The annual team tradition of meeting up in real life continues! Oakville remained a popular choice for a Mechs meet up. So why break tradition?
Shadowman: We originally shot for Montreal, but we couldn’t coordinate anything, and most of the regulars didn’t have the money and/or vacation time to make it this year.
Snakeman: So it looks like it’s us three.
Sparkman: Kind of a bummer. But we’ll make the most of it!
Spark arrives from New Hampshire to Oakville. He arrives at 8:00. First, they watched Rick and Morty, then Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Spark found R&M amusing, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, less so.
Shadowman: But the Moonenites were the inspiration for Sharkman!
Sharkman: …Sad shark…
The night was spent unpacking, playing Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove. A kickstarter board game with a simple premise of screwing over your fellow orphans before you get eaten by the Boogeyman first. It was easy to set up and learn the ropes. Shadow learned quick, and both he and Spark one a couple games each. From there, they spent the remaining hours before bed admiring the latest additions to G’s transformer army, musing about eps and the Megaman franchise in general.
Sparkman: You’re shitting me! X is the only reploid who’s capable of crying?
Shadowman: I only wish I was.
Sparkman: What a wiener.
X: Hey! I heard that!
Shadowman: We made sure you did.
X: *sniff* *sniff* It’s not my fault I am the way I am…
Sparkman: Only digging yourself in deeper, pal.
After tinkering with a few eps, Spark wakes up to find Shadow watching the finale of Game of Thrones, thus spoiling it for him.
Sparkman: I told you I haven’t watched it!
Shadowman: In hindsight, you should’ve thought about that before you sat down.
Shadow reloads dreamweaver on Spark’s lappie after his upgrade to Windows 10 uninstalled it. Snake arrives at the airport, and they have lunch at a Terryiaki joint. Shadow got Snake up-to-date on some of ep discussions he and Spark had. Snake and Spark shared various Breath of the Wild experiences. Once they got home, Spark and Shadow introduced Snake to Endangered Orphans as well. Snake took to it as well as Shadow and Spark did.
Shadowman: Hey, doesn’t this thing have expansions? Why haven’t we tried them out yet?
Sparkman: Sure! Might as well!
*Five minutes later…
Shadowman: What was the point of the Last Winter expansion?! Half the cards you drew from that deck screwed you over!
Sparkman: Hey, there’s a chance you could’ve drawn a cool permanent card.
Snakeman: And the Benny Harris expansion got kind of annoying with audio of Benny screaming. Every time Benny screamed, you drew a haunting card that screwed you.
Shadowman: And sometimes he screamed every other second.
Sparkman: But that just makes the game more frantic, doesn’t it? Made you want to finish your turn before Benny got you.
Shadowman: But hearing that same clip for 20 minutes got stale.
Sparkman: …It did.
Cutsman: …I have never heard the words, ‘kids’, ‘screaming’, and ‘getting stale’ all used in the same sentence.
Despite these hiccups, Endangered Orphans was a popular choice. Ben called around 4:00 from Calgary to wish us well and put in at least a virtual presence. From there, the gang was excited to try out the Megaman board game, which Spark brought with him out of general principle.
Sparkman: It’s Megaman and The Sinister 6!
Shadowman: And we wanted to try it and haven’t been able to find it!
Well, the game itself was fun enough. But since it was a dice rolling game, a lot of how well we did was based on luck. And it didn’t help that the game was longer than we expected.
Shadowman: And the boss fights were almost impossible! Iceman killed me two times!
Snakeman: And Bombman just flat out killed me, period! His mechanic is so cheap!
Captain N S6: Sinister Six reunite!
Sparkman: Knock it off!!
Sparkman was the only one who had consistent luck fighting the tough-as-nail bosses, though his victories were still nailbiters. Shadow eventually triumphed over Iceman and Gutsman, but still died in Wily’s castle.
Shadowman: It wasn’t the Iceman clone that killed me! It was the cat hair on Snake’s luggage making my allergies go nuts!
Sparkman: Winner by default! The best two words of the English language!
Dr. Wily: Technically, you never finished the game. I won.
Shadowman: Don’t care. We’re getting hungry and tired of playing this on the hard floor.
It was Mech tradition to have pizza the first night everyone arrived. And Shadow was eager to continue it at The Boot.
Sparkman: Silly Canadians. It’s pronounced, “About” not “A Boot”.
Shadowman: No, Spark. It’s an Italian restaurant. Italy is shaped like a boot. Hence the name.
Sparkman: Ha! You just said it!
Snakeman and Shadowman: (shoot Spark a withering glare) Har-dee-har-har.
After dinner, the Mechs stopped by a Walmart to grab a folding table and some allergy meds for Shadow. They closed out the game playing Coup, a card game Spark brought Shadow as a host gift.
Sparkman: My sister had nothing but kind things to say about it. It involves a lot of bluff and misdirection, like ‘Love Letter’.
Snakeman: Only we almost never bothered. We were honest about what cards we had at least 90% of the time.
Sparkman: I think there were only two bluffs that we called that actually were bluffs. The rest of the time, we just shot ourselves in the foot when we called somebody, anybody out.
Shadowman: Like we’d play it any other way!
Sparkman: Well, boys and girls! It’s Day Two of the meet! And you know what that means!
Shadowman and Snakeman: ….
Sparkman: Okay, probably not. Because I just made it up! It’s Tim Horton’s Day!
Shadowman: Sure. Whatever.
Spark takes the gang over to Tim Hortons so he can have all the donuts he could want for the remainder of the week.
Snakeman: That’ll be stale before the end of the day.
Sparkman: Even when they’re bad, they’re good!
Shadowman: Silly Yanks.
Once they got home, Snake sets up a Nintendo Switch for Bomberman. Everyone’s bombers stood out in some way. Though Spark, as the Black Bomber, a bit more. Most of the matches ended the same way:
Shadowman: Would somebody, anybody beat Spark?!
Snakeman: I can’t! I just got blown up!
Shadowman: Aggghh! Me too!
Sparkman (Napalmman): I bet you’ll never forget. The beautiful. Black. Bomber!
Shadowman: We’re going to be hearing that for the rest of the meet, aren’t we?
Sparkman (Napalmman): If for no other reason than to hear my spot-on impersonation of the Black Bomber’s beautiful. Smoooooth. Silky. Soft. Voice. Oh yes.
Snakeman: Sigh…Defeat never sounded so soothing…
Sparkman (Napalmman): Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy!!
Around 12:00, Shadow’s doting girlfriend Leah joined the party. She would be joining the team for another one of their room escape adventures later that afternoon. But first, our first stop was at a mall for lunch and for a USB cable for Snake’s phone. In order to kill time, the gang introduced her to the tried and true Endangered Orphans.
Shadowman: Trust us, Leah! This game’s real easy to learn and lots of fun! We’ve been playing it all meet!
Leah: …(trying to figure out how and which cards work for her) Sure. I’m having fun. Aren’t I having fun?
Shadowman: …Oh. Well, if that didn’t lift your spirits, then maybe being blown up by Spark’s smooth melodic voice in Bomberman might.
(Surprisingly, it doesn’t.)
Leah: …Yeah, when do we leave for the room escapes?
Shadowman: Right now!
Thank goodness Leah was just enjoying our company. But instead of OMEscape, the Mechs’ usual Room Escape locale, they tried a closer venue at Captive in Missaeuga. Their first adventure was Dracula’s Library, where the group was trapped in Dracula’s lair (which was in New Orleans for some reason). The group did fairly well reaching the next part of the room, but quickly ran out of steam.
Snakeman: There’s some trick to these candles we’re not getting!
Sparkman: There’s nothing in these encyclopedias on the bookshelves that are helping!
Shadowman: Seriously?! There’s dozens of them, and the candles refer to them! There’s got to be some connection.
Staff: You guys are overthinking this. Also, you’re out of time.
Mechs and Leah: Laaaaamme…
Despite running over, the staff was nice enough to let us try and finish the room. But not without some handholding, especially towards the end.
Snakeman: I can’t figure out this damn chessboard!
Leah: These map coordinates we found in the books must mean something!
Sparkman: We haven’t found a map that refers to them.
Staff: No really. You’re out of time. We’ll just tell you how to solve them, period.
Snakeman: So I guess we’re grabbing dinner?
Shadowman: Hell no! It’s not going to end for us like this. We’ll try one more room escape!
Staff: It’s your money.
Round 2 was simply known as “Charlotte”, about a little girl and her sister who were murdered by her axe-crazy father in the same vein as “The Shining”…Or was that how it happened? That’s what we were looking into, while escaping from Charlotte’s haunted, very bloodstained house.
Shadowman: This time, let’s not overthink this one!
Snakeman: We still had to call for help, though.
Sparkman: And we still ran out of time.
Snakeman: We would’ve had it if we could’ve make sense out of the records faster.
Sparkman: The one puzzle we didn’t overthink. Talk about cruel twist of fate.
Shadowman: Where’s Topman when you need him? He could’ve breezed through these!
Leah: But at least we figured out who the real murderer was!
So, this wasn’t the team’s most triumphant hour. But in all truthfulness, when’s that ever stopped us from enjoying a good room escape? We had a somewhat late dinner at Jack Astor’s, after which, we returned Leah home, then stood in line to listen to Spark’s soothing Black Bomber voice, while he beat everyone some more at Bomberman. Afterwards, Spark and Shadow spent the remaining hours coming up with a foolproof plan for visiting Niagra Falls tomorrow.
Shadowman: Wow, we actually have a plan for our meet??
Sparkman: Pinch me.
Shadowman: And it wasn’t just me drawing up all the plans?
Sparkman: Pinch me.
Shadowman: And Spark was an actual part of the planning process??
Sparkman: You’re crossing a line. August 30
Everyone slept in a little, so we got a late start for the Falls.
Shadowman: I can’t believe it took me several to convince you guys to come out here!
Sparkman: Me too, actually.
Snakeman: Eh. It is kind of touristy and overcrowded.
Shadowman: Not stopping us this time! We’re doing this!
Our first stop on our itinerary was Fear Factory, one of Niagra’s top shelf haunted houses. It opened at 11, and closed at 2, so we had a narrow window to catch this one.
Staff: Alright, everyone follow the red lights, everyone stay in a line with your hands on the shoulder of the person in front of you, and say “Nightmares” if you’ve had enough.
Sparkman: I think we’ll manage.
Shadowman: Hey, what’s this button do?
(Shadow accidentally turns all the lights off, and the group is left in total darkness.)
Sparkman: …Hands on shoulders it is.
So yeah. While most haunted houses rely on following a theme, or leaving ghoulish spectacles for you to stumble into, Fear Factory believes very much that nothing is scarier, and lets your imagination try and conjure what’s coming at you as you fumble in the dark, trying to find the next red light that leads you where to go (which are the only source of illumination). Sometimes, the trail of red lights ends, and you’re trapped in a room as a monster gets you, something nearly falls on top of you, or you get buried alive, which brought out the claustrophobia in everyone. Lots and lots of jump scares. The photos at the end were worth the price of admission.
Snakeman: Awww, do we have to show this?
Sparkman: Hell yeah.
Snakeman: But I was the only one who didn’t come close to keeping a stone face!
Snakeman: With friends like you guys…
On the way to lunch, Gauntlet spotted a vintage photo shop that took olde time that he was eager to try. Eager for a chance to live as 1920s gangsters (which was one of the themes we could pick), how could we say no? Though it was probably the most expensive thing there. But worth every penny. After lunch at a burger joint called “The Works”, it was off to admire the falls, themselves.
Watching them brought some nostalgic feelings from everyone, who at some point in their life checked out the falls beforehand. From there, it was off to Castle Dracula, a horror-themed attraction that Shadow visited as a kid. It started off as a Dracula-themed wax museum, but then abruptly took a hard turn halfway through.
Sparkman: Was it how you remembered it, G?
Shadowman: I think so…
Shademan: SURPRISE!! You’re in a haunted house now!!
Snakeman and Sparkman: Holy crap, dude!!
Shadowman: I don’t remember this from when I was a kid!
Snakeman: Well, we did pay for the hardcore experience. Your parents would have to be dicks to make a little kid go through this.
Shademan: RAGGHH! KEEP MOVING!!
That was easier said than done. Like Fear Factory, the second leg of Dracula’s Castle (at least for hardcore visitors) was totally in the dark. Only there are no lights to guide you. We were feeling the walls in order to know where we were going. And this time, the ghouls chased you. But we still got our money’s worth.
Our last stop was Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Spark took it upon himself to do the traditional Mechs-themed scavenger hunt. Between the “stars” featured at Ripley’s and some of the goofy exhibits and gimmicks, we pulled it off, occasionally finding duplicates for everyone. The vortex tunnel was the highlight, if for no reason it left people reeling after we went through it. So naturally, we did it a couple of times. After that, it was time to go home, for we had plans that evening.
Sparkman: Wow! We actually stuck to the plan!
Shadowman: And we got to do everything we wanted!
Snakeman: Pinch me.
Sparkman: That’s what I said!
We got home around six, and set up to Dungeons and Dragons via Skype with Top, hoping to continue our adventure from last year.
Topman: Only this time, I got a chance to plan this out!
Shadowman: And this time, we aren’t just wandering around town aimlessly!
Snake and Shadow reprised their old characters Skritch, the goblin pretending to be a halfling, and Phelia, afterschool special teenage bad girl, respectively. Spark decided to take a crack at the classical robot monk, J-05H. His Robocop-esque portrayal/RPing brought a few smiles up until he had to turn a goblin on by oiling him up.
Sparkman: You heard me.
Holzenbein: Need help from someone who’s got experience in the matter?
You had to be there. Anyway, despite the progress our heroes were making, they faced their greatest challenges yet: sewer rats that took at least half of everyone’s HP and made their characters run out of steam, and crummy skype connections that made Top the DM run out of steam.
Rats: Victory is ours!
Roboneza Virus: No it’s not! Just kidding. It totally is.
Snakeman: Awww, and we were so close to the finale, too. Now we got to wait until next year to finish this!
Topman: Ah well. I was going to rush the ending if we did it tonight, anyway. And we can learn more about the magical mushrooms that passed through Snake’s digestive system and reconstituted themselves through necromancy and undead parasites.
Shadowman: You had to be there.
Sparkman: I told you guys no good comes out of eating mushrooms!
Snakeman: Seriously, why does so much of our campaign focus on me pooping?!
Ah well. After Top wished the group well and closed out of Skype, our three remaining heroes closed the evening with Splendour and more Endangered Orphans.
If there was ever a low-key day, this was it. Actually, more like the calm before the storm that is Fan Expo. We all knew that place was going to take a toll on our wallets, somehow. So a breather between that and Niagra Falls, was probably prudent. After a late breakfast, we were able to entertain ourselves with two-player shovel knight on Snake’s Switch well until 2:30.
Shadowman: Damnit, Megaman could’ve used a mechanic like this!
Sparkman: Chip and Dale for NES had a gimmick like this, and they were both owned by Capcom. No real excuse why it didn’t.
Snakeman: It doesn’t matter. I ended up doing most of it on my own, anyway.
There were definitely some harder, more intimidating parts that were more suited to veteran players like Snake. Especially since Shadow and Spark never really played it before. And there were some parts having two players hurt more than it helped, especially in the tougher platforming areas. Once the Shield Knight had been saved, a late breakfast could only be followed by a late, 3:00 lunch at the mall, preceded by a brief stop at the comic book shop.
Shadowman: You know what we haven’t done yet this meet? Watch a bad movie. Anyone got a stinker?
Sparkman: (pulls out ‘The Room’) Do I ever?!
Those who have seen Nostalgia Critic’s review need no introduction to this holy grail of bad movies. Spark had seen NC tear it a new one, and Snake watched a copy on Youtube. Shadow was the only one going in it with a fresh set of eyes. And we got what we paid for.
Shadowman: I can’t believe somebody made a movie this bad. On purpose.
Sparkman: It had to be seen to be believed.
Between that and a few youtube videos Spark had his eye on, we killed enough time for a Shawarma dinner. If it was good enough for the Avengers, it’s good enough for our band of almost-heroes. Once we got back from shawarma land, Snake had a few more Shovel Knight gimmicks he wanted to show off; namely the Specter and Plague Knight play versions.
Snakeman: Isn’t cool to play as Plague and Specter Knight? They were some of the more unique characters in the game.
Sparkman: Sure, but their gimmicks had a stiff learning curve. Some of their moves could've been executed with just the L or R button, rather than remembering a combo.
Shadowman: It can be as cool as it wants, it’s still too tough for me without cheating.
Snakeman: …I don’t think the Kickstarter incorporated those into their goals.
Shadowman: Well, they should’ve.
And to close out the evening, Spark got the team to try out Forbidden Island, a cooperative board game where we try to recover treasure off a sinking island before it takes us with it.
Shadowman: Holy crap! A game where we get to actually work as a team!
Snakeman: There were a couple nail-biting moments, but we pulled through both rounds together!
Sparkman: That’s why we’re the best!
It was Fanexpo day! AKA the big middle finger to all our bank accounts. Rather than face the motorized madhouse that was the streets of Toronto, we just hopped the train to Union Station. After an hour long ride, we made it to the heart of Toronto and made our way to Rogers Convention Center. Once there, we just planned on doing what we usually do at Fan Cons; go our separate ways, and meet up every hour at a central location. But when this place turned out to be too big and crowded for that, we just decided to just go our separate ways and text when we were ready to go.
We all had our separate priorities. Spark in particular was on the prowl for the autograph of Vanessa Marshall from Star Wars Rebels, along with other Star Wars odds and ends, or have his sister disown him as her brother.
Sparkman: It was touch and go because I couldn’t find her Lothcat or Forces of Destiny Dolls, neither of which I knew what they were. But securing Vanessa Marshall’s autograph meant my sister would continue to acknowledge me at Christmas. At least until I miss some other Star Rebels cast member’s autograph at the next comicon.
But in the end, we all made out with our own separate acquisitions to show for it. We were also holding out for Gauntlet’s friend to show up, along with Needlegal in cosplay. But sadly, she was too worn out from work to meet up with us. Gauntlet’s pal hooked up with us though, just in time for the comicon to end.
Since Spark had never been to the CN Tower, the troupe headed there next, minus Shadow’s pal, not wanting to pay the $30 admission fee. After a short elevator ride to the top, the gang was treated to a panoramic view of the prettiest city this side of Lake Ontario. But what made the trip worthwhile was seeing Shadowman standing over the glass floor, despite his fear of heights.
Shadowman: I sort of tip-toed into it, like wading into an uncertain lake, but I did it! I really did it!
Once we had our fill of the view, we went down to earth literally for dinner. Most of us had our fill of walking and were ready to collapse at the first restaurant. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants had a 20 minute or so wait, except for Canyon Creek. Everyone there found a sandwich or platter they liked, while Spark regaled everyone with the greatest of German fairy tales such as Struwwelpeter.
Sparkman: Once upon a time, there was a boy who sucked his thumbs. His mother told him to stop sucking his thumbs. He would not. She hired a man to cut off his thumbs with scissors. Now the boy has no thumbs. The end.
Snakeman: What a happy story.
Shadowman: That’s a silly moral to teach. Am I supposed to believe somebody will come out of nowhere and cut off my thumbs if I do that?
Sparkman: Hey, German moms mean business when disciplining their kids. Just ask mine.
Today was our last day. But even so, we made it as full as we could.
Spark originally planned to head home that day. But at the last minute, decided to go back to the con to fulfill another sister-mandated mission by attending a Star Wars Rebels panel with its head writer, Dave Filoni. After learning some juicy early scoops for Star Rebels' final season, he got to meet the man, myth, legend and King himself, Bruce Campbell, walking away with an autographed copy of his latest book. And not a moment too soon; the line capped almost right behind him.
Sparkman: Sure, it means I’m coming home a day later, and driving til midnight to find a hotel. But I’d do it all over again if I could!
Before everyone went their separate ways, Spark by car, and Snake by plane, the crew had one last dinner at Boston Pizza, complete with Cactus nachoes and personalized pizzas, the best last meal a trio of nerds could ask for. And thus ends the saga of the Mechs 2017 meet!
Shadowman: And Spark ended up doing most of the write-up himself?
Snakeman: Pinch me.
Sparkman: Screw you guys!