GOTY 2023: A Startling Upset

I’ve been hard at work on my Top 10 Video Games of 2023 article already, in hopes of having it posted before March 2024. I’m never going to forgive myself for that one…

Anyway, I had the whole list decided on, had a couple of entries written out completely, and then The Talos Principle 2 dropped. I finished it last weekend and knew that it would absolutely need a place in my Top 10, possibly even in the top spot. So I had to make a cut. And it was difficult! Very, very difficult! Alas, it had to be done. I can’t have a Top 11 Games of 2023, now can I?

Unfortunately, the decision I made was to cut a game I’d already done a write-up for, and it seemed like a shame to just throw out all of that “hard work.” So I’m posting it here, now. It’s not going to get a fancy banner image, but it will retain a special place in my heart.

Continue reading GOTY 2023: A Startling Upset

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.

Continue reading Last Month in Movies – April 2018

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – February 2018

~ Game Over ~

Monster Hunter World (PS4) – I’ll level with you, I didn’t actually beat this last month. I write up these entries beforehand based on assumptions and when the game turned out to be much longer than I anticipated, couldn’t be bothered to correct it. But it is beat for real now. Promise.

Super Mario RPG (SNES) – Initially, I thought that this was a game one could burn though in a couple quick sessions. That is not the case. It’s actually respectably long! And still a lot of fun!

Uncanny Valley (PS4) – A neat indie horror adventure, which I played to the least satisfying ending and then couldn’t make more time for because of my obsession with Monster Hunter.

RiME (PS4) – I was having a great time up until chapter 2. Then I was having an adequate time up until chapter 5. Then I just sat there and quietly wept for 20 minutes. (More words.)

Thimbleweed Park (Switch) – I thought it would be a brisk run, but it took me 15ish hours to solve this bad boy, and that’s having used the hint system very liberally. …I may just be really dumb.

Lords Mobile (iOS) – I downloaded and played a bit to get free hashcoins in Greasy Money, but the offer expired long before I reached the requirement T_T What a waste of a Sunday morning.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – February 2018

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – October 2017

It was a rough month, because I had to make hard decisions about whether to spend my precious free time playing the hottest new releases, or the spookiest games in my library (because Halloween, you see). In the end, I just played like an hour each of all the games.

~ Game Over ~

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) – Duh-doy.

Kirby Super Star (SNES) – The first thing I played on the SNES Classic, because I will always replay Kirby Super Star. I need to get someone else in on it though, as the AI allies are so dumb.

Magikarp Jump! (iOS) – I did it! I reached the end! Also, this is an idle game that actually has an end! ….Of course, there’s post-game content, but it’s not really worth exploring too deeply.

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers (Wii) – Stop judging me!

Star Fox (SNES) – Ran through the easy route as a refresher before trying out Star Fox 2.

Picross S (Switch) – It’s hard to focus on scary games for the Halloween season when there’s a new picross game out…

Death Road to Canada (PC) – More roguelikes need to be funny (and multiplayer). That’s why I have so much trouble getting into them. This is what I’ve decided, and why I’ll play this game forever.

Silent Hill: Downpour (360) – Surprisingly, this is only my first replay of what is maybe my second-favourite Silent Hill game.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii) – It’s that time of year!

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – October 2017

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.

Continue reading Last Month in Movies – August 2017

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.

Last Month in Movies – July 2017

I don’t know if this is going to become a regular thing or not, but I’m trying out something new. Well, a new spin on something I’ve been doing for years, anyhow. You know that Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up post that you ignore every month? Well, there’s one for movies now.

On the upside, I watch very few movies, so at least this should be a fairly light feature.

Power Rangers – The reboot that came out earlier this year, that I really wanted to see, but nobody I know gives a flip about Power Rangers. This is probably more on me, because I barely know any people at all. Anyway, I finally watched it, now that it’s available on home video.

Anyhow, I went in expecting the worst, and I was… well, it exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed it overall, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The Power Rangers are now straight-up superheroes, which is fine, Jason has a sword-arm, which is awesome, and Alpha 5 was somewhere between terrible and hilarious. I also liked the characterizations of the new rangers, how they all come from vastly different backgrounds and have actual depth instead of being one-note stereotypes. My biggest question about the movie is how in the heck did they land Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks?

So what was wrong with it? It’s the worst kind of origin story. The kind of origin story that runs over two hours (yes, really), but all the action is crammed into the last ten minutes. The Megazord looked too much like a Michael Bay Transformer, and for some reason the Mastodon Zord had eight legs. Also, during those final moments, Angel Grove suffers destruction relative to how badly Metropolis got torn apart in Man of Steel. Not quite razed to the ground, but for a smallish town, you wonder if the residents are even going to bother trying to rebuild.

Three-Headed Shark Attack – Many years ago, I watched a film called Two-Headed Shark Attack, and I remember absolutely nothing about it, other than Carmen Electra was in it literally just to be eye candy. Unlike Sharknado, it left no impression on me, so I wavered a bit before deciding to watch the sequel.

But then I did anyway, and it’s one of those sequels that has nothing in common with the previous movie except for a vague theme. Or specific theme? Mutant sharks. I guess that’s not especially vague. This movie is about a bunch of environmental researchers and hippies working near a massive island of garbage off some unmentioned coast. Turns out the pollution is mutating local animals, the biggest of which is our title monster: the three-headed shark.

The shark somehow destroys the research facility and then attacks a booze cruise that happens to be passing by. The research station survivors desperately try to save the ship, but pretty much everyone dies. Danny Trejo shows up and lops a head off the shark, seemingly killing it. Then it’s discovered that the shark will regrow two heads for every one that it loses, like the mythical hydra. Eventually the shark defeats itself when the many heads end up fighting for food and bite each other to death. Somehow.

Guys, don’t ever watch this. Unless you’re doing a bad movie podcast or something.

Wonder Woman – It’s great. It’s just great. Excellent. I never gave a damn about Wonder Woman, because I’m not really into anything DC outside of Batman, but holy cow I sure do care about the Wonder Woman cinematic universe now.

For one, it gets everything right that Power Rangers flubbed. It’s an origin story, but it’s gripping the whole time and you don’t have to wait until the very end to actually see the hero in action. There’s a bit too long of a lead-in with the background lore, but there’s still a huge battle within the first 15 minutes. And then a journey to collect a ragtag group of mercenaries to stop a foe that may or may not even be real.

I should mention that both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are superb in their roles, and I really just want to go on more hilarious adventures with them. That’s not to take away from any of the supporting characters, though! Everyone was great and the whole movie was just about perfect. The one thing that I need to gripe about is the fact that the lasso effects did not look very good in combat. But that’s it! that’s literally the only thing I disliked about this movie! Crazy!

Satanic – And so with all that gushing about how great Wonder Woman is, we come to our last film of the month, which was unfortunately pretty bad. Of course, like all the bad movies I watch these days, this was a Netflix recommendation that missed the mark.

In this one, we follow a foursome of young people out on a road trip, who stop in LA to check out some historic Satanist sites or whatever. Along the way, they “rescue” a young lady from a Satanist cult. However, it turns out that the cult wanted her out because she was too crazy, and the young lady curses the group just before slitting her own throat. And so our heroes are stalked by an unseen force that traps them in a nightmare world and kills them one by one.

I feel like there might have been potential here, but every character is unlikable and the acting is terrible, so you want to see them die. But all the kills are off-screen, and the movie ends with the main girl trapped in an empty, black cube, her mouth sewn shut and her limbs amputated. There is no precedent for this. It makes no sense. It’s just there as a weird, shocking thing to end on. Super lame. Also, it’s another one of those movies that just spends so much time building up that all the “action” at the very end, only there’s no real payoff. None of it means anything. Blech.

On pube wigs

A couple days ago, I went to see my very first Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival show. It was called The Merkin Sisters and I have no idea where to even start.

While my immediate reaction upon being asked to go to the show was “ugh, not some hipster amateur-hour bulls**t,” I took a few minutes to think it over, and decided that it would be something new and different to do. If nothing else it would likely be something vaguely interesting to talk about, if by some chance another human were to engage me in conversation.

Then I learned that it was a comedy show, and I was 100% on board.

Now, comedy is… not an entirely accurate descriptor. There were many laughs during the show, for sure, but it was more like a series of weird performance art pieces that just happened to elicit laughter from the audience. This was a bizzare show, a strange combination of interpretive dance, puppets, giant wigs, and some sort of weird menstruation bit involving a pink sweater and a red scarf. It was like a cross between sketch comedy and a hallucinogenic drug trip.

A show more about physical comedy and just being weird, the actresses (is that the right word?) were weirdly robotic throughout the show, often moving in quick, stilted motions and barking out lines emotionlessly in that weird way that performance artists do on TV. It was somehow even weirder after the show when they dropped their stage personas and acted like regular human beings as they thanked the audience, recommended other shows, and presented their merch.

I think that the nicest way to sum up my feelings about the experience is that I’m not smart enough to have really “gotten it.” It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. I just felt confused and bewildered more than anything. I was acutely aware that I wasn’t laughing as much as the rest of the audience, which makes me a little sad. I wanted to like it more than I did, but what can you do? I’d definitely recommend seeing The Merkin Sisters though, as it is absolutely unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Maybe I didn’t get all the lulz, but I’m still glad that I went.

8 Teenagers, 1 Ski Lodge – Until Dawn

*Please note now that Until Dawn is a story-driven game and I am about to spoil the hell out of it*

I have been meaning to cancel my PS+ subscription for several months now. Originally, I only signed up for it so that I could play Day of the Tentacle Remastered for free and get a deep, deep discount on TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan. Day after day in June, I kept telling myself to turn off the auto-renewal. And then July 1st came around and I got the email saying that Sony had charged my credit card for another month. Rats!

But this worked out nicely for me in the end, because one of July’s free PS+ games is Until Dawn. I had no idea what it was before seeing it in the PS+ menu, but the description sold it as a horror adventure game (which is 100% in my wheelhouse), so I decided that I might as well take advantage, as my $11 was already spent.

When I began playing the game, it immediately became clear what was going on: a bunch of sexy teens are for some reason caught in a secluded ski lodge and would be killed off one-by-one. Well, that’s maybe generalizing a little too hard. The game has plenty of surprises tucked away in its sleeve. Its gameplay, for instance. You wander around, waving your flashlight at things, occasionally stopping to look at a point of interest or pick up clues. Then spooky things happen, and you slowly unravel the greater mystery. Also you occasionally stop for brief interludes in which you are talked down to by an arrogant psychiatrist and asked to complete simple tasks that will vaguely influence things you see in the game. Sound familiar?

Continue reading 8 Teenagers, 1 Ski Lodge – Until Dawn

Follow-up: Blaster Master Zero

I wrote many, many nice words about Blaster Master Zero a few months ago. Between then and now, Inti Creates has released a Hard Mode update and three DLC characters, with at least one more on the way. I think you can see where this is going; I’ve been playing Blaster Master Zero again.

The nicest thing about the DLC characters is that while they are paid content ($2 a pop), they were all free for the first two weeks that they were available. Nice! The three currently available characters are Gunvolt (from Azure Striker Gunvolt), Eiko (from Gal*Gun) and Shantae (from Shantae), and coming next month is… Shovel Knight! (From Shovel Knight.) That’s a pretty outstanding lineup of crossover characters!

I’m not going to lie, what I hope most is that this means that Shantae and Shovel Knight will also be DLC characters for Mighty Gunvolt Burst. But that’s besides the point.

I am still a little bit afraid of Hard Mode, but I recently took up the challenge of playing through BMZ as Gunvolt. I didn’t quite get how he was supposed to play at first, and was getting awfully fed up that his dart gun took twenty shots or so to take down monsters. And then by chance I realized that the dart gun is for tagging enemies, not causing damage. Once you’ve tagged a foe, you can use your Flashfield ability to blast them with lightning. And if you’ve got the energy, Gunvolt’s prevasion skill will have him automatically avoid taking hits. Of course, I would have known all this already if I’d bothered to play either of the Azure Striker Gunvolt games.

And that’s just in the top-down sections. Where Gunvolt really amazes is in the side-scrolling areas. For one, he doesn’t take fall damage. That’s already reason enough to never play as Jason again. Gunvolt also has a better jump in general, and can wall-jump infinitely, which can be a major sequence breaker on its own. Lastly, you can trigger the Flashfield mid-air to have Gunvolt drift more slowly to the ground, making tricky landings much easier to pull off. Of course, the dart/Flashfield combo is also your offensive bread-and-butter here, but I don’t think prevasion works on the overworld. Needless to say, Gunvolt’s amazing extra mobility makes him an absolute blast to play as, and the dart/Flashfield combat style is very cool and makes you feel like a real badass. The only drawback, really, is that the darts don’t piece through walls. Boo.

In the final areas, Gunvolt begins to feel a little bit out of his league, but it was a nice challenge bump, as his unique abilities completely broke the bulk of the game. In the end, I think that playing as Gunvolt actually made the game more fun than playing as Jason, and I’d consider that the mark of some really great DLC!

I haven’t bothered to try our Ekoro yet, but I was chomping at the bit to try out Shantae, so I started a new run with her next. My impressions so far (I’ve only played through the first area) are that Shantae is going to require a lot more finesse than either Jason or Gunvolt. For one, her main attack is still the hair whip, and you can imagine that a short-range melee attack isn’t especially great in a game designed for a character with a gun. Shantae has a slew of magic attacks and transformations to round out her arsenal, though, and so far the Elephant transformation has been my go-to when I need to muscle my way through a stage. I’ll likely have a more detailed write-up when I’ve finished the game again, and when I finally bother to give Ekoro a chance.