Last Month in Movies – April 2018

Bad Moms -This happened because my mom and I were bored of waiting for a hockey game to end before people would come play board games with us. In my defense, I was playing Switch the whole time and was in the room mostly to keep mom company.

Bad Moms was terrible. It’s the story of how Mila Kunis is tired of being an overworked and underappreciated mom, and also her husband left her. So she starts spending more time trying to get boned and hanging out with other moms who feel the same way. Then there’s some kind of subplot about how she wants to be head of the PTA so she can control the soccer team or whatever, and runs on a platform of “I am going to half-ass this job” and “we’re all terrible parents so vote for me” which made no political sense at all.

I think the movie exists just to see if they could make a movie that used every known euphemism for vagina. Its only saving grace was Kristen Bell, because Kristen Bell is always a treat.

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The briefest follow-up

Hey, I bought a box of Oreo O’s.

Turn out I was right, they’re not good. But they’re not really the worst, either. Like, they have an off-fake-chocolate taste. Not unlike an actual Oreo cookie, but even milder.

So in conclusion, you can definitely eat Oreo O’s, but I wouldn’t exactly recommend it. There are better ways to spend your six dollars. Honeycomb, Golden Grahams, Reese’s Puffs. You know, cereals that actually taste good.

I also forgot to take a picture. I don’t really mind.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – April 2018

Apparently I played all the video games in April. Despite going back to school. I think that should be a wake-up call that my study habits are not quite where they should be.

~ Game Over ~

Yoshi’s Island (SNES) – Man, that final battle is cool. Aiming’s a little finicky, but still really cool.

Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero: Pirate Queen’s Quest (WiiU) – I am bowled away at how much I enjoyed this remixed DLC mode. It’s almost as good as Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse!

The Count Lucanor (Switch) – The great thing about my Switch is that my backlog of unplayed games was sitting at just one, and now I’ve played and finished it. And wrote about it at length.

Into the Breach (PC) – Failed right at the end, so I knocked it down to easy mode for the next run and completely steamrolled the game because easy mode removes nearly all of the challenge.

Part-Time UFO (iOS) – I guess I shouldn’t have been, but I was caught off guard when this cute physics game about stacking objects trotted out a giant boss fight and a crazy-hard final level.

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Easter 2018: The Quest for Peeps!

The month of April is coming to a close, and that means that Easter is already a month ago. Easter happened to land on April 1st this year. Kind of falls in a weird place this year, doubling up with April Fool’s Day. It’s a little weird to think about which one may be bigger at this point. IRL, Easter is the clear winner, but if you go online, you’ll find many more April Fool’s pranksters than pastel bunnies and eggs. And since more and more people basically live online all the time…

Anyway, Easter really gets me thinking. Thinking about nostalgia. Because it always brings me back to that time I wrote an article about Easter goodies. Reading that article, in turn, makes me nostalgic for and want to play Pokémon Colosseum. Or, at least moreso than usual. You can safely assume that at any given moment, I am probably thinking about Pokémon Colosseum.

But those things are mostly irrelevant. There’s one other thing that Easter always gets me all riled up about, and that thing is Peeps. Yep, good ol’ Marshmallow Peeps. The chick-shaped marshmallows that you will gleefully stuff into your mouth even as they wordlessly plead with their little sugar eyes for you to spare them. Truth is, in my advanced age, I don’t even really like Peeps all that much anymore. Used to love ’em. Used to hold the record for most Peeps eaten in a sitting (among certain circles). Actually I still like Party Cake Peeps, but I’ll eat anything with that fake birthday cake flavouring. Like, I can’t stand most seafood, but if you somehow masked the flavor with fake birthday cake, I’d be gobblin’ up all dem fishies like nobody’s bidness.

The point I’m trying to make, is that even though I’m not crazy about Peeps anymore, they are still an integral part of Easter for me. Significantly moreso than any other Easter-themed candy. Maybe not quite as important to me as getting together with the extended family for brunch or dinner or whatever, but an Easter is not an Easter without Peeps. And so, as a grown man with no romantic prospects to buy me sweets, each year I must set off on my own personal journey in search of Marshmallow Peeps.

Little did I know the trials and tribulations that 2018 had in store for me.

My quest technically began all the way back in late February, when you could begin to see the reds and pinks of the Valentine’s day goods transition to the pastel blues and yellows of Easter. I could hear the siren song of the sugary sweets. On many of my weekly grocery trips to Wal-Mart, I was tempted by those attractively soothing colours to peruse the holiday candy, but declined the call because it was just a little too early still. On the first weekend of March, I finally broke and dove headfirst into the Easter section. I came out empty-handed, as there wasn’t anything weird or new enough to grab my attention. I did note, however, that they had not yet put out any Peeps. How unusual…

Week after week I looked, shocked ever more at the concerning lack of Peeps on the shelves. What was happening? Did Wal-Mart and Just Born have a falling-out? No, that can’t be it; they still sell Mike & Ike’s. A Peeps conspiracy? Had the Canadian Junk Food Police finally cracked down on the cutest confection? Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. While the seasonal corner seemed like the best spot, I began to check islands, end caps, and the candy section, but it was all to no avail. Wal-Mart had failed me. [Insert shocked gasp]

Much to my chagrin, I was going to have to… shop around. I am an old man in heart and soul, and as such I value tradition and routine more than anything. So I hate having to look at other places for things I should be able to get in the place I normally go to. But Easter was quickly approaching and desperation was setting in. I had to find Peeps, and it had to be soon.

My next destination was Dollarama. There was no way they could fail me, right? It’s my go-to for cheap holiday decorations and such, it would surely come though for my Easter candy needs. Alas, even Dollarama lacked the Peeps that I needed. Notably, Dollarama did have something that no other store had: fake Peeps. Or, I mean, close enough, right? Marshmallow bunnies sprinkled with (more) sugar an lined up neatly in racks. I haven’t seen a Peep in the shape of a bunny for years, but I know they’re a thing. So I cut my losses here and went home with Fake Peeps Bunnies in hand, two dollars and fifty cents poorer. They may have been fakes, but at least they would (ostensibly) sate my hunger for Peeps and save me the trouble of shopping around to other stores looking for the real deal.

Let me tell you, friends, don’t ever buy Dollarama’s Fake Peeps Bunnies. These are, by a wide margin, the most terrible marshmallow candies that I have ever had the displeasure of ingesting. And it’s not really so much that they taste bad, because they’re really bland but True Peeps are pretty bland as well. What puts these over the edge is that they are solid. It’s like trying to chew through a really thick taffy, more than a marshmallow. ‘Mallows should be soft and fluffy. These are decidedly not. I could feel my teeth and jaw straining while trying to masticate these awful, awful bunnies. And they just wad up into one big, solid mess, too. It’s a candy disaster.

You know what? Yeah, I’ve changed my mind and decided that they do taste especially bad, too. Just out of spite. Because I’m not a real writer or journalist or whatever and I can do that. At first it’s not too bad, but then you really get in there and suddenly the taste of dust overpowers anything else that might have been. It’s all bleccch up in there. Do not want. Do. Not. Want.

In retrospect, it may also be that these Fake Peeps Bunnies were just a decade old and nobody cared enough to notice (myself included). I don’t know. There’s no way to know. It’s a mystery that will persist until the end of time. Or until I go back to Dollarama and see if there’s any sort of expiry/best before date printed on the box. But we all know that’s not happening.

The other really big mystery here is that if they were so bad, why in the heck did I eat them all?

Moving past the insult and injury to my mouthparts in general, this story does have a happy ending! And incredibly happy ending! The weekend before Easter, my parents went on an impromptu day trip down to the good ol’ US of A. Also known as the Junk Food Capital of the World. Of course I didn’t think to put in a request at the time, but surely they would have been able to find scores of Peeps down there. And Peeps they did find! Not only Peeps, but Weird Peeps! And Cookie Peeps!

Possibly my favourite thing of all, is the package of Peeps Oreos that has been immortalized above. Just look at its splendor as you revel in the fact that there are Oreo cookies out there that are filled with the melted and mashed-up bodies of marshmallow chicks. Looking back, I probably should have done a more thorough examination of this package, but it was late and I was much too interested in shoving as many of these Oreos into my face as possible. I am obviously a sucker for junk foods, and even regular Oreos will drive me into a frenzy. When you present me with some kind of wacky gimmick Oreos? I lose even that last shred of control.

Peeps-themed Oreos are… I want to say terrific, because that’s what they should be. But they aren’t really terrific. In reality, they taste almost exactly like plain ol’ Oreos, but with just a smattering of marshmallowy flavour. I’m sure if you ate them blind, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But you’re (probably) not blind! So you can see that beautiful purple goo in the middle, and that’s what makes these really special to me. I know it’s shallow, but I am shallow, and I really just love that look. If you could swap out the standard brown Oreo cookie bits with Golden Oreo cookie, these would be the ultimate snack. Not only would the visual appeal be increased beyond the threshold of comprehension, but Golden Oreos already taste a million times better than the regular ones. You throw in that little wisp or marshmallow flavour? Fuggetaboutit.

Joining the Peeps Oreos are not one, but three boxes of Mystery Peeps. I am only hyperbolizing slightly when I say that I was bouncing off the walls from excitement when I laid my eyes on these sweet babies. OH, the packaging, SO LOUD. OH, the Peeps, SO WHITE. Traditionally I roll my eyes and scoff at junk food with this stupid “guess the flavour” gimmick, but… Wait, no. That’s someone else. I always jump in headfirst when I see junk food with this stupid “guess the flavour” gimmick. Usually the flavour ends up sucking, but there are three different kinds here! One of them was bound to be good! Law of averages!

I quickly tore into the first box and gave it a big ol’ whiff, instantly recognizing the sweet smell of root beer. But I passed the box to my brother and dad, and my dad immediately disagreed with my assessment and said they smelled of toothpaste. I cocked my head to the said and took the box for another sniff. Weirdly enough, I could absolutely get the smell of minty toothpaste coming off of them. But I could still smell the root beer as well. What’s the deal? Do these two things have similar scents and I just never noticed? How could this be? I could have pondered this mystery longer, but instead I mashed a Peep in my face. Weirdly enough, the toothpaste/root beer Peeps had no flavour. Other than “regular marshmallow” I mean. Not even a bit. I want to say it was a big let-down, but I honestly didn’t really even care.

We had a quick consensus on the second package: Lemon. Though my dad went the extra mile and said they smelled like floor cleaner. So, artificial lemon. Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. These Peeps actually did have flavour, which should have been disappointing again because I’m not big on lemon. But it was a very light taste, and was really just the perfect amount of lemony to make it tasty, while not so strong as to turn me off.

The final box was by a wide margin the strongest in both scent and flavour. We waffled a bit between strawberry, raspberry, and wildberry, but eventually agreed that the best descriptor would be blue raspberry. That said… there’s not much else to say about them. These were the most delicious by far. But, obviously. I’m a big sucker for most berry flavours. It’s worth noting that since this is the Social Media era, the packaging of these Mystery Peeps encourages folks to go on Twitter and make guesses as to what the flavours are. We checked it out briefly, and it’s exactly what you’d expect; a fine mélange of guesses the same as ours, guesses that are astoundingly off, and responses that are obviously people just trollin’.

I wish I had some way to end this on a bit of a stronger note. It sort of just fizzled out there. I mean, obviously, I would say that the Berry Peeps and Peeps Oreos are absolutely worth buying if you were to stumble across them. If nothing else, buy them to give to me as a gift. A “Happy Monday” gift, because I really don’t want to have to wait for next Easter.

On video game development, or the lack thereof

I’ve obviously not posted any further entries on that “learn to make video games” project that we all knew I would flake on before long. And, I mean, its status is “on hiatus” for now, mostly because of school significantly limiting my time for fun things. I also didn’t work on it at all for a while there because a power outage killed my computer and it was nearly two weeks before I was told how to fix it and then actually implemented that fix. I could provide more excuses if you really need me to.

So, the end of the story is that I fully intend to go back to it once my class is over. Mid-June.

But we’ll see.

They Came From Outer Time!

I was browsing though the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart last weekend, as I do, and learned a horrible truth that day: They brought back Oreo O’s.

Now, you may be thinking “brought back? What do you mean? It says NEW right on the box!” But I assure you, these are not new. They are a relic from the late nineties, and like grunge music and boy bands, they should have stayed there.

Oreo O’s are, or to be fair, were not good. While I never reviewed them specifically, I did give them a shout-out in the good ol’ Cap’n Crunch Choco Donuts article, where I compared their flavour to that of cardboard. I didn’t buy the revived version of the cereal because I didn’t like them the first time around, and I don’t want to buy them to see if they’ve changed. Though now that I’ve written about it, I kinda feel like I’ve put myself on the hook.

What have I done!? They’re gonna be so grooooooosssss (T~T)

*sigh* I guess I’ll add them to the shopping list…

Tales from my dumb brain

Last weekend I had a bit of a zany episode: I forgot the PIN for my debit card.

I blame the “tap” technology, for making it so easy to just pay for all things with a wave of the card instead of popping it into the terminal and then punching in my code. But I buy groceries at Wal-Mart every week, and they don’t support the tap, so I absolutely have been using that PIN at least once a week. There’s no reasonable explanation for how I randomly lost that knowledge.

See, what happened is that I was purchasing fuel through the terminal at the pump, where they also don’t have a tap-compatible thingy. I popped in the PIN and then it beeped at me and told me it was wrong. I was a little flustered, since I always put in the PIN by muscle memory more than anything. Stopping to actually think about it, I realized that I didn’t actually “know” my PIN, and now that my fingers had failed me, I was at a loss.

Fortunately, the gas situation was resolved by using the tap terminal in the actual store at the gas station. What didn’t go so well was when I went to Wal-Mart the next day for my weekly grocery run. Not only did I not “recover” the “knowledge” of my PIN, but the third failed attempt locked the card completely, and since I had no alternative or cash on had, I was forced to abandon my bags of groceries and walk away in shame.

The one upside of this whole dilemma is that I learned that we have a terminal to reset debit cards and change PINs right at work! I thought that I’d either have to wait the whole week to get to a branch on Saturday or make a mad dash to the nearest branch on my lunch break. So now every time I screw this up in the future, I can just saunter downstairs and get it cleared up. Neat!

The Count Douchebag

I did a lot of things on the weekend, like baking muffins, getting my hair cut for the first time in at least seven months, and watching roughly seven thousand episodes of Steven Universe. However, since this is me we’re talking about, I’m going to write about a video game I played instead of any of those other things.

The game in question this week is The Count Lucanor. A spoopy, retro-styled adventure game that is available on several platforms, I of course chose to play it on Switch. Not that it made much of a difference, because I finished the game in a single three-hour sitting. Thimbleweed Park, this ain’t.

The game opens on the tenth birthday of our main character, Hans. He’s a spoiled little brat who leaves home to be a treasure hunter because his mom could’t afford ingredients for a birthday cake. Right off the bat, Hans is a dick. Sure, he’s a kid, and kids typically are dicks, but you’re supposed to be endearing me to my main character, not making me want to let bad things happen to him.

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Last Month in Movies – March 2018

Arrival – A science fiction movie about aliens but also not about aliens. It’s really about the main character, who just happens to stumble into a situation that involves aliens.

We open up to linguistics expert Louise, who has apparently recently lost a child to cancer or something, and then she is scooped up by the feds when alien ships start appearing around the world. Her job is to find a way to communicate with the extra-terrestrials, who look kinda like massive squids. Over the course of the film, she is teamed up with Jeremy Renner as they race against the clock to discover what the aliens want before other countries decide to declare war on the alleged “invaders.”

I want to say that this movie blew my mind -and it sort of did- but I couldn’t help feel that I’d seen this story before. And then I realized that it’s more or less the same story as… you know what, I can’t tell you what novel it rips off without giving everything away. Obviously it has plenty of unique plot elements, but there is an undeniably strong similarity to a very well-known novel. Regardless of this, I really enjoyed Arrival. It poses a number of interesting moral questions, and Amy Adams is just excellent. It made me think and feel, and that’s really enough to get a passing score from me.

Lovesick – My family nearly always gets together on Saturday nights to have dinner and play board games together. One week, my brothers abandoned ship, and my parents and I were left to find something to do. My mom decided we would watch a movie together, and this happened.

Lovesick is a story about how Matt LeBlanc ruins any meaningful relationship he has by getting super jealous and creating wild fantasies about how his girlfriends must be cheating on him. Otherwise, he is a perfectly well-adjusted adult and a highly respected member of the community. So his jealously is written off as him literally being insane. I don’t know if this jealousy psychosis is a real thing or a terrible plot device, but it made for a very by-the-numbers rom-com. The most unexpected thing that happened is that they cast Chevy Chase as the perverted old neighbour. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not so unexpected after all. Anyway, this movie is terrible. Obviously. Don’t watch it.

Justice League – I honestly had no idea what to think about this one going in. I mean, I’m going to watch all the superhero movies with my dad, for better or for worse. But the pedigree is so mixed. Batman v. Superman was pretty bad, but Wonder Woman was fantastic, so.

It seems like in this case, at least, it turned out pretty well. Justice League isn’t exactly on par with Wonder Woman, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction. And that direction, I’d like to point out, is levity. While DC has mostly put all their money on grimdark serious superhero movies up to this point, Justice League is pretty funny. Ezra Miller as the Flash was hilarious, and Gal Gadot is as charming as ever. The constant pokes at how useless Batman is against bigger threats than your average super-criminal were a nice touch, too. Not because I dislike Batman, but because I can’t wait for them to retire crappy ol’ Ben Affleck.

One thing that drove me nuts is that I’m pretty sure the whole movie was in CG except for the actors, like 300 or Sky Captain. But in a way that everything had to be wildly exaggerated, rather than just doing it for the sake of artistry. It was like, at some points I wasn’t even sure if some of the characters’ costumes were real or CG’d on in post. At the very least, it was a resplendent film for the most part, filled with so much colour and vibrance that I really couldn’t be that put off that it was all fake. Regardless, after watching Justice League, I’m more interested in the DC cinematic universe’s future than I have ever been.

Tomb Raider – My experience with Tomb Raider to this point is minimal. I’ve played the first few hours of the original game and Tomb Raider: Legacy. Never seen the previous movies. In fact, I don’t even know how many there are. Two? Seven?

This new movie, I didn’t even know existed until several days before it released. I don’t know if it’s just me who is totally out of touch (likely), or if there was a severe lack of marketing for it (also likely). It’s based on the 2013 reboot of the game series, which I’ve never played, despite having owned the game for like four years now. So I knew very little about it. And guess what, I think that made me like the movie more than I would have otherwise! That’s not to say that I thought it was especially great, but it’s absolutely on the short list of Good Video Game Movies.

I was a little confused when they spent the first 40 minutes or whatever in London, establishing that Lara Croft is a poor bike courier. Except that she is actually rich, she just doesn’t want to accept her inheritance because it means she’s accepting her father’s death. But then she sailed off to a mystical island and met a bunch of bad guys and then they all raided a tomb. Like you do. The one thing I strongly disliked about this film is that it builds up a potential for magic all along and then completely deflates it. And that makes me sad because if magic doesn’t exist in this world, then the potential for tyrannosaurs is significantly lowered.

Listen to me whine -or- An essay on video game rentals

I miss Blockbuster and/or Rogers Video.

Why? Isn’t it obvious? I could go there with $6 in hand, and get access to virtually any video game (provided it was in stock) I want, and play it all weekend. Big games, little games, role-playing games, puzzle games. Whatever I wanted. Probably the biggest downside to renting games was that Blockbuster never had anything for handhelds, and Rogers only kept a very limited selection for the Nintendo DS.

But you know what really stings about not being able to rent games? It’s that excitement of getting to try something new every weekend.

There was a nice little period in between the demise of rental stores and the rise of indie developers where you could get top-tier indie games and Virtual Console titles for between five and ten bucks. Those days are gone, however, between indie devs assigning their games higher values and the crappy Canadian dollar driving prices way the frig up (the average AAA game is $60 USD and $90 Canadian).

Now, it’s a matter of forking over at least $20 for those same kinds of indie games. Sure, I get to keep them forever (and a lot of them are worth the extra money, TBH), but a lot of these games I don’t need more than three days with anyhow. And since I really don’t have that much disposable income, I can’t very well buy a $20 game every week. I mean, I could, but then I’d have no money for the bigger games. Maybe I could have survived without Kirby: Star Allies, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world where I don’t have Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Plus, like 90% of video games don’t even get physical releases anymore, so it’s not like I’d even get access to most of the games I’d actually like to try out. Golf Story, for example, seems like a game I’d get a ton of value from over a weekend, then forget about it forever. But it costs a whopping $28.

One could say that demos are a good place to meet halfway, but really, there are shockingly few demos out there. I think most developers/publishers don’t see that extra work as worth it. It seems like there was a demo for nearly every game back in the 360 days, but the Switch and PS4 really don’t have all that many relative to the size of their game libraries.

So in conclusion, it’s an impossible situation that can only be rectified by going back in time. Suck it up and get with the times, Old Man Ryan.

(Please note that this isn’t a rant about how video games are too expensive. AAA games especially are actually a steal when you consider how much they cost to make these days and that inflation hasn’t really affected game prices over the years. I strongly believe that all game developers have every right to charge what they feel is a fair price for their hard work. This is just a rant about how I miss being able to rent games.)