wireless controller and upscaling for display on HDTVs. Based on what I've read though, Sony never indicated that the current 80gb model will be discontinued. It is possible it will remain as a "premium" version or it too could receive a hard drive update, such as the much rumored 120gb/160gb storage boost.

Source: PSU

Xbox 360 Gets Temporary Price Cut, New 60gb Model

By Mike on 6:02 pm

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Microsoft is cutting the 20gb Premium model of the Xbox 360 and is reducing the price of the remaining units to $299.99 US while supplies last. In its place, they're adding a new 60gb Premium console at the $349.99 price point. It has been rumoured for some time that MS would be adding more storage space to the base unit, given the similarly priced 40gb PS3 has double the storage capacity of the current Premium console. Many gamers who like downloadable games and content off Xbox Live found their 20gb HDD filling up rather quickly.

While this is a good move by Microsoft, I think it's high time they allow for better storage options in the form of DIY hard drive upgrades, allowing users to have as much or as little space as they want. While external hard drives can be used with the 360, the can only store media files, not downloadable games or saves. The current Xbox branded hard drive units are overpriced.

The 10 Best and 5 Worst South Park Episodes

By Mike on 9:00 pm

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South Park is a unique show. It has it's crude drawings and foul language but underneath the show has a lot of black comedy and witty social commentary. Lets look at my 10 best and 5 worst picks

Ten Best South Park Episodes
10. Christmas in Canada (Season 7): The new Canadian Prime Minister has decreed that all adopted Canadian children must be returned to their Canadian parents. Kyle's brother Ike is one of these children that must return. The town decides to give all their Christmas presents to Kyle's family to get them through this difficult time. Of course Cartman is really pissed off at this so Kyle and the boys head to Canada to get Ike back. The episode is a hilarious parody of the Wizard of Oz. The boys meet Rick the Mountie, who is forced to ride a sheep due to budget cuts, a French Canadian mime who can't drink wine, and Steve the Newfoundlander who's had his sodomy taken away by the new Prime Minister. The boys eventually get to Ottawa on time and meet the new PM who turns out to be Saddam Hussain. All his new laws are null and void and kyle gets Ike back, but not before missing Christmas. Cartman challenges Kyle to a fist fight and gets his nose broken.

9. Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy (Season 10): Season 10 had so many great episodes. In this one, the kindergarten teacher Ms Stephenson is having an ilicit relationship with Kyle's toddler brother Ike. Meanwhile, Cartman gets a job as hall monitor, where he takes up the persona of Dog the Bounty Hunter. Dawg Cartman isn't taking crap from anyone in his hallways. He eventually catches Ike and Ms Stephenson's affair and teams up with Kyle (Jew) to split them up. Cartman has a crack team of Beth (his bitch, a female Cartman with huge breasts covering her face), Earl (Dawg's redneck driver) and Leroy (Dawg's assistant). Armed with bear mace, Dawg Cartman races to hunt Ms Stephens down before they can fly off to Milan. (Which Ike mistakes for Mulan, a Disney cartoon) In the end, Ike learns that there are plenty of fish in the sea. The episode parodies how hot woman teachers have gotten off charges of having sex with minors while ugly ones or men haven't. "Nice".

8. Cartman Joins NAMBLA (Season 4): Many people don't realize that the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) is a real group. Cartman decides that Stan, Kyle, and Kenny aren't mature enough for him so he decides to find older friends. He gets on chat rooms for "older men who like young boys" and gets propositioned by several perverts, including Mr Garison who's shocked to find he's been coming on to Cartman. Cartman talks to Mafesto because he wants to clone older friends and Mafesto tells him to try NAMBLA, a group that would be perfect for him. Cartman goes to the meeting and quickly becomes the poster boy for the dirty old men. They send him off to recruit more young boys. When the Mafesto catches wind of this, he finds out that Cartman went to the wrong NAMBLA. Mafesto had originally directed him to the National Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes. Cartman and the boys are trapped in a hotel with the men who want to have sex with them, and they need to escape fast. Cartman suggests that in all fairness, Butters should be offered to "take one for the team" since the old men will leave once they have sex with one boy. The sub plot of the episode involves Kenny's parents trying to have another baby, which Kenny is desperate to stop. We find out where the replacement Kennys keep coming from each time Kenny dies.

7. The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers (Season 6): The boys have just watched Lord of the Rings and are playing as their favourite characters when they are given a quest: return the video to the video store. Randy and Sharon are about to watch a porno when they discover they've given the boys the wrong video. The video, Backdoor Sluts 9, becomes the One Video for the boys. Butters manages to get a hold of the porn, and becomes obsessed with it; becoming a Gollum like creature. The boys take the video to Token's house to decide what to do with it. Token volunteers to watch the video to observe its evil power. When finished, he declares he's not playing anymore. The parents eventually catch up to Token and try to explain to him what he saw. (Backdoor Sluts 9 apparently has DP and scatological scenes.) On the way to the store, the boys meet up with the 6th graders who want the porn for themselves. Butters follows them from the shadows and the parents race to get the tape back. A great send up of Lord of the Rings, it's one of those great episodes of the boys just being boys.

6. Casa Bonita (Season 7): Casa Bonita is a real restaurant in Colorado and according to Matt and Trey is pretty much exactly how it's depicted in this episode. It's like a Mexican Chucky Cheese. Kyle is going there on his birthday and doesn't invite Cartman. Of course he's upset by that since Casa Bonita is his favourite restaurant. Kyle says he's going with Butters instead, but caves and says if Butters can't go, then maybe Cartman can take his place. Of course Cartman will do anything to go. He tells Butters there's an asteroid coming to hit South Park and the only way he can survive is if he hides in Jimbo's bomb shelter. Cartman has to keep Butters hidden for seven days but runs into problems when his parents notice Butters missing. This episode is hilarious because it's just pure Cartman and is another great example that shows how far he'll go to get his way.

5. Tsst (Season 10): Another Cartman episode, his mother is distraught by his bad behaviour. Mr Macky suggests she try Nanny 911 and other nanny reality shows to put Cartman on the strait and narrow. Cartman uses his Hanibal Lecter psychology to piss the first nanny off because she bogarted his Xbox. The next nanny claims she can straiten any kid when others fail, but she is driven insane by Cartman's antics. At a loss, Lianne is told to try Caesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer. He tells Lianne that she has to be dominant over her son. She does this by treating him like a dog and pinching him on the neck. Cartman of course doesn't like being treated like an animal but soon discovers the treatment is actually working. He's listening to his mom and he doesn't like it one bit. Cartman resolves to have his Mom killed. It involved having Kenny on lookout, Stan covering her with a pillow, and Kyle shooting her in the face, with Token being framed for the crime. Of course Cartman can't do it himself because he's too obvious a suspect. The boys refuse to play along. He eventually decides to go it alone by stabbing her but goes through a whole Altered States thing as his evil side and his new good side conflict. He eventually wakes up as a good kid but is put back on the the bad track when his mom starts spoiling him again. This episode is great because it explains why Cartman is the way he is.

4. Trapped in the Closet (Season 9): Stan takes a personality test and soon turns into the reincarnation of Scientology's L Ron Hubbard. (Hubbard was a sci-fi writer the founder of Scientology. It was created to "make money" apparently.) He finds his new fame difficult to deal with. Tom Cruise comes to meet him and Stan tells him he's not a good actor. Tom promptly locks himself in Stan's closet. First Nicole Kidman tries to get him out with no luck. Then John Travolta tries but locks himself in the closet too. Finally, R Kelly tries and gets locked in the closet with them. In the mean time, Stan is trying to write new scriptures for Scientology and learns the religion's terrible secret. He decides to make it free for everyone. In response, the group threatens to sue him, in England. (A poke at Scientology's litigatious nature) This episode is a hilarious sent up of the Scientology controversy, and for that reason it has become one of the most controversial South Park episodes. It is believed this is why Isacc Hayes left the show, since he is a Scientologist. (Other reports point to him suffering a medical problem as the real reason) It also pokes fun at the rumors that Cruise and Travolta are gay, and thus in the closet about it.

3. Cartoon Wars (Season 10): Family Guy is going to show Muhammad, uncensored, on national TV. Muslims around the globe are threatening to launch a massive terror attack if the FOX network doesn't censor the image. Cartman decides he can't let this happen and vows to go to Los Angeles to get the episoded pulled. Kyle comes with him after having nightmares about getting nuked. While riding on their big wheels to LA, Cartman tells Kyle the real meat of his plan. Get one episode pulled, then another group can demand to get another episode pulled, and so on so the show gets canceled. He hates Family Guy. Cartman is sick of having it's humor compared to his and wants it of the air for good. Kyle, who likes the show, must race to LA to stop Cartman before he can do it. While in LA, we learn that Family guy is written by Manatees who put jokes together with idea balls. Take one ball out of the tank and they stop working. Cartman recruits Bart Simpson (just referred to as "Kid") to help him with his plan. The episode ends with a an epic showdown between Kyle and Cartman. In the end, Muhammad is aired uncensored, but Comedy Central pusses out and doesn't show him. This episode obviously take a lot of pokes at Family Guy for being a ripoff of the Simpsons and South Park. However, it's underlying theme was how American media treated the Danish Mohammed Cartoon controversy. Mohammad was shown on South Park uncensored in Super Best Friends, where he is depicted as a super hero.

2. Scott Tenorman Must Die (Season 5): Cartman buys pubes (pubic hair) off eigth grader Scott Tenorman for $10. He reasons that simple having pubes makes him a man. The boys tell him that Scott ripped him off so Cartman goes to get his $10 back. In the process of his crazy schemes to get the money back (including pretending to be an IRS agent collecting a Pubes tax), Cartman ends up losing an additonal $6.12. When he finds out he's been had, Scott makes him grovel by making him sing "I'm a little piggie", which Scott later airs a video of on TV. An irate Cartman gathers the fourth graders to get back at Scott since "he may take our lives, but he'll never take my GOD DAMN $16.12!" The boys don't play along so Cartman is on his own. He decides to train a pony to bite off Scott's wiener in front of his favourite band Radiohead. When the boys tip off Scott, Cartman changes his plan, he'll set up a fake Chili Con Carnival. Scott tells his parents that Farmer Denkins is abusing the pony. Cartman in turn tells Denkins there are dangerous pony rustlers in the area. Scott takes the pubes from every kid in town and puts them in his chili. Cartman makes his own special recipe. At the carnival, Cartman and Scott have a chili tasting contest. Unbeknownst to Scott, Cartman switched the pube chili with Chef's. He then informs Scott that his parents were shot on sight by Denkins. Cartman made off with the bodies and spent the night with a hacksaw to be ready for his Chilli Con Carnival. Cartman informs Scott that he's been eating his own parents. Scott bursts into tears, and Radiohead labels him as a cry baby. This episode is great because it marks Cartman's transition form being just an asshole to the most evil kid in the world. All that for $16.12. The boys learn that it's wise never to piss Cartman off.

1. Imagination Land (Season 12): A brilliant three story arc which sees the boys transported into the imagination, which is promptly attacked by terrorists who unleash the imprisoned evil imaginary characters. The episode begins with Kyle making a bet with Cartman that there is no such thing as leprechauns. The prize if Carman wins? Kyle has to literally suck his balls. Cartman eventually finds the leprechaun and shows it to Kyle, who tries to weasel out of the bet. Cartman eventually gets a court order forcing Kyle to do it. In the mean time, Butters gets stuck in Imagination Land trying to flee from the evil imaginary characters, including Al Gore's ManBearPig (a reference to global warming) and Cartman's satanic Christmas Critters. Jason Vorhees notes that he wouldn't want to meet the twisted kid for dreamt up the Critters. (The Critters were made up by Cartman back in Season 8's Woodland Critter Christmas to demonize Kyle.) While meeting with characters such as Aslan, Popeye, Glinda, and Luke Skywalker (the rulers of Imagination Land), Butters learns he has a special power to create and change things in Imagination Land. He uses this power to help the good characters fight the evil ones. Stan and Kyle go to rescue Butters while Cartman tries to hunt Kyle down and force him to suck his balls. In the end, Cartman uses Butters' power to make an imaginary Kyle suck an imaginary Cartman's balls. According to Cartman, Kyle is a "dirty girl". This episode is great on so many levels. It pokes at how our post-9/11 society has lost it's imagination, it pokes fun at Al Gore and global warming, and it's yet another example of how far Cartman will go to get his way.

Five Worst Episodes
5. Pip (Season 4): This episode is a very loose retelling of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, starring Pip Purrup, who is the main character from the book. Pip has been in past South Park episodes as the third grade's British kid. The episode features (part live action) and is narrated by Malcom McDowell, who played Alex in A Clockwork Orange. He simply identifies himself as "A British Person". The episode is considered too esoteric and is not shown often on Comedy Central in the US due to it being unpopular with the fans. The Comedy Network in Canada runs every episode from the beginning to the end so it is shown more frequently here. It doesn't feature any of the boys or any other South Park characters except Pip. It's not really that bad an episode but I can see how some would find it too off beat for South Park. Pip seems to have disappeared from the show since "Professor Chaos" with the exception of being used as a non-speaking background character. He has not been seen at all since "D-Yikes".

4. Mr Garison's Fancy New Vagina (Season 9): Garison is the ultimate perv. He's been strait, gay, a zoophile, a pedophile, and tried to engage in incest with his own Dad. (Though he ended up having sex with Kenny G instead, thinking it was his dad) Now he decides he wants to be transgendered and gets a sex change operation to become a woman. The doctor also gives Kyle a "negroplasty" to make him black and therefore better at basket ball. He uses Garison's balls for knee implants. Gerald is turned into a dolphin using Garison's scrotum to make the dorsal fin. When finding out he can't menstruate, Garison decides he's not a full woman and wants to be changed back. His balls are eventually destroyed when kyle lands hard and crushes them. Garison in the end decides to keep being a "woman" for the time being. I never liked the idea of Garison as a woman. He's a lot funnier as a guy. Thank god they changed him back in "Eek, a Penis".

3. Woodland Critter Christmas (Season 8): A Christmas story staring Stan who's encountered some cute woodland critters while walking through the forest. At first appearing to be a retelling of the birth of Jesus, Stan learns that one of the critters is about to give birth to the spawn of Satan. In celebration, the critters have a blood orgy. During the episode, Kyle craves the evil power and is possessed by the devil spawn before the satanic fetus can be aborted from him by a group of mountain lion cubs. In the end, Kyle dies of AIDS. (He almost really did in Tonsil Trouble, which also could have made this list.) The whole episode turns out to be a story written by Cartman for a class presentation. Critter Christmas is one of the weakest Christmas episodes. It's a gorey and horrifying episode even for South Park, but also it's just not very entertaining or laugh out loud funny either. This episode clearly suggests that Cartman might be mentally ill, which has been hinted at before but in much funnier ways.

2. Lice Capades (Season 11): Clyde has lice and he doesn't want anybody to know. That would have been a great premise had they not followed the lice's point of view. The whole point of the episode seems to be we should not abuse our environment, though Matt and Trey have mocked the environmental movement in the past several times. (Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow, ManBearPig) This episode has it's moments but it's just too bizarre and corny, even for South Park, though the last scene with them settling in Angelina Jolee's pubic hair was funny. (It's rumored Angelina doesn't like to be touched, therefore her pubic hair would he a safe haven.)

1. A Million Little Fibers (Season 10): Both Matt and Trey have admitted this is a weak episode. It pokes fun at the Million Little Pieces controversy on Oprah. (An issue that's really difficult to parody since it was basically just a guy claiming a work of fiction he wrote was his real life story.) The episode features Towlie McTowel who has written a book about his life. (Towlie is an anthropomorphic beach towel who likes to get high on marijuana. Last seen in the episode "Towlie", I always though of him as a weak character) He pretends to be a human since towels can't get books published, and hence there is controversy when Oprah finds out he's really a towel. In the mean time Oprah's vagina Mingy decides to hold a coup with her anus Gary due to both having a lack of attention from their owner. The episode doesn't feature the boys at all and the story is weak, making it the worst South Park episode yet.

Top 10 Best and 5 Worst Simpsons Episodes

By Mike on 4:59 pm

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Celebrating some great TV during the pre-E3 doldrums, I'm going to count down the best and worst episodes. Today, it's the Simpsons. The show will be entering it's 20th season so it's really hard to pick just 10 favourites when there are so many gems. Of course this list is subjective so rather than criticize my picks, why not list your own.

Ten Best Simpsons Episodes
10. The Way We Was (Season 2): Way back in the 1970s, Homer meets Marge in high school. He instantly falls in love with her. However, it's unrequited. Homer tries to get the girl but Marge refuses his advances. She goes to the prom with somebody else. But, her nerdy date Artie Ziff is less than a gentleman. In the end, Marge and Homer realize they were meant to be together.

A heart warming episode with great character development. The early episodes portrayed Homer and Marge as real people. It's a sharp contrast to the implausible caricatures of modern society they are today. The songs in this episode were brilliant. It introduces Homer & Marger's "song" as being Close to You, sung by the Carpenters. I'm man enough to admit it's one of the few songs that makes me tear up.

9. Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6): "No reading my mind between 4 and 5, that's Willy's TIME!" The Halloween specials have been an annual hallmark for the Simpsons. The specials aren't canon and place our favourite family in some pretty bizzare situations. The earlier specials were mostly sendups of old horror movies and TV shows like Night Gallery and the Twilight Zone.

Treehouse of Horror V sees plays on the Shining, Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Time Machine, and Soylent Green. In Homer's time travel caper, he unfortunately misses out on a paradise world where he's rich, drives a Lexus, has well behaved kids, Patty and Selma are dead, and it rains doughnuts. In the Shinning, we find out what it really takes to drive Homer to kill. "No TV and no beer make Homer something something..." Willy gets an ax in the back not once, not twice, but thrice. James Earl Jones was this episode's special guest. "This is indeed a disturbing universe." Also, who couldn't find Ned Fanders as the unquestioned, Big Brother ruler of the world hilarious?

8. Homer's Phobia (Season 8): Homer's new friend (voiced by John Waters) loves 1950s camp but there's just something odd about him. He's a ho ... mo ... SEXUAL! Homer has a case of homophobia and fear's John's gayness is rubbing off on Bart. Zaaap.

Homer tires to man up his son my taking him to a cigarette billboard featuring two scantily clad women (ironically for women's cigarettes), a (gay) steel mill, and deer hunting. Homer and Bart almost get gored at Santa's Village by angry reindeer, but are saved by John and his robotic Japanese Santa at the last minute. John thinks they'd naturally be afraid of their cruel master. Homer is thankful for being saved and develops a new appreciation for gays. He's determined to love Bart no matter what he turns out to be. This episode also has a hilarious scene where Smithers encounters John. The two are apparently close. And you thought he was just a Burnssexual.

7. You Only Move Twice (Season 8): Homer gets an executive job at Globex Corporation in Cyprus Creek, which is upstate somewhere. The whole family gets moved to the new town which makes Springfield truly look like America's crud bucket. The president of Globex, Mr Scorpio seems like the perfect boss, but he's hiding a terrible secret. Bart meanwhile gets put in remedial classes (I moved here from Can...ah...duh and they think I'm a little slow ..... eh), Lisa finds she's allergic to everything in town, and a bored Marge turns to drinking. (A glass of wine a day, she can't drink as much as the doctor recommended glass and a half) Scorpio turns out to be a Bond-esque super villain who threatens the UN and has aspirations of world domination. Globex is just a front to develop doomsday weapons. Homer ends up accidentally getting "loafer" James Bont killed and leaves just before Scorpio unleashes his weapon. His boss takes over the entire east coast and gives Homer the Denver Broncos as a parting gift. Homer had originally wanted to own the Dallas Cowboys and is disappointed with the fumbling Broncos. Ironically the team won the Super Bowl the following year. (Presumably Homer still owns the Broncos, which would explain why he's spent so little time working at the power plant in recent seasons without financial penalty.) A great performance by Albert Brooks as Scorpio.

6. The City of New York vs Homer Simpson (Season 9): This episode has not been shown much since 9/11 due to it prominently featuring the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. After a drinking binge, Barney borrows Homer's car and ends up getting it lost in New York City. The family is excited to go to the Big Apple to retrieve it but Homer isn't. During the 1970s while visiting the city, Homer had garbage dumped on him by Woody Allen, was robbed by a cop, and attacked by pimps and CHUDs. (Canaballistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, from the 1984 horror B-movie of the same name.) The family goes off to have a wonderful day while Homer finds the car at the WTC, with a boot on it. Angered by having to wait, Homer tries to drive the car with the boot on and eventually goes on an angry rampage through the city. The "Checkin In" Broadway show scene was brilliant.

5. Cape Feare (Season 5) : Somebody has been sending Bart threatening letters written in blood. The FBI places the Simpsons in the witness protection program until the perpetrator can be caught. Of course it turns out to be Sideshow Bob, who follows the family to their new house boat at Terror Lake. "Surprise boy in bed, slit his throat, and then disembowel him. No, no, I don't like that bowel in there. GUT him!" With the family tied up and nowhere to run, Bart distracts Bob by making him sing the entire score of the HMS Pinafore, which Bob just happens to know off by heart. The house boat eventually drifts down river back to Springfield where a bathrobe clad Chief Wiggum, who had been visiting a near by brothel (for law enforcement purposes surely), promptly arrests Bob. "Bake em away toys". This episode contains a lot of classic gags from Bob stepping on the rakes, Homer scaring Bart in bed, and the family driving through a cactus patch with a very exposed Bob strapped to the underside of the car. It's arguably Bob's (and Kelsey Grammer's) best appearance on the show. In recent years, Bob has devloved to being another baffoon rather than the cultured, evil genius he originally was.

4. Homer's Barbershop Quartet (Season 5): In the Summer of 1985, Homer, Skinner, Apu, Barney and (formally) Wiggum form a Barbershop Quartet. The group rises to fame, even winning a Grammy (beating out one trick pony Dexy's Midnight Runners), before crashing down hard and returning to their old lives. This episode perfectly lampoons the rise and fall of the Beatles. From Barney replacing Wiggum (Ringo replacing Pete Best), Moe's Cavern (the Cavern Club in Liverpool), Apu changing his name (Richard Starky became Ringo Starr), Bigger than Jesus, Barney's new girlfriend the Japanese conceptual artists (Lennon and Ono), and the rooftop farewell concert ("It's been done"). The episode features the voice talent of David Crosby ("you're a musician?!" Barny quips, linking himself to Crosby's similar alcohol abuse) , George Harrison (who directs Homer to some brownies), and the Dapper Dans. Every Beatle except for John Lennon has appeared on the Simpsons. John of course was murdered in the early 80s, long before the show premiered.

3. El viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (Season 8): On their way to the Springfield chili cook off, Homer promises Marge he won't get drunk this time. At the cook off, Wiggum feeds Homer a chili made from super hot peppers grown at a Guatemalan insane asylum. Homer then goes on a capsicum induced "bad trip" into a mysterious desert world inspired by Native American mysticism and the works of author Carlos Castaneda. There he meets his spirit guide, a fox voiced by Johnny Cash, who tells him to find his soul mate. Homer tells the fox it's Marge. "Is it?" the fox replies and disappears. Homer then wakes up on a golf course and tries to reason what he's just been through. Marge, believing that Homer got drunk was the reason he didn't come home that night, refuses to speak to him. Thinking that what the fox said might be true, Homer goes on a spiritual journey around Springfield to find his real soul mate. By the end, it turns out it he and Marge do share a profound mystical bond after all. This episode is a good follow up to the previously mentioned "The Way We Was", showing how dedicated the two are to each other. It's another heart warming episode that also makes you think, even if it contains less overt gags than other episodes. Homer answering the GBM (read "gay black male") personal ad scene though was hilarious.

2. Round Springfield (Season 6): Bart accidentally eats a jagged metal "O" that was put as the "prize" in his Krusty-Os cereal. Bart begins having severe stomach aches, however, nobody but Lisa believes him. He spends the day in agony before Krabapple decides (after letting him suffer a little longer) to send him to the nurse. Bart's appendix is about to burst and he needs emergency surgery. While visiting Bart in the hospital, Lisa meets Bleeding Gums Murphy there, a sax player and her personal idol. Murphy tells her his life story. On her next visit, Lisa finds that Murphy had been very ill and had died the night before. Distraught, Lisa goes out to share the obscure jazz man's greatness with the world. In the mean time, Bart sues Krusty for $100,000 and wins. After being bamboozled by his lawyers, Bart gets to keep just $500, leaving him delighted. Lisa goes to Comic Book Guy to buy Murphy's only album "Sax on the Beach". On finding out that Murphy was dead, CBG doubles the price from $250 to $500, which Lisa can't afford. Bart, eager to spend his $500 is show by CBG the "ultimate pog", featuring the likeness of former Tonight Show host Steve Allen. (Allen was the first host of NBC's The Tonight Show way back in the 1950s before before being succeeded by Jack Par and later the famous Johnny Carson. Allen died in 2000.) Seeing Lisa sad, Bart decides to buy Murphy's album for his sister, noting that when he said he was sick, Lisa was the only one who believed him. Lisa takes the album to a local jazz station but finds its range is only limited to just outside the building. The soul of Bleeding Gums appears and boosts the power of the station so the whole town can hear the album. The two then share one final jam session. Another soul searching episode with a warm ending.

1. Bart Sells His Soul (Season 7): Bart is convinced a soul is just something made up by adults to scare kids so he sells it (in the form of "Bart's Soul" written on a piece of paper) to Milhouse for $5. Bart soon discovers that something may actually be missing. His dog turns on him, the doors at the Quick-E-Mart won't open for him, and he doesn't find things funny anymore. Bart goes out onto the nighttime streets of Springfield to attempt to get his soul back from Milhouse. Milhouse has apparently sold it to Comic Book Guy for Alf pogs. (Pogs was a game played with paper milk bottle caps that was popular in the mid 1990s. I still have mine. Alf was a family sitcom in the late 80s staring a lovable alien who liked to eat cats.) When Bart goes to the comic store, CBG says he sold the soul to someone who was very interested in that kind of thing. Bart is lost and prays to god for his soul back. He is surprised when it magically flutters from above into his hands. Lisa had bought and returned his soul. Bart learns that a soul is something to be earned through hardship and struggle.

Five Worst Episodes
5. How I spent my Strummer Vacation (Season 14): Homer and his buddies go to a rock and roll fantasy camp hosted by the Rolling Stones. I love classic rock but you'd think a show with Mick and the boys would be a lot more fun. High on celebrity value but a dumb episode overall. Not a heck of a lot of difference between this episode and the earlier Homerpalooze, which also wasn't that good in my opinion. The Simpsons has come to rely too heavily on celebrity guest voices.

4. Today I am a Clown (Season 15): Krusty finds out he never had a bar mitzvah and therefore isn't a man. Given his strenuous relationship with his father, as seen in Season 3's "Like Father, Like Clown", this doesn't seem like that much of a stretch. However, he did attend Yashiva school and his father was a Rabbi. He hadn't spoken with his father in 25 years, but since he is shown to be middle aged or older in the series, its unlikely he didn't have a bar mitzvah. Not much to say other than the Krusty as a Jew thing has already been done to death. The Mr T scene with the menorah wheel makes me cringe it's so dumb.

3. Bart-Mangled Banner (Season 15): Bart accidentally moons the American flag and is imprisoned in Alcatraz by patriotic Springfielders along with the rest of the family for anti-Americanism. Other internees at the prison are the Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore, Elmo, and Bill Clinton. A poke at conservatism and patriotism around the time the Iraq war started. However, this episode was poorly executed and unfunny in a media environment that excessively takes shots at the right wing. Season 6's "Sideshow Bob Roberts" did something similar but was way wittier and funnier than this episode. This feels more like a recent episode of Family Guy. Just mentally replace Bart and the Family with Stewie and Brian next time you watch it and you'll see what I mean. This episode isn't shown often in syndication, not here at least.

2. That 90s Show (Season 19): Homer and Marge split in the 90s while dating. A broken down Homer becomes a grunge rocker. Throws out about 10 years worth of the series and all established character history. The Simpsons is known for bending the timeline but this episode doesn't make sense.

1. All About Lisa (Season 19): Lisa gets a job working as Krusty's assistant, only to later appear in his show. She later learns that being famous is not all it's cracked up to be. The episode was a carbon copy of Season 5's "Bart Gets Famous" but it was not funny with Lisa as the star. This garners the worst simply because it is a direct copy, showing the current writing staff has either no imagination or is not familiar with the show's history. Granted it does get harder to write totally original plots after 400 episodes but this was just pathetic. As a mid-season filler episode they might have gotten away with it, but not as the fanale.