My guest this week is Alex Zalben, one fifth of sketch comedy superpower Elephant Larry.

TALKING POINT: Besides Hardest Mario, what's the hardest Mario?

Alex: Well it's not Super Mario Land. That's the only Mario game I've been able to beat five times in a row without losing a life

Jeff
: It's not Super Nintendo's Super Mario World or Yoshi's Island either. Don't let those eyes fool you, Yoshi's a dinosaur at heart and all dinosaurs are killing machines. It's kind of a pain-in-the-ass to get every star in Mario 64, but just beating it is pretty straight forward. I'm not ready to talk about Mario Sunshine yet, so it's probably one of the NES ones.

Alex: I'd go for Super Mario Brothers 2. SMB is appropriately tough. So is SMB3, but you can also warp to the end pretty quickly if you want. SMB2 you have to play the whole stupid game, radishes and all.

Jeff: Nu-uh! SMB2 has warp zones, though they are a little tricky.Throw a potion, enter the shadow world, then go into a pot? That doesn't make any sense, everyone knows warp zones are in pipes. That's how you get warped.

Alex: Everyone knows that. I could sit down right now, and my fingers would automatically take me through SMB and SMB3; SMB2 is such a slog, I don't even remember it.

Jeff: You can't save in those NES games either, you have to beat them in one sitting. The Japanese Mario Brothers 2 (perhaps better known as The Lost Levels, from the SNES Super Mario All-Stars collection) is extremely difficult. It's basically like Mario 1 doesn't end, and this is just level 9 through 16.

Alex: Mario games, by definition though, shouldn't be hard. Not that they need to be a breeze, but they're well made diversions

Jeff: Maybe it's not that Mario games are easy, it's just that Bowser is really stupid. That's why Mario 2 is the hardest.

TALKING POINT: Last week Blizzard finally announced the sequel to the nine-year-old PC classic StarCraft. What should we expect?


Jeff: We should expect Korean people to be amazing at it.

Alex: They apparently all melted down at the announcement

Alex
: Blizzard has raised the bar so high with World of Warcraft. Starcraft 2 has to actually take place in space, right? Like, in real life?

Jeff: The difference is that World of Warcraft is for uber-nerds, whereas StarCraft 2 is for mega-dorks. They are fundamentally different games. A more appropriate comparison is WarCraft 3.

Alex: Absolutely… but that was five years ago.

Jeff: An eternity in video games. That's five Tony Hawks ago.

Alex: Only five? Are you not counting Tony Hawk Undergrounds 1-10?

Jeff: I also forgot about Tony Hawk's Kart Racer for the Gameboy Advance. The RTS genre is dead to everyone but war fetishists. It's been a decade since Red Alert and nobody's really brought anything new to the table but more units, larger maps, and 3D effects.

Alex: I don't play games just because they have bigger guns than the game before. There does have to be something fun and unique for it to be worth my while.

Jeff: I have no question the game will be fun. Blizzard has a well-deserved reputation for releasing quality products. I'm just not sure it will be unique enough. The game will be 3D now, and of course there will be new units, but what else about this is really new?

Alex: Probably not much. It's Starcraft 2, not World of Starcraft. It's all about delivering the same enjoyable game play as the first, while expanding on the story and characters.

Jeff: The first StarCraft still has an active online community, so maybe that's enough.

TALKING POINT: Guitar Hero III tracks were just announced. Are people too obsessed with Guitar Hero? Should they get a life?

Alex: No. Well, probably, if the game wasn't so much fun

Jeff
: If the guy in charge of licensing music at Harmonix ever needs a kidney, he can have mine. Not only are we going to have Weezer, but pre-green album Weezer.

Alex: I'm actually pretty excited about the Tenacious D.

Jeff: I was just complaining about StarCraft 2 being a more-of-the-same sequel, but this series gets a pass. StarCraft is standing on the shoulders of dozens of other games, but there's only one Guitar Hero. It's still fresh enough that they don't need to do anything revolutionary here.

Alex: What's the difference then between releasing Guitar Hero III, and releasing a ton of new track packs on XBox Live? Other than suggesting that XBox 360 owners are more special than regular people?

Jeff: The Guitar Hero 360 downloads have been disappointing thus far. I never had the original Guitar Hero and I'm glad they're releasing those tracks, but why just a few at a time? Just dump them all on Xbox live and start releasing new stuff already. Do you know I almost had to go outside this weekend?

Alex: I did, but I brought my PSP with me.

Jeff: If the only song in Guitar Hero III was My Name is Jonas and the guitar was covered in broken glass, it would still be a must-buy.

Alex: Plus we'll finally see online multi-player battles, with all the awesomeness and shame that comes with knowing you're being beaten by a five-year-old filming your defeat for YouTube.

Jeff: Cherub Rock? Sabatoge? It's like they traveled back in time and asked 16-year-old Jeff what songs should be in the game. Would it have killed them to include some Blind Melon?