Clever post title

One week left, baby! I’m losing my dang mind!

I’ve got next Friday off and I’m going for the midnight launch and HNNNNGGGG it’s gonna be so good. The next six days are going to feel so long (except for Saturday and Sunday).

I can’t wait to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild for three days straight. And then forget to go to work on Monday because Zelda.

Really wish I didn’t have to wait so long for Splatoon 2, though.

 

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Two halves for the price of one

I just realized that I never did my weekend movie review for this week! This is what happens when you give me a Monday off!

First, I watched The Darkness. It was a pretty bad Poltergeist rip-off with Kevin Bacon. I mean, I don’t think it was intentionally trying to be like Poltergeist, but all the story beats fell somewhere between “suspiciously similar” and “bang on.” I guess the big difference is that it tried to touch on each individual family member’s personal issue(s). The most disturbing of the bunch was the teenage daughter, who was suffering from bulimia. Alone, that’s not so bad. I’ve dealt with bulimia IRL before. What took it to the next level was that she was barfing into containers and keeping them all under her bed. Bleeeecch.

I was so disappointed with The Darkness that I also went ahead and watched The Great Muppet Caper immediately afterward. Which was much better! The songs were fun, the gags were hilarious, and the fourth wall was thoroughly destroyed. I quite enjoyed -and was somewhat shocked by- how far they cranked up Gonzo’s “daredevil” personality, which was to the point where every second line was him fetishizing pain in some way or another. If I had one gripe, it’s that Miss Piggy’s synchronized swimming scene/song seemed to drag on for way longer than it needed to. Otherwise, a stellar follow-up to The Muppet Movie. Bravo, Jim Henson! Bravo!

And that’s it for this week’s rushed and generally thoughtless movie reviews. Until next time!

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The First Skunk Bundle

I don’t know if I’ve ever really gotten into it here, but I am endlessly fascinated by bad video games. I like bad movies, too, but terrible video games are even more delicious. And they’ve got to be real bad. If a game is just mediocre, that’s boring and no fun to dissect. But when you have a game that is consistently making you wonder what the heck the developers were thinking, that’s the real good stuff.

To put it simply, the more of a “complete garbage fire” a game is, the better.

And that’s where The First Skunk Bundle comes in. A $25 eShop game that for some reason went on sale for free a while back, this is a pack of five games that range in quality from passable to, well, complete garbage fire. Let’s have a look-see and break down the contents.

No, wait. First, I feel obliged to mention that the music on the game select screen is a piss-poor piano rendition of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. So poor, in fact, that I thought that it was a piss-poor rendition of the Friends theme at first. In retrospect, they do have seem to have a similar melody. Maybe? Am I crazy?

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Moving right along

This weekend’s movie was The Muppet Movie. The original one, for anyone who might be a little confused. Much to my own surprise, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it before. Up until this point, I had just assumed that Muppets Take Manhattan was the first, because it was the oldest one I’d ever seen. Then I learned that Manhattan is actually the third movie.

The most important thing to take away from this whole experience is that I know nothing about The Muppets. I’m a terrible person.

The Muppet Movie, as I am now aware, is the story of how the Muppets all got together. It’s a heartwarming tale about a frog who just wants to make people happy, and meets a bunch of other like-minded puppets on his way to Hollywood.

While it has a happy-go-lucky feel for the most part, it is a little more adult-oriented than I expect a children’s movie to be (Then again, the Muppets were never strictly for kids). For example, the first place Kermit visits on his journey is a dive bar full of ruffians. Later on, Kermit and Rowlf have a heart-to-heart about how difficult women can be. And the whole second half of the movie has the villain threatening to straight-up murder Kermit.

What I took away from this movie, more than anything, was admiration for the sheer beauty and creativity of the practical effects on display. Even in the first five minutes, there are two mind-bending shots. The slow zoom-in on Kermit playing his banjo in the swamp, where Jim Henson was stuffed into a small tank under the water, a scene which took five days to film. And then there’s the scene of Kermit riding his bicycle down the street, which I would never ever be able to guess how they did if I didn’t already know. I’ve always had a great appreciation for puppetry and practical effects, and they’re even more impressive in retrospect, when you consider how many of the special effects in most modern movies are done by some joker at a computer. Lame.

Oh, and the giant Animal at the end of the film? They actually made a massive Animal head for that. There’s no computer trickery involved. There is a little use of green-screen in the movie, but how else are you going to have Kermit and Fozzie dance on stage convincingly?

I am a little bit surprised at how much The Muppets (the 2011 film) takes from the original movie. The road trip to collect the group, meeting Fozzie at a bar, Gonzo’s career as a plumber, Animal’s grand entrance during the climax. It’s a wonderful homage to a movie that remains funny, heartfelt, and just all-around excellent nearly 40 years later. I guess that actually wraps this up, then. Totally going to pick up The Great Muppet Caper next and see if Muppets Most Wanted references is quite as strongly.

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Frolicking with the fairies

Let’s switch gears for a little while here, and steer the conversation away from you-know-which-game. Just for a while. Today I want to write about something completely different. Something called Glittermitten Grove.

This is a cute little resource management-type game where you help a colony of fairies to build themselves a foresty wonderland. The goal of the game is more or less to simply gather enough food to get your fairies through the winter. It’s pretty easy at first, as you only have like three fairies, and they consume roughly 2 food units a season.

Then things get a little more complicated, as more fairies move in. You’ll have to build more panties to hold more food. Since fairies also tire out over time, you’ll need to build houses for them to sleep in. And of course, you need materials from which to construct these buildings, which brings us to possibly the most interesting part of the game: wood.

As in many other video games, and also real life, wood is harvested from trees. Trees will grow on their own over time, and you can chop of bits and pieces of them to collect wood. Branch size and type of tree will dictate how much wood you actually earn. But you can’t just go cutting everything down all willy-nilly. Nope. Trees are also where all of your buildings are constructed, so you have to strike a careful balance between trimming the trees to gain wood, and keeping them large enough to support your fairy colony.

Light also plays a prominent role. Trees need to get sufficient sunlight to stay alive, and a tree that lives in the shadows for too long will wither and die. Your playfield is also dictated by a different light, which is provided by sight orbs. Everything out of the range of these orbs is covered in an impenetrable fog of war. Sight orbs are built using sparkles, which are collected by placing a prism in a tree and letting it absorb sunlight.

Sparkles also fuel magic, which comes in two varieties. There is the Fertilizer spell, which speeds up the growth of a tree. It’s nice that you can target specific parts of the tree, if you should need to add some weight to one side, or just want to grow out some extra branches to chop. There is also a fireworks spell, which is used to dig underground. There, you can find plenty of neat stuff, like crystals and treasure chests that are loaded with resources. I’ve heard there’s even a big secret under there somewhere…

Glittermitten Grove is a much more robust game than it seems at first glance. Having to balance light, trees, resources, and magic all at once is very engaging and a little challenges. I’ve made it through more than one winter with only two or three food bits left. It’s very nice to play a real-time resource management game after years and years of the stupid mobile and mobile-like games that run on a series of timers.

Also nice is that every fairy has a cute/dumb cliché fairy name, like Lavender Twinklebottom or Sprinkles Honeygrape. It’s fun just to look at them all and see which names make you groan the loudest.

I don’t know when or if the game ends, but I do intend to keep playing for a bit. While the gameplay that I’ve seen is robust enough to hold my interest for a while, it does seem like there should be something else to it. Or maybe you just play until you simply can’t keep up with the influx of fairies. I do have hope that something new will unlock eventually, because the game could certainly stand to offer a surprise or two.

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It’s a Madhouse

True to my word, I’ve still been deep into Resident Evil 7. I have beaten it three (3) times now, and have started up a fourth run. This run is what I’ve been dreading since the start… the Madhouse run.

“Madhouse” difficulty is RE7’s hard mode. Unlike standard hard modes, it doesn’t just increase the health of monsters and the damage you take. It does those things and more, like shuffling around key items to slightly change how you progress through the game. It locks certain items behind collectibles. It removes almost all checkpoints, and makes you use consumable items to save, just like the REs of yore. There’s probably even more to it, but I’m still stuck on the boss of the first chapter. I spent nearly half an hour last night being killed by her over and over again, each time inching ever closer to victory.

Needless to say, Madhouse is really, really hard. I am terrified of how bad the rest is going to be.

I also began playing some of the “Banned Footage Vol.1” DLC pack. The first “tape” is called Nightmare, and it’s a mini-game that tasks you with surviving several waves of enemies. And it plays out in hours from midnight until dawn, so it kind of feels like RE7’s take on the Five Nights at Freddy’s formula. I ran it twice, and made it to about 4:30 on the second try before I accidentally got backed into a corner and torn to shreds.

The game takes place in the basement of the Baker house, and you have to craft items and weapons from scrap. Scrap is collected from several machines around the area, which will constantly be filling up throughout the run. The game kind of forces you to mix it up too, as every time you craft something, the cost in scrap goes up a little. So you can really only fall back on that shotgun for so long. You can also place turrets and traps throughout the basement, which I definitely need to fit into my strategy better.

The cool thing about it is that even failure moves you closer to getting through the night. You score at the end of every run is added to a running total, and once you hit certain thresholds you’ll unlock some helpful feature. Sometimes it’s an increase to the scrap you start with, sometimes its new things to craft. The final reward, infinite ammo, is placed at a cumulative score of ten million points. By the time you earn that sucker, you’ll probably have gotten good enough to clear the game without it anyway. Probably helpful for the harder Night Terror mode.

I did not play the “Bedroom” mini-game at all. I have no idea what it’s about.

The last bit of DLC is the “Ethan Must Die” mini-game, wherein you’re plopped down in a super-hard remix of the Baker house, with the goal of unlocking the greenhouse and killing the boss there. You start with nothing, and you only find items in crates, which are randomized. When you die, you leave behind a statue that lets you reclaim one (random) item you had been holding. I tried playing once, and found two chem fluids, which left me with only the knife to battle through a gauntlet of Molded. As one might expect, it didn’t go so well.

I think that there’s definitely some appeal here, but it’s going to be a long road. People are finishing the mini-game, but they’re probably people more dedicated than I. If it allowed you to earn upgrades through failure like Nightmare, I may be more inclined to keep playing. However, it’s more like Dark Souls where the upgrades you earn are knowledge of the layout of the house and where all the monsters are placed. From that point on, you’re just hoping that the crates work out in your favour.

Anyway, I think the point here is that I’ve cleared all of the easy stuff in RE7. It’s all expert-level content from here on out. I might have to dial it back to easy mode and complete the 4-hour speedrun to unlock… a thing… that might help the Madhouse run. It’s the only unlockable item that I don’t have yet, so it’s my last chance to soften than extreme difficulty even a bit.

But enough of the blah blah blah. Time to get back to dying playing!

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(Usually) Weekly Movie Post

Last weekend, as has become something of a tradition, I watched a movie. This time around, it was a pull from my way-too-long Netflix queue (and people complain that there isn’t enough on Netflix). It was called As Above, So Below and was sold to me as a spooky adventure into the tunnels of Hell. Or something like that. Here’s the Netflix synopsis:

A beautiful tomb raider and her crew hunt for treasure in the catacombs of Paris and find themselves in a hellish underworld.

First off: the “tomb raider” isn’t beautiful. She’s cute, sure, but not like, stop-and-stare gorgeous.

Secondly, the movie was kinda boring. It was one of those movies where the main character keeps doing stuff while people are constantly telling her not to, because it’s either illegal or everyone else who has tried has either disappeared or wound up dead. Which is fine in an adventure movie or a comedy, but in a horror film like this, you just don’t sympathize when horrible things start to happen. It’s impossible to feel bad for over-entitled millennials.

It’s also a POV film. Not “found footage” necessarily, because (spoiler) several characters survive. But it’s still all shot from a combination of a handicam and GoPros. The question of how the footage was recovered from some of said GoPros when they were visibly destroyed, we’ll just have to handwave away. Regardless, I’m not really into the whole POV thing. Sometimes it works, and sometimes (like this time) it’s just annoying.

The plot follows Ms Not-Lara Croft in search of the Philosopher’s Stone. Yes. Despite having like seventeen degrees, she’s a firm believer in alchemy. So she assembles a rag-tag group of friends and French spelunkers, and they begin their journey down into the catacombs of France. On the way, they pass a cult of topless women chanting what are surely completely innocent incantations. You might think that this is an important plot point while viewing the film, but these busty ladies never make another appearance.

One thing the film did very well was evoke a sense of claustrophobia. It does this well in general by being set in tight underground tunnels, but there is one very long and very excruciating scene where a character is briefly stuck in a tight passage and starts freaking out. It was very difficult to watch, and had me squirming in my seat the whole time. I’m not exactly claustrophobic myself, but I definitely have some degree of cleithrophobia, as I have had nightmares of getting trapped in tight places for as long as I can remember.

So, what do we watch horror movies for? The kills, of course. They’re… kinda blah here. The first girl to go gets her face bashed in by a possessed mole-man. Another guy falls down a well and goes splat. Then the head French-guy gets sucked into a burning car which promptly implodes and somehow leaves him buried underground with just his feet sticking out. And that was it. The other three characters survive. Though one of them gets his jugular torn out by a gargoyle demon, he is saved by the healing powers of a magic kiss.

What did I tell you already? This movie isn’t very good.

And that’s really too bad, because it seems like a decent premise and the build-up is interesting enough. But in the end it was a bit of a let down. Not “Gah! I’ve wasted my time!” bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. If you want to see some good spelunking-gone-wrong movies, try The Descent or… I can’t think of any others. What about Sanctum? Was Sanctum good? I can’t remember anything about it, so probably not.

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One Hell of a Night

After only a week, Resident Evil 7 is beaten. That was a few days ago now. I haven’t really had a chance to make more words about it until now. Though I don’t know if I really have that many more words about it? I guess we’ll see when we get to the end of this post.

When I last left off, the protagonist of the game, Ethan, has mysteriously vanished and I was now in control of another character aboard a wrecked ship. There was a flashback sequence that played more like a run and gun shooter, but back in reality, the actual ship level is more evenly paced. While it does play like the rest of the game, for whatever reason, the ship level didn’t really grab me. I think maybe it’s just because I kept getting lost. Thinking back on it, there’s nothing really overly wrong with it.

The final stage is… it’s semi-traditional. There’s a secret lab where you learn all the final pieces of the plot, but it’s like two rooms at the bottom of a mine. The entire mine area is a fairly straighforward gauntlet of monsters, which isn’t out of the ordinary for RE, and is actually more of a final boss than the actual final boss. Also, not a single MO disk to be found. I’m okay with that. It’s 2017, after all.

And finally, because being cyclical makes it more impactful, you end up back in the guest house that served as the game’s first chapter. You’re alone and searching for a girl again, and the night has passed into day.

What really separates this game from the rest of the series is that you feel a pang of guilt when you kill the final boss. Make no mistake, it needs to be killed because it is a living weapon that murders people without remorse, but it is a somewhat pitiable entity. It’s not your typical RE crazy person that’s gone and mutated himself in a mad quest for world domination or revenge. Well, I guess Birkin was kind of sympathetic, too. I’d better replay Resident Evil 2 again to make sure.

And yes, you are thrown a weapon and told “use it!” to finish off the final boss. It’s not a rocket launcher, but the spirit of the tradition is present. I am content.

Then, at the very end of this 12-hour game in which I only spotted two teeny-tiny references to previous Resident Evil games, Ethan is airlifted away from the Baker property by none other than Chris Redfield. And he is looking skinnier than ever. And he is riding around in an Umbrella helicopter. What is happening!? I don’t think these really count as spoilers, because they don’t really have any bearing on RE7’s main plot. There is a (free) DLC episode featuring Chris on the way, but otherwise he is merely a way to connect RE7 to the rest of the Resident Evil canon.

Some final thoughts: I love the ambient sounds. The creaking of the houses and random thumps are a great way to get little frights, and they also put you on edge. Was it just a random noise? Or is there an enemy skulking about, ready to spook you?

Speaking of spooking, I am so glad that I didn’t play this in VR. I like being scared, but RE7 would have been way too intense. Plus, 90% of the jumpscares are of the in-your-face-screaming variety that is so popular these days, and I just couldn’t handle that without the reality buffer.

I was a little wary of the game’s new style at first, but it really came into its own once Jack stopped stalking me. Its crazy how much pressure was caused by the fear that Jack could show up to ruin your day at any moment. Looking back, his patrol areas are actually very small, and he won’t even chase you all that far. In the end, he seems to be a lot more menacing than he actually is.

Coming down off the high of finishing the game (I quite enjoyed the credits sequence, BTW), I immediately popped open the Playstation Store and bought the DLC season pass. I was going to do it as soon as I bought the game, but decided to wait just in case I ended up not liking this very different Resident Evil.

The first DLC pack is out and downloaded onto my PS4, but I haven’t played it yet because I started a new game to try for the 4-hour speedrun trophy. Either I am much slower than I thought, or I accidentally left the game running while I left to do something else, because about half an hour in, I noticed that my timer had picked up an extra hour somewhere. Needless to say, the speedrun was doomed. Guess I’ll just have to try again! (Hooray!)

I do not relish the idea of playing the game on Madhouse difficulty. But I’m certainly going to try. I’ll probably unlock all the bonus items first, to ease the burden a little.

And that’s about it, I guess. For now, at least. Look forward to hearing more about this game in the future. I can’t get enough!

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – January 2017

Holy crow, 2017 is already flying by. It seems like it was just New Year’s Day, and already we’re in February. It’s gonna be Switch Day before we know it!

And that’s about the extent of my small talk abilities. That’s why I spend so much time playing video games alone instead of socializing with humans.

~ Game Over ~

Layers of Fear (PS4) – Appropriate that the first game I beat in 2017 is yet another spook-em-up walking simulator. I think I may have found my sub-genre. In an effort to try to toughen up a bit, I started playing with the lights off and headphones on. That lasted for half the game, at which point I simply could not take it any more. Anyway, I really liked it, and played through twice to get all the trophies.

Layers of Fear: Inheritance (PS4) – A DLC half-sequel for the game listed above. It was good, but much less frightening and also I needed to play through it three times for all the trophies. Though that’s really not such a big problem when the game can easily be run in under an hour.

Resident Evil 7 (PS4) – I was so excited for this scaled-down take on RE, and then about two hours in, I realized “oh, this is just a backwoods version of Alien: Isolation.” But then it quickly got much better and I got completely sucked in. Loved it. Can’t wait to play it again.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4) – There couldn’t have been a better time to accidentally subscribe to PS+. This was one of the free games for January, and though I own the original game, I haven’t played it in, oh, 20 years? It was wonderful to relive, and looked gorgeous on my giant HDTV. Absolutely perfect bit of nostalgia.

Shovel Knight (3DS) – I played Shovel Knight again. Surprise, surprise. But I did play New Game+ this time, which is v difficult.

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Some mouldy thoughts

I’m about all blogged out after that massive Top 12 thing, but I feel like I need to do some follow-up on Resident Evil 7. After completing that article, I basically spent all of yesterday playing it, except for a few hours that I devoted to catching up on episodes of Nintendo News Report. Needless to say, I have far more things to say about it now.

First of all, it’s become apparent that yes, this is definitely a Resident Evil game. It doesn’t adhere strictly to the classic formula, opting instead to continually shift the pacing to keep you on your toes. In general, you’re shuttled between several large areas to explore as different levels or chapters, but you have a certain amount of freedom to move around the entire property as you see fit. It’s not like RE4 where each area gets locked off once you move on to the next chapter.

So, I think the best comparison is RE3? I don’t really know, as that is my least favourite of the original trilogy.

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