Last Month in Movies – August 2017

I have so many movies sitting on my “want to watch” list that I will likely never make the time for. Because when I watch a movie, it’s usually some terrible horror film that pops up randomly on Netflix. And that’s your explanation of what happened below.

Insidious: Chapter 3 – I really loved the first Insidious movie for totally playing with my expectations of what a “possession” movie could be. Plus, it had a certain video-gameyness to it that really spoke to me. Insidious 2 was almost more of a whodunit mystery than anything else, and while it didn’t hit the same sweet spots, I liked it well enough to shout at the folks who were chatting in the theatre while the movie was playing.

The third film in the trilogy is…. ehhhhh. It goes back in time to a previous case of the medium from the first two chapters. This one is about how a young girl accidentally calls forth an evil spirit when trying to communicate with her deceased mom. After our heroine gets hit by a car and briefly dies on the operating table, said spirit begins to appear to her in the real world, and all the usual wacky ghost stuff stars happening. There is a neat little twist to how it goes down, but it’s nothing especially exciting.

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – August 2017

You might think that I would have played fewer video games in August, what with all the hustle and bustle of moving last month. However, life video games finds a way.

~ Game Over ~

Super Mario World (3DS) – I’ve bought a handful of SNES virtual console games on my 3DS, but had only played Mega Man X up until now. Weird, that.

VOI (PC) – A very fun minimalist puzzle game. In a world where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a boring minimalist puzzle game, I think that’s worth celebrating.

Ever Oasis (3DS) – I’ve been letting this one simmer for a while, but it was time to finally hack my way to the finish line. It’s too bad the post-game is so grindy and not all that fun.

Team Kirby Clash Deluxe (3DS) – Done enough. Anything left to do is gated behind the paywall/waiting for daily gem apple harvests. And that’s a load of crap.

Candy Thieves: Tale of Gnomes (PC) – Lame tower defence game that parents might put on their iPads to shut up their four-year-olds. Uninstalled after ten minutes.

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Book-reading

I read another novel last weekend. That makes two weekends in a row in which I have read an entire novel. What is happening to me?

The most recent was Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, which is the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I fully intend to read the next two over the next two weekends. I don’t remember the context, exactly, but I purchased the trilogy because Matt Peckham said something about it on the now-defunct GameLife podcast that clearly affected me on some level.

As a strange twist, I have previously read another book by VanderMeer: Monstrous Creatures: Explorations of Fantasy through Essays. Which is not a novel, but rather a collection of essays about cryptids and other fantastical animals. This is a twist because my choices of literature are so impulsive that I haven’t ever felt the need to explore a particular writer’s greater oeuvre.

Although, to be fair, a significant portion of the books I’ve read in the past decade have come in trilogies. So there’s that.

Back to Annihilation! It was just excellent. I don’t want to say too much about it because the mystery and suspense are key tenets of the novel, but it was wholly unlike anything I’ve read before. I highly recommend checking it out, and I feel certain that the next two Southern Reach books will be equally, if not more, enjoyable.

I think that the only thing that I had a problem with is that I had a very hard time picturing the events in my head. This issue lies not with the writing, which is perfectly good at building a scene and describing events, but rather with my brain, which has a certain lack of focus. It makes reading a bit of a chore, as my mind will often drift off and I’ll find myself having to re-read up to an entire page. But as far as visualization goes, I often found myself wishing for a film adaptation, simply because I would love to actually see this world (although parts of it will be literally impossible to recreate on film). I can’t help it, I’m very much a visual kind of guy. Ask anyone who has ever tried to teach me anything without flashcards.

Oh, guess what, there’s a film adaptation coming out next February. Hooray! I’ve missed out on a lot of movies that I’ve wanted to see over the last couple years, but this will definitely be one that I see on opening night.

As an aside, the fact that this is all lining up so nicely makes me a bit salty, because the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie has apparently gone through the film version of development hell and has got me wondering if it’ll ever be real. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

The FanFic’d Ones

Very randomly, I received a promotional email from Amazon about an upcoming book: The Freddy Files, which seems to essentially be the Five Nights at Freddy’s bible. I clicked on the link, because I’m interested in all things FNAF, and it was there that I found the biggest surprise…

There is a second FNAF novel.

I had no idea at all! I’ve been so out of every loop since I stopped frequenting Talking Time. But that’s besides the point. I read and enjoyed the first FNAF novel, The Silver Eyes, on the very day that it became available. The sequel, The Twisted Ones, has been out for a couple months now and nobody told me about it. How rude!

So long story short, I bought it and read the whole thing last weekend. It’s not a long book by any metric, and the target audience is tweens, but I think it’s still pretty impressive that I polished off a whole novel in a single weekend. I’m a terribly slow reader, and even though I do love to read, it always gets lowest priority of all my hobbies. It’s a little sad that FNAF is one of the few things that really, truly excites me any more.

If you aren’t at all familiar with the Five Nights at Freddy’s lore, the games are about bipedal, animatronic animals that come to life at night and kill any unfortunate security guards that they might come across. There’s also something about how said animatronics are possessed by the vengeful spirits of murdered children, looking for the pink/purple/phone guy(s) who may or may not have murdered them. The lore goes deep, is what I’m getting at, but that doesn’t really matter because the novels take place in an alternate continuity.

While I did like the original book, and the second is by no means bad, The Twisted Ones almost comes off seeming like FNAF fan fiction. It was written by Scott Cawthon, creator of the games, so it can’t be fan fiction. But it feels like it. There are a lot of really weird story conceits and maybe pushes certain ideas a little too far. This is not unusual for the franchise; it’s built on weirdness and FNAF4 absolutely tried too hard in some of the same ways. But it’s easier to ignore that kind of stuff in a video game. I expect better from books, I guess.

Anyway, if you’re a big ol’ FNAF fanboy like me, you can’t go wrong with The Twisted Ones. It’s got its share of issues, but it’s definitely a step above The Silver Eyes in writing quality and it is significantly more focused from a storytelling perspective. Just don’t expect it to knock your socks off. This is Young Adult literature, after all. Still more interesting than Harry Potter, IMO.

At least I’m consistent

I booted up Wii Fit U for the first time in nearly a year, now that I’m relatively settled in my condo.

As it turns out, despite trying to eat better and getting significantly more exercise than usual over the last year, I’m nearly exactly the same weight as I was a year ago. Maybe a kilogram less.

*sigh*

Happy Galaktikon II Day!

Brendon Small’s Galaktikon II: Become the Storm is out today! Hurrah!

Being one of my most anticipated albums ever, I was almost in tears when it became available at 11PM last night but I had to do the responsible thing and go to bed instead of staying up another hour to listen to it.

I did get a chance to give it a listen on the bus ride to work this morning, and first impressions are very good! I’ve already written about “My Name is Murder” and “Nightmare” to some extent, and I think that so far the frontrunners for favourite tracks are “Become the Storm” and “The Ocean Galaktik.” But I’ll definitely have to give it a few more listens before I make any solid declarations.

As advertised, Galaktikon II is very much a new Dethklok album in spirit, but has enough DNA from the original Galaktikon to keep things exciting. Most of the vocals are in the growly Nathan Explosion-style, which is great, but admittedly does make it harder to figure out the lyrics and the story. There is a lot more “regular” singing peppered in than you’d get from actual Dethklok, though, and there’s a heck of a lot of vocal harmonizing going on, which I obviously adore.

I don’t know if this will replace Galaktikon as one of my go-to albums, but it is a stellar sequel. The metalhead in me is incredibly satisfied. I am greatly looking forward to listening to it at least a dozen more times over the weekend. Hopefully by then someone will have started transcribing the lyrics online somewhere.

I wanted to end this post by embedding a video of the final, instrumental track, “Rebuilding a Planet” but alas, the YouTubers are a little slower at getting these tracks up than expected. The album has already been available for a whole 12 hours at this point. Come on, people!

Just my cluck

I have a cubic buttload of games already in my 3DS backlog, and there are a fair number of big ones coming out before the end of the year. This means I’m in huge trouble, because all I want to do on that system right now is play Chicken Wiggle.

A cute little game that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention, Chicken Wiggle is the newest game from Atooi, one of the development studios that split off from Renegade Kid. you may or may not recognize that name from Mutant Mudds, which was one of the first truly stellar games to show up on the 3DS eShop (and is now on everything). To nobody’s surprise, Chicken Wiggle bears more than a slight resemblance to Mutant Mudds.

Not only are the two games visually similar, they both feature the same kind of challenging platforming. They move at a more measured pace than say, your Marios or Mega Mans, and each is gifted with very tight, responsive controls. Chicken Wiggle takes the base set by Mutant Mudds and expands on it by switching out the gun and jetpack for a grappling hook. This means the game is far less action-oriented, but adds in more exploration to make up for it.

Also the grappling hook is a worm.

While the story mode in Chicken Wiggle is a fun and moderately challenging experience, the real meat of the game comes from the expansive stage creation mode. It’s incredibly impressive, and lets you use every single tile, object, and monster in the game to design whatever kind of crazy stages your twisted mind can come up with. It’s actually even better than the 3DS version of Super Mario Maker, because while the editor isn’t quite as whimsical, you can share stages with other players online. There’s also a robust system for finding other players’ stages, which makes it much more user-friendly than the Wii U version of Mario Maker’s bare-bones stage discovery features.

There is one massive feature missing, and that’s Mario Maker’s ability to just jump into your custom stage at any point to see how something works. Chicken Wiggle instead forces you to load up the stage each time, rather than having the ability to test seamlessly. Sure, you can move the starting point around to make sure you begin at the point you want to try out, but it’s not quite as handy as being able to jump in and out of the stage while still in the editor.

I am still super happy that Chicken Wiggle came around though, as it has re-ignited my love of stage design. And it’s nice to be working in a game that’s so mechanically different from Mario, too, because it makes you think completely differently about your stages. The only sad part is that I know very few people IRL who own a 3DS, and none of them give even the slightest flip about games like Chicken Wiggle. So I have nobody to share ideas and stages with. Sad face. My fault for not having friends, I guess.

Put those colours on, girl

I finally got my copy of Kesha’s new album, Rainbow, last Friday. I spent the whole weekend listening to it over and over, and I still have one song or another constantly stuck in my head.

Suffice it to say, I am very pleased with my purchase.

I know I say it every time I write about music, but I have no idea how to properly explain my feelings about music or how to talk about it technically like a smart person who really understands it. So I’ll keep this short. What about sweet? YMMV.

Rainbow is so unlike any other Kesha album. It’s so much more honest and heartfelt. The over-produced, auto-tuned, club-pop is gone. It’s not about drinking and partying. It’s about feeling good, overcoming pain and hardships, and living your life to the fullest. Rainbow a hearty melange of pop, rock, folk, country, and alternative styles. It’s literally a beautiful musical rainbow.  Some songs will have you busting out sweet rock kicks, while others may cause you to shed a tear or two. You might even find yourself doing some deep thinking about life.

Of course, while Rainbow is several degrees more serious in its themes than one might expect from Kesha, it’s still got her trademark sense of humour. As that’s what drew me to Kesha’s music in the first place, I’m very glad that it hasn’t gone anywhere.

“But Ryan, you hate country music!” you’re probably shouting at your screen. Yes, I do. But the “country” tracks on this album are more county-flavoured than actually country. There’s no mention of pickup trucks or dirt roads or tractors. No godawful southern drawl. Not a single yee-haw and none of the songs are about having a cookout down at the ol’ swimmin’ hole. So all the stupid has been excised and replaced with sentiments that a non-hillbilly could actually relate to. “Hunt You Down” is just a really great track and made me laugh out loud.

Heck, even the cover of “Old Flames” that features Dolly friggin’ Parton has carved itself a little place in my heart. Might be that country music from the 80’s was just better than the miserable trash that is modern country. Might be that I’m just a cranky old man.

Anyway, if you need some proof to mix into your pudding, here’s “Let ’em Talk,” which is currently my favourite track. Though this morning it was “Boogie Feet” and “Learn To Let Go” was my fave for the better part of Sunday.

Tomorrow it’ll probably be “Godzilla.” It’s just so sweet and I love it. You know what, forget tomorrow. It’s my favourite now. Likely forever.

(I was born) Settled down

It’s a week later, and I am about 80% moved into my condo. It’s been quite a process. Basically non-stop work since last Saturday, with a single night off on Wednesday. So this weekend, I’m takin’ ‘er easy and just enjoying my new Fortress of Solitude. Well, tomorrow I’m takin’ ‘er easy. There is still plenty to be done today.

The work that remains is as such:

  • Move my bed in so I can sleep not on the couch
  • Vaccuum again now that all the furniture is built
  • Clean any kitchenware that has not gone through the dishwasher.
  • Sort through all my Xmas baubles and get rid of anything deemed unnecessary.
  • Align as many books as possible on the bookshelf, discard any that don’t fit.
  • Move over any lingering boxes from Mom & Dad’s and sort what will stay or be donated.
  • Find a solution for movie storage
  • Get that friggin’ Dark Souls poster mounted!
  • Dispose of excess furniture (either via Kijiji or donation)
  • Hang posters/picture frames/shelves/etc.
  • Buy food

And that’s about it. Now that the business has been taken care of, here are a bunch of fun photos!

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Priorities II: Wii-lectric Boogaloo

I’ve been a lot more involved with the acquisition of and moving into my condo than I was when I bought a house back in 2012. Mostly because I no longer have a wife and in-laws to do all that stuff while I’m at work. So I’ve schlepped and hauled pretty much everything by myself, with a non-insignificant amount of help from my dad, uncle, and grandpa.

One thing that remains the same is me having placed high priority on having Xenoblade Chronicles up and running ASAP.

Mostly it’s for the sake of tradition. But also because I needed a half-hour to unwind. I’ve been working almost non-stop since noon Saturday. I’ve earned a little video game break.

Actual Xenoblade talk: I think it’s notable that when you start a New Game+, all characters are wearing the equipment they had at the end of the game. Which makes the intro weird because Dunban is clearly not wielding the Monado despite constantly talking about it, and Mumkhar is already in a Mechon body. Neat!

Bonus: If you look really closely, you may be able to spot the cutest li’l amiibo ever!