Apr 27, 2015

Video Game Reviews

Spore – It’s been a long time since this came out, just getting to it. I do seem to remember people saying it wasn’t very good, that it was like 5 meh games cobbled together. That’s true. It’s like a couple of boring wander-around-and-eat-things games, then a couple civ games, and a 5X game. The 5X game is the only one that is remotely interesting, but it isn’t deep enough to last. I did all the standard stuff in the space section, I did not beat the Grox, it is just too much work. And the work is monotonous. Making money is boring, diplomacy is boring, war is boring. I like the size of the galaxy, there’s just not enough to do that isn’t repetitive. Oh well.

Offspring Fling! – This is a silly little puzzle platformer. It reminds me of super meat boy. But the game mechanism is that you pick up little baby version of you and chuck them around. It’s simple, straightforward, short, cute. It’s really just a flash game, I’m sure I got it as part of a humble bundle. But it was an okay palette cleanser after Spore before playing something bigger in scope.

The Basement Collection – This is a collection of simple games developed by the same person/people who made super meat boy. It might just be a bunch of flash games packaged into a group, I’m not sure. It is kind of fun, they are all simple. Some are very confusing and I couldn’t figure out. Some I played through. Fun distraction, not much else.

Alan Wake – This game didn’t really work for me. The mechanic is theoretically cool – enemies are harmed (or made vulnerable) by light. So there’s a lot of playing with that. I don’t feel like it’s super successful in making you scared of the dark, because you are forced to spend so much time there. Instead you are just using light as bullets (in addition to actual bullets), instead of running from light to light, though that does happen too. The story is kind of boring, didn’t catch my attention, so the game felt long. The game is fairly well done, it just wasn’t great for me.

Mark Ecko’s Getting Up – Nope. Much too frustrating to try to play in 2015. In my defense, it’s not because it’s old, it’s because it’s a terrible port. I can forgive it looking kind of assey. I can forgive it for the UI interaction being slow and clunky. I can’t forgive making no effort to map the controls to mouse and keyboard. Or not letting you reassign buttons. Or even change mouse sensitivity. Or that the camera spends more time glitching on wall boundaries than being useful. I didn’t even get two hours in, I have too many games to play to waste time on this one.

Stronghold Crusader HD – Another game I couldn’t get into. I got like four missions in and gave up. I didn’t even lose the last mission, it was just such slow going I couldn’t keep going. It’s also kind of oldish, but I struggle to think I would have enjoyed it then. It’s a pretty slow-paced RTS. It takes forever to gather resources, to grow a city, to build an army. The interface is janky, the battles are super frustrating. I feel like a modern version of this might be decent, but I wouldn’t risk it unless it was super cheap (and right now it’s $50, so, no thanks).

Hacker Evolution – This is a weird little game. It’s a faux hacker game, entirely run on a command line, which is neat. The “hacking” is really just three commands – to decrypt (whatever that means), to crack a password, or to apply an exploit. The game is to figure out, from files and clues, what servers to look for and hack. It’s simple, but different. You have money to upgrade equipment and manage your “trace”, which is basically health. It’s a bit hard because there’s only a subset of paths through the game (don’t buy too much stuff, don’t hack unnecessary servers) for which you will have enough money to make it. And as far as I can tell you can’t go back a level to undo spending too much money. At the end of the game, I literally sold off all my equipment to reduce my trace enough to win (including my storage space, despite the fact that one of the conditions of winning was taking a file that resided in said storage space…). If that hadn’t worked, and my only choice was to start from the beginning, I would have found an alternative choice called uninstall.

Rochard – This is a little side scrolling platformer. You have a gravity gun from Half Life, basically. You mess with gravity, solve some puzzles, shoot some bad guys (or, preferably, obviously, throw things at them), beat the bad guy, game over. Only took a few hours to run through, nothing amazing, but a few fun mechanics, fun game.

Sol: Exodus – This game got terrible reviews. It’s an indie space shooter. I didn’t think it was that awful. It doesn’t feel that great, but it’s not awful. But then two missions in the game decided to delete my save. No messages, no crashes. I finished a mission, it went to load the next level, but instead loaded the main menu with my save deleted. Not interested enough to play through even just those 2 levels to get back to where I was. Oh well.

The Void – I don’t know, man. It’s got great user reviews, people think it’s so clever. I find it super opaque and frustrating. Not interesting enough for me to push through that and figure out the dang game. I almost uninstalled, then gave it another shot, still had no idea what was going on, so removed it. Sorry, maybe I’m just too impatient lately.

Antichamber – This is a neat little first person puzzler. The graphics are very simple, kind of line drawings. The mechanic is a gun that can pick up and put down little colored blocks. As the gun advances it gains more control (duplicating blocks, making them move around, etc). It’s pretty interesting, pretty challenging. I figured most of it out, but struggled at the end. Had to use walkthroughs to figure out a handful of the puzzles. Maybe I would have gotten them eventually, but definitely not in the time it would have taken to lose interest, so I feel like it was a good call.

The Ship – This is a multiplayer game from a few years ago. You are on a ship, you are given a target. Everyone else has a target, someone has you. You wander around trying to look innocent, tracking down your prey and killing them with a variety of weapons you find laying around the ship. But don’t let the crew or security or cameras see you. I only played once and I’m honestly not sure if I was playing against humans. It might have all been bots. I won, which makes me think it was bots. Or maybe it’s so old that only people who aren’t very good are playing. It was kind of neat, probably a good party game, I might play it once more, but that’s about it.

Apr 26, 2015

Movie Reviews

Boyhood – Waaaaiiiit…. people thought this was good? This was terrible. Like, objectively terrible. There are some subjective things, like maybe you like slice of life more than I do. Maybe you like just a story about a family more than I do. But there are objectively terrible things. No one wants to hear high schoolers opine about life. And sure as fuck no one wants to hear those high schoolers become college kids and start talking like philosopher potheads. Holy christ that was painful. Also, there was one scene in the middle where the kid is talking to the mom and the camera is cutting back and forth and it was literally the most stilted awkward poorly written poorly acted 15 seconds I’ve ever seen in a professional movie.

Gone Girl – Yikes, that’s a bummer. This movie is pretty distressing. No way to say why without giving it away, I guess. It’s a good story, the first half keeps you wondering, the second half is kind of bananas. Then end is just plain unsettling. It’s all a bit over the top, unrealistic. But it’s pretty good.

Birdman – Sad face, this wasn’t as great as I had hoped/heard. It was good, I guess, but not at all amazing. The faux one shot thing is very cool from a filmmaking perspective, but that only lasts about 30 minutes. I love the idea of the movie, and as far as I can tell all the pieces are good. But somehow it just didn’t hit me. It felt kind of like the Wrestler, that’s a weird comparison, but tracking a sad washed up kind of delusional dude, it seemed familiar. And I loved the Wrestler. But this was just, okay. Sad.

Godzilla – Meh. They forgot to put Godzilla in their godzilla movie. Okay, I guess he’s there a little bit. And the reversal of expectations regarding his purpose is actually cool. A number of things are decently well done. But too much of the movie is spent staring at people staring at screens that give them information about Godzilla. Not enough actual godzilla.

Art and Craft – I’m very torn on this story. It’s a documentary about a modern day art forger. He doesn’t do it for the money, he does it either out of some sort of mental handicap or out of a weird megalomania/maniacal persuasion. He gives the art away, making up some story about dead family or a church, and apparently fooled tons and tons of museums. It’s a very interesting story, how he does it, why he does it. He is contrasted with a guy with a captain ahab like drive to catch and punish the forger. Both are a bit crazy, and that’s interesting. So I’m okay with there being a movie about this guy, but then there’s an art exhibit of his forged art. I have a hard time celebrating a forger. It is interesting, but it’s also terrible. Then the movie ends on this unsettling note that he’s giving up forging for museums, and he’s going to go forge for people. Like, tell someone that he found their dead grandma’s diary? But it’s a lie? That’s even worse! I don’t like it.

Interstellar – I actually liked this a lot. I love the tone and the look of it. For the most part I really like the space exploration and the aspects of that sort of travel that they deal with. It’s largely pretty realistic. It kind of goes off the deep end eventually. Makes some shit up and contorts it around to make an interesting story. I don’t really like that part, but if I turn off my brain and try not to make it fit into reality (which much of the rest of the movie would), I’m okay with it. Pretty cool.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Meh!! The first movie was a cool idea (as similar to Battle Royale as it may have been), but was clearly leading up to the actual interesting part – the revolution. The second movie was a complete waste of time bringing nothing new to the table that the first movie didn’t already establish. Finally here we get to the revolution’s beginnings and it’s kind of… meh. Katness is completely unconvincing as a spark. Her brave and inspiring speeches fall really flat to me. I like the overall arc of the revolution and the complications that might expose (revolutionaries eventually become rulers…). But none of it really holds together for me.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Pretty good. I remember  being shocked at how good the first one was. This one is pretty good too. I like how it fits in the history of the originals. At least, I assume it does. Maybe they’ll change something (or already have in a way that’s not obvious), a la reboot. But it seems to fit, which is cool because you have a feeling of inevitability for how things will play out. But you still get caught up in it. And it’s cool to see how things go to shit despite the best intentions of some, because some others are assholes, human and ape.

Teenaage Mutant Ninja Turtles – This isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be. Not that it’s good. It’s got some pretty low brow humor. It is very michael bay in style – slow mo and explosions and such. But that stuff is cool in parts. Megan Fox isn’t as atrocious as you’d imagine. I wouldn’t say it does anything that the old movies don’t, though. It’s not less dopey, it’s not more fun. So, whatevs.

Spring Breakers – Nope. Best case scenario, the director is deluded and thinks they are making art but is actually making soft-core porn. Worst-case scenario the director is incredibly cynical and tries to layer some faux art bullshit on top of their porn movie to trick people, but knows that it’s all garbage. Either way, just go watch porn.

The Maze Runner – Y’know what, I actually kind of like this one. In many ways it’s just a teeny dystopian movie. But I like the setup, the execution is serviceable. There’s no teeny love bullshit. I like where it ends. It’s nothing amazing, but it’s a good enough world and the movie doesn’t screw it up.

John Wick – I thought this would be better. I guess it has some cool gunplay. But it’s mostly people getting their heads blown off in slick ways. That’s cool for a bit, but it’s not super memorable. And none of the melee stuff is all that great. It’s a fine revenge, don’t-piss-off-the-badass, movie, but not all that special.

Muppets Most Wanted – This was actually pretty fun. I’m not a huge muppets person, I didn’t watch it when I was young, so I don’t have the nostalgia. And when you go back, it’s fun, but just kind of dopey. Like the simpsons, you chuckle to yourself, but not too much more. Still, I chuckled a fair amount, I think more than the last one, it was fun.

Rapture Palooze – Er, I dunno. It’s a really weird comedy about the rapture and Anna Kendrick and her boyfriend try to stop the antichrist who is just kind of an a-hole. It’s weird. It’s the type of movie that could be one of those movies. But it’s just kind of average goofy, not next level goofy.

King Arthur – This is a little reimagining of the Arthur legend. Except, a lot less legendary. It reminds me of the Hercules movie, like the normal dudes behind the magical story. I like that, as I liked it with Hercules. The story isn’t particularly epic, and there’s nothing else amazing. Just average.

Redemption – Another Jason Statham. Trying too hard to be serious, forgetting that we only press play because of the kicky punchy.

My Awkward Sexual Adventure – This isn’t terrible. It’s kind of just a romantic comedy where the guy tries to get his ex girl but falls for the new girl. Except the layer on a bunch of over the top sexuality just to be crazy. It’s kind of funny in it’s goofiness. It’s not so extreme that it’s trying to be offensive. It’s just crazy enough to try to make people gasp a little. Below all that it’s pretty average, but it’s fine.

RoboCop – Meh. Doesn’t do anything better than the first one. I know the first one is kind of campy at this point, but this just replaces that with a kind of blandness; that’s not a fair trade.

Brick Mansions – I didn’t realize this was a remake when I watched it. But I’ve seen District B13, and this movie has the dude from District B13, and this is obviously just that movie. Except they replaced another bad ass ninja with Paul Walker. So… kind of a downward move. It’s in english, but it’s not like I watched the first one for the dialogue. No point in this, just watch B13.

Earth To Echo – Not a great movie, but it’s sweet. The acting is pretty bad, most of the dialogue too. But I like the little alien and the basic story, simple as it is. It’s cute.

Parallels – I actually really like this one. It is clearly a pilot for a TV show, not a movie. As such, it is woefully incomplete as a movie. The characters get very little exploration, the whole thing is rushed, it ends on a cliffhanger for pete’s sake. But given that it has a SyFy B-level vibe to it, it’s at the top of the SyFy B-level heap, I think. I like the setup, the actors all did fine for what they were given. I’d love to see a full show.

You’re Next – This is just a random slasher movie. There’s a couple purposeful twists, but not really surprising. Not like I had it figured out, just that they were not big shockers. Nothing special, nothing horrible.

Love – I didn’t really get this. It seems like my kind of movie, dude stuck in space. Then it gets all weird an I didn’t really follow. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, it just seemed dopey instead of cool. Contrasted against Interstellar, when it got goofy and weird, I still like it. This one, not as much.

Atari: Game Over – Short little documentary about the infamous Atari landfill in New Mexico. It’s a decent summary of video game history and cool to find out what was actually buried in the desert.