Sunday, October 11, 2015

Retro Game Review: NHL Breakaway 98

My friends, welcome to the first of several trips down memory lane. Today we visit Nintendo 64 Land to have a look at one of my favorite games on the console: NHL Breakaway 98.

I got this game for my birthday when it was new. The fact that I still play it 17 years later should give you an idea of how much fun it is for me.

It does help that this was a time when I was following hockey pretty closely, so I knew who a good number of the players were. It also may explain why this was one of the last NHL games I could really enjoy.

That aside, this game could still be fun for casual fans. The gameplay is very easy for even moms and dads (and sisters) to pick up quickly. Though there might be some "advanced" techniques to master, the old skate-pass-shoot scheme can usually get you through a few shootouts or practices (and exhibitions with a bit of luck). Though you should incorporate some turbo if you want to be successful in more advanced modes.

Speaking of modes, there are several that really add to the replay value of the game. There are of course the "normal" choices: Exhibition, Season, and Playoffs (I'll dig a bit into the Season mode shortly). But there are a few others I want to highlight:


While not an expansive mode, it does offer a little break from the norm. Plus, the shootout is pretty popular (or at least it was at this time) in the sport. Each team gets 5 shots, alternating after each one, and working from defenseman up to center. You start with the puck at center ice and get 15 seconds per shot. If there is no winner, you cycle through your line (Scoring 1) until someone breaks the tie.


Become king of the world! Choose one of these countries and assert your dominance:

  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Russia
  • Slovakia
  • Sweden
  • USA (#1)

In regular playoffs, choose an NHL team to run through the bracket.

In both modes, you can set the length of each series, customize the playoff tree, and set the standard in-game options (difficulty, line changes, goalie control, penalties, etc.) before you get rolling.


The mode my brother, Bill, and I played the most. The best part about this is that you can adjust the number of players for each team. You can play a full 6-on-6, or a simple 2-on-2 (goalies included). Also the game counts it as a check when you "accidentally" plow into your teammate - so fun!

And I have saved the mode I play most for last: SEASON

You can play a 25, random 41, random 82, or the regular 97-98 NHL game schedule. Exclusive to this mode are Breakaway Bonus Points. You earn these in-game and spend them on hiring staff, healing injured players, drafting/training prospects (aka creating players), and the Team Event - a pregame newsletter.

On hiring and firing coaches, each one improves a specific area of your team (the conditioning coach gives your players an endurance boost, for example). There are several types of coaches and you can hire and fire at will throughout the year, as long as you have enough points.

After the season ends, you can view the awards for the year and playoff statistics before beginning the quest for a repeat.

The graphics are not spectacular by today's standards, but they are still passable. And they were good at the time, especially considering Acclaim did the game.

My favorite feature is the glow/fire puck, partly because it makes games easier to follow. Although the players do look a bit clunky (if that's even the right word) at times, I love the goal celebrations. Players do backflips while the opponents flail on the ice, and the goalie slams his stick in disappointment. This is even more satisfying when you score often against a friend or older brother. Some people - nerds - whined about the flat crowd, and to them I say: it was 1998. Would a 3-D crowd have been nice? Maybe, but not having one doesn't ruin the experience for me one bit.

The sound in this game puts it over the top. I love the background music right from the beginning, and the menu themes get me pumped to play. The sounds on the ice are legit: from the checking to the skate-stopping to the puck hitting the post (such a heartbreaking noise!). The grunting while using turbo, coupled with the big hit smash of a power check really add to the intensity of the games. And, a personal favorite, the PA guy making announcements through the course of the game is a nice touch. I hope that lost child finds his parents soon.

To summarize, I still love this game. The diversity of game modes, the authentic sounds and sweet background tunes, and the ease of play all add up to always having a fun time even after all these years. If you have this game and a working N64, dust it off and play a quick Exhibition. I promise you will have fun. If you don't have this game, come play a few rounds with me! It'll be great!

FINAL RATING: 10 Eric Lindros concussions out of 10, would definitely recommend to a friend. (He seriously gets one in every season I play with the Flyers, it's a bit ridiculous.)

You will definitely see this game again when (if?) I finish my Top 25 N64 games list. Until then, or until next time, don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Internet and "Outrage Culture"

"Outrage culture."

I have no idea where this term came from, but I like it. And I also hate it.

I like it because it aptly describes the state of social media. I hate it because well, it so aptly describes the state of social media.

Is "social media" too broad a term? Maybe, but go with it until I come back and edit in a better one. A lot of people are so quick to lose themselves over whatever happens to be trending, that they end up looking foolish in the process. My first thought is that they want to seem "in the know" about the issues, so they skim some headlines and parrot them to impress their friends.

The issue, or at least one of the issues, that comes up with this is one that plagues many Facebookers: these people seemingly don't read the stories that have them so upset (I hope none of them are in the journalism field). They take a headline, or just part of it, and go off about how the issue is "unconstitutional" or "immoral." Oftentimes they have half the story and completely miss, or willfully ignore, the other half. And forget about trying to explain it. They are more stubborn than I am about not getting a cat.

It can make for some entertaining reading at lunchtime, but mostly it makes me wonder if there should be some kind of test before some people should be allowed to post online.

Let me give a recent example of what I mean - I was going to go with three, but I dealt with backlash on Planned Parenthood stuff already so I won't address that again. And the Kim Davis story will lead me into a diatribe on crazy religious people, and I don't want this blog to be that deep.

That example is this "TROPHY" shirt that Target debuted a few months ago:

Some took this image and blasted Target for being sexist, because there was no similar shirt for men on shelves (my guess: "PROVIDER"). Others took it as the store sending the wrong message to women, that being an "object" or a "prize to be won" is not how they should be viewed. No matter which side they took, people were adamant that the shirt should not be sold. A woman even started a petition to have the shirt removed, saying it "perpetuates rape culture." I wish I was kidding about that. I also wish I hadn't read most of those Facebook comments, but I suppose I'll never learn.

These people clearly have no sense of humor, or were not smart enough to "get" the shirt.

I can say that with some confidence, as everyone I spoke to about the shirt - men and women - found it funny. And Target came out and said the shirt was meant to be funny, so there's that. Also my wife, who is a female person, wants to have this shirt. That is why she wins. (Of course, my local Target doesn't have the shirt in stock.)

In this case, people didn't take part of a headline to jump on their soapboxes. They merely formed super serious, even obscene, opinions about a t-shirt that doesn't even have a dirty word on it. Only in America, my friends!

If you find yourself in the situation many others do, where you are upset about information on the internet, take a lesson from our pal, Tim:

I know, a meme. Really, Pat? Yes, really. It is an easy and effective way to wrap up before I go off on another tangent. Plus, who doesn't love pictures? Wait, maybe I shouldn't have asked...

Thanks for coming to the table, my friend! Come back next time for more of the same, or something completely different!

Crap open a cold one!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Melting Pat on Next Level Radio Episode 1 Now Available!

Hey friend!

I know I still need to blog this week, and I will do that tomorrow. But I wanted to take a moment to let you know that the first episode of my new podcast is now available for your listening pleasure!

I told a retail story, previewed FOOTBALL and rasslin (took full advantage of no longer having a time limit, by the way), ranted about kids on leashes, and got excited about some Fall TV shows! I also threw in a fun fact to tickle your brain cells! Woooooo!

Click the link to give a listen to The Melting Pat Next Level Episode 1: Grab Your ID Already, That Kid's on a Leash!

Thanks for the support! High fives for all!

Crap open a cold one!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Public Transit Adventures Part 2: A Tale of Two Seats

Hello, friend!

This week, I want to take you back into the world of Philadelphia public transit. We talked about the panhandler, and we'll visit the salesman down the line, but today I want to highlight a special kind of jerk: the double-seater.

Now, I will exclude those who are "larger than life" as they cannot immediately remedy the situation. I am instead going to focus on those who decide that purses, suitcases, food, and/or their feet paid to have a seat. So join me as I take you inside the bus with one, or several, of these upstanding citizens.

It's 5pm, Friday afternoon. You finished a tough work week and just want to get home and play video games sans pants. Not an outlandish request, you think to yourself. You arrive at the bus stop, just under 20 minutes from home now. The bus is filling. You just hope you can at least get on so you don't have to wait for another one.

As luck would have it, you step up to board and pay your fare. For a moment, you see that wonderful empty seat. There are other passengers standing, but they haven't noticed so you make your way toward it. As you draw near, excusing yourself by the dudes on their phones barely paying attention, a travesty occurs.

The joker in the seat next to yours decides his backpack is more deserving.

You sigh in disappointment and squeeze back to an empty space to stand. As luck would have it, that spot is next to the offender. Feeling brazen, you get his attention and ask him to move his bag. At first, he pretends not to hear you as he is buried in his fancy gadget. The ride begins and you ask again. This time, he notices your plea and does what has become standard: rolls his eyes and goes back to his gadget.

You ride isn't a long one, so you choose not to press the issue further. Soon your pants-less gaming will begin and this nonsense will be behind you.

But as you get off the bus and start to walk home, you wonder: why has this behavior become so common, or even standard? Why, when there are elderly folk, pregnant women, or even people like you forced to stand next to a seat with a bag on it?

Since you have video gaming to do, I'll step in and jump on the soapbox.

It has become "okay" for people to be inconsiderate, and that is crap. If you're on a full bus, take a second to think of someone else. The man with the cane or the pregnant woman struggling to hold on are absolutely more deserving of the seat than your backpack.

It really isn't hard to do. Move your bag to your lap and offer the seat. You are inconvenienced for maybe half an hour, and it's really not an inconvenience at all.. You can still play on your fancy gadget. You don't have to become best friends with the person next to you, you don't even have to talk to him or her. All you need to do is go against the "norm" (unreal) and not force someone to stand.

Before I start rambling and possibly using some dirty words, I'll leave you with this: drop this "all about me" nonsense and be a decent person. Elderly men and women and pregnant women should always be given seats, especially if those seats are unoccupied. Move your bag, your food, or your feet and give me some hope for the future already.

Okay, that's out of my system, so I will bid you farewell until next week. Don't forget that my first podcast will be up on Next Level Radio (link is to the right) on September 19!

Crap open a cold one!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Party 934: Where's My Jacket? It's Time to Go

Tomorrow I will host my final radio show on the station I've called home since June of 2011: Party 934. My time there has been a rollercoaster ride for sure, but I have enjoyed being a mixologist and I have definitely learned from the experience.

When I started the show, after my brother Bill found their ad on craigslist, I had only a rough idea for the premise. The Melting Pat had been around for a year at that point, but only as a failed podcast and a neglected blog. I knew I wanted to incorporate a lot of elements from my college radio shows, and bring a different flavor to the menu. That's why I jumped at the name suggested by my good friend, Tim, a former WDSR co-host of mine.

I knew I wanted to play sweet tunes. I knew I wanted to talk about sports. I knew I wanted to talk about wrestling (sorry, Mom). I knew I wanted to share my retail stories. Beyond that, I didn't have much. I figured the stories and recaps would be enough, and that the show would kind of structure itself. After all, this was already the most prep I'd put into anything radio-related, and I had been doing it for two plus years. I figured I was good to go.

I learned rather quickly that I was not nearly as ready as I thought.

Many of my early shows were, to be frank, awkward. Some of them came off like I was unprepared, which was not true. I think my biggest issue was, and still might be occasionally, timing. I was not used to hosting a show by myself. The sports, wrestling, and talk shows I had done were with one or more co-hosts. I was able to play off them and [almost] hide my flaws. We had our plan for the show and adjusted as it went. As a solo act, I had a lot more adjusting to do.

One part of the process I am grateful for, even though they seemed harsh sometimes, was peer reviews. The station had consultants (real world radio people, the MAN, other mixologists) who would listen to shows and critique them. Partly to make sure we were saying all the things we needed to say - station ID, social networks, podcasts - and partly to let us know if we were putting out a good product. The feedback I received from these reviews was incredibly valuable, and I used the input to drastically improve the show.

A bigger, and more important, piece of the puzzle came from THE MAN. He allowed me to change my timeslot as my schedule(/life) changed...twice. After 21 episodes, he expressed concern that I had been prerecording too many shows because I had to work. This was an issue because Party 934 brands itself as a live station. He could have dismissed me right then. But he instead offered me a different day and time, one I would stay on for more than a year. And, when I took my big boy job and needed to swap, there he was again. I am so happy he was willing and able to do that, because this show has been very fun and rewarding for me. I am glad he saw my passion and allowed me to keep going.

I am going to do this on the show tomorrow, but it would be unfair of me to reflect on the show and not show my wonderful fans some love. I mentioned my brother, Bill up there, but here he is again. Without him showing me the ad, this show likely never exists outside of the aforementioned podcast. We originally planned to do the show together, but that fell through and The Melting Pat was reborn. Thanks for giving me the heads up, and for all the topic and song ideas (TRL Queens #1) over the years. Log this.

She may be miffed about not being first, but my Mom was vital to the success of the show. She let me use her internet, her attic, and her old computer after mine from college crashed. She also got me a neat doohickey so I could use my fancy headset. She also transported me with all my stuff when I spent weekends at her house so I could do the show from there. Add to that how she always shared my Facebook posts to spread the word, and you get why she warrants a paragraph! Love you, Mom!

Speaking of Facebook, I have to give a shoutout to my sister. Bridget was the driving force behind me making a page for the show. And by "driving force" I mean she bugged me every day for a week so I did it to make the nagging stop. She also listened from everywhere, even when I talked too much wrestling. And she made Josh a fan, who became my quasi-engineer. Thanks, buddy! And love you, short stack!

To keep this from becoming like a pinterest page, I will end the shoutouts with Brian and Tim, the only two people to actually appear on the show. These two were co-hosts of mine (and the former a roommate) on WDSR, and they have been so helpful during my time at the party. Brian gave feedback constantly, even if it was "hey that stunk." He also downloaded every episode, which is wild to me still. And TIM should be a damn producer at this point. He named the show, did my graphics, and was always giving me valuable feedback. Again, even if it was "hey that stunk." I am pumped that you both are still helping me not sound like an idiot all these years later. Thanks, gents.

I have way more people to thank, so please don't feel bad if you were not mentioned here. The shoutouts will be plentiful on the show tomorrow. Should that be the other way around? Maybe, but Buster looks like he needs a walk right now. And if I forget you on the show, you have permission to scold me and I will give you coveted space on my blog next time.

So I shall end with this: I am, again, extremely grateful for the experience of being a Mixologist at Party 934. It had ups and downs, but it was always fun when the broadcaster started. I have learned so much and met a lot of wonderful people. I thank you all for the support and criticism (constructive or otherwise, because sometimes I needed real talk), and for sticking with me all this time. Doing this show was often the highlight of my week, and I am so glad I was able to share it with you.

I do have some new projects coming up, which I will update via my Facebook page so give me a thumbs up over there to keep up with me!

Until we meet again, Party 934: I need you to have fun, be safe, and (of course) don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Video Game Rant: Screen-Watching

Good day, my friend! Today I am going to hop on the soapbox and rant to you about video game stuff. Our topic is, as the title shows, screen-watching. It is a crappy practice that needs to stop. But before I start complaining, let me throw some positive energy at you.

Here's a fun fact: I. Love. Video games. They are fantastic, and some are way better when played with friends. Together you can enter strange and wonderful worlds to take down aliens, or take out each other. Depending on the game and the group, these contests can get pretty fierce. Different people are good (and/or bad) at different games, which almost always guarantees a fun day.

But, just like with everything ever, there are some jokers who will want to take a shortcut. And these people should be publicly shamed at every opportunity.

I know that local multiplayer is a rarity anymore, so for our purposes we will zero in on a classic: GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64:

In this game, up to four people can play at once. Each player gets a quarter of the screen to control his or her character. The small size is actually a bit of an advantage for veteran players, since it doesn't allow for much exploration. This can make the game very easy or very hard, depending on your skill.

That is not why I penned this, however. Being good at the game, or even just a certain level, is no crime. Anyone who plays often enough is bound to find some secrets or "hot spots" (i.e. where the best weapons are and where players re-spawn).

The issue is when certain players - jerks - take the liberty of exploring their opponents' screens. I have spoken to some of these dirty screen-watchers about their cowardice. The answer has always been the same: "Just be better at the game!"

Let me pause for a second to point out that I am not a top GoldenEye player, and have never claimed otherwise (though I have finally begun to use the radar, which has improved my outings). Because of this, I have no problem losing, unless I am thwarted by one of these bozos. There is no skill in screen-watching, only poor form. POOR FORM, I SAY!

If you want to brag about knowing the landscapes and weapon locations because you play often, go right ahead. You have earned that, after all. But if you're one of these ######### (sorry for the harsh pound signs) who claims to be good only to stare at the other screens? Please don't play with me. You will ruin the fun for all of us.

Honestly, what are you proving? That you are good at cheating? Congratulations, go work on Wall Street. It is unreal how common screen-watching is, and even worse that there are so many players who are okay with it. New paragraph for emphasis (EMPHASIS):

Screen-watching is not okay and it needs to stop immediately.

I realize it might be a bit silly to get upset over how people play a video game, but it's more than that. When you get together with your buddies to play, it should be fun, no matter how good or bad some of you might be. The experience should not be dampened by a cheater who can only win with a shortcut.

I'll leave you with this: be sure to publicly shame screen-watchers when you encounter them. Not for me or for you, but for everyone. Make them see that games are less fun when they play. And if you are a dirty screen-watcher? For shame - but I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed. (Okay, I guess I'm a little mad.)

That's all for now, friend. I hope you come back next time for another nerd rant, or something completely different!

Crap open a cold one!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cargo Pants Are Acceptable Work Attire

There, I said it.

I am not sure where this notion that having extra pockets is "unprofessional" came from, but I would like it eliminated. Unless you wear a suit to work, you should not be shunned for your snazzy cargo pants. There is no way that being practical while looking great should be a workplace crime, and I will stand for it no longer!

Let's be real: if you are not required to wear a tie to the office (high five!), it has to be a fairly casual atmosphere. You should be able to wear and use as many pockets as you like, especially if you work in America.

Take my office for example: Yesterday I wore cargo pants and a polo (as I do pretty much all summer long), and three people told me I looked good. In addition to inflating my ego, this affirmed my point. If people are complimenting my style, and the head honcho pays no mind to my bonus pockets, why is there a crusade from the peanut gallery?

I have racked my brain all week trying to find the answer, and there is one word I keep coming back to: jealousy. The anti-cargo pants camp is likely full of employees who are held down by THE MAN. For whatever reason, their bosses think having extra pockets is bad for business. As if a prospective client is going to turn down the world's best sales pitch because the employee was "under-dressed."

(I am being facetious of course, but I am willing to bet there are business people who put that much stock into the pants of salespeople. If this happens at your office, call HR and demand sensitivity training for all the stuck up tightwads. Everyone will thank you.)

I believe in looking professional at the office, a hundred percent. I also believe in being as comfortable as possible. If you can do both while having extra storage space for pens and/or tots (hint: you can), go for it! And if you can do both while wearing sweatpants? Well, call me immediately, because I need some evidence to support my bill to make working in sweats okay.

We will certainly get back to sweatpants in the fall, but that will do it for this week. Special thanks to the crazies at Buzzfeed for indirectly prompting this post!

Coming soon: retro video game reviews, plus I may call out some nerds! Stay tuned!

Crap open a cold one!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Public Transit Adventures, Part 1: The Panhandler

Hey, friend!

Today I want to start what I hope will be a series of fun tales - written with you (yes, YOU) as the main character - from my adventures in Philadelphia public transit. I see some characters in my daily travels, and my hope is that you will get a laugh from reading about them (or avoid them, if possible).

If you are not from the area, or you are lucky enough to not need public transit that often/at all, let me try to set the scene for you:

Early evening. Smelly bus terminal. Drivers, maintenance staff, and commuters cram through single doors down hallways with leaky ceilings, to arrive outside to trash-covered sidewalks.

Picturesque, right?

You think you are safe, waiting with the crowd while the bus pulls up slowly. But then, here he comes: unshaven, ripped pants, stained shirt, possibly missing teeth. You think nothing of it since you have your headphones on - the DO NOT DISTURB sign of regular life. You can kind of hear his plea to your fellow passengers:

Hi, sir, my name is ________. I don't mean to waste your time. I am not an addict or a thief. I have hit hard times and was wondering if you could possibly spare some change or some food. I would greatly appreciate it.

One by one, the head shakes begin. Maybe he gets lucky once or twice, with some nickels or half bags of potato chips. But no matter his haul, he continues. The bus stops right in front of you, and you take a step back to avoid getting clipped by the doors. And then: he strikes.

He goes over his lines to you, ignoring your sign and stopping you from boarding. You shake your head like the others and excuse yourself. You think it ended then and there. But on this day, the man who has seen better days decides he needs to make an example of someone - or everyone.

He tilts his head at you, then turns to the crowd and raises his voice:

Wow. Is everyone so selfish? People can't even help each other these days? I'm not asking for millions, I just want a little food! This is ridiculous!

He takes another look at you, as if to say that his troubles are your fault. If only you had reached into your pocket, he could enjoy a meal for once.

Out of sheer curiosity, your look back as the bus turns the corner. You roll your eyes and maybe crack a half smile as you see him being chased away by police. And just like that he is gone, more than likely to return tomorrow.

You briefly wonder if he will remember you, if maybe your next meeting will become a verbal sparring match. But that thought quickly fades as it is replaced by upcoming dinner plans and dog walks. A near crisis avoided, you drift off to the sounds of your sweet tunes, thankful another adventurous day is behind you - like your new friend.

Now does that make you want to buy some tokens and hop on the next bus or what?

Thanks for checking in, amigo! Come back next Saturday for part two, or perhaps something completely different!

Crap open a cold one!